The growing importance of technology in the nation’s schools has changed our expectations of the superintendency. As school leaders come to rely on computers and the internet to engage students’ interest, track their progress, individualize instruction, and aid in decision making, an understanding of how technology works and how it can be used to transform teaching and learning is an increasingly essential characteristic for the 21st-century school executive.
In our sixth annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards, co-sponsored by TrueNorthLogic, eSchool News recognizes 10 of the nation’s top K-12 executives for their outstanding leadership and vision in the area of educational technology. Chosen by the editors of eSchool News with help from last year’s winners, these 10 exemplary leaders will be honored in a private ceremony held in conjunction with the American Association of School Administrators’ annual conference in San Diego Feb. 24.
Calvin Baker is the superintendent of the Vail School District in Vail, Ariz. His district has received national and international acclaim for its work with laptop computers, becoming one of the first school systems to substitute laptops for textbooks.
Arizona’s Vail School District is widely known, both nationally and internationally, for being the first to substitute laptops for textbooks. This bold initiative did not happen in isolation. Rather, it was the natural outgrowth of the district’s strong history of using technology to make education more relevant and efficient, according to Superintendent Calvin Baker.
Fundamentally, the district has used technology to develop and frequently monitor a strong standards-based instructional model. Technology also is used to design, deliver, and analyze measurements of student progress. To that end, it was only natural to use technology (laptops and the internet) to efficiently provide instructional materials and delivery directed at specific instructional standards, explained Baker.
Technology also has been used throughout the district to make this model transparent to parents, who, for more than five years, have been able to use the internet to monitor their children’s grades, test scores, and attendance as soon as they are entered. And technology is the primary vehicle for both individual and group communications by staff within the district. In Vail, everything from IEPs, to purchase orders, to maintenance work orders now are handled digitally. Aggressive use of technology is simply expected, said Baker.
The district’s governing board recently modeled this expectation by moving to paperless board packets and meetings. Teachers in the district are motivated to engage the use of technology through a program that enables them to earn a personal computer by demonstrating specific competencies related to technology use. Technology use has been further enhanced and enabled with the assignment of a professional-level technology staff person at every school.
“Our students will be living and working in a world where technology will be integral to most everything they do,” said Baker, who notes, “It should be equally integral in the schools preparing our students for that world.”
Mark DiRocco is superintendent of the Lewisburg Area School District in central Pennsylvania. He has held several teaching and administrative positions during his 27-year career in public education and earned a Ph.D. in the Instructional Systems Program at Penn State University.
Under the leadership of Superintendent Mark DiRocco, the Lewisburg Area School District in Pennsylvania has boldly moved forward with the infusion of technology into every facet of the school system. With the goal of ensuring that technology is available to students to enhance the learning process and improve achievement in the classroom, administrators in this small district of 1,800 students have worked to place at least one stationary computer lab and mobile computer lab in each of its four main school buildings.