Before rolling out the initiative, Huntsville invested about $200 per student on the network infrastructure needed to make the program a success. That amounted to about $5 million, some $3 million of which the district got back in the form of eRate discounts.

Training and support

Building capacity also involves training and supporting staff through ongoing professional development, the superintendents said, and not just one-time workshops. Finding the time for such intensive professional development isn’t easy, they acknowledged—but they shared some of their strategies for making it happen.

Duncan said this requires “maximizing every minute of every day.” Her district gives teachers common planning time and takes advantage of in-service days and release time for further development.

Randy Moczygemba, superintendent of the New Braunfels Independent School District in Texas, said his district has posted short videos to its network, demonstrating what effective teaching and learning using technology looks like. Teachers can watch these videos whenever their schedule allows.

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Peterson said his district has converted an old bus into a wireless mobile lab, called the eCoach, that is used to teach both students and educators.

“We now take the training to our teachers,” he said, instead of requiring them to drive to off-site training. The eCoach program has “reduced a lot of … windshield time” and has made training more efficient, he added.

Andrejko said her district encourages teachers to join personal learning networks (PLNs) to continue their professional growth through Twitter and other social media.

Being a professional “involves creating your own personal professional development,” she explained.

Ensuring sustainability

In today’s economic climate, the funding to sustain ed-tech programs can be hard to come by. The Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award winners discussed how they meet this challenge in their districts as well.