SETDA names new executive director

Levin has extensive experience in research, education policy, and technology.
Levin has extensive experience in research, education policy, and technology.

On Nov. 16, the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) will have a new leader: Long-time ed-tech industry executive Douglas Levin will take the reins from current SETDA Executive Director Mary Ann Wolf–and with challenges ranging from state funding shortages to the formation of a new national broadband plan, he’ll have his work cut out for him.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve, support, and represent state educational technology directors at the national level,” said Levin. “SETDA is well-positioned to expand its leadership in the greater educational community at this pivotal moment in education. I look forward to working with our members, my colleagues, and existing and new partners to ensure that our students, teachers, and schools have the capacity and tools they need to deliver on the American promise of a complete and competitive education from cradle to career.”

Levin added that he has great respect for Wolf and her predecessor, Melinda George, and the work they have done to take SETDA to where it is now. “I know I am taking the helm of a very positive organization already on a terrific trajectory,” he said.

Founded in 2001, SETDA is the principal association representing state ed-tech directors. It holds an annual Leadership Summit for members in Washington, D.C., and produces numerous research reports highlighting how states are leveraging technology to improve student achievement.

Wolf said it was time to pull back a little to spend more time with her family.

“I have decided to leave SETDA, and it was perhaps the toughest decision I have ever made. … I will continue to be involved in education and [ed tech] through consulting, and I will focus heavily on how technology can help to streamline service delivery and make a critical impact on students and teachers,” she said. “I will be able to continue working with SETDA through the transition, and [I] know that the organization will continue to grow and accomplish great things for its members and the education community.”

When asked what she thought was her greatest accomplishment as SETDA’s executive director, Wolf cited how the organization and its members have grown to play a crucial role in national discussions about education–and especially the importance of technology in ensuring students are prepared for the 21st-century economy.

“SETDA is certainly a convener of organizations and educators–both to push the envelope through discussions, but also [through] key publications like the Class of 2020 [Action Plan],” said Wolf. “SETDA believes in the strength of collaboration, and I have helped to build those relationships and secure tangible results. I am also very proud of the opportunity to testify on [Capitol] Hill to share real examples and success stories about how technology has impacted teaching and learning. Sharing what is working in practice with key policy makers is critical for the future of education.”

“Mary Ann’s legacy is that she took a very young organization to national prominence and has made SETDA the ‘go-to’ organization in educational technology leadership,” said SETDA Board Chair Wayne Hartschuh, Delaware’s ed-tech chief.

Levin, like Wolf, also has experience in dealing with ed-tech issues at the local, state, and federal levels. Over an 18-year career in Washington, D.C., Levin has become recognized for bridging the fields of education policy, research, and technology. Most recently, as the deputy executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), Levin launched an effort to spur innovation in state textbook and instructional materials adoption policies in light of innovations in digital materials and open educational resources.

Levin, in an interview with eSchool News, said he believes he brings multiple assets to SETDA, such as a broad-based background in education policy at the state and federal levels and experience in supporting education leaders across political parties on issues ranging from teacher quality to assessment to special education and “everything in between.”

“In addition, I have worked on these issues from multiple vantage points through roles in the nonprofit, association, and corporate sectors,” he said.

With a background in conducting and assessing rigorous education research, including experience in how research results are used in the policy-making process, Levin also knows how to use data to get results.

“Where the coin of the realm is scientifically based research and ‘what works,’ it is critical to be able to engage with data and research and have candid conversations about what we know, where there are gaps, and how we can move forward in responsible ways,” he explained.

Levin also collaborated with Linda Roberts, who directed the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology from its inception in September 1993 until January 2001, on the development of the first National Education Technology Plan in the mid-1990s.

In addition, he directed the Pew Internet & American Life study, “The Digital Disconnect,” leading the U.S. component of an international study on the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education, and he helped spearhead a private effort (vSKOOL) to aid students and schools in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita via online learning.

“The SETDA board of directors is thrilled that Doug will be our executive director,” said Hartschuh. “He brings a unique set of knowledge and experiences to SETDA.”

According to Hartschuh, SETDA conducted a national search for its new executive director and received 23 highly qualified applications. The organization conducted interviews with 10 finalists before choosing Levin.

“Doug has a unique set of knowledge and experiences in research, education policy, and technology,” said Hartschuh. “We are very pleased with his leadership ability, but more importantly, he has a deep passion for educational technology.”

What lies ahead

In the midst of an economic recession and new federal leadership in Washington, D.C., Levin hopes to advocate for education technology at both the state and federal levels.

“We are in the midst of a very dynamic policy environment at the federal and state levels, and I expect that I’ll be devoting a lot of time to these issues,” said Levin. “State budgets are in very difficult shape and, by all predictions, it will get worse before it gets better.  We’ll also be looking potentially at a wholesale changeover in governors by the fall of 2010.”

At the federal level, Levin plans to continue lobbying for ed-tech support and will press for SETDA to have a say in the Obama administration’s ed-tech plans.

“The FCC is developing the first-ever national broadband plan, with education as a [key] focus area. The U.S. Education Department [ED] is working on a new National Education Technology Plan and–we hope shortly–will name a full-time educational technology director. [ED officials] also are hard at work in thinking about the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which includes a number of key educational technology programs,” Levin said. “Plus, we’ve got the stimulus programs and the Common Core state standards initiative. … These are challenging times, but also potentially very exciting times. You can feel that we could make a very real difference for the kids of this country if we can get this right over the next year.”

Levin said the good news is that SETDA already has demonstrated tremendous credibility in speaking for the ed-tech community and has shown the importance of state leadership.

“We look forward to working with our current partners and also to brokering some new ones as we focus on how we best can use technology to improve schools, support educators, and improve student learning,” he said.

Although Levin won’t officially become SETDA’s executive director until Nov. 16, he will greet the organization’s members and corporate sponsors at SETDA’s Leadership Summit on Nov. 1 and participate in its Education Forum on Nov. 3.





Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Education 3.0 resource center. In some forward-thinking schools, technology isn’t just layered on top of traditional processes. Instead, it is woven seamlessly through all aspects of education, from building security to lesson plans and student collaboration — interconnecting all facets of school life, and truly revolutionizing the education experience. Go to: Education 3.0

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