The role of the CTO in school districts is evolving into one of the most important leadership positions in education, yet many who currently fill that job lack the skills and background to make the
Jeremy Shorr didn’t necessarily set out to be a CTO. “I have a somewhat strange career path,” he says, citing degrees in Linguistics and Executive Leadership and a stint as a show technician at Sea World. But his path led him to ed tech, luckily for his students at Mentor Public Schools (Ohio): “[I] started working as a freelance PC and network technician, focusing on small financial planning, accounting, and law firms, as well as at a few schools. After a couple of years I was offered a full time role in one of those school districts and have been in public education since.” He’s become a passionate advocate for education technology and earned his CETL last year. He came to the CETL through the Framework of Essential Skills, saying: “I was looking for a framework to use while working with IT directors…and found the Framework of Essential Skills to be the perfect fit.”
Jeremy always has an eye on the future of ed tech, and he’s full of ideas for which directions it will take. This year, he and his team at Mentor Public Schools have been focusing on blended learning, using it to eliminate full-classroom instruction and provide students with crucial small group instruction. He explains, “We’ve known for 115 years that small group instruction is the most effective way to meet the needs of all learners, regardless of age, subject, or need. The problem has been that, in the past, when students weren’t working with the teacher in the small group, they were typically engaging in worksheets or other busy work.” Technology has changed that: even when students aren’t interacting directly with the teacher, they can receive personalized instruction through online programs (and the teacher can check on their progress later). To help his team assess which of programs are most effective, Jeremy built a research and development classroom, Catalyst, that can be used for experimenting with different instructional models and tools.
Solving an age-old problem with new methods – that’s ed tech at its best! Mentor’s focus on blended learning has been hugely successful, fostering student engagement and expectations like never before. The district has been recognized with three Ohio Educational Technology Conference Awards, membership in the elite League of Innovative Schools, and mentions on the NSBA’s 20 to Watch list for Jeremy and a colleague, among other awards.
So what are Jeremy’s next priorities? Gadgets may be cool, but they’re not the point. In keeping with the Framework, he’s prioritized the connection between the IT department and educators, using as an example: “if an IT department is filled with Apple experts, but the educators (through pilots and research) determine that PCs are the best way to reach their students, then the IT department needs to reconfigure and retrain.” He’s also building appropriate-use policies, empowering students to use the internet effectively and appropriately. As for gadgets, he’s got his eye on wearables and implantables: “I have Google Glass. Yes, it’s buggy. Yes, you look like an idiot, but…we’re 4-5 years away from a much more robust product that is indistinguishable from a pair of regular glasses. What does it mean to education if I can wear a computer? We will no longer have the luxury of saying “devices off.” Rather, we’ll need to engage students with higher-order problems that ask them to apply knowledge, not recall it.” Get ready for a big change! We know Jeremy will be well-equipped to handle it.