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
I’ve been an educator for over 20 years. I’ve always been that “techie teacher.” I started using technology in the classroom when I was student teaching and haven’t looked back. My eyes are always focused on the future as I develop a vision for using technology to ensure that all students exceed their learning goals. My passion for technology and my love of learning are evident to all who know me.
In 2008, I left the classroom to become a Learning Coordinator for a PreK-8 school district just north of Chicago, Illinois. Although I was an administrator with the curriculum team, my focus was instructional technology. Stepping from the classroom to this new role provided me with the opportunity to learn and grow as a leader. It was during this period of professional growth that I began networking with other CTOs and learned about CoSN and all the organization has to offer.
CoSN’s addition of the CETL certification made complete sense to me as a next step for my career. When the program was introduced, I signed up for the test immediately. As a technology leader moving into technology leadership from the classroom, I felt like I was a minority in the CTO world. The CETL demonstrates that I have the skills and vision to move from the classroom into technology leadership and be an asset to the school district. The combination of teaching experience and technology expertise I bring to my job makes me uniquely qualified to be a CTO, and I was thrilled to see that the CETL program recognized that.
John Dewey, the Father of Progressive Education, says it best, “our job as educators is to prepare students for their future, not our past.” The US Department of Labor has reported that up to 65% of students in school today will be employed in jobs that don’t exist yet. We need to prepare them for something that is unknown to us, and possibly unimaginable.
Educational technology is critical because it allows students to gain transferable skills that will be valuable in all careers—Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. By focusing on teaching and learning through the 4 Cs and using technology as a resource, another tool in the toolkit, students and teachers can make global connections and build skills that will last a lifetime.
We’ve seen a tremendous shift in education over the last 5-7 years. MakerSpaces, coding classes, MOOCs, and blended learning initiatives are occurring in pockets of excellence, but they will gain momentum over the next 5-7 years as technology continues to break out of its silo and become a seamless part of everyone’s teaching and learning. The good news is that very few schools have students heading to the computer lab when it’s “tech time” (a sure sign of living in the past), but we haven’t gotten to the point of ubiquitous technology. Maybe I’ll get lucky and by the time my daughter, now 7 years old, is college-bound it will be via a MOOC!
Today, whether it’s a 1:1 initiative or a cell-phone in their pocket, students have the opportunity to be continuously connected. As educators, we need to ensure that students make the right choices when using technology. Adults often assume that digital natives will always make the right choices, but in fact they need our guidance in what can often become a digital playground. We guide them in all areas as they develop...why should this be different?
The greatest accomplishment of my career is the professional learning network (PLN) I have developed through the years. I’ve made connections with some of the best minds and hearts in education. Technology has directly enabled me to maintain these relationships, and thanks to these connections, I’m always hearing about the latest and greatest with Educational Technologies. This network has given me the ability to push forward with cutting edge technologies and set the groundwork for amazing teaching and learning.
My teaching and administrative experiences, this vast network of colleagues, and the collaborative support of staff have allowed me to lead several large-scale technology initiatives during the past six years, including the implementation of Google Apps for Education, Interactive Whiteboards, Chromebooks, and iPads. I am currently the Director of Technology for The Winnetka Public School District 36 in Winnetka, Illinois. We’re in the first year of a Mobile Learning Initiative using iPads.
No matter what type of technology being used, my message to teachers is always focused on teaching and learning. Because I spent, and loved, over 15 years in the classroom, I understand that rapidly changing technology can be frustrating for teachers. My biggest hope is to reduce the frustration and make technology a tool that allows teachers to help students meet, and exceed, their learning goals.