CBSD Technology and Innovation Department: Bringing Excitement into the Classroom

Technology falls into the category of those things that often don’t come to mind unless there’s a problem.a teacher points to an electronic display as she talks to teachers

In the state-of-the-art learning environments that exist in the 23 schools in the Central Bucks School District, technology and innovation is seamlessly integrated into the teaching and learning process. And so, when teachers, staff, and students return to school each fall, they take for granted that their laptops, networks, and other critical tools will be awaiting their arrival, ready to meet their needs. Making that happen is a direct result of planning, passion and hard work by the district’s Technology and Innovation Department.

Preparing for the return of more than 17,000 students and 4,000 teachers, staff, and administrators requires an all-hands-on-deck mentality and a high-degree of dedication and expertise. From the moment students and faculty left in June until they returned in late August, the Technology and Innovation Department (T&I) was hard at work chipping away at a lengthy spread sheet of tasks prepared in the spring by Director Jason Jaffe, and his leadership team – Lindsay Smith, supervisor of educational technology, Laurel Podraza, manager of information technology services, Andrew Smith, manager of network security and architecture, as well as Harry Krotz, supervisor of building technology services.

“Technology, including software, hardware and infrastructure, is planned with the district’s educational and operational goals firmly in mind,” Jaffe says. “This summer, some of our goals included upgrading classrooms with Cleartouch panels, maintaining the security of district devices and utilizing Canvas to create CB Cyber courses, district professional development, and high quality, engaging instruction.”

During the summer months, T&I staff ensure that the district’s systems are successfully upgraded to account for changes in technology, courses and even the movement from one grade to another of the students themselves. Concurrently, they must orchestrate the distribution of new laptops to 3,300 students entering grades seven and 10.

While the work during these critical months is carefully planned, the start of any new year invariably brings a host of unique challenges.

“Our students and employees rely on our staff to help them access these resources, so when something doesn’t work, we address it, no matter now trivial it may seem,” Jaffe says. “If a student needs support getting a laptop to work, or if a teacher forgets their login, we make that hands-on support a priority too.”

While the tools are what many of us may think of when we think of technology, CBSD’s approach is firmly focused on how these tools support and enhance student learning. The district recently completed the successful deployment of 75-inch Cleartouch panels in the classrooms, replacing projector systems and making the educational process more interactive. As Lindsay Smith explains, one of the most important aspects of any new implementation is strong professional development that not only helps teachers and students use new tools but educates them on the “why” behind them.

“Part of our prerogative is to ensure students are able to function in their technological world now and when they leave us,” she says. “Our ability to provide them with educational experiences that arm them with these skills, while making that learning exciting and relevant is what brings our team joy when we come to work every day.”

While the summer months are behind them, one might assume that T&I staff are focused primarily on providing technical support as they settle into the school year’s regular rhythm and routine.

“Most technology departments can ensure that the tools work when you expect them to,” Jaffe says. “What makes our team special is their passion for the work and for our students. That’s why the ‘innovation’ aspect of our work is so important. We’re also having conversations with colleagues, engaging in research, and enhancing our own learning.

“Our approach is to set the bar much higher and really make a meaningful contribution to the student learning experience.”

Pictured above, K-12 Technology Staff Developer Carina Eife delivers a presentation to new teachers during a summer professional development session.