Name: Ben Grey
District: Oak Lawn–Hometown
District 123, Oak Lawn, IL
What are some of your big-picture tech goals for your district?
It’s my second year here, and we’re focusing on shifting our
culture of learning from the traditional model of education,
rote recitation, to teaching students how to be learners. We’re
looking at 21st-century skills: collaboration, creativity, and so
on. Last year we created a curriculum plan with this approach
to learning embedded; now we are developing it into specific
learning experiences to be implemented.
We’re implementing a one-to-one program we’re calling
Forward Learning in grades five through eight, thanks to an
incredible superintendent who is driving the curriculum plan.
The board approved a program for transferring money from
our construction fund to implement the Forward Learning
program, and we bought grade-level netbook carts for first
through fourth grades as well as individual notebooks for each
student in grades five through eight. We also have one iPad
cart in each of our elementary schools to allow our primary
students to address emerging numeracy and literacy skills.
Tell me about your STEM program.
We’re looking at a variety of inquiry-based opportunities
to incorporate into our program and get kids interested in
these fields. For instance, we have Scratch (scratch.mit.edu)
on the netbooks; it offers creativity and problem solving and
makes math more intriguing. We’re at the beginning phase
of focusing more specifically on how we address STEM in
our district, and we have excellent instructional coaches and
teachers developing these experiences for our students.
Why do you think it’s such a challenge to
get children into STEM fields?
They have to see the bigger picture. It’s fascinating, but we
can’t reduce it to disconnected rote memorization. We have
to interest them and encourage that excitement. We need to
offer them the chance to solve real-world problems through
What are your teachers working on?
In regard to technology, we have two instructional-technology
coaches who started in their positions this year. They are
providing job-embedded professional development for our
staff as we implement our Forward Learning program, and
they are creating a rich repository of learning resources for our
staff to utilize.
The focus of our technology implementation is not solely
on consumption but also on creation: digital storytelling,
podcasting, multimedia presentations. We’re teaching students
how to critically consume, communicate, and create using the
new mediums of the day. We’re seeking to define and identify
what changes with the learning landscape as we engage it in a
Where do you go to keep up-to-date on tech happenings?
I’ve been lucky enough to get to know some incredibly brilliant
folks by reading blogs, magazines, and Twitter and by attending
conferences. The friendships and professional connections
I’ve made during the past three years in the edtech field have
been invaluable to my personal growth and the resources and
programs I’m able to offer my students, staff, and community.