You can also move too fast. We are the last district in our county to be a one-to-one school district. We’re moving in that direction, and the delay was by design — our district was not ready until now. We had to offer professional development, and we had to bring in different systems to help our teachers get used to the technology. Now, after five years of preparation, we’re planning one-to-one.
EDTECH: It sounds as though you have to know your district and its capabilities to find the right technology strategy — is that right?
Thomas: You absolutely do. I could flood our school buildings with computers, but if they’re not being used, it’s a waste of resources and taxpayer money.
I listen to our teachers as they come to us with ideas. We do the research and analyze the technologies. If a product will work for them, we’re willing to take that step. But we’re not willing to just throw technology at a teacher if it’s not going to be used. I listen to the feedback from our teachers and from the administrative staff before we make any kind of decisions.
EDTECH: What has been the reaction of the teaching staff to technology in your classrooms?
Thomas: It depends, and it’s hard to predict. You may get a teacher who’s been out of college for one or two years who’s reluctant to try new things or a veteran teacher who’s enthusiastic and looking to bring fresh life into his or her classroom.
A lot has to do with the approach we take. Teachers don’t want something forced down their throats. They want to have a voice, so we try very hard to listen to them. As administrators, obviously, there are things we have to do.
For example, there are guidelines I have to follow for network security. Often, teachers and administrators don’t understand that piece, but if you explain it on their terms, they’re OK with it.
MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out how to design an effective technology evaluation program.
EDTECH: So, user communication is important?
Thomas: It’s vital. If you don’t have user communication, you’ll end up with an IT department nobody feels they can rely on and nobody trusts.
EDTECH: What upgrades are in your district’s future?
Thomas: We’re in the middle of a new building project, a K–5 elementary that’s slated to be opened in August 2021. We’re moving away from projectors and interactive whiteboards in our classrooms and moving toward interactive video panels. The video panels are slated for the new building, and we’ll put them in the classrooms in our existing buildings as money is available.
We’re analyzing moving the high school to a one-to-one program in the next couple of years. That will put a Chromebook in the hands of every kid in our high school. We’ll soon have to look at our wireless infrastructure again and do a refresh of that. We’ll probably have to increase bandwidth because we are doing more tasks with web services.
We’re rarely just doing maintenance. It’s important to move the technology bar in our school district, but to do it in very calculated way. We’re always looking ahead to figure out what’s next.