An Interview with William Skilling: Reading, Writing and Technology?

Feb 13, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

1) First of all, I understand that you have just won an impressive award. Tell us about it.

eSchool News, a publication network of eSchool Media Inc., identifies annually recipients of the Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award, which is award to the top 10 superintendents from coast to coast who best exemplify outstanding leadership and vision in using technology to advance their district’s educational goals.

Dennis Pierce, editor of eSchool News, said “research shows that technology can facilitate better teaching and learning, but only when used effectively.” And that starts at the very top, with strong school district leadership. If you start with a clear vision for how to implement technology wisely, and you make sure your staff are well trained and supported, and you seek to transform instructional practices to leverage technology’s full potential, then technology really can empower education. And that’s what the winners of our annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards are doing,” he added.

2) What are YOUR priorities in terms of technology?

We determine what it is our students need to know and do when they graduate. We then select technologies that will help us achieve our end results. We always keep the end in mind.

Therefore, with this in mind, we have six basic priorities when it comes to technology:

(1) Implement technology that helps teachers be more efficient in the classroom.

(2) Implement technology that helps teachers become more effective teachers.

(3) Implement technology that will allow teachers to teach global skills and knowledge that otherwise could not be taught.

(4) Implement technology that contributes to a students technological literacy such that such that they become efficient and effective users.

(5) Use technology to increase the efficiency of the district’s operations.

(6) Use technology to allow teachers professional learning 24/7.

3) I have to admit I do not know what this cloud computing is all about. Do you use it and what is your evaluation of it?

Oxford does employ the use of both private and public cloud computing. On the private side of cloud computing, we want to own all our content and curriculum but make it available anywhere anytime. Security and safety of all our employees and students is always an issue and therefore we feel that different forms of clouds make sense in different situations.

4) Hardware vs. Software – what are the pros and cons?

You must first determine what the learning outcomes are and what instructional strategies need to be implemented to maximize the productivity of learning. We always design with the end in mind. We think about process first, then application/software, and then we select the appropriate hardware. We never start out with the hardware, we always end with it.

5) How does a Superintendent go about evaluating an ” app ” ? and how do you decide on what to purchase?

Does it make me more productive? Can I not live without it? Does it allow me to learn or teach more efficiently? The answers to these questions determine whether an app is downloaded or not.

6) Who assists in these decisions? Do you have a team ?

Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives & Technology, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, and Assistant Superintendent of Business & Operations.

For the most part, these positions are driving the decision making process. However, building principals and teachers are also involved. In general, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum is deciding what applications are needed. The Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives & Technology is approving that the particular applications will work in our environment, and the Assistant Superintendent of Business is deciding the best vehicle through which to purchase the items.

7) It seems that every day I get an e-mail from some company promoting their product- How does one make sense of it all ?

We never allow the latest technology to drive what we do. Instead, we determine what are the essential skills and knowledge all students need to compete in the global market. We then research the most productive ways to teach and have our students learning these skills and master the knowledge. However, it is important and imperative, that we also stays up with what is happening in the evolution of technology and software. This is true from a instructional, curriculum and operational perspective.

8) Ipod, Ipads, laptops, and hand held phones—do you have any priority list?

Many. It all depends upon what we are trying to accomplish. Everyone wants to talk about hardware but that is really the last question that is answered.

9) What have I neglected to ask?

Michael, I can probably come up with an additional question/s if I give this more thought. One of the most frequent questions I heard from my colleagues is, “how do you get all teachers to effectively use the technology and software you purchased?”

My answer is simple, the school district determines curriculum and the instructional strategies not teachers. You give teachers a reasonable timeline in which to implement the effective use of the classroom technology and software a district has chosen to implement. The district is responsible for providing the professional learning that allows teachers to decide when they want to learn how to effectively use technology to improve teaching and learning, where they will learn it, when they will learn it, and allow them to determine how they will learn it. It is up to the teacher to access the professional learning. The accountability comes through the teacher appraisal process in which they are held accountable for effective implementation and instructional use of the technology.

10) What is the most important thing to teach?

Technology and software are only tools. We evaluate the use and implementation of technology and software in how it will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of teachers, how it will increase the productivity of learning, how it will contribute to the acquisition of new global skills and knowledge that otherwise could not be taught, how it will increase the technological literacy of our students, how it will increase district operations, how it will support professional learning for all teachers, administrators and support staff. NOTE: We no longer provide professional development only professional learning.

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