Massachusetts district’s advice: Focus on learning, not technology

From staff reports
October 8th, 2012

“Once the students stop producing outputs of knowledge for only the teacher, their level of engagement and commitment to excellence increase dramatically,” Florek said.

Educators and administrators in the Hampshire Regional School District in Massachusetts try to avoid discussing technology—instead, they aim for technology to integrate seamlessly with classroom instruction and administrative processes.

With successful initiatives such as a lease-to-own laptop program and partnerships with local colleges to offer graduate credit for professional development, the Hampshire Regional School District is forging ahead in its goal of making technology an integral part of all operations—and for this reason, we’ve chosen the district as our “eSchools of the Month” for October.

Here, IT Director Kim Florek discusses some of the district’s most important goals—and how technology is helping the district achieve them. (Editor’s note: To nominate your school or district for our “eSchool of the Month” feature, and to read about past winners, go to

How do you use technology to advance student learning?

We are building 21st-century learning environments in all of our buildings. Our goal is not to talk about technology, but to talk about how we can best provide access to resources that enhance the curriculum, while at the same time engaging our students by using modern-day tools. Over the course of several years, we have upgraded our bandwidth, invested in our wireless infrastructure, outfitted most of our classrooms with Epson interactive projectors, and installed ELMO and Avery document cameras. We’ve also moved away from the traditional computer lab and have been outfitting our schools with mobile Apple Mac laptop carts and iPods/iPads. Several years ago, we also initiated a lease-to-own laptop program for middle and high school families in our district that has been very successful.

Equipment alone does not enhance student outcomes. The key to using what we have to enhance learning is rooted in teacher professional development (PD). Over the years, we have been committed to providing rich PD opportunities for our staff. In fact, several times we have partnered with higher education to offer graduate credits for our teacher PD, as well as an actual master’s program in technology.

While we are seeing an increase in the ways teachers are using technology to teach the curriculum, we are also seeing more students using technology to express the curriculum. One such example is a middle school cross-curricular unit called “Compassionate Math,” in which students combine mathematical statistics with a worthy third-world cause to come up with a persuasive advertising campaign. Students work in groups using Macintosh laptops to research a third-world country. They then use Microsoft Word to record facts and create scripts; use Excel to input data to create persuasive charts; and create photos, videos, and audio that are imported into a PowerPoint presentation, along with GPS data and map overlays. The teachers work with the library media specialist, who assists students in validating internet research, proper citation, and the technology being used. At the end of the project, students present their advertising campaign throughout the day in the library media center, where faculty and staff come by to listen.

Have you noticed an increase in student performance and/or motivation as a result of this technology use? If so, how?

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4 Responses to “Massachusetts district’s advice: Focus on learning, not technology”

October 8, 2012

This is a great article. I am a middle school principal in an urban district and I am moving in the irection of technology integration in the classrooms. I am looking for technology to help create independent learners and provide avenues for students to present ewhat they have learned and use that avenue as an effective evaluation tool. My issue is not just time to train teachers on how to integrate technology but motivating teachers to begin brainstorming on incorporating technology into the instructional process. We are inplementing the “Flipped classroom” concept with a few classes, utilizing Khan Academy to assist with student skills, and also Skype with different groups.

October 9, 2012

Wonderful article. As a district instructional technology coordinator, experience same challenges, along with many more. However, this article gives me hope and seems to illustrate a quote I recently came across, “Technology in education must be like oxygen: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible.” (by educator, Chris Lehman). C. Kleyn-Kennedy

October 9, 2012

@medleyda I recommend you first look at pedagogical goals you have for your staff and then determine technology that can support that and explicitly link the two together. Most teachers understand pedagogy, it’s the technology integration into pedagogy that can stump them. It’s easy to look at all the tech out there and become overwhelmed and feel like you need to play catch up, but start little, one or two strategies and let it build as teachers become more confident/excited as they see the results!

Exceptional article.Educators have a duty to prepare their students for an increasingly technologically saturated workplace, but technology should never be the focus in school. Technology should be transparent while learning remains at centerstage. Teachers, administrators and students should let the technology work for them and not feel compelled to work at the technology. Massachusetts has the right idea!