Notes From Techcon 2012

Techcon 2012

Techcon occurred October 26, 2012 at the Naperville Campus of Northern Illinois University. Over 160 local school administrators, technology leaders, and classroom teachers convened for the one-day session.

Google’s Jaime Casap (Twitter: @jcasap) was the keynote speaker. His presentation focused on the crisis of low expectations and that even though the jobs that will exist in 2037 are not known today, several skills exists today that are fundamental to success years away: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, analyzing information, and problem solving.

He noted that we learn and solve problems in different ways so we should have different types of assessment. Further students today have new capabilities to learn differently and that education is beginning to take advantage of new learning models.

With one of the themes of the conference was about cloud resources, sessions addressed the Illinicloud, and Google, Apple, and Microsoft cloud offerings. Other sessions outlined digital learning opportunities, a 1:1 implementation, digital mapping, Open Education Resources, and social networking applications in schools.

Apple’s Patrick Beedles (Twitter: @beedles_apple) closed the day with a summary of the day’s key points.

This day-long program is a strong collaboration of the Illinois Association of School Business Officials , the Illinois Computing Educators, and the Illinois Chief Technology Officers.

Next year’s conference is at the same location on October 18, 2013.

Normal is Revolutionary

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 “What’s revolutionary for adults is normal for kids,” stated Jaime Casap of Google to technology leaders at a meeting of the Illinois Chief Technology Officers today.  Casap implored school leaders to build great teachers, appeal to students’ motivations, focus on the basics, and prepare students for more education after high school, although not necessarily a four year college.

While many adults look for printed documents to learn new ideas, children look for YouTube videos for instruction and feedback on their skill development, Casap argued.  Times have changed:  revolution to normal.

Casap weaved stories from his life into his presentation about how education changed his opportunities.  He made his case for developing important skills like communication, collaboration, and critical thinking, among others that cannot be assessed easily.  Even with these opportunities he is concerned that the digital divide is growing larger.  While cell phones have allowed more people to have Internet access, wired broadband is the true future of rich media digital learning.  Broadband is lacking in homes of low-income families.  It is hard to fill out a job application or write a paper on a smart phone.

Casap encouraged technology leaders to mesh technology tools with classroom learning for learning purposes.  Further he stated that ” We should stop memorizing.  This allows us to free our minds for other things.”

Standing at the edge of this revolution, children are eager to address their normal.

The Illinois Chief Technology, NFP is a non-profit corporation that provides professional development for K-12 technology leaders in Illinois.

Technology Leadership

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The following is the executive summary from our recent publication The Challenges and Professional Development Needs of the District Technology Leader.  The full report is available here.

The district technology leader could be an administrator, manager, or teacher who has responsibility for technology operations across a school district. The
Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) calls such individuals the “Chief
Technology Officer” (CTO).

This report outlines a survey of CTOs in Illinois public and private school
districts. The survey asked participants to identify their three top challenges and
four top professional development needs.

For their top challenges, CTOs were precluded from using “time, money, and
(lack of) people” as their primary challenges. These components were identified
as universal challenges for all organizations. Through a focus group, nine
challenges were identified. Later CTOs were presented the list and asked to
identify and rank their top three challenges. Responding CTOs ranked
Professional Development for other employees issue as their top challenge.
Increased Expectations ranks second, followed by Instruction and Staff, both tied
for third. Professional Development includes formal training programs and adhoc,
spur of the moment training session for individual employees.

For professional development, CTOs were asked to rank their top four
professional development needs based on CoSN’s “Framework of Essential Skills
for the K-12 CTO,” which has ten categories. Responding CTOs ranked Planning
as their highest professional development need, followed by Instruction, Policy,
and Leadership, respectively.

For professional development, school district leaders should recognize that CTOs’
professional development needs are not technical. CTOs know how and where to
get assistance about the core components of their jobs. They need professional
development on CoSN’s broad categories of “Leadership and Vision” and the
“Educational Environment.” This development can occur in formal opportunities,
but likely best when CTOs are mentored and included in district planning and
policy development, curriculum initiatives, and school-level projects.
The most important insight from this study is that district leaders need
professional development for strategic elements, including planning, leadership,
policy, and instruction.