Technology in Education: A step to Smart and Well-Informed Generation

Bobby Blount, Chief Information Officer at Cherokee County School District
Bobby Blount, Chief Information Officer at Cherokee County School District

Bobby Blount, Chief Information Officer at Cherokee County School District

In the light of your experience what are the trends and challenges you’ve witnessed happening with respect to the K-12space?

It is an exciting time to be a student in school. Technology, combined with great teaching, has allowed our students to have opportunities to learn and develop proficiency in ways that were not available to the generations before them. As teachers are provided with quality professional development that truly demonstrates and allows them to practice integrating technology tools and resources in the classroom, they can change how they teach and transform the way the students learn. Digital access to learning resources allow anywhere-anytime-access for students and, advances in the refinement of Learning Management Platforms (LMS) are allowing educators to work smartly and more efficiently saving valuable time that can be used for instruction. For example, students being able to electronically take assessments which are then auto-graded by the LMS and posted into the gradebooks; teachers having access to pre-populated assessment banks where they can quickly find and use well-vetted, standards-aligned test questions; teachers having the ability to quickly develop quality lesson plans using a repository of Standards-aligned web-based, digital content, videos or activities—all save the teachers coveted time.

Could you elaborate on some interesting and impactful projects or initiatives that you’re currently overseeing?

Game-based learning and “gamification” are gaining more traction in our District. We have introduced Microsoft’s Minecraft: Education Edition to our learning community. We began with early adopters to help us understand the potential of the platform. We then engaged Microsoft in securing additional training for any of our educators who were interested, and we are monitoring the interest and momentum in the program. Our desire is for it to bloom organically as more and more of our teachers are hearing and seeing what our students are able to visualize, design, create and learn with this resource. Gamification is taking an existing lesson or activity and transforming it into a game. Escape rooms are a classic example of this; a teacher may have several math problems ranging from simple to complex, and in order to “escape the room,” which can actually be a series of small locked boxes; the students have to solve each of the equations until they reach the center.

Augmented and virtual reality technologies are allowing students to explore places throughout the globe and beyond without leaving their desks. Immersive digital environments send students into crime scenes where they are in the role of the forensic investigator, or into a lab where they are combining chemicals without the physical danger of spontaneous combustion or chemical reactions.

 Augmented and virtual reality technologies are allowing students to explore places throughout the globe and beyond without leaving their desks

What are some of the points of discussion that go on in your leadership panel? What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?

At the District level – we are all driven by our School Board’s Blueprint Strategic Plan. This plan serves as the primary focus for our daily efforts. It centers around Student Achievement, Organizational and Operational Effectiveness, Family and Community Engagement, Quality Workforce and Positive Climate and Culture. We discuss equity and access, Social and Emotional Learning for both students and staff, preparing for rapid growth, embracing diversity, attracting and retaining quality staff, and transformative and effective teaching and assessment strategies. All of these drive our everyday agendas.

Districts need a single strategic vision that is developed by key stakeholders and shared with the community at large for refinement, adoption and acceptance.

As a CIO, my focus is on the role technology can play in supporting the established curricular objectives. The Chief Academic Officer and I work closely to identify and strategize on closing or narrowing gaps in achievement across the board. Once the curricular priorities are established, we begin to explore what role, if any, technology can play in supporting those priorities. This approach also extends beyond curriculum. It reaches into our organization and operational functions as well. We, as a District, have proactively sought continuous improvement in our business practices and operational efficiencies by updating or revamping legacy and outdated processes and programs.

How do you see the evolution of the K-12 arena a few years from now with regard to some of its potential disruptions and transformations?

I see K-12 being easily overwhelmed with an incredible volume of opinions on how teachers should teach, how K-12 leaders should lead, and what will make students achieve. Without proper professional development and continuous support, teachers can easily lose their focus in their teaching practices (instructional coaching, effective student assessment) and technology integration (instructional technology support).Technology alone can be a great disruption to teaching and learning when not effectively implemented and utilized. Many start out with the mindset of having complete and immediate transformation using technology, but attaining teacher buy-in, explaining the why and allowing adequate time for assimilation of that new tech tool, are some of the critical steps often overlooked. Teachers having time to learn a new product, figuring out how to blend it into their learning environment, understanding what the outcomes should be and actually are, and what to do with that data and information, is taxing on them. There is just not enough time.

What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to a fellow or aspiringprofessional in your field, looking to embark on a similar venture or professional journey along the lines of your service and area of expertise?

Anyone stepping into the role of CIO for a K-12 organization—no matter the size—should do this job because you passionately care about educating, supporting, protecting and encouraging children (and the teachers and staff who are in the trenches everyday with them) and hire a staff who shares your passion.

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