How have you financed your ed-tech initiatives?
The district finances its initiatives using federal Impact Aid funds, eRate funds, and most recently, a $1.2 million Department of Defense Educational Activity Grant. This is a three-year, district-wide grant that has expectations for achievement as well as staff professional development. The community served by our school district is predominantly military-affiliated. The location of the school district (on an army base) brings with it some challenges that technology helps us deal with more effectively. Mobility is a factor for us; student attendance data management helps us transition our students effectively when their parents are deployed to another work site.
What project are you most proud of, and why?
At this time, we’re most proud of the implementation of a technology integration specialist coaching program at each school. The specialists assist all teachers in lesson design and delivery, with an emphasis on integrating technology. The program is very comprehensive and is evaluated quarterly by the staff and twice a year by an external evaluator. The specialists used a technology integration matrix to establish a baseline for teachers in technology integration, and now they are designing professional development and professional coaching activities to support the growth of teachers to the infusion level.
What have been your biggest ed-tech challenges, and why? How have you overcome them?
Real-time accessibility of resources was a key challenge that affected our teachers’ ability to integrate technology effectively in their instruction. Staff became frustrated with the backbone infrastructure and our capacity to run software effectively. We are a small school district, and our staff resources are minimal. Over time, various consultants worked on portions of the backbone, additions were made and upgraded, and the compatibility of the components wasn’t always certain and it was not very efficient. We partnered with corporate experts to help us with this problem and to get the network operating effectively, so that when teachers started using technology it actually worked, the students were engaged, and the teachers felt immediate rewards without excessive frustrations.
What’s your best ed-tech advice for colleagues?
Research, research, research—that is the most important piece of advice I can give. It is vital that individuals search out information about any hardware, software, or infrastructure components being considered for purchase in the district. The time spent in the pre-purchase data collection process will return itself exponentially for a school administrator, because it will prevent decision-makers from being dazzled by glitz and not having substantial quality when the purchase is complete.
Continue to expand your personal knowledge base, and become a tech-savvy leader so you can make sound decisions for the system for which you are responsible. That way, you will make more informed purchasing decisions and use precious resources more efficiently and effectively.
This work is never finished, because new technologies are emerging daily. Keep an open mind and engage in informed decision making; prepare yourself and your staff for constant change.
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