Name: Andrew Wallace
Title: Director of Technology
District: South Portland School Department, Maine
What are your big-picture tech goals?
We’re currently doing 1:1 for grades six through twelve with Mac laptops. We’re providing half of the sixth graders with iPads to determine the viability of the device for content creation rather than just information retrieval, which many people think of when they first encounter a tablet. By comparing MacBooks and iPads now, we feel we will be in a better position than others in anticipation of next year’s state 1:1 RFP. We want to be able to determine the proper device to meet our learning and teaching goals. We are having success with our elementary and special-ed students using iPads, but want to make sure we provide the best product for everyone, K-12. Last but not least, we’re gearing up for next-generation assessments and looking to see how technology can help us carry out Common Core.
What changes are you taking to achieve these goals?
We’re looking at software like Next Navigator, which helps teachers see how their current units align with Common Core. We’re piloting NWEA Common Core assessment in additional to regular assessments and doing lots of professional development with Common Core in mind. It’s a very different way of teaching and learning.
What are the biggest challenges in your day-to-day life and how do you manage them?
My biggest challenge is data collection. What sort of impact beyond anecdotal information and student engagement can we get from implementing the right technology? We’re seeing significant gains through well-established RTI programs including Read180 and FastMath.
Another challenge is the seemingly unlimited amount of email I receive; it’s nearly impossible to keep up. But our technology department has a definite can-do attitude. We will do whatever we have to do to meet the education needs, but that often requires a lot of work.
How do you get buy in on ed tech from the school community?
Our community is very supportive. They see the intrinsic value of technology as a way to prepare our students for life, college, and the workforce. Since I’ve been here, we’ve seen technology go from being a “goal” in and of itself to now being something we use to accomplish our broader learning goals. It’s blended into everything so it doesn’t stand out. We need to continue to leverage technology to achieve our goals, not just technology for technology’s sake.
What currently has you really excited?
I’ve been working with the state principals association to offer professional development for administrators using iPads. Our facilitators are an enthusiastic group of educators that I met through our state’s ISTE affiliate, ACTEM. With the tablet explosion, everyone has a chance to become an expert. Teachers and administrators who were slow to embrace 1:1 laptops can redefine themselves as technology-savvy educators. It’s the type of game changer that doesn’t come along very often. It’s a new challenge, and a new beginning for anyone who wants to come along.