First steps to connectedness
School leaders must have a vision of what learning, teaching, and schooling could be and should be, said Scott McLeod, director of innovation at Prairie Lakes AEA 8 in Iowa. While working with Prairie Lakes, McLeod is on a one-year leave of absence from the University of Kentucky, where he worked with CASTLE, a University Council for Educational Administration center that focuses on school administrators’ technology needs.
“We want our principals, superintendents, and policy makers to have deep, rich visions of what technology can look like, and a deeper understanding of how to make that happen—many of them don’t. The first challenge is how we address leaders’ learning needs,” he said.
The first step in addressing that challenge lies in connecting school leaders with others around the country who are a bit further into their educational technology journey. Once those connections happen, face-to-face meetings and training occurs, leaders begin to formulate ideas, and then they begin to reallocate internal resources toward changing teaching and learning within their schools and districts, McLeod said.
Moran said she and her staff are working to identify how digital strategies can help ACPS students stay connected to the best resources, experts, and opportunities.
“Being connected has become the mantra of the 21st century,” she said. Moran’s involvement and engagement in social media has linked her to other school leaders facing the same challenges, and has allowed her to learn about different steps those leaders are taking to form a connected generation of young people.
Moran likened her involvement in digital technologies to NASA’s space program and said that her district’s goal is to forge a deep level of learning and understanding that takes them beyond outdated strategies that tend to stagnate schools.
The digital divide is still very much a challenge in ACPS, and Moran said that as teachers begin to assign projects that require students to access devices and resources, and work together using tools such as Google Docs, some students find that they are living in a world of “haves” and “have-nots.”
“That really worries me, because I think it’s going to accentuate over the next few years as we see more and more of a flip towards the use of more of a web-based learning environment for students,” Moran said.
All ACPS schools have wireless internet access, “but once you get outside of that school sphere, it’s dead,” Moran said. Working with AT&T, district leaders placed two cell phone towers in the district’s most rural area, which enabled the district to expand internet access not just to teachers and students, but to the entire community.
When a rental agreement expired, the district regained control of educational broadband spectrum and is exploring partnerships to help spread access across the entire county. That initiative, which has been presented to the Federal Communications Commission, is currently in field testing.
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