Name: Dr. Gary Shattuck
Title: Director of Technology and Media Services
District: Newton County Schools, GA
What are your big-picture tech goals for your district?
To provide students with a rigorous, relevant, personalized, learning environment in which they are afforded the opportunity to learn and to demonstrate learning by producing, by performing, by creating, and by communicating to a global audience. In order for that to occur technology must be ubiquitous in the school system. We are well on our way to accomplishing that goal. To be more specific, my goals are:
- To create a very robust technology infrastructure that provides teachers and students with the online resources and the local instructional resources they need to have a digitally enriched learning environment
- To create a 1:1 environment through a variety of methods
- To provide a technology support system to respond quickly to problems, and to provide an instructional support system that leverages technology to deliver meaningful and purposeful lessons
- To protect all the data that we currently store in an environmentally protected area, and to provide a disaster recovery and business continuity plan
- To allow some cloud services to take the pressure off current resources
- To provide teachers with the daily opportunity to video/audio record their classes in order to facilitate: better student engagement, quality self-assessment, and instructionally advanced pedagogies such as flipping the classroom, and to provide for a safe classroom environment that is conducive to learning
What changes are you taking to achieve these goals?
We are doing the following:
- We have half of our schools with a 10 GB backbone, 1 GB to the desktop; and the rest will be brought up to this standard in the next three years; we are providing our teachers and our students with a digital resource repository with tens of thousands of digital resources from commercially-produced videos to teacher-produced flipcharts and videos
- We are increasing the number of computing devices in order to achieve technology ubiquity: we are issuing laptops to teachers and are undergoing a small pilot-test of issuing laptops to students; we are allowing students to bring their own devices; and teachers are slowly adapting their classroom lessons to take advantage of this initiative
- We have created a technical repair system that has achieved tremendous success using a variety of metrics to measure this; we have implemented a Technology Teacher Leader program in each school in which these teacher leaders organize a cadre of exemplary, technology-using teachers into a Technology Support Team for their school whose mission it is to support teachers in more effectively using technology in their classroom lessons
- Within the last year, we built and equipped a state-of-the-art Network Operations Center, and equipped an existing space as the Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Center
- Last year we moved all our email services over to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud solution and are planning on moving other services to this cloud in the near future; furthermore, we created a private cloud which provides our teachers, staff, and students with anywhere, anytime learning opportunities with access to an LMS for their files, shared files, applications, and digital resources such as videos and flipcharts
What are the biggest challenges in your day-to-day life and how do you manage them?
My biggest challenges are related to people. I continuously work at building and/or at maintaining professional relationships with the other administrators in order to garner their support for our technology initiatives. Another challenge is similar to this: continuously communicating “our” message to the school community and to the larger community so they know what technology is doing to improve student learning. Too often no one thinks about technology until something goes wrong. I continuously try to communicate the positive things that technology is doing to support the mission and the vision of the district. Finally, I work hard at fostering a positive and a productive culture within the technology department. A happy staff is a productive staff, so I go out of my way to be sensitive to each person’s individual needs and I treat everyone with respect and dignity.
How do you get buy in on ed tech from the school community?
Just yesterday, I spoke to the Kiwanis Club promoting not only the school system but, more pointedly, promoting the technology that is available to teachers and to students. I also write a bi-monthly newspaper column about technology in the school system. I visit schools regularly talking to administrators, to the media specialist, and to the teachers and students. I try to be visible to everyone so that I may personally help to answer questions.
What technology currently has you really excited?
I am very excited about our audio/visual initiative which uses the ViewPath/SAFE/Audio Enhancement system of audio-visual classroom equipment. We did a 22-classroom pilot test to determine the effectiveness and the efficacy of this system. The test was so successful we decided to put this equipment into 600 classrooms this summer to be ready for the beginning of school. This equipment will do the following:
- Audio Enhancement: puts an audio amplification system in these classrooms. National research and our own research indicate that students behave better and that students learn more when this audio amplification is used in classroom settings.
- SAFE: puts a silent alarm in these classrooms to allow the teacher from the teacher’s lavalier microphone to send an emergency alert to the office. It also automatically turns on the classroom camera (see ViewPath) and sends an email link to the administrators from which they can view a live video feed from the classroom in which this alert was triggered.
- ViewPath: puts a 360° ceiling-mounted camera into these classrooms. These cameras can be used to record emergencies. The teacher can also use the camera to record the teacher’s teaching practices in order to engage in self-assessment and in reflective insight. The professional learning potential is tremendous. In addition, the teacher can record lessons and can post these lessons onto the teacher’s website or onto the LMS for students to use for review of the content taught or for new pedagogies such as flipping the classroom. Instead of relying strictly on commercial sites such as Khan Academy for video instructional lessons, now the teacher easily can create video lessons in order to provide for anytime, anywhere learning opportunities for her students.