During the months of March and April, SVRTC divisions were invited to participate in strategic planning sessions for their division regarding their school technology. Since the increase of devices in divisions and many 1:1 computing environments, there is a need to strategically address sustaining the model (e.g., device collection, break/fix, infrastructure, security, budgeting, etc.). The workshop series was attended by participants from 13 SVRTC school divisions (Amelia, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Danville, Henry, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Petersburg, Pittsylvania, and Sussex).
Dr. Tara Nattrass, currently serving as Senior Education Strategist at Dell Technologies, led the two planning sessions through various activities to help eliminate opportunity gaps and ensure engaged, meaningful, healthy, safe, and supportive digital learning environments. In the first session (March, 2, 2023), participants worked with their colleagues to identify their desired vision for technology and assess the reality of current technologies in divisions. Teams from divisions were challenged with creating action steps with metrics and implementation plans.
In the second session (April 26, 2023), teams from divisions returned to participate in activities and reflections with the leadership of Dr. Nattrass. This session focused on developing or refining an implementation plan that focused on the sustainability of these 1:1 computing environments. The session also addressed the impacts of computing in regard to digital acceleration (e.g., ‘going viral’) and workforce trends. Dr. Nattrass also facilitated a Q&A session with Timothy Ampy, Director of Technology, Dinwiddie County Public Schools (the recipient of the SVRTC Division Leadership 2022-2023 award). This provided an opportunity for additional discourse around the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of 1:1 implementations, which fostered the final activities on implementation plans that included areas of focus (device management, teaching and learning, etc.).
Dr. Nattrass’ presentations and work sessions in strategic planning were also supported by Dr. Susan Clair, Learning Infrastructure Coordinator – Virginia Department of Education, who also attend both work sessions and participated in the presentations and activities. Drs. Nattrass and Clair will continue to be an asset to SVRTC divisions as strategic planning is put in place and implemented for the increased number of devices in our divisions due to pandemic funding.
The January 18, 2023, SVRTC meeting was held virtually, with representation from 10 counties with 17 in attendance: Amelia, Brunswick, Colonial Heights, Cumberland, Danville, Dinwiddie, Greensville, Mecklenburg, Nottoway. The professional development portion of the meeting welcomed Calypso Gilstrap, the new Instructional Technology Specialist for VDOE.
Ms. Gilstrap informed the group about several projects and responsibilities she has as the VDOE Instructional Technology Specialist, including:
Go Open VA – An online portal which provides online professional development modules and lessons for educators
Revising the Virginia Educational Technology Plan – this revision along with the comprehensive education plan for the state, will overlap in ways which should be helpful to fully integrate digital learning that will focus on improving innovations and use of technology.
Updating the ITRT Guidelines – Currently in search of any doctoral students who have done research on ITRTs, the guidelines may adjust ITRT roles to be a coaching model (for technology)
Related, VSTE is looking at updating standard of quality for ITRTs, technicians, and other technology educators and management. VSTE will present these recommendations to VDOE in March. Examples from SVRTC schools are welcome to showcase struggles or benefits to having additional technology support.
Instructional Technology Newsletter – going out via email; there will eventually be a spot for the newsletter on the VDOE website.
Keep updated on issues and progress made in schools in regards to instructional technology, as well as the need for any professional development courses
Furthermore, Ms. Gilstrap shared the importance of distributing the Project Tomorrow Speak Up Survey. This survey is geared towards all community stakeholders, including educators, parents, and students, and collects information on what technology is readily available in their homes and at school, their preferred learning methods, and what type of internet access they have. ITRTs and technology directors can distribute this survey to their school districts and will receive the data between March and April of this year. The data collected will be used to leverage companies to provide access in divisions and rural areas that currently lack it. It can also be used to inform strategic planning decisions, lesson plans, and apply for grants. The survey can be found on the VDOE website.
Additionally, some upcoming professional development opportunities were shared with the group:
February 1: Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Webinar – Discussions will include ChatGPT and its use effective for students and teachers, as well as how students use it and what limitations there should be on the use of AI in academic settings.
Related, VDOE’s current stance on ChatGPT is that the security of using it should be thoroughly investigated in conjunction with your privacy agreements, as ChatGPT downloads a lot of data from its users.
February 25: Blended Learning Conference, Webinar – Free opportunity in collaboration with VSTE to discuss new ways to use blended learning as well as new ideas for in-person learning.
Virtual Virginia will also be shared to foster teachers in the classroom and help administrators who are lacking the staff to offer certain classes.
TBA: Brainstorm Conference, Virtual – A 3-day event hosted by Shenandoah Valley Educational Technology Consortium and open to all of Virginia either for free or a minimal cost. The Brainstorm Conference focuses on coming up with solutions and new ideas for issues schools face in regards to technology and digital integration.
Lastly, Ms. Gilstrap directed SVRTC members to Dr. Susan Clair for cybersecurity questions. Dr. Susan Clair will be running a professional development module on Cybersecurity and AI and will be involved with the EdTech forum on cybersecurity in the Fall.