SEDTA Meeting at NECC 2009

by Jean Tower

This evening one of the events I attended was the SEDTA “Turning the Tables” state member set up . Each participating state technology director sets up a table displaying materials that tell what that state is doing with technology in education. One of the agenda items was the Virginia’s Innovative Application Contest Winners Award Ceremony. Todd Bowden won for a really cool educational app, Number Line. Number Line is available free from the iTunes store (under apps).

After the award was presented, the featured guest speakers were Aneesh Chopra (Obama Administration, Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director for Technology, Office of Science and Technology Policy) and Jim Shelton (US DOE, Assistant Deputy, Secretary, Office of Innovation and Improvement). They were both interesting and spoke with great conviction of the importance of technology as a key factor in improving schools and in rebounding the economy.

I have tried to capture here, a few of the salient points.
Aneesh Chopra:
The Obama administration does not see technology as a separate entity or program with technology centered goals. Rather, the thinking is more like “how do I bring technology innovation to the entire portfolio of projects I want to accomplish.”
My Comment: This is exactly the kind of shift in thinking I wish for my colleagues in education. Rather than ask me what is the latest and greatest gadget, I would like to have educational administrators think about how we can apply technology to core curriculum issues and to all of our strategic plans and goals.

Jim Shelton:
In talking about the role of technology directors, Jim explained how technology was becoming an ever more vital piece in the solution to many problems. “People are about to figure out how important you really are” and “expect to be pulled into conversations in many realms” he said.

“The details of The Race to the Top are not yet public” but he did add a note about technology being an important component of many solutions.

Jim said that one important goal of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was to improve the infrastructure and specifically, to ensure that broadband becomes fully deployed.

More than once, he said that our educational standards must be “fewer, higher, and clearer” and that we must use ARRA funds for “more impactful outcomes.” He said that this was the biggest one time investment in education and that we will all be disappointed if five years from now we have spent it and don’t see real impact.

ISTE CEO Don Knezek asked about an “expanded accountability system” that would assess students all up and down the spectrum and that would not be targeted at measuring against some lowest minimum standard. Neither Jim nor Aneesh brought clarity or new thinking about this topic, but they also did not come to the defense of “the test.”

In response to a question about the tension between “locked down” networks and the creativity of teachers and students wanting more freedom on computers in schools, Jim Shelton said that to make teachers really effective users of technology they had to have the following:
“Just in Time, Real Time, Support, and Professional Development”
My Comment:

Hard to argue with that!
Aneesh Chopra had a response that really resonated with me. He said that schools had to think about the requirements of the organization and “the profile of the individual who will bring technology innovation to the front office and not just do what is comfortable to the back office.”
My Comment: This is an excellent point and reflects the thinking of the CoSN committee I have been working with on school technology administrator requirements and have certification criteria. When I approached Mr. Chopra afterwards, I introduced myself and then complimented him on his insightful comment. I explained that we were working toward a certification for technology administrators, much the way other school administrators have certification. At first he suggested that he thought that two people were required, a technology administrator who understands the “techie” side of the house, and someone else who understands what to do with technology in education. I hope I made my point that the CTO must understand the business of education and that the better solution is to have a fully certified CTO who has a strong and informed network administrator (and technical team) working for her or him.

I’m so glad our state Technology Director, Connie Louie, invited us to this event. It was worth attending just to hear some of the current thinking in the Obama administration about technology in education.

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