Though Shorr earned his MBA in executive leadership, his passion is clearly rooted in improving education with technology. Shorr is a Certified Educational Technology Leader (CETL), chair of ISTE’s Chief Technology Officer’s Network, the former chair of the advisory council for Ideastream (the PBS/NPR affiliate in the Cleveland area), an Apple Distinguished Educator and will start work to obtain his doctor of education in 2016.
Shorr is also part of a team at Mentor Public Schools that has been recognized by the state of Ohio as leaders in the implementation of education technology. In 2013, the district rolled out its award-winning 1:1 blended learning program in Ridge Middle School. In fall 2015, the district expanded the program to every teacher and student in grades 6 through 12 and will start an elementary school rollout at the beginning of 2016. One of the district’s most admired initiatives is Catalyst, a state-of-the-art research and development program where elementary teachers can explore blended learning and administrators and other teachers can learn by watching from an attached observation room. Shorr spearheaded Catalyst, which was honored with the Ohio Trendsetter Award in 2014.
Shorr says he and the district have been successful because of the incredible amount of teamwork and talent at Mentor Public Schools. “Catalyst is an amazing program and it’s my favorite thing I get to work on,” he says. “I have done good work there, but it’s because the superintendent gives me the latitude to do it and because the teachers who have been involved with Catalyst are some of the best teachers I have ever seen. They are working an extra 30 hours outside their normal week for that quarter to get everything ready to do these types of experiments. I’ve worked directly in three districts and have consulted in a dozen and I’ve never seen such talented teachers and administrators as we have in Mentor.”
When asked what his advice would be to other education leaders working to implement technology, Shorr pointed to effective professional development and Mentor Public Schools’ three-pronged approach:
1. Focus on best-in-class professional development. “Schools tend to like the middle-cost professional development,” he says. “They’re afraid of the free stuff and they’re afraid of the expensive stuff. But the free and expensive stuff tend to be the best.” One free form of professional development is to work with nearby teachers from neighboring districts, which Shorr says can be outstanding if you pick the right people.
2. Invest in instructional coaching/ ongoing professional development. The curriculum department at Mentor Public Schools increased its instructional coaching team from 1 to 15 in 2015. “I don’t think you can have broad changes without teachers being able to work with expert educators embedded in the building who can work with them on best practices,” Shorr says.
3. Realize learning is a process for teachers as well as students. “We’ve always said of our students: If learning is the constant, then time is a variable. But, schools don’t typically give that same consideration to our educators,” says Shorr. He says teachers have a spectrum of abilities and, when implementing something new such as blending learning, it’s more important each teacher is supported in making measurable progress quarter over quarter and month over month and less important they all start out at the same place.
Shorr says the next two arenas for instructional improvement are in deep implementation of the maker movement and the use of virtual reality. “We have much higher-quality tools now and there’s a real opportunity to make a significant impact in instruction,” he says.