What’s the big deal about technology in schools?

I recently overheard one of my superintendent colleagues say, “We need to leverage technology to improve teaching and learning for the 21st century learner.” When I heard that statement, I was getting ready to run a meeting and did not pay much attention to it. However, after the meeting, I circled back to them and was able to talk with them at length about how and why they are using technology in their school district. It wasn’t until well after our conversation, that I realized how important of a statement that was.

I especially liked the “to improve teaching and learning” part of the statement made by my colleague in relation to using technology. Having said that, increasing access to, knowledge about, and use of technology in schools has never been “THE” answer to continuous improvement. It is my belief that engaged parents and families, a safe and positive learning environment for all students, and a knowledgeable, committed, caring, and quality staff are three of the most important keys to success for a school or school district.

Marshall Public Schools is in our fourth year of a “technology plan” that provides a laptop, tablet, or iPad for each student in kindergarten through 12th grade. We phased in our plan over the past three years by allocating devices for particular grades and are now to the point where every student has access to “their own” device. Students in kindergarten through fourth grade leave their device at school at the end of the day, while students from 5th grade on have the opportunity to take them home with them for the night and weekend.

During the last four years, we have improved our technology infrastructure, added staff to work with students/staff, investigated new programs (and either implemented them or decided to go another direction), provided professional development for our staff, encouraged staff to continue to seek ways of integrating technology into their daily work, and started using programs to encourage parents’ access to grades, events, and important information in their child’s classes, all the while maintaining an eye on what the future might hold. During this time, we have encountered some hurdles and had to work our way through several different challenges, yet the learning that our district has experienced has been beneficial.

Our technology department developed a vision statement to guide the work they do. The vision is that “MPS students, parents, and educators will use communication and information technologies to advance learning and teaching in preparation for a technology-rich global society.” As many of us are acutely aware, the world we live, work, and play in has seen — and will continue to see — rapid advances in access to, use of, and variety in technology. With support from our families and our community, we feel we can continue moving in the right direction to help our students be successful in a world full of technology opportunities and challenges.

Before work each morning, I typically check email, take a quick look at what’s happening in the world and on social media, read the newspaper, and see what’s on my calendar — all of these activities are either done on my smart phone or on a computer. Without question, technology plays an important role in many of our personal and professional lives. By integrating technology into our teaching and learning, we are confident that we will be able to better educate, support, and prepare all learners for success.

Thank you for taking time to read this and for your support of the Marshall Public School District. Go Tigers!