Elizabeth Hoover, Ph.D.
As a former elementary school teacher, Dr. Hoover never expected to find herself serving as the chief technology officer for a school district. However, the evolution of technology and education led her away from the classroom and into school administration.
Beginning in 2007, Hoover worked with Alexandria Public Schools to launch online curriculum and courses for its high school students. Having implemented a 1:1 initiative in 2003 and eventually going completely wireless, the district and its students weren't strangers to bringing technology into the classroom. Hoover is particularly passionate about online learning. “One of the reasons I fell in love with technology is that it really makes your thinking visible in ways that it never has been before,” says Hoover. Currently, the district has 500 to 600 students enrolled in online courses, which allows the district to distribute advanced diplomas, prevent dropouts and remedy credit shortcomings.
Hoover is currently in the process of launching a tablet initiative at the high school level, which she hopes will create a more personalized learning environment for the students and increase accessibility to online courses. “I feel like technology is finally being developed for the K-12 environment,” she says. “We had been adapting technology from the business world or personal use in schools, but now I think we’re at a turning point where it’s actually being developed specifically for schools with an easier implementation.” With a significant low-income and transient population in the district, having tablets available ensures each student has access to the same educational opportunities. Additionally, transitioning to a tablet platform should also help teachers push out informal assessments and allow for more flexibility in classroom management.
In addition to the district’s online learning program and new tablets, Hoover is in the process of launching a student-managed technology help desk. When the district was using primarily laptops, a student-run help desk seemed like a far-off dream as there were several security and network issues to overcome. However, with the release of the new tablets, Hoover’s dream of a student technology help desk will come true. Recognizing that involving students in the decision-making and learning process is key, Hoover works with a few interns each summer. This year, the students are helping to prepare for the launch of both the tablets and the help desk. “It’s assumed the kids know technology, and they often do, but it’s usually used for entertainment and not necessarily for their education - to learn, connect, collaborate and construct,” says Hoover.
Looking back, Hoover believes it was the adoption of an online learning management system that encouraged the district to incorporate technology into the classroom in a meaningful way. As technology took root in the district, serving as one of the primary vehicles for content delivery, Hoover and her district began working with technology integration specialists, who are also licensed teachers. These specialists work to support teachers - they collaborate over planning, co-teach and model technology.
While Hoover’s influence can be seen across the district, she keeps the purpose of technology in education top of mind. “Districts need curriculum that is tied into technology and that technology needs to make sure the delivery of the curriculum is different than it would be without it,” says Hoover.