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National School Boards Honors Ed Tech Innovators

Those who use technology in the classroom and school operations in innovative ways share three characteristics: They're willing to take risks; they share what they learn with their colleagues; and they inspire others to believe that they can be effective too. This from the National School Boards Association, which has just designated 20 people as educators "to watch."

Each year this non-profit representing state and local school boards recognizes education leaders who motivate others to try new technology approaches to make a difference in the learning and school environment.

The impact of their efforts, said Ann Flynn, director of education technology, is that "their voices and experience will inform local, district and state approaches to education technology decisions for years to come."

Added Thomas Gentzel, the organization's executive director, "The honorees offer real-world examples of how new technologies are being used to impact learning and how these new tools may influence or inform policy... From 'BYOD' and the Maker Movement to virtual schools and the increased use of the cloud, these inspirational pioneers are paving the way."

This year's winners are:

  • John Andrews, chief information officer at Dysart Unified School District in Arizona, who coordinated a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program during a period when the district was growing but had limited budget for making technology purchases. He also led development of iPAL, a suite of applications that provides online curriculum, data and a professional development platform for teachers in the district.
  • Matt Meyers, a teacher in Connecticut's Greenwich Public Schools and CEO of Slate & Tablets. Meyers wrote his school's computer science curriculum and with his brother created a set of learning apps for students to use on their mobile phones and a planning app for teachers to use on their iPads.
  • Illinois' John Connolly, director of technology at Consolidated High School District 230, has instigated 1-to-1 and BYOD programs, promoted a move to Google Apps for Education, and introduced the use of social media in the district.
  • Brad Hagg, chief technology officer for Indiana's Warsaw Community Schools, introduced an online data dashboard and tools focusing on student safety. He also serves on the state's eLearning Leadership Cadre, which supports schools and educators in adopting innovative forms of educational technology.
  • Kansas' Rob Dickson, director of technology at Andover Public Schools, has helped lead his district into a top-10 position on the Center for Digital Education's Digital School Districts Survey in four of the past five years. He previously led the first installation of a VCE VBlock cloud infrastructure in K-12, which in its first year of operation saved the district data center 70 percent in power consumption and 66 percent in cooling.
  • Beth Hudson, the associate superintendent at Geary County USD 475, also in Kansas, was recognized for her work in creating professional development opportunities, including an annual technology learning fair where teachers build their skills in using digital tools and integrating technology into their instruction.
  • Kentucky Superintendent Roger Cook at Taylor County School District has facilitated the introduction of iPads for all high school students, the use of flipped classrooms and virtual learning for both traditional students and adults who have dropped out of school.
  • Timonious Downing, a teacher and technology liaison for Prince George's County Public Schools and Walker Mill Middle School in Maryland, developed a flipped and gamified English/language arts class at his school, placing gifted and talented seventh graders into "guilds" that engage in academic competitiveness tracked on a leaderboard. He also provides support for the after-school Minecraft club.
  • Michigan's Brad Waid, a teacher at Eastover Elementary School in Bloomfield Hills Schools District, has encouraged his students to explore the use of technology in his classroom through the use of iPads and augmented reality.
  • Barry Bachenheimer, the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at New Jersey's Pascack Valley Regional High School District, has pushed teachers to use an extensive 1-to-1 program to create "virtual school days' to replace "snow days," flip their classrooms, use social media for global learning experiences, and focus on digital citizenship learning opportunities. He also created a hybrid master schedule to give students greater choice in supporting their individual learning goals.
  • Laura Fleming, a media specialist at New Milford High School in New Jersey, is being recognized for her blog, Worlds of Learning, which has shared her experiences in developing a digital badge program to give credit to teachers' informal learning and introducing a maker space in her media center, which includes the use of 3D printing, Raspberry Pi and MaKey MaKey kits.
  • New York's Luvelle Brown, superintendent of schools for the Ithaca City School District, has put forth a vision for her district that includes ubiquitous wireless and contemporary learning spaces designed to address new instructional models integrating technology.
  • Tracey Dunn, a teacher at Hopkins Elementary School in Ohio, introduced a blended learning model to kindergarteners in her district's research and development classroom, focusing on small-group instruction. Students use QR codes and iPads to rotate through stations that include teacher interaction, digital content and digital storytelling.
  • Pennsylvania's Rich Kiker, director of online learning at Palisades School District, has developed a K-12 blended and online learning program, Palisades Cyber Academy, which has created flexibility in scheduling and increased options for students to pursue their interests and has also saved the district hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.
  • Bradley Wilson, the curriculum leader of customization and instructional technology for Upper St. Clair School District, also in Pennsylvania, has personalized instruction for his students through flipped learning and the Explain Everything app, a whiteboard and screencasting tool.
  • In Tennessee Kecia Ray, executive director of learning technology at Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, is being recognized for her work in lobbying for state laws and policies that encourage the use of virtual learning after the success of the district's first virtual school launched under her leadership. She is also the current president of the board of directors for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
  • In Texas two educators are being honored. Joli Barker, an elementary educator in the McKinney Independent School District, has introduced game-based, project-based learning in her "Fearless Classroom" approach, where the lessons include real-world "empathy" games, such as the "Heart Code Project." Her work has sparked a movement, encouraging teachers to change the way they design lessons and teach.
  • Elaine Plybon, an instructional resource trainer in secondary science for the Keller Independent School District, is co-founder of Girls of Technology (GOT), a school club to encourage girls to pursue STEM career opportunities. She also serves on the leadership council of the Discovery Education Network.
  • Barbara Gruber, technology resource specialist at Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia is also promoting STEM. She has created opportunities for students to videoconference with field experts, perform NASA-guided simulations, and create 3D objects in maker space centers.
  • Jennifer Maddux, assistant principal of Harry F. Byrd Middle School, part of Henrico County Public Schools, also in Virginia, has developed a suite of resources and training portals to support delivery of 21st century instruction.

This year's recipients will be honored during the 2014 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Conference later this month in Washington, D.C. and at an April Technology Leadership Network luncheon during the National School Boards' Annual Conference in New Orleans. Technology company TechSmith sponsors the events and provides software scholarships to the honorees.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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