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Coalescing Educational Technology and IT Departments to Maximize Innovation in K-12

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Snapshot

Wednesday, December 2, 2:30–3:15 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)
Presentation 1 of 2
Other presentations:
Island State, District Solutions

Dr. Jennifer Burks  
Lana Nguyen  
Ken Wall  

Ed Tech and IT as one cohesive unit! Learn how Poway Unified created a new division bringing Ed Tech and Information Technology under one umbrella. Follow our journey from a non-existent Ed Tech department and an isolated IT group to a fully synthesized innovation powerhouse.

Audience: Chief technology officers/superintendents/school board members, Curriculum/district specialists, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Leadership
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Education Leaders:
Empowering Leader
  • Support educators in using technology to advance learning that meets the diverse learning, cultural, and social-emotional needs of individual students.
Visionary Planner
  • Share lessons learned, best practices, challenges and the impact of learning with technology with other education leaders who want to learn from this work.
Systems Designer
  • Establish partnerships that support the strategic vision, achieve learning priorities and improve operations.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Ed Tech and IT in K-12 often operate in silos which can create disparate viewpoints and vision stifling innovation. As technology continues to permeate our culture and the world of work, we must shift the model of Information Technology as a separate entity from Curriculum and Educational Technology. When Technology Leadership has a voice at the cabinet level, innovation can become part of the culture of the entire district.

In this presentation we would like to share a bit about the history of Ed Tech and IT in the Poway Unified School District and how we established and executed on a vision of a cohesive team of technology experts (IT) and education experts (Ed Tech). We will discuss some of the shortcomings of the siloed model as well as how and why those models were originally put into place. We will also share how the District established a new division in order to support the Superintendent’s vision of expanding purposeful technology integration in Poway. What were our roadblocks? How did we learn to work together?


Intro (3 minutes)
Who is Jennifer and what is her role? (Lana introduces Jennifer)
Cabinet-level Associate Superintendent of Technology and Innovation
Ed.D in Education and Organizational change
Leads both Information Technology and Educational Technology departments

Who is Lana and what is her role? (Ken introduces Lana)
Ed Tech Director leading a team of Innovation Coaches
Integrates with curriculum leadership to foster modern and innovative practices

Who is Ken and what is his role? (Jennifer introduces Ken)
IT Leadership team member
Background in private industry and in K-12 Leadership bringing a broad scope of experience
Focuses on integrating IT team with Ed Tech and curriculum leadership

History of Tech in the District (8 minutes)
Ed Tech department was not created until Superintendent created the cabinet position
Two trainers were under the curriculum support team in a district of 37k students and 2k teachers
Pushing into classrooms was limited to teachers that reached out to these trainers directly
Extensive time spent in providing technical support on District provided digital resources
IT Leadership often appointed with little background in enterprise technology and infrastructure
Reporting up to curriculum support or business support (changed frequently) with no direct voice at a cabinet-level
Technical staff often did not have an extensive background in enterprise IT prior to working for the District

Why did this not work?
No cohesive vision of technology integration in the classroom
Not enough resources to support any attempts at integration
Unstable environment due to lack of experiencing supporting enterprise infrastructure
No strong relationship between technology experts and classroom experts

What are we now? (8 minutes)
New arm of the District created incorporating Ed Tech and IT under one lens
Associate Sup. position created and filled by Jennifer that had a background in building an Ed Tech department while leading an IT Department
Ed Tech department created adding an Ed Tech Director and 5 Innovation coaches
Professional Learning program created formalizing the Coaching format creating consistent hands-on learning opportunities and meaningful feedback for teachers integrating technology in their classrooms
IT Leadership now has direct access to a voice in Cabinet that understands the specific needs of keeping technology infrastructure running smooth and staying ahead of the curve
Focus on hiring technical experts with strong technical backgrounds that can hit the ground running
IT and Ed Tech build strategies together. Our vision and direction are in alignment to support each other's goals
3-year tech plan built together
IT class has a closer relationship with the classroom, understanding their works impact on each student succeeding

How does this maximize innovation? (7 minutes)
Synthesizing the expertise from both sides of the house creates the best possible solutions. Ed Tech teaches IT about new trends in education, and IT provides feedback on how we can actualize those ideas with our current technology.
Since there is no grey area on who to go to for support on technology, site leadership seeks guidance from T&I on their projects rather than going off on their own.
In the past, site administrators would make technology decisions and then ask for support after the fact. T&I is now involved at the ground floor advising on projects with a proven track record of success.

Case Study: Innovation labs and construction
When the T&I division was first created, someone asked if IT was the Tech, and Ed Tech was the Innovation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We are all Technologists and Innovators.
Questions (4 minutes)

Supporting research

More [+]


Dr. Jennifer Burks, Poway Unified School District

Dr. Jennifer Burks is the Associate Superintendent of Technology & Innovation in the Poway School District, recently named San Diego’s Exemplary District. She has a passion for utilizing technology as a transformative tool and a willingness to disrupt outmoded thinking to develop new opportunities of learning. Dr. Burks was an integral part of opening Orange County’s first Computer Science Magnet School. She is recognized for her consistent and stellar record as an educational leader and won the Golden Bell for an innovative research-based embedded coaching model. She believes that together we can usher a new era to transform education for today’s modern learner.

Lana Nguyen, Poway Unified School District
Ken Wall, Poway Unified School District

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