Dennis Beekman

Name: Dennis Beekman

Title: Executive Director of Technology

District: Robbinsdale Area Schools, MN

What are your big-picture tech goals for your district?

Our district technology goals are:

  1. Increase student achievement through effective technology-based teaching and learning practices.
  2. Develop, sustain and recruit technology proficient staff.
  3. Ensure that students and staff have robust access to technology.
  4. Establish a reliable, cost-effective, and secure technology network and systems

A major strategy in our plan is to increase student achievement through effective technology-based teaching and learning practice facilitating personalized learning by building unique learner profiles, managing custom learning pathways, and monitoring proficient-based progress. We are implementing a 1:1 Chromebook initiative as part of this strategy.

What changes are you taking to achieve them?

Using technology to deliver and manage a personalized learning experience changes the learning environment significantly. We have worked over the last several years to prepare for this major shift in teaching and learning. We have invested and implemented a robust wireless network in all our schools. Our network infrastructure and Internet bandwidth has also been upgraded to support this initiative.

We have shifted to using cloud-based curriculum resources and have been a Google Apps district for a few years. We leverage the cloud so that students have access to learning environment anytime and anyplace.

We are also designing and implementing our learning management system to keep the instruction focused on the student’s needs and aligned to district curriculum objectives. It is designed for the student to be able to easily find the resources needed and easy for the teacher to prepare, use, and share.

What are the biggest challenges in your day-to-day life and how do you manage them?

The biggest challenges faced in my day-to-day life are finding time and resources to train teachers regarding effective technology use in their classrooms, and managing limited resources to implement and operate a comprehensive and complex technology environment.

How do you get buy in on ed tech from the school community?

The buy-in comes through results. There is research to support personalized learning and most educators understand its value. But as we see the results of our 1:1 initiative targeting support of our personalized learning strategy, we will be able to demonstrate the return on the technology investment.

What technology currently has you really excited?

I am excited about the continued advancement in mobile technologies. I believe that this technology will change how we deliver education. Specifically, we have committed to implement Chromebooks for all 5th-grade students next year in a 1:1 deployment. Chromebooks are suited well for our needs since it is a low-cost option that easily accesses our learning management system and cloud-based learning resources for our students. Chromebooks are optimized for our Google Apps environment and offer quicker boot-times for access to the network than traditional laptops. Chromebooks also are designed to allow district technology staff to efficiently and cost-effectively set up and manage users, apps and policies across an entire fleet of Chrome devices.