Amy E. Cashwell has taken a structural approach to energizing ed tech for the city’s 69,000 students. She oversees the Office of Instructional Technology, which until recently was housed in the Department of Technology. But that was the wrong place for it.
“They deal with infrastructure, networking, all the nuts and bolts of technology,” she said. “There isn’t a synergy between the technology folks and the people who work in the classroom. People would call because their computers didn’t work, because the network was down. Especially as the number of devices has increased rapidly, it has been hard to maintain the instructional focus.”
Today, Instructional Technology is housed in the Department of Teaching and Learning, a jurisdictional shift that has made a world of difference. “We have the same team of individuals, but we have really worked to redefine their roles to focus on how they can be coaches to teachers, how they can model best practices in order to activate teachers’ excitement,” she said.
Rather than serving as just the IT squad, the Instructional Technology team today is able to focus its attention more squarely on instruction. That means helping students become critical thinkers and problem solvers who are globally competitive.
The reinvigorated approach to ed tech has allowed Cashwell to make other changes too. Recently, for example, she helped launch a digital anchor school program, inviting several schools to act as laboratories for tech-centric instruction that includes testing a variety of different devices.
“These lessons eventually will shape the rollout of technology across the entire division,” she said. — Adam Stone