Ann Flynn, Ed.D.
To say that Flynn and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) have had a far-reaching impact on the use of technology in schools across the country would be an understatement.
NSBA represents state school board associations and more than 90,000 local school board members who serve the nation’s 14,000 school districts. Its efforts in the education technology space have brought innovation straight to school boards and education leaders for almost three decades. Flynn herself has been with NSBA for nearly as long in her 23-year career.
Flynn and her colleagues at NSBA showcase models of education technology success in several ways, including through the popular “20 to Watch” recognition program, which has identified more than 180 emerging education technology leaders over the years; district site visits where participants can observe technology in use (Flynn has conducted more than 75 of these); and most recently, the introduction of the Technology Innovation Showcase implemented two years ago.
The Technology Innovation Showcase in particular has been an extremely successful and well-received program. “We started the showcase to introduce emerging technology companies to school leadership and school board members to inspire them to think differently about old practices,” says Flynn. Through the program, NSBA chooses six companies each year, which are highlighted at its annual conference. In the special session that Flynn facilitates with the companies and school leaders, it has been standing room only. “This really says to me to me that we have leaders who are looking for and are interested in new solutions. They aren’t just happy with the status quo anymore,” she says.
It is Flynn’s mission to help district leaders create a shared vision and align resources from the boardroom to the classroom, while recognizing how the intersection of policy and practice impacts an organization’s ability to introduce and sustain innovation in education. “Successful technology use in K-12 is a team sport. Systemic change can’t just happen from the top down; and no matter how innovative some teachers are, they can’t bubble it up enough to make a major impact without support from the top,” she says. What drives her is when members share their “Aha!” moments - when they can pinpoint a time at an NSBA event when they recognized that education is changing, that they want their district to change and they set out and did just that.
In the end, however, all of Flynn’s efforts and passion over the years have gone to help districts and leaders create a real culture of innovation and an environment where people are willing to take risks and are comfortable trying new technologies. Because, as she says, “It is an evolution, not a revolution. There will never be an end-all, be-all device, but you can choose the best solution for the present time, which is certainly better than not having any technology at all.”