Transforming Schools in the Central Valley through Leadership & Technology

Transforming Schools in the Central Valley through Leadership & Technology

Last week, a colleague and I attended Exemplary Practices in Educational Leadership, a conference sponsored by the Central Valley Education Leadership Institute (CVELI). In spite of the fact that the meeting started at 7 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m. with a three-hour train ride back to San Francisco, we still came home energized. Along with more than 500 school and district leaders from across the Central Valley, we took part in discussions about leading edge thinking in technology, learning and education.

And we didn’t just hear about educational technology; we used it together. A featured guest speaker, Harvard professor Dr. Eric Mazur, had all 500+ of us using our smartphones, tablets and “clickers” to answer some tough physics questions. Because we were logged into Learning Catalytics, a powerful learning analytics program, Dr Mazur could see our answers on his laptop and easily check for understanding. No more sleeping through class! He also had us working in small groups to solve problems, demonstrating the power of peer-to-peer learning. What kid (or adult) wants to sleep if allowed instead to talk and learn together? Dr. Mazur’s presentation provided a wonderful example of the way technology is revolutionizing education and creating more meaningful peer learning experiences.

Of equal interest to us were the many breakout sessions that were part of the conference. They featured panelists from schools in the area who are working together to implement new visions for how to leverage technology to reinvent learning and teaching. Flipped classrooms, Common Core standards and comprehensive 1-to-1 programs for entire school systems were common themes. These leaders aren’t simply digitizing failed methods; they are embracing new ways of teaching and beginning to transform their schools. And not a moment too soon.

Just days before the conference, a new study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) presented troubling news about young Americans’ significant lack of technology and computer literacy skills.

According to the report, fewer than 38 percent of American youth between the ages of 16 and 24 could successfully complete technology-related tasks more difficult than sorting email into folders. That puts us at the bottom of the 19 countries that participated in the technology part of the assessment. The United States also had the second-highest rate of young people who failed to reach basic technology proficiency, with almost 11 percent unable to perform more than the most basic computer exercises.

A common theme in the report, and one we all know well here, is that what people know and what they do have major impacts on their life chances. When students are proficient in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving with technology, they are more likely to be employed, and gainfully so. It was inspiring to see that Central Valley educators are committed to ensuring their students have these skills, and that many are experimenting with and adopting innovative, technology-rich teaching and learning methods.

Hats off to Fresno State and all the school leaders in the Valley who are working to see that their students are being provided with the skills they need for college and careers!

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Elaine Carpenter, mobile, educational technology