Dr. Schuler, president of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, has taken his commitment to integrate technology into the classroom far beyond the norm by working with teachers to develop their own technology pilots. Dr. Schuler and his team created professional development courses, taught by the district’s teachers, which required each participating teacher to develop a proposal on the way technology or devices could change the teaching and learning process. A group of administrators then reviewed the proposals, determining if the teachers were truly ready to transform the process, or if they'd simply be using a new tool to teach with old methods. “What we found through the pilot process was the first couple of years we had individual teachers who presented proposals, then the next two years we started to have teams of people coming together and eventually entire classes. By the end of last year we had enough proposals for us to be a fully 1:1 environment,” says Dr. Schuler.
Dr. Schuler didn’t want to release new devices or technology without building capacity and understanding at the teacher level first. Since the district moved to a 1:1 environment through the proposal process, he has seen innovative approaches to technology. For example, the AP Economics teachers in the district made themselves available to students 24 hours a day the week before finals. They divided the day into shifts and manned a computer, waiting for students to log in and ask questions. And with the distribution of devices across the district, Dr. Schuler says his staff doesn’t consider buying textbooks unless they have explored open educational resources or apps first.
Admittedly, Dr. Schuler has encountered some challenges when integrating technology into the classroom. First, he is part of a district with a growing low-income population. He provided an opportunity for students to connect at home through President Obama's ConnectED initiative. Also, every school parking lot is a hot spot that is available until curfew. Next, he worked with student representatives to identify areas at each campus with a weak or nonexistent Internet signal. “I meet with two representatives of the student body from each school two times a year, and I meet with the presidents of our PTOs four times a year. I ask them to notify me anytime they’re on campus and have slow Internet access. I can only do something about it if I know where it is,” says Dr. Schuler.
Dr. Schuler’s integration of technology includes a 1:1 environment, heart monitors for every physical education class, flipped classrooms, digital education resources, incorporation of coding into the math curriculum, app development courses and more. From students winning awards for apps they’ve developed to working with parents to guide them through the 21st-century learning experience, Dr. Schuler is just getting started. He anticipates continued success from similar programs and encourages other districts to dive into education technology. “We have an obligation to teach students in the platform in which they live — and they live in this world of technology,” he says. “It’s our job to transform how we teach to meet this need.”