For now, DeSantis spends most of his time on the road, visiting classrooms to see if there is another technology that could help teachers during the pandemic and beyond. When the pandemic is over, his priority will be to find the right tools to help teachers create digital content, especially more video content.
“We struggle with visual media, and we have to catch up,” he says. “Children are entering a world where they will increasingly be in front of or behind the camera. We need to start preparing them for that world.”
explore: The Logitech C270 HD webcam provides a clear picture of the K-12 instructions.
Focus on progress amid crisis
Stephen Hopper cites his years in class as a special education teacher as giving him a broader perspective on his new job as director of technology in the Ames Community School District, Iowa, a role he took on last July. ACSD has eight schools and over 4,900 students.
“I see things in ones and zeros, but I can also see things in letters and shapes and colors — it helps me put issues into context,” says Hooper, who has also worked as a school principal, technology curriculum coordinator and educational technology consultant.
ACSD was a singles area before the pandemic, with laptops issued to high school students and Google Chromebooks for those in lower grades. The district also purchased 300 hotspots and distributed them to families with limited or no connectivity. ACSD holds in-person classes for K-5 students and uses a hybrid middle and high school model; 30 to 40 percent of Ames families chose to pursue distance learning.
Huber says the response to the pandemic has not been easy, but the crisis has yielded progress. “I’ve seen more happening in the last year to promote technology integration in education than in the past 15 years,” he says. “I’ve seen teachers embracing distance learning that they didn’t have before. I’ve seen online taught courses that no one thought possible. In these ways, the pandemic has pushed learning technology forward.”
Dive deeper: Is virtual learning here to stay?
Now ACSD plans to create a permanent remote campus, offering the option of distance learning or an integrated model with some in-person classrooms, Huber says.
“The pandemic has taught us to look at problems as a way to innovate,” he says. “I want us to use this model to solve problems and use technology for more student-centered solutions.”
Setting a gold standard for technical skills
Managing IT, understanding the educational use of technology, and demonstrating leadership skills are the three competencies that make a successful K-12 technology leader, Krueger says.
CoSN has created a 10-point framework to analyze those skills in more detail. In an effort to elevate and standardize the school’s technological expertise, the organization has created a national certification program, Certified Educational Technology Leader. The CETL certification is the world’s first ambitious school technology certification, says Krueger, and is only open to those with at least four years of educational technology leadership experience.
“It’s not an entry-level certification,” Krueger says. “It’s meant to be a gold standard.”
Read more about the evolving role of information technology in distance education at edtechmag.com/k12/RemoteIT.