Words of Wisdom from the Technology Experts

Compiled by Susie Meserve

Charles Thompson, CTO of the District of Columbia Public Schools, on getting good data:

“My definition of good information is that it must be accurate, concise, able to be manipulated, and timely to the user. But most districts have their data residing in individual silos. Right now we’re investing in applications that can easily “talk” to each other so data elements can feed from all the functional areas into a data warehouse that allows analysis to take place. Every application will be School Interoperability Framework certified—not just compliant, but actually certified—so if we decide we don’t like a partner, we can pull them out and put another SIF-certified module in without much disruption. My advice to other CIOs: Don’t build a data warehouse to meet NCLB, build it to capture the appropriate data for analysis.”

Bijaya Devkota, CIO of Maryland's Charles County Public Schools, on information technology:

“The bottom line for technology is that if it’s not used for the purpose of instruction, it’s all a waste of money. Most small school systems do not take good care of IT needs and decisions, and often IT is not well liked or well respected. We’re focused on IT here because it is critical to everything we are doing, and we can bring up any issues we have for very quick resolution. IT cannot be pushed aside, not if you want to make good use of your technology budget and improve the ability of your district to provide effective curriculum delivery now and in the future.”

Jim Hirsch, associate superintendent for technology at Plano Independent School District in Texas, on learning in the 21st century:

“Our students are very much into a world that is collaborative, and because of that, they tend to see things a little bit differently. They are exposed to a greater number of information resources than ever before, and whether it’s good or bad, they’ve come to expect that information to be available and free. Because of the Internet and its growth in their lifetimes, they’ve had the opportunity to share and remix information that none of us have had before. If nothing else, over the past 15 years, the rapid increase in understanding of learning in terms of brain-based research has taught us that our school systems have been successful for more than 100 years, but we also have to take into account the fact that information doubles every 2.5 years. We can’t just say that students will learn in the same environment [year after year].”

Sharnell Jackson, chief eLearning officer of the Chicago Public Schools, on virtual professional development:

“Why is classroom training for teachers and administrators declining while e-learning gains? I'll tell you why. Because there's a reduction in cost per person, increased reach, reduced time to train, increased consistency and compliance, and increased tracking and reporting [with e-learning]. So think about the benefits—it's immediate interaction and feedback, collaboration and social learning, reduced travel costs, and reduced time away from work and home. Those are huge benefits. Classroom training is like eating out at a restaurant: you need to make reservations. Asynchronous e-learning is like doing your own microwave dinner at home. But synchronous e-learning is like room service. Who doesn't like room service?”

Gerald Crisci, director of technology for Scarsdale Public Schools in Scarsdale, New York, on measuring return on investment:

“It’s easy to show what the impact of technology is on someone’s teaching, but it’s difficult to show a direct correlation between IT and student learning. In studies that I’ve seen, people talk about things like improving student attendance and improving student test scores. At the end of the day, that’s not really a compelling argument in terms of the value you put on technology. How does IT change what kids can do? How does it change how they learn? Those are the key questions.”

Susie Meserve is assistant editor of Technology & Learning.