Name: Jon Castelhano
Title: Director of Technology
District: Apache Junction (AZ) Unified School District; www.ajusd.org
What are your big-picture tech goals for your district?
We’re in the last year of a five-year technology plan, so we’re wrapping up some of the bigger projects. We recently finished standardizing classrooms district-wide with projectors and document cameras, and all district teachers now have laptops. We are in the third year of our oneto- one netbook program for the 7th through 9th grades. The transition of the one-to-one program to the high school has gone well, and the time invested to prepare the 9th-grade teachers is evident in how they have embraced the incoming students and technology. About a year ago, we put together a video on what students liked about school and what they wanted to see. You can watch the video at http://tinyurl.com/a3t8t9l.
Earlier this year we delivered 400 more netbooks and 150 additional iPads to the elementary schools. That gives us a total of 18 iPad carts for four elementary schools and the junior high school. The iPads are a challenge to manage, so we moved to Apple Configurator. The move has made app management a cleaner process and placed more of the responsibility in the teachers’ hands, which they have welcomed.
What changes are you Making to achieve them?
Two years ago, I brought a classroom teacher who was amazing at project-based learning (PBL) and collaboration into our department as a tech-integration specialist. She started with collaboration coaching (using a peer-coaching model) and focused on good teaching, PBL, and how to incorporate technology into the classroom. She is currently training our third group of collaborative coaches (classroom teachers who work with their learning communities to share information and support one another) and is also available for side-byside teaching, hands-on coaching, or whatever a teacher needs. The biggest thing she and I preach is that it’s not about the device—they will continually change and evolve. Good teaching has to be at the front.
What are the biggest challenges in your day-today life and how do you manage them?
There’s not enough time and that’s all there is to it. It’s hard to keep up with Twitter and gather the information I need. There’s never enough time to go through all my Google Reader feeds. Surrounding yourself with a great staff helps, and I have that here.
How do you get buy-in on ed tech from the school community?
It boils down to good leadership. Our superintendent and Board are both very supportive. I take every opportunity to speak with the Board so they are aware of how technology is being integrated into our classrooms. Working with each school’s parent organizations is also very important. Aligning their efforts with the district goals is important for a successful partnership.
What currently has you really excited?
What is exciting is watching what our students are doing with technology. It’s almost impossible to keep up with them and how quickly they find ways to use their devices to create and communicate. It’s exciting to listen to them, hear their ideas, and discuss how they would like to see technology used in the classroom.