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Taking 1:1 From One-Time to Long-Lasting

A continued conversation with Kevin Schwartz, Chief Technology Officer of Austin ISD

Part two in a two-part series. View part one here.

In part two of his interview, Kevin Schwartz, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Austin Independent School District in Texas, elaborates on the importance of shared information and the responsibility CTOs feel regarding their role to impact the success or failure of district implementations. Regardless of the success of his own district’s 1:1 initiative, he acknowledges that a failed attempt by a neighboring district creates questions on his end.

“I felt the pain whenever another school district failed with theirs. Even if ours were successful, I had to sort of answer to everything that went wrong with someone else’s program,” he says. “Helping them made us more effective in our own work. I also think that the work it takes to go and present at a quality event like FETC raises your game. It makes you think things all the way through and not live and swim in a day-to-day [fashion]. You’ve got to make it actual and intelligible by other folks who are new to the content that you’re talking about.”

When Schwartz presents at the 2020 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) next month in Miami, he’ll be thinking about a technology landscape that has changed significantly since he first embarked on a 1:1 implementation nearly a decade ago. Access to media has increased, and with it, the level at which a CTO and his or her team need to communicate with parents and other stakeholders in the community. Initially, there were overreactions to media that created a sensationalization of particular technologies, but once that was examined and adequately communicated, 1:1 programs became more successful in the education space. 

Schwartz explains, “Having individual conversations with parents about what this means to their kids, what to expect, how to go into it open-eyed, and being transparent is probably the single most important thing that any program can do. It’s about being very clear about why you’re doing it, very clear about what’s going to go well, what will be challenging, and how we’re going to be in it together.”

There is a natural risk aversion that sets in with school environments. But Schwartz points to the importance of being courageous in knowing that students may face more risk by avoiding certain technologies. It’s a balance with parents and learning, but a necessary part of the job.

“I think there’s sort of a natural reaction to shy away from risk. We always make sure to point out to parents and others what the risk is of not doing something. Your child will not have access to some of the things that they’re actually going to need if we don’t do these things,” he explains.

In terms of PD, Schwartz knows that it’s important to have sustained training and avoid the “one-off” scenario: “We work very hard to shift the focus from the one on one to the pedagogical in the classroom. You can’t do that without coaching. Coaches need not be [only] evaluative. They need to be there supporting teachers and helping them get [to where] they need to go.”

When it comes to the acceptance of technology in schools, Schwartz believes that expectations need to be set at realistic levels to further growth in a manner that is most beneficial to future learning. As he suggests, “I think another huge risk in 1:1 is expecting too much too soon. Technology is known for this. We overestimate the power of technology in the short term and completely underestimate the power of it in the long term. So, if we’re looking for fast, quick gains, they’re not going to be there, but the long-term strategic item is absolutely a part of it.”

About Kevin Schwartz

Mr. Schwartz brings 25 years of K-12 technology experience to bear on issues of equity in technology.  At CoSN, he was named the national CTO of the Year in 2016 and his teams have been honored with TEAM Award in Texas twice.  Across 8 years, Kevin has led successful 1:1 implementations at 3 school districts and over 80 schools. These programs have also won multiple awards and honors while serving all learners.

Follow Kevin Schwartz on Twitter @AISD_Reinvent

Kevin Schwartz Sessions:

  1. W195$ | Taking the Plunge: A Deep Dive into 1:1
  2. C363 | Technology, Transformation, and Strategic Planning

The 40th anniversary Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) will take place January 14-17, 2020 in Miami, Fla. Registration is now open at Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC)

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