School Technology: Important for Teaching, Learning

As school districts work to prepare students for careers, education and life beyond high school, teaching and using technology in schools has become increasingly important. This doesn't mean simply purchasing and using new devices in school. For example, it can also mean sending "literacy texts" to parents with tips about reading. Regardless of how we do it, our obligation as educators is to determine what uses of technology work best to meet educational goals for students.

Here in New York, we now have an important opportunity to fund education technology initiatives through a $2 billion bond, the Smart Schools Bond Act, approved by voters on November 4. Broadly, the funds must be used for plans submitted by districts and approved by the state, for equipment such as whiteboards and computers; Internet connectivity; high-tech security; or facility renovations for prekindergarten programs. In my own district, the City School District of New Rochelle, our expected funding is just over $3.5 million.

Even prior to the bond's passage, we have been working to meaningfully address technology issues this fall, most notably at our first district-wide digital media summit October 23. As New York's 11th largest school district, we offered free technology education focusing on the social/emotional/educational landscape of children's digital lives to all parents of the district's 11,000 students, K-12. The evening was highlighted by an in-depth, interactive presentation, a student performance, and expert panel discussion featuring special guests, including "America's Psychologist" Dr. Jeff Gardere, KidzVuz Co-Founder Ms. Nancy Friedman and moderator Mr. Mike Gilliam, FiOS1 News Anchor.

To be sure, we will also continue to embrace the opportunity to provide more specific technology lessons to students and additional training for teachers in using technology as part of everyday instruction. Significantly, both of these components also require the presence of an up-to-date technology infrastructure, one of the needs the bond funds are meant to address.

Our challenge and opportunity is not unique, as school districts across our country are faced with the need to upgrade technology infrastructure as they simultaneously work to teach students the latest technology information and best incorporate technology into daily learning. As an example, the Common Core English Language Arts standards, adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia, state that students must learn to "use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others."

And just because you've included technology teaching and learning within a district's curriculum doesn't necessarily mean you've finished the job. In 13 states, including New York, online Common Core Standards assessments in a variety of subjects will be required beginning in spring 2015. Districts in these states, which are participating in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), are gearing up to meet all of the associated technology infrastructure requirements for testing.

Clearly, no matter where you live, educators must recognize that teaching and using technology in schools doesn't mean merely hiring and/or training teachers to do so. It involves deciding upon and then implementing:

1. What to teach at each grade level;

2. What learning standards must be met and how students will be assessed;

3. How to find funding to invest in teacher training and the necessary physical technology infrastructure;

4. How to effectively integrate technology as part of teaching and learning in all subjects.

School districts nationwide are working to meet these challenges. Our students deserve nothing less than to be as well prepared for the future as we can make them. As the late writer, professor and management consultant Peter Drucker stated, "Since we live in an age of innovation, a practical education must prepare a man for work that does not yet exist and cannot yet be clearly defined."