Matt Townsley

Matt Townsley

Name: Matt Townsley

Title:Director of Instruction & Technology

District:Solon Community School District, Iowa

What are your big picture tech goals?

I am in my third year in this role, but ninth year in the district. After serving as a high school math teacher, I've had the unique opportunity to see technology from both the classroom and district perspective. We're focusing on a few number of tools district-wide (e.g., Google Apps) while promoting individuals to try out tools of interest before we begin to dynamically focus our resources towards those tools that naturally fit with our content and pedagogical needs (a la TPACK – Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge).

The board of education and superintendent continue to support the use of technology in our district through funding a three-year staff laptop refresh cycle. Additional laptop carts are purchased on an annual basis to the point where we have a computer for about every three to four students.

Where do you go to keep up to date on tech happenings?

Hands down—Twitter and my RSS feed. I subscribe to several educational technology publications; however, I am finding that much of the information or themes contained in these publications has already been shared via social network mediums. I also have a rock star district media specialist who is continually pushing me (and our classroom teachers) information.

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

The district I work for has over 1,400 students and over 800 computers. In addition to me, we have one full-time IT person. In any given day, I wear multiple hats: director of technology, director of special education, staff developer, curriculum coordinator, 504 plan coordinator, mentoring & induction facilitator, homeless liaison, Title 1 Coordinator, just to name a few. Our IT guy does an outstanding job, but it is a challenge to keep track of the big picture while still attending to the day-to-day details given our relatively small staff. Not an excuse, just our current reality!

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

We've chosen to truly embed ed-tech into the school community. Rather than tool-centric professional learning, we're focusing on differentiated and individualized opportunities "just in time." For example, several of our staff are sharing the tools they're using with their colleagues via email or during teacher collaboration time. As word travels, someone will inevitably ask, "I heard about [this tool]; can you help me use it in my classroom?" It's organic, it's messy, but we're seeing teachers who are interested "in the moment" to learn tools rather than sit through professional development that is not of interest.

What currently has you really excited?

I am really interested in grading and assessment reform. I am still not sure what role, if any, technology will play in this educational hot topic. Locally, we're finding that assessment and grading shifts are causing teachers to simultaneously change their instructional strategies. We're moving from a points-based system to reporting standards and this requires teachers to look at student learning holistically. Memorizing the names of presidents on a quiz—it can be challenging to capture a holistic look at this task. I'm really excited to see where our school will be in two or three years. Our staff's assessment literacy is climbing off the charts and our students are the beneficiaries.