Technology departments today play an exciting and essential role in furthering the educational mission within our K-12 schools. It is an exhilarating time to be working in educational technology as we transform our work to be focused on meeting and delivering resources to provide high quality, real-world learning experiences for all students. The transformation in K-12 education focused on addressing the achievement gap is requiring traditional technology departments to also transform how they approach their work. This article will explore the ways the Albemarle County Public Schools department of technology has changed their focus to include an expanded definition of digital equity and an intentional, proactive effort to develop relationships through strong working partnerships with district departments, families, and students.
When our technology department thought about how to transform our work, focusing on continuous improvement in support of the mission and vision of Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS), we made it our priority to focus on the pillars of the ACPS mission to establish a community of learners and learning through relationships, relevance and rigor, one student at a time. The school district’s focus on equity and culturally responsive teaching influenced our expanded definition of digital equity. It is this focus on digital equity as a necessity and developing strong partnerships that guides the work of our technology department today.
Our focus on digital equity began with expanding how we define it. Beyond addressing access to the Internet and devices, our definition of digital equity is focused on how digital tools provide students with multiple opportunities to engage with content, demonstrate their understanding, and develop the skills that will support them in becoming life-long learners. Rather than concentrating on the number of devices, device ratios and connectivity from home, which is important to measure in and of itself, our expanded definition also focuses on ensuring each of our teachers has access to quality professional development. We want to be sure to support teachers using digital tools and resources effectively as they bring a student-centered approach to learning supported by technology. Additionally, our definition of digital equity includes an emphasis on making sure each student and teacher has a sound understanding of digital citizenship, digital literacy, and computational thinking.
As our public schools work to address the achievement gap by focusing on providing high quality, real-world equitable learning experiences for all students, their reliance on digital content and technology solutions has become essential
Our Coordinator of Digital Equity, a newly defined position, helps to ensure that our work and departmental decisions are viewed through a digital equity lens. A main aspect of that lens is asking the question “Is it happening in each school for each child?” Our fourteen learning technology integrators play a key role in helping us to achieve this aspect of our digital equity definition. They work in partnership with other departments and teachers in creating curriculum, lesson plans, project ideas and resources mapped to the Virginia Standards of Learning. The team’s partnership approach includes our assistant director for technology integration meeting regularly with the lead curriculum coaches, serving as a regular, integral member of that team. This relationship with the department of student learning is essential to our technology department improvement efforts.
Perhaps one of our most successful partnerships has been with student learning and professional development through the implementation of our new Learning Management System (LMS). The project steering committee was led by student learning, yet closely directed and implemented by the technology department. Together the committee made the educational decisions, and the LMS technology team implemented them as the system experts. We also partnered with students from our superintendent’s student advisory council to have them test and provide feedback for this school year’s laptop computer image. In order to seek wider input from our students and teachers, members of our department leadership team participate in Technology Conversations with Schools. Those school visits and conversations providevaluable feedback from a wide and varied group ofmembers from our learning community.
While learning with technology happens during the school day, learning also occurs outside the school both at home and within our community. In addition to communicating with families about how students are using their technology tools and resources, it is important that we effectively partner with families about what safe, responsible and effective technology use looks like both at school and home. As part of our effort to partner more closely with families we recently published and distributed a family guide to ACPS technology resources, “Keeping Our Kids Safe & Healthy in a Digital World: A Technology & Digital Citizenship Field Guide for ACPS Families”. Our recently established position, Coordinator of Communication & Information Management, also enables us to focus more closely on fostering partnerships with families, as well as with the other departments within our school district.
Our newly focused positions, combined with the use of service metrics to measure the effectiveness of our work will continue to be the focus of our digital equity and partnership efforts. We will be developing a new technology plan for the school district that will be developed in partnership with district leadership as an integral part of the school district’s strategic plan, rather than being a stand-alone document. We will include strategies focused on digital literacy and citizenship involving student centered strategies involving technology and learning which encourage access and equity for all students.
As our public schools work to address the achievement gap by focusing on providing high quality, real-world equitable learning experiences for all students, their reliance on digital content and technology solutions has become essential. Expanding the definition of digital equity is an important change for technology departments. It is also vital that technology departments take a proactive approach to developing strong working partnerships with district departments, students, and families. In ACPS we are committed to those efforts and to our mission of establishing a community of learners and learning through relationships, relevance and rigor, one student at a time.