As a series for Leadership 21, North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) has asked key leaders in our state to share their thoughts regarding e-learning, change leadership, key partnerships with the local district and NCVPS, building leadership capacity, leading and learning in a digital age, and others. The last post featured Dr. Donna Peters, former Superintendent of Montgomery County Schools and current NC State Superintendent of the Year. This posts highlights the work of another leading edge district, Halifax County Schools, written by Stacy Lee, Chief Technology Officer.
As I transitioned my career from corporation to education, and took on the role of Chief Technology Officer for a school district, I truly wondered what my biggest challenges would be. And more importantly, how would I manage those challenges so that technology is viewed as an enabler for student achievement…not something that gets in teachers way!
So here are some of the challenges I found and how our district is dealing with them:
1. Capacity – Many of our schools simply do/did not have the technology capacity needed for meaningful impact. Many classrooms, schools and media centers were lacking the very basics. If we are serious about 21st century readiness for our students, there are basic needs. Initially, we reviewed all funding and determined what could be diverted to technology. The review process was for all budget owners to review their respective budgets and see what was already identified for technology needs. Then a second level review was held to see if there were areas of the budget that would be better used for technology. We collaborated with administrators for district and school based plans and agreed upon priorities. We became aggressive with grants and have recently secured funding for interactive classroom solutions and digital conversions. However, in my estimation, the collaboration was our most important first step because it was critical to get everyone on the same page regarding priorities and this collaboration got us to that agreement.
2. Support – If “it” doesn’t work when “it” needs to work, teachers and administrators quickly lose faith! We reviewed our support model and made sure we had processes and resources in place to quickly react and fix issues when they arise. Some of these processes were adding remote capabilities to end devices where simple fixes could be made remotely reducing windshield time. Another was to review issue logs and determine patterns where one fix would address many issues. With a relatively small support team, we have also made our support plan as central as possible. With all we deploy, we centrally manage it. Throughout our planning, support is a top priority.
3. Modeling – We have found there is a little bit of “I don’t see why we have to use that” attitude when it comes to administrators and teachers. But one of the most important aspects of any integration plan is leading by example. We are driving the use of “tools”. Why have a face to face meeting if a virtual meeting accomplishes the same? We are driving towards more use of online tools such as Google docs and other collaborative tools for meetings. The setup for the use is easy and quick. Just set up a wiki (for instance PBWiki, Wikispaces) and you are on the way. Why not use collaborative tools during a brainstorming session (TitanPad, Bubbl.us)?No need for flip charts any more. Our team constantly tells folks you really can’t “break” anything so just jump in and have fun! The students pick up on this quickly and are often one of our best resources for modeling.
So after a year on the job, the challenges are still here…we have funding holes, things still break and some folks are slow to get on board, but with good capacity building, support and modeling, we are making improvements and student achievement is increasing.