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Sharing and Rewarding Your Successes, Failures

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Geoff Fletcher, Editor-At-Large

The Sylvia Charp Award for District Innovation in Technology will once again honor a district for its pioneering application of technology districtwide.

What is your district doing with technology? I ask because it's that time of year for T.H.E. Journal and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE; www.iste.org) to bestow the Sylvia Charp Award for District Innovation in Technology on a school district that has shown effectiveness and innovation in the application of technology districtwide. As I noted in my commentary last month, Sylvia was the outspoken, and often acerbic, editor-in-chief of T.H.E. Journal for 30 years, and an avid supporter of ISTE and its mission.

When Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE, and I talked about the creation of this award after Sylvia's death in the fall of 2003, we decided to focus on district-level implementation of technology. (Sylvia had worked at the district level in Philadelphia schools before becoming our editor.) While Don and I both agreed that the school is often the unit of change for educational reform, we also believe that the district is key for the successful—and equitable—implementation of technology at the K-12 level. The district sets the vision for all children and their use of technology; the district ensures that an appropriate and sufficient infrastructure is in place, functioning and supported; the district provides students and teachers with access to a variety of technologies for teaching and learning; and it's the district that guarantees equity of access to professional development for all staff. While different schools within a district may, and should, use technology differently depending upon the needs of the students, teachers, and neighborhoods feeding that school, the district is the one responsible for setting the tone for all the schools and supporting them.

Our first winner, Irving Independent School District (TX), was just the kind of district Don and I imagined when we launched the award. Highlights of Irving's work include a 1-to-1 initiative for all students in its four high schools, with a vision for grades 3-12. One of the district's high schools is The Academy, a magnet school devoted to the use of technology in a range of programs—from health, to law, to technology. To support all these efforts, Irving has hired a full-time instructional resource person and a full-time technical support person on each campus, with two at each high school.

Kiel Area School District (WI), last year's award winner, carried on the tradition of innovation and effectiveness established by Irving. Kiel's districtwide technology implementation includes, among other initiatives, requiring e-portfolios for all students. It also has an online charter school, the K.I.E.L. Charter School, which serves districts across the state and boasts a completion rate of better than 90 percent.

If you are implementing technology in an innovative and effective way districtwide, please view the complete list of criteria and fill out an application at www.thejournal.com/istecharpaward. Applications are due by mid-March, and the award will be presented in

July at the 2006 National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in San Diego. The winning district will receive $2,000 to use for registration, travel, and housing at NECC for two representatives from the winning district. The district also will be recognized in both T.H.E. Journal and ISTE's Learning & Leading with Technology. More importantly, your district will be able to share its successes with other districts around the country. And sharing successes and failures so others can learn and grow from them is what drove Sylvia. It also remains the core of our mission here at T.H.E. Journal.

Geoffrey H. Fletcher is Editor-At-Large for T.H.E. Journal.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.

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