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Mon, 04/22/2019 – 10:58
Education is moving toward a student-centered, collaborative, creative learning environment, but without professional development in place — and the understanding of what the end results should look like — it’s difficult to ensure technology investments will succeed.
Many districts (unintentionally, of course) put hardware in place with the expectation that it will solve a particular problem, without understanding the proper way to implement and support the technology. That’s what we’re trying to focus on here in Alabama: meeting and supporting classroom needs. That’s what Alabama Leaders in Educational Technology is all about.
For nearly two decades, our organization has served 137 school districts in our state. Nearly all of these districts count on ALET as a key resource for professional development and education for IT staff, instructional technology coaches and network administrators, among others. We’re probably best known for our conferences: We hold three per year, where members can attend educational sessions, meet with technology vendors and network. However, that’s only a small part of what we do.
Virtual Community and Peer-to-Peer Support Augment K–12 Training
ALET started as a small group of tech coordinators who wanted, in conjunction with the state department of education, to support the technology leaders in our school districts and create a community. This is especially important because technology evolves and changes constantly. We want to be right there as a resource for our membership, but we realized a long time ago that professional development doesn’t always have to be in person or face to face.
Today, we reach members on an almost daily basis. Our members are busy people, so one of the most valuable resources we offer is our cloud-based repository of content, which members can use as needed.
We have scripts, policies and other educational content there for the taking, and we encourage members to share any resources they’ve created. We tell our members that there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when we can all collaborate and share knowledge instead.
In 2018, we started an online webinar series. Once or twice a month, we post webinars that address specific technical concerns we know our members are asking about. Recent webinars explored the Google Admin console, how to prepare a technology plan for the Alabama State Department of Education, E-rate support, SQL Server database scripts and anti-virus support.
Webinars also focus on network and technical development, led by network administrators and other technical staff from throughout the state. This is a great example of our organization’s main strength: our willingness to support each other.
IT Staff and Educators Tap Email Listserver for Wide-Ranging Support
Another valuable resource that facilitates connections among our community is an email listserver. Members use it daily, with 10 to 50 conversations going on at any given time. Members discuss not only technical topics, but also professional development, leadership and policy programs.
Currently, the listserver includes questions about content filtering and security, some related to a new state funding initiative focused on classroom and building security and others related to an organization that develops online threat assessments and security protocols. Members with technology up for renewal seek opinions on competitive products. We see many questions about E-rate. I’ve also seen threads with hiring-related queries, such as “Anyone have a list of interview questions for potential network technician candidates?”