NSBA Celebrates "20 to Watch" Ed Tech Leaders

The National School Boards Association (NSBA)’s Technology Leadership Network (TLN) has named its “20 to Watch” honors for 2011-2012. These education leaders from across the country are being recognized for promoting the incorporation of innovative technology into high-quality classroom learning and school district operations.
“The ‘20 to Watch’ honorees are role models to advance student achievement with the use of technology in education,” said Ann Flynn, NSBA’s Director of Education Technology. “Their accomplishments provide real world examples for school leaders and board members to examine as they debate the best electronic tools and strategies to positively impact learning and address the growing digital divide.”

“20 to Watch” program was established in 2006. This year’s honorees will be recognized at 2012 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) Conference on March 5 in Washington and also at TLN-hosted luncheon at NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference in Boston this April. They also will be showcased in future NSBA education technology publications.

The 2011-2012 honorees are (listed by state/territory):

Matt Akin, Superintendent, Piedmont City School District, Piedmont, Ala.

Superintendent Matt Akin’s district has seen impressive gains on state tests in math and reading since he launched the MPower Piedmont 1:1 initiative to transform teaching and learning in this rural town where over 65 percent of the student population participates in the free/reduced lunch program. Akin believes engagement is key to all learning and through his visionary leadership, MPower Piedmont has closed the digital divide by providing a MacBook laptop for every student in grades 4-12, many of which have never had access to technology and the Internet in their home. He has also introduced technology-enabled assessment strategies providing immediate feedback to both teachers and students with the goal of improving student achievement through data-driven decisions.

Felicia Owen, Math Teacher, Lavaca High School, Lavaca Public Schools, Lavaca, Ark.

Rather than seeing Facebook as a distraction, Geometry teacher Felicia Owen is now using it for interaction both inside and outside the classroom. She first started receiving questions from students and parents on her personal page about homework or tests and eventually decided to make a page of it. By allowing students to submit assignments using their cell phones, some previously under performing students who had refused to do homework, became very responsive. For many of her students, their only online access is through their phones. Owen's innovative use of social media in the classroom has inspired other teachers and attracted local press coverage.

Mike Lawrence, Executive Director, Computer-Using Educators, Inc. (CUE), Placentia, Ca.

Mike Lawrence became CUE's Executive Director in 2005, at a time of crisis for the non-profit organization. His vision has reinvented and revitalized CUE by creating innovative initiatives and partnerships. Key accomplishments include co-founding the Google Certified Teacher program, directing the California Student Media Festival, and forming a national Alliance of over 30 non-profit organizations, universities, and educational agencies to develop the Leading Edge Certification for 21st century education professionals in the areas of educational technology and curriculum innovation.

District of Columbia

Alex Inman, Director of Information Services, Sidwell Friends School, Washington, D.C.

Alex Inman has a history of innovation having launched one of the earliest US 1:1 wireless programs in 1999, launching a 600 seat Linux-based laptop program in 2005, and helping found Educational Collaborators, a national network of 75 educators that help other teachers and administrators around the world. Inman helped write a One-to-One Readiness survey that has been used by more than 800 schools as they prepare for their 1:1 programs. He recently became the Director of Information Services at Sidwell Friends School where he is taking on bring your own devices and exploring how big data can impact schools at the individual building or district level. Work on big data projects goes beyond the capabilities of conventional database tools and is on the cutting edge of innovation within K-12.

James Roodhouse, Technology Director, Geneseo Community Unit School District 228, Geneseo, Ill.

Since arriving in 2007, James Roodhouse has completely re-framed his district’s infrastructure, led a crusade to unify its platform, facilitated a new digital, web presence that pushed the district to earn two national awards as a "Digital School", and provided amazing support to teachers and administrators through development of classroom walk through and observation apps for iPhone and iPad. The apps enable teachers and administrators to focus on "best practices" including use of technology which can be monitored, and then immediately communicated to the classroom teacher to help improve teaching performance, ultimately leading to greater student achievement.

Andrew Markel, Ed.S., Technology Director, Crothersville Community Schools, Crothersville, Ind.

Students have always been at the forefront of Andrew Markel’s work in the Crothersville Community Schools. Under his leadership, students can be part of the S.W.A. T. (Students Working to Advance Technology) group that utilizes various technologies for a plethora of projects including Social Media Awareness, the Bossman show, and taping of school sponsored events. As the 2011 Dell state technology director for Indiana, Markel spearheaded a virtual desktop and server initiative that has replaced the entire corporations aging computer system and is launching an Android based 1:1 initiative to provide all students in grades 6-10 with their own personal corporation provided tablet for computing needs.

Kay Reinoehl, Technology Director, East Noble School Corporation, Kendallville, Ind.

Kay Reinoehl’s vision, dedication, and passion for preparing students with 21st century skills contributed to the success of the East Noble School Corporation’s 1:1 program that was implemented across the 3,800 student district in one year with less than eight months of planning and preparation. By fall of 2011, eight school buildings became wireless and 600 iPods, 900 iPads, and 2400 laptops were distributed to students. In this rural district with high unemployment, many students in grades 5-12 who can take their laptops home, are now teaching their parents how to use this technology and who previously had no hardware or Internet service. Reinoehl was instrumental in convincing building administrators and teachers that even kindergarteners can effectively maintain and use an email account.

Greg Lumb, Principal, Morris Hill Elementary, Geary County Unified School District 475, Junction City, Kan.

A voracious learner, Greg Lumb uses Web 2.0 tools such as Wordle, Storybird, Epals, Wallwisher, and Voicethread to support his highest priority of using technology to extend his students’ learning beyond the four walls of school. Fourth and fifth graders connected with Iraqi students via videoconferencing and other students experienced global projects recording world events on October 10, 2010 by blogging, creating websites, and practicing Internet safety. Lumb planned the district's first technology fair and worked with media center specialist to secure a district-sponsored grant that pays for authors to videocast with students. Under Lumb’s direction, Morris Hill Elementary is currently serving as a pilot school for using Facebook as a communication too.

Arlene Vidaurri Cain, AP/Gifted Science Teacher, Lake Charles Boston Academy of Learning, Calcasieu Parish School System, Lake Charles, La.

Arlene Cain has piloted and developed online science courses for the district and the Louisiana Virtual School for the past ten years and taught oceanography to Louisiana teachers every year since 1996. She utilizes a variety of technology tools and techniques within her classroom including Promethean boards, computer simulations, hand-held data collecting devices and probes, student produced videos, Web 2.0 tools, and graphing calculators that allow her to differentiate instruction and address the different learning styles of her students.

New York
Jeannette Gautier-Downes, Instructional Technology Professional Developer, District 75/P.S. 811, Queens, N.Y.

Jeannette Gautier-Downes brought the UFT Teacher Center to P.S.811, a school for students aged 5-21 with moderate to severe disabilities. This state funded program provides professional development and teaching resources to all staff. Since coming to P.S. 811, she has provided professional development/inquiry studies to more than 90 percent of the teachers/paraprofessionals at P811’s nine school sites. Technology highlights under her guidance include initiating a 1:1 program for students with autism that links learning activities to IEP goals and objectives and engaging students through 3-D World, a program that enables students to create themselves (avatar) and complete real-world tasks in a virtual world.

Marc Lesser, Education Director, MOUSE, New York, N.Y.

Marc Lesser engages and inspires students to be leaders, innovators, makers and thinkers through MOUSE, a youth development program which impacts thousands of under-served students across the country. Lesser has been at the forefront of the creation of digital badges to recognize student's 21st century skills and knowledge ; served as an adviser to the Mozilla Foundation; and spearheaded Emoti-con! NYC Youth Digital Media and Technology Festival, a venue for students to connect as youth media producers and technologists. In addition to developing the help desk curriculum for students, he led the design of new specialist areas in robotics and game design and is currently involved with Solar One to explore curriculum that supports teaching green technology.

Greg Partch, Director of Education Technology, Hudson Falls Central School District, Hudson Falls, N.Y.

Greg Partch authored and designed the North Hudson Electronic Educational Project, a Title III Technology Literacy Challenge Grant focused on promoting compelling and effective educational opportunities for children and teachers in resource-challenged areas of New York. Hudson Falls School District, the Lead Educational Agency, was funded over five years for a total of $5,500,000 allowing over 5,000 teachers to receive professional development in the use of instructional technologies. Partch recently secured Quality Zone Academy Bonds funding of $140,000 per-year over the next five years to establish an alternative learning academy focused on 21st century career and technical education skills for youth at risk.


Dr. Dale P. Lynch, Superintendent, Hamblen County Schools, Morristown, Tenn.

Dale Lynch has a natural curiosity and is first in the district to obtain new technology, model usage, & encourage others to find applications that enhance learning, leading, & efficiency. Through his leadership, Hamblen County Schools is part of the first P-20 mobilized consortium in the nation and a leader in moving Tennessee to provide e-books. iPhones and iPads provide administrators with real-time feedback and the recent hardware refresh for each classroom was supported by job embedded professional development from technology coaches to ensure its seamless integration. ESL students and those with disabilities use iPads and Smart Tables to support learning while classes in video-production and app development remain popular. A parent portal offers a range of services and the board room is paperless. From sound amplification to video-conferencing, technology innovation reaches across the district and into the community.

Kyle Davie, Chief Technology Officer, Fort Worth Independent School District, Fort Worth, Texas

Kyle Davie insists on systemic, systematic implementation of technologies that includes educational technology staff to plan, train and assist groups or individuals on how to effectively and efficiently implement the district's powerful educational technologies. He successfully completed the largest implementation of interactive whiteboards in the nation as part of a $593 million capital improvement bond program that created 5,500 digital classrooms and partnered with Chief Academic Officer Michael Sorum to create a district-wide curriculum framework with a teacher portal and curriculum guide incorporating essential questions. Davie supports cloud computing through Google tools, virtual professional development opportunities using open source, and e-books and e-readers as part of the library modernization effort at 140 school sites.

Andrea Keller, LIFE K-5 Special Education Teacher, Elliott Elementary School, Irving Independent School District, Irving, Texas

Andrea Keller has taught special education for nine years and the last four of those years have been in a pervasive developmental disorder K-3 unit. Although Keller's students are often low-verbal or non-verbal, she adapts and modifies so they can participate in podcasting, vodcasting, and video conferencing . Her grant for 50 webcams allows all of the self-contained LIFE/PDD units in the district to video conference with other special needs students and classrooms around the globe. Texas service centers are using her classroom set-up videos for Autism 101 online training to understand how she uses technology to connect with others and her Busy Bee blog, http://busybeeideas.blogspot.com with hits from all over the world, allows her to share what she has learned.

Darlene Rankin, Director, Instructional Technology, Katy Independent School District (KISD), Katy, Texas

Darlene Rankin is a dynamic change agent for technology. She has championed three strategic initiatives that when combined, philosophically change the way instruction is delivered in KISD classrooms. The first initiative incorporated digital citizenship into classrooms, encouraging students to operate responsibly on the Internet not just in school, but outside the classroom walls as well. For the second initiative, she worked with the Curriculum & Instruction Department to develop a Web 2.0 toolbox of apps and sites aligned with KISD curriculum. The third initiative is a mobile learning program for fifth grade students that introduced smart phones into the classroom that, in its third year, has grown to over 2300 devices at 18 elementary campuses and provided the foundation for a program that allows students at all KISD campuses to bring their personal devices and connect to the district’s public Wi-Fi.

John “Coach” Brishcar, Teacher, Warren County Middle School, Warren County Schools, Front Royal, Va.

John Brishcar's 30 donated laptops and free public domain software, a server, and a Moodle classroom management platform, operating without an Internet connection, comprise “The BrishLab”, a classroom where sixth graders are becoming independent learners and thinkers capable of working in teams without constant cuing from a facilitator. Brishcar's class materials are mirrored at LearnMiddleSchoolScience.com, while the science text book he authored working with CK-12.org, is published as a public domain document at www.StarMaterials.com. As the moderator of Yahoo's 2,500 member “Middle School Science Teacher” user group and the “High School Science” user group, he influences teachers around the world.

Janet Platenberg, Principal, Steuart Weller Elementary, Loudoun County Public Schools, Ashburn, Va.

Janet Platenberg seeks effective, research-based solutions to address her students needs and understands that technology is a quintessential component of good pedagogy which requires providing time and professional development opportunities for her staff. Platenberg s school conducts project-based learning opportunities, differentiates instruction and designs curriculum in real-time. Gesture-based computing, using Microsoft's Xbox Kinect in all subject areas, is among the innovative initiatives supported by Platenberg.

Melany Reeves Stowe, Communication Coordinator, Henry County Public Schools, Collinsville, Va.

Melany Stowe has secured over $1.5 million in competitive grant funds over the past three years to support increased student achievement initiatives using cutting-edge technology in classrooms, providing quality after school programming, and purchasing emergency communications equipment to connect several agencies across the school district in the event of a large scale emergency. Stowe secured local support for two robotics teams and provided leadership for the district’s Explore Camp, a free one-week summer camp focused on STEAM topics and career clusters for students in grades 4-8; an iPad checkout program to address the digital and technological access gap; the Career Hub, a mall-based program providing students and families with access to information for college and career preparation; and the development of A Stranger Online, an Internet Safety comic book shared with districts around the country.

Lisa Greseth, Manager, Information and Instructional Technology, Vancouver Public Schools, Vancouver, Wash.

Lisa Greseth leads the design and deployment of performance management tools vital to building a shared understanding of student and system progress that fosters continuous improvement. From her work with the Learner Profile and the data dashboard, to identifying and implementing conditions for 21st century flexible learning environments like bring your own devices, Greseth links teaching, learning and technology services in ways that promote shared understanding, solution-oriented conversations, and agile implementation of new ideas all with an explicit focus on student learning and engagement. She moves new ideas into structured exploration through technology pilots and ensures that decisions reflect the voices of the district's students, staff, parents, and community.

Since 1987, TLN has served local district leadership teams that establish policy and implement technology decisions to enhance teaching and learning, administrative operations, and community outreach.