5 things changing today’s CTO role
Chief technology officers (CTOs) in school districts juggle any number of demands relating to IT support, technology integration into classroom instruction, and future district technology plans. But as technology changes, and as the needs of students and teachers change, so does the role of the CTO.
A panel of CTOs, ed-tech specialists, and educators at ISTE 2016 in Denver, moderated by Jeremy Shorr, the director of innovation and education technology in Ohio’s Mentor Public Schools, explored some of the challenges that come along with those changes and shared their best practices for ensuring that technology continues to meet the needs of teaching and learning throughout those changes.
Blended learning has enjoyed time as one of ed-tech’s big buzz phrases. But is it still relevant today, and if so, why? When and where does blended learning make sense, and how do CTOs support that transition? The blended learning umbrella is very, very big. Is that broad umbrella an asset or a detriment?
“Blended learning means flexible learning that caters to learning styles of students,” said Kevin Honeycutt, a technology integration specialist at ESSDACK. “Schools that try to do right by all students, instead of teaching one way, have never left this game. If you’re willing to be flexible to the point of contortionism on behalf of what students need, you’re in that game.”
The broad umbrella “can contribute to blended learning being a buzzword, and not necessarily something that is working to make learning better for kids,” said Susan Bearden, director of IT at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Florida.
Open educational resources
How do we support teachers in using OER? How should we share this content?
“The biggest challenge is that too many people still define curriculum by their texts - they buy a curriculum,” said Andrew Chlup, director of application programming and support in Alaska’s Anchorage School District. “Every one of those is a closed ecosystem by default. You’re not allowed to modify or share. Either a district itself starts to promote the Creative Commons, or you start tapping into the amazing resources out there, and it gives people the opportunity to grab it and let you personalize it.”
“I don’t think you should force people to do things,” said Alice Keeler, a Google Certified Teacher and the author of the book 50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom. “We should be concerned about quality. It’s great that [OER] are out there and free, but do we ask that the teachers wade through things that are not high-quality? There has to be an effective way to rate that, and crowdsourcing is not necessarily an effective way to do things. How do we have administrators and teacher teams look at the resources in a way that they’re not wasting their time?”
“I think there has to be a balance,” Chlup said. “Are you expecting people to go into it blindly and recreate things from scratch?”
Hayes Software Systems launches implementation plan for mid-sized districts
Hayes Software Systems, a provider of inventory control software and services for the K-12 education market, announced a new software implementation plan developed for mid-sized school districts. The plan will allow these districts focused on efficiently tracking and managing their assets with an automated inventory system to get up and running in as little as 15 days.
“We continue to listen to our customers within the education space, and this new option is a great example of that. Some school systems may not need the full scope of services that we offer, and yet they still want a solution to achieve their inventory control goals. We developed a more streamlined and out-of-the-box approach to provide an opportunity for all districts to take advantage of our premium asset management system,” said Matt Winebright, President and CEO of Hayes Software Systems. “One of the reasons we’re having such great success is that we continue to stay nimble and make proactive business decisions. Now we can reach an even bigger segment of the market.”
Just as with Hayes Software Systems’ Enterprise Implementation Plan, school districts will be able to track unlimited assets across the district, create an unlimited number of user profiles in TIPWeb-IT, and receive unlimited phone and email customer support for all software users. Customers can also attend free, pre-scheduled, virtual training sessions to understand the functionality of TIPWeb-IT and ensure they are maximizing all it has to offer.
Designed for districts with less than 10,000 students, The Basic Implementation Plan is ideal for those who want a superior software system, but don’t require personalized training sessions or a dedicated project manager. Customization options are also available to support asset management processes and system adoption, like onsite user training or a student information system integration, to further ensure data quality and user satisfaction.
Flexcat collaboration system gets big upgrade for ISTE
At ISTE 2016, classroom audio provider Lightspeed Technologies will introduce three new features of its Flexcat system. The only classroom audio system designed for small-group learning, Flexcat consists of a wearable microphone for the teacher, a speaker for whole-group instruction, and a set of two-way audio pods that allow teachers to listen and speak to small groups from anywhere in the classroom so they can reinforce, respond, and challenge students in their moment of need.
Lightspeed’s new mobile app, launching in July, turns teachers’ iOS device into a Flexcat remote control. This allows them to switch among the two-way audio pods directly from their device, making the Flexcat an even simpler and more seamless tool for gathering critical learning insights. The new app unlocks some additional new features of the system.
With the app, the new Flexcat includes expanded coverage for up to 12 audio pods, making it a powerful tool for large classrooms, small-group instruction, team teaching, and professional development events.
Flexcat now also supports Whisper Coaching, a variation on informative assessment. Through a small earpiece worn by teachers and their mentors, mentors can listen in to ongoing conversations between teachers and student groups. Whisper Coaching also allows teachers and mentors to have private conversations between their earpieces for real-time coaching and highlighting teachable moments.
“The Flexcat has transformed my classroom," said kindergarten teacher Susan Meyer. “Not only do I know that every student will always hear every word I say, but small-group learning is much more valuable for my students and more powerful when I can check in with each group individually to help them stay on track, clarify, and answer questions.”
“The latest updates give the Flexcat new capabilities for the classroom, but also make it an ideal solution for professional development,” said David Solomon, the executive vice president and general manager of Lightspeed Technologies. “Schools that want flexible technology can now use classroom tools for PD as well.”
Future Ready Schools heralds school librarians as leaders
Future Ready Schools (FRS), led by the Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, announced Future Ready Librarians, an expansion of the FRS initiative aimed at positioning librarians as leaders in the digital transformation of learning.
The FRS initiative helps district leaders recognize the potential of digital tools and align necessary technologies with instructional goals to support teaching and learning.
“In today’s digital world, the school library has evolved from a place to merely check out books to one that offers opportunities for collaboration, project-based learning, and online access,” said Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise. “Similarly, librarians are now playing central roles in school leadership and working daily with students, teachers, and administrators. Through Future Ready Librarians, school librarians will be better equipped to support teachers in their transition to a digital learning environment while themselves becoming more future ready.”
Follett, the largest provider of educational materials and technology solutions to pre-K–12 schools in the United States, will support the development of tools and resources to connect librarians and libraries in support of the FRS initiative and enable district leaders to better engage and empower librarians to support their FRS vision.
“Follett is thrilled to support the Future Ready Librarians initiative, as it aligns perfectly with our history and our vision for the future of education,” said Nader Qaimari, president of Follett School Solutions. “Through Project Connect and this initiative, we will continue to advocate for strong, empowered school librarians. Now we can be even more effective as we create new resources and services designed to position librarians as leaders in a digital transformation.”
A network of nationally recognized librarians, including Mark Ray, chief digital officer for Vancouver Public Schools in Washington, will provide input on the development of strategies, tools, and resources aligned with the FRS framework. A former high school librarian, Ray has been nationally recognized for transforming the role of the school librarian into a technological innovator in schools.
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