ALTON — Alton School District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Spells was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as one of 117 top school leaders from across America to participate in the first National Connected Superintendents Summit Wednesday, Nov. 19, at the White House.
Spells is among superintendents recognized for their leadership in helping their districts make the transition to digital learning. The conference brought together officials from throughout America to share with one other and the Education Department promising approaches to using technology in classes.
“This was a rare and unique opportunity to represent Alton and other Illinois school districts in discussing how technology must be ever-present in the education of our students,” Spells said in a press release from the Alton School District. “In Alton, our board of education and staff made significant additions and enhancements to our technology infrastructure over the past two years and we know student engagement levels are increasing as a result.”
The White House summit will be followed by a series of 12 to 15 regional summits that will focus on districts’ digital progress. The events will include the unveiling of digital tools that facilitate incorporation of technology into short-term and long-range education planning.
“School districts across the country are helping teachers harness the power of technology to create personal learning environments for all students,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “We want to make sure every child — whether he or she is in the inner-city, in a rural community or on a Native American reservation — has access to knowledge and the chance to learn 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
To help spotlight the value of technology in schools, the Education Department is sponsoring a Future Ready Initiative aimed at showcasing outstanding school leadership and strategies.
“The Future Ready Initiative highlights the critical role of district leaders in setting a vision and creating the environment where educators and students access the tools, content and expertise necessary for thriving in a connected world,” said Richard Culatta, director of the Department’s Office of Educational Technology.
Future Ready superintendents demonstrate effective use of technology by:
• Fostering and leading a culture of collaboration and digital citizenship
• Transitioning schools and families to high-speed connectivity;
• Empowering educators with professional learning opportunities;
• Accelerating progress toward universal access to quality devices;
• Providing access to quality digital content;
• Creating access, equity, and excellence — particularly in rural, remote and low-income districts;
• Offering digital tools to students and families to help them prepare for success in college;
• Sharing best practices and mentoring other districts in the transition to digital learning.
“Technology has the potential to transform education in America, allowing students to learn more, to do so at their own pace, and to develop the knowledge and skills employers demand,” Culatta said. “And yet, fewer than 30 percent of classrooms have the broadband Internet to support today’s education technology needs.”
In June 2013, President Barack Obama announced the ConnectED Initiative, starting with a goal of connecting 99 percent of students to next-generation connectivity within five years. Model schools and districts are using technology to create personalized learning environments.