Learning Counsel Kicks Off 2018 Digital Transition Discussions-San Antonio, TX

Event News
Hot Talk in San Antonio
Troy Starr, Learning Counsel Writer

The Learning Counsel rolled into San Antonio for the first Digital Transition Discussion of the year and met with over 50 district and school executives during the meeting.  Hosted by Education Service Center Region 20, the first workshop with workbook was on understanding the stages of maturity in analytics for schools at both the learning and institutional guidance levels. Attendees also perused the new “Systems Leadership versus the Classroom” Special Report as part of this workshop.  The workshop on new teacher roles was another hot discussion that raised the noise level in the room, and each table was sharing out their thoughts on this topic.

There were thought-provoking presentations from the Share-to-Care speakers:

  • Susan Reeves – Educational Specialist, Education Service Center Region 20
  • Ann Vyoral – Educational Specialist, Education Service Center Region 20
  • Mary Jo Peters – Director of Technology, Hondo ISD

These speakers presented on their schools’ technological strategies, successes and challenges. Susan Reeves talked about the coding initiatives being spearheaded out of the Region 20 ESC with school districts. Mary Jo Peters shared the success of her school district’s community public relations efforts around their transition to digital curriculum and content by hosting a learning night for parents. Ann Vyoral talked about the TexQuest content curation project and resources offered by the state of Texas.

Show-and-Discuss sponsors included Classlink, Safari Montage, Schmoop, Blackboard and Zia Learning.  An introduction to the new EduJedi Leadership Society from the Learning Counsel was made, with Superintendent Scott Higgins being the first to sign on from the San Antonio area. Mr Higgins stated, “D’Hanis ISD is committed to empowering leaders and teachers to improve their technology skills and knowledge. Becoming an EduJedi will provide a force of strength and support that will motivate our teachers and students to integrate the latest technology as part of our daily instruction while preparing our students for the future.”

Scott Higgins, Superintendent & Lana Rollans, Dir. of Instructional Media and Technology, D'Hanis Independent School District


The hot talk on the panel was from guest speakers Kenneth Englehart, Director of Technology, Medina Valley ISD; Mary Jo Peters, Director of Technology, Hondo ISD; and Susanna Clavello, Coordinator, Digital Age Learning, Education Service Center Region 20.

We captured some of the panel discussion for our readers.

Dr. David Kafitz of the Learning Counsel started with introductions and asked about the transformations in panelist’s schools. 

Englehart: The transformation is continuing. The difference between business and education and we talk about that all the time, education is making transformations, but you need to understand that the technology and curriculum is the same. We work together every day. The transformation can’t happen without all of us.

Peters: In a smaller district there are a lot of things you need to take into account. Technology does change things, but the people are always important as [that] stays the same.

KafitzHow are you as leaders at the regional level or in your school districts helping people transition into this culture where things are changing more often?

Clavello: Everybody is afraid of change, everybody is reluctant to change, change is uncomfortable, yet it is the only thing that helps us make progress.

You are right when you say everything is changing, and in technology especially, it is impossible to keep up with everything new in technology, and the best way to stay abreast is to stay informed but also to become very comfortable with the things that work for you, that make your job easier, that make your students lives and learning easier, as well as being open to the possibility that technology offers. There are so many things that technology allows us to do today that would be impossible and unthinkable in years past. We need to be open to these possibilities and be ourselves lifelong learners and allow our students to meet their maximum potential.

With the technology today, the world is the curriculum. I ask you and I ask myself many times, what is the role of the teacher in a day and age when everything is available online. The answer to me is that the teachers’ role is more important than ever. Because we are not just delivering information anymore, we can search that, that’s why there’s Siri and Google. Teachers help students to be critical thinkers, and to be curators of information, to be digitally literate, to be good digital citizens, that is critical.

Change involves a lot.

Englehart:  Change in education. I focus more on the why than the what. I sit with learners and ask them about their technology, about their digital curriculum, I ask them if they like it or if they don’t like it. The first time you ask somebody to do something different, the first time you ask a teacher to use an iPad, they probably are not going to do very well. And they are going to forget and not know how to get through an application and that’s ok. The more you use something the better you get. The first time I coached a baseball team, I was a pretty bad coach. Then as I gained experience I got better. It’s the same with teaching. You can’t expect everyone to hit a home the first time.

Kafitz: What excites you about the future of education enabled by technology?

Englehart: It’s a passion and a desire to change.

Peters: I think the analytics is going to be very helpful. A lot of times you’re looking at data and it shows you why you need to change or do something differently. I think its very important to be able to look at this information. It’s the information age, we want to have good information and make decisions based on that.

Clavello: Looking back I ask myself, my gosh, if I had had these resources things would have been so different. There are more resources, there are more things than we could ever ask for or learn. Choose what works for you and become very comfortable. There is so much data to learn from that drives not only usage but student behavior. This helps us in our teaching and professional development.

Learning management systems are amazing and what I have observed from my work with some districts. They have learning management systems, they have digital resources, they have professional data on hand, but they don’t put it all together. And so, it’s not necessarily working the way its supposed to just because people don’t talk to each other. That or they don’t know how the systems work together. And so, once they work together they work excellently. I’m really excited about all of the possibilities.

Kafitz: What’s hot in your role in your district or region?

Clavello: I think if we can think of one common denominator it would be pedagogy. If you have tools, if you have resources but you don’t change the pedagogy, more than likely you’re not going to see any results in student learning or student achievement. Changing pedagogy doesn’t happen overnight. There is a mind shift, a tool shift and a skill shift.

Every student knows their librarian and every librarian knows every student and every teacher. Today more than ever their role is to know how to curate and how to assess information. We work with school leaders and leading change is not an easy thing to do so we support and guide this transition to the best of our abilities.

Peters: One of the goals I’ve set for myself is to help our teachers become learning consumers. Protecting themselves at home. Its not a matter of if your going to be hacked, its when. Teaching people to protect themselves and sometimes you need to protect them from themselves.

Englehart: Can you put a price tag on learning? A big industry that’s come about is safety.

Kafitz: What’s not popular anymore in terms of digital transformation?

Peters: What I see has changed over the last couple years. We used to do a formal videoconference and we would pray every day that it would work. Now it’s just call up a webinar and you’re in a class and it’s so much easier. I see the blending of online learning with videoconferencing. There is a lot more security in that. I’ve seen a difference in what a 1-to-1 looks like. We tried a trial with a 1-to-1 with a pilot and the campus was not as pleased with it as they thought they would be. In the classroom they might have 1-to-1 but it doesn’t necessarily go home with them. There is good internet in town but not so much outside of it. There are some challenges, but the next step is to get everybody on board with pedagogy.

Clavello: When planning for modern learning don’t think in terms of devices. Don’t start with a device in mind, and then figure out what your going to do with it, and then figure out what kind of PD you need, and then figure out what kind of security you need. Start with a vision, what do you want for your students, what do you want for your community. Based on that, create a path with your students learning in mind. Based on what you wanted to be able to do, choose the tools and choose what is appropriate to put in place. The second thing in terms of PD is training on applications or more recently, give me the list of apps so we can teach so and so.

In terms of apps, instead of the app providing just the content to the students, think also what you want students to be able to do with those apps. Where is the creative work the student is going to be able to do? Where is the higher thinking?

Kafitz: What are your next steps in your roles in the next 12 to 24 months?

Peters: One of my goals is that the leadership is shifting together. That they know the vision and are working together. I’m confident our top leadership values technology in education. I know they have a lot of things to deal with.

Englehart: My biggest thing is PD for staff, for teachers. As we transform everybody needs to be on top of their game. My biggest thing is hardware rather than software.

Clavello: I invite you to think a little bit differently about how you plan the school year. Because one of the ideas out there that has been used is the “first five days”.  In the first five days of school you build that information literacy foundation. When you teach that up front your students are much more independent learners. First, it’s having to teach the soft skills of learning. For example, on the first day, you teach only about how to ask questions. On the second day you teach them how to look for information in their resources. Teach them strategies to do that, where do you find what. On the third day you could teach them about digital citizenship and so on. Once you teach those foundational skills up front, yes you sacrifice one week, but its going to save you tons of time in the rest of the year because your students will now have some skills to become more independent learners and ultimately improve their learning.

Englehart: We talk about digital citizenship, we talk about the information our learners are learning or not learning. If you could teach science on the web in a social environment we could teach our learners what is right and what is not right to say to somebody and still learn at the same time. I challenge all of you to find those answers because together we can do this, alone I cannot.

Peters: We are finding that from the top down, when budgets are starting to be cut, librarians are first to be cut.

Clavello: People with extreme expertise need to keep building that expertise because they are that valuable that they need to learn how to leverage it in multiple ways. The states need to learn how to leverage those people across multiple education service centers across multiple school districts. What is your future role? If the role is going away because the structure is changing, what does it look like? What I’m seeing happen is the more extreme your knowledge the more extreme you can be leveraged.


Stay tuned for more reports from the field as Learning Counsel hosts Digital Transition Discussion events in 25 more cities!  If you would like to join the conversation online, visit KnowStory.com, create a profile and join the Learning Groups you are interested in!



Recent Articles


This is a fascinating look at school technology now and in the future that will ease the burden on teachers and create a pathway to real personalized learning


We need to have a deep understanding of the building blocks, the things that we're going to use in order to build an experience


The concepts that Mountain House High School are using may be a glimpse into the future of public education. It’s a redesign of time and space, and the students are thriving