EdTech Hero: Barbara Soots paves the way for OER adoption in Washington
October 20, 2017
Soots “listens, advises and gently nudges” districts to understand and embrace open educational resources.
The five winners include a systems administrator, a manger of instructional technology and a director of eLearning and Curricular Innovation from districts across the country.
Corinne Lestch is a staff reporter covering education for EdScoop and its affiliate public sector technology news websites, FedScoop and StateScoop...
A rising class of NextGeneration Leaders will be in the spotlight at next week's CoSN conference, in a program sponsored by the edtech association and EdScoop that recognizes the hard work and dedication of school district trailblazers.
The tech-savvy winners include Cassandra Anderson, systems administrator for Janesville School District in Wisconsin; Zach Desjarlais, manager of instructional technology for Vancouver Public Schools in Washington; Seth Hamilton, technology integration coordinator for MSD Washington Township in Indiana; Courtney Kofeldt, supervisor of educational technology for Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School; and Holly Stachler, director of eLearning and Curricular Innovation for Yorktown Community Schools in Indiana.
Each NextGeneration Leader brings a different quality and personal touch to the job, whether that means creating an "army" of teachers-turned-experts on classroom technology, or thinking up unique ways to get struggling students Internet access at home. But they all have in common a passion to enhance the educational experience of students, teachers and administrators.
“CoSN is committed to supporting and building both current and future district technology leaders,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “This year’s awardees, chosen by their peers, have demonstrated that they have taken steps to drive technology programs and accelerate learning success in their schools.” The five winners were selected from 30 semi-finalists from across the United States, based on a national poll conducted by EdScoop that pulled in more than 11,000 votes.
Many candidates stood out in this year's call for innovators making a difference in schools, but the five winners were distinct in going above and beyond for their districts.
Desjarlais started a "Future Ready" league for school principals and administrators so they could understand the new demands and lessons of today's classrooms, and he helped oversee a district-wide implementation of learning management system Canvas.
A big component of many of these edtech leaders' jobs revolves around professional development — ensuring that teachers know how to best incorporate technology like iPads and Chromebooks into their classrooms.
At MSD Washington Township, Hamilton created a voluntary training program called Tech2Teach. It has been so successful that more teachers are signing up than expected, he said.
Meanwhile, about an hour's drive away at Yorktown Community Schools, Stachler runs a blended learning professional development program, and while it is mandatory, teachers have autonomy over how they want to learn, whether in person or digitally.
Kofeldt brings a different set of skills for her job at a cyber charter school, where everything is online for both teachers and students. She has played a major role in switching the school from Moodle to Canvas, which she says has more opportunities to engage with other schools to trade best practices and deepen learning.
A big challenge faced by one of the NextGeneration Leaders is the homeless student population — Anderson serves in a district where more than half the students fall below the poverty line, and she is working to get those students MiFi access so they can complete their homework before or after school.
“It’s never been more important for America’s school systems to have forward-looking leaders driving the use of technology in education,” said Wyatt Kash, vice president for content strategy for EdScoop. “We’re pleased to join CoSN in recognizing this year’s ‘NextGeneration Leaders.’”
The winners will be honored at CoSN's conference April 3-6 in Chicago. Read about last year's winners here.