Pre-amble to the Technology Summit
At this year’s kick-off event for the year, our district superintendent highlighted something that caught my attention. He spoke about Kent School District being known for its technology, but he mentioned that we have a history of serving the technology instead of it serving us. Whoa! Now this was a common grumbling among teachers, but not something voiced before by anyone involved in making the implementation decisions. This also went over with IT like a ton of bricks (as one can imagine).
Flash forward, and our new assistant superintendent of technology is talking about his vision for a summit that would re-envision technology usage in education across our district and community. He wanted everyone to come together and create a vision for how technology would change from becoming an end in and of itself to a means only used when it truly helps improve educational outcomes. This was different. I was curious, but I had questions…
Questions About Spending a Saturday on a Technology Summit
- What would this look like?
- Why should I go?
- What would come out of this?
- How much “fluff” versus “substance” would there be?
- How high level versus applied and practical would this be?
- What would come of this experience?
Pre-summit Visit from a Man in a Bow Tie
My principal and I pressed our assistant superintendent about the day and didn’t necessarily get the answers that we wanted. He’s a really nice guy and very passionate, however, so we were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and agreed to go. Too often though, nothing comes of these events down the road and there goes another Saturday that I could have spent with my family.
“Oh, and by the way, can we visit your school the day before the summit?” as asked by our assistant superintendent. The guest consultant who’d be leading the summit wanted to see a “day in the life” of students across the Kent School District and they wanted our elementary school to represent the other 29 elementary schools. We re-arranged schedules, moved a lesson, and accommodated our guests. “This better be good,” I thought…
The Big Day Arrives
Our visit went well and our guests were very kind and complimentary. This did give us some additional time with them and an advantage in terms of mentally preparing ourselves for the summit. Oh, and by the way, “Please bring your school’s Apple TV,” was semi-asked very directly multiple times. Our poor district IT person had to very humbly and kindly follow-up via a call at 4:30 PM on Friday asking if they really could use it.
So here I am on the big day at the summit with my last name being flashed across the big screen because access to the Apple TV was named as such. There were lots of friendly faces though and I was relieved to see that I would at least be among many of my favorite people from across the district. My principal and I were not sat next to each other like we’d requested as a condition of our attending, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was seated with the superintendent (a nice, well-spoken man whom I admire, with a strong vision for the district).
After some time to mingle and talk and hug and catch up, the conference day started with some warm welcomes and a chorus of “happy birthday” for our assistant superintendent. He was here on his birthday so I was willing to give him even a little more leeway.
Our coordinating consultant kicked things off by talking about how many districts around the world had worked in similar fashion to create a unique vision for their district. We’d be looking at what “Education 3.0” in the 21st century should look like for our students. No limits, but how could we redefine school with technology serving as a vehicle to make the experience better for all.
Finding Our Vision
We were tasked with finding our vision for the Kent School District. We’d be drawing a scene encapsulating a “day in the life of a 21st century Kent School District student” and then we’d be presenting this to the entire summit with questions and comments.
Our table consisted of a parent of two students (elementary and middle school), two librarian/media specialists, a high school student, a business representative from Discovery, a principal, our superintendent, and myself (elementary STEM teacher). The table consisted of strong personalities with clear opinions and some very rich debate and discussion. We were a micro-cosm of the bigger event at large, though perhaps more outspoken than most tables.
Our ideas and compromises were more hard-fought throughout the day as we worked to capture our three ideas: greater connectivity for sharing with family; technology being about connecting relationships that centered on the student; and technology as a way to grow diverse viewpoints through a K-12 digital portfolio–one that followed and grew with students from the beginning to the end of their educational careers.
This was the process in a nutshell and this was our day. By the end we had three scenes per table, and 54 total for the summit. We wrapped up with the intent that our multimedia department will be taking the typed, drawn, and recorded evidence from the day and turning it into a scripted video that illustrates our vision as a district moving forward: step 1 in a series of steps as we begin the hard “work of the work” required to turn this vision into a reality.
My Takeaways from the Event
There were a few clear takeaways for me. Hearing students speak from their personal perspectives was powerful and helped focus on some of the needed changes that will bring powerful improvements to engagement: student choice and hands-on experiences. The top three topics raised in regards to technology were improving equity, increasing connectivity, and facilitating relationships. The event was long on the philosophical but short on the practical. The practical ideas that were shared were good (like a specialized student/teacher/parent universal app) but we need a lot more of the practical applications hashed out still.
Personally, my school has a vision that we are moving towards and I believe we are already traveling down this path. As far as our district goes, it all depends on what the stakeholders decide to do with the information. If nothing then all we’re left with is a unique experience on a rainy Saturday and a cutesy video. If something, then we helped to envision stage 1 of our district’s evolution in educational technology pedagogy. Vision work is somewhat fluffy and abstract by nature, but if this can drive tangible, concrete change then the time was well-spent. Most importantly, it was pointed out to me that this event demonstrates a willingness and sets a precedent by our district to sit down with us (teachers, students, parents, community, etc.) and then truly listen to what we have to say: “build nothing without us” as my superintendent likes to say.
- This was helpful for the district, but was this the best use of my time?
- How powerful versus “feel good” will the video be? And will it be an impetus for real change?
- How binding is this group’s vision?
- How does the resulting vision fit in with our district’s blueprint for the future?
- The problems and challenges often lie in the details, what will these be?
- What do the next steps look like?
- How long before we begin to see any fruits from this labor?
Quick Update: One Month Later…
So far, so good. I am pleased to say that event follow-up communications were quick in coming and things appear to be moving in a good direction. It’s clear from this coordinated and timely effort that everything is well organized. Vision posters from the day were published to the website, as were the feedback forms–the majority of which were positive. This is no small task and represents a lot of hard work from a dedicated team of people. Additional community input opportunities were planned via “Town Hall” meetings: three of them actually, all of which involved getting as many additional voices engaged in the process as possible.
I curiously await the vision as shared in text and video that will come out of this. It looks like they are on track for the assistant superintendent’s original vision as paraphrased at the beginning of this blog, “He wanted everyone to come together and create a vision for how technology would change from becoming an end in and of itself to a means only used when it truly helps improve educational outcomes.” By staying the course, they will also achieve my long-term hope for the summit which I also stated towards the end of the initial blog, “If something [comes out of this effort], then we helped to envision stage 1 of our district’s evolution in educational technology pedagogy. Vision work is somewhat fluffy and abstract by nature, but if this can drive tangible, concrete change then the time was well-spent.”
I think the last statement from my original post is what gives me the most cause for cautious optimism, “it was pointed out to me that this event demonstrates a willingness and sets a precedent by our district to sit down with us (teachers, students, parents, community, etc.) and then truly listen to what we have to say: ‘build nothing without us’ as my superintendent likes to say.”
To continue to stay updated on the district’s progress, please visit the summit’s dedicated website.
Helpful Links and Resources
Carmen Rahm’s Event Summary: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/kent-school-district-teaching-learning-technology-vision-carmen-rahm
Cynthia Temesi’s Event Summary: http://blogs.cisco.com/education/why-technology-in-the-classroom-is-about-more-
Kent Tech Summit Website: http://www.kent.k12.wa.us/technologysummit
Kent Tech Summit Recap Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeb1pel9mJ8&feature=youtu.be
Kent Tech Summit Flyer: http://www.kent.k12.wa.us/cms/lib/WA01001454/Centricity/Domain/1177/TechSummitFlyer6.pdf
Our Guest Facilitator’s Website: http://www.kent.k12.wa.us/cms/lib/WA01001454/Centricity/Domain/1177/jimlengel%20bio.pdf
Education 3.0 Video: http://lengel.net/123/Education1-2-3.mov
Denver’s Video: http://ed3dot0.net/cgcs/Denver.mov
SAMR Technology Model Blogpost by Carina Stillman: http://corelaboratewa.org/samr-a-journey/
Kent Tech Expo Website: http://www.kent.k12.wa.us/Page/6999