It was a good weekend for Superintendent David Larson.
Larson has been recognized with a 2011 Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award by eSchool News, named one of 10 superintendents across the country who have excelled in using technology to advance their district’s educational goals.
The 10 superintendents were chosen with help from last year’s winners and the editors of eSchool News, a print and online publication for educators in primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities. Larson is the only award-winner from Michigan.
Larson said the award is less about him and more about the district and its work toward integrating technology in every classroom.
“Technology is going to be a key part of our lives, no matter what we do,” Larson said. “We want to integrate the use of technology as a part of inquiry and self-direction.”
Often, high-achieving districts like Birmingham get distracted by new initiatives and forget to focus on the simple things, such as technology, Larson said.
Birmingham, however, has made technology a priority, integrating it into the district’s strategic plan in 2008. This commitment included allocating resources, funding, staffing and equipment toward improving the district’s technological footprint. In fact by next year, Larson said, both high schools will be wireless.
"Research shows that technology can facilitate better teaching and learning, but only when used judiciously,” said Dennis Pierce, editor of eSchool News. “And that starts at the very top, with strong district leadership.
"If you start with a clear vision for how to implement technology effectively, and you make sure your staff is well-trained and supported, and you seek to transform instructional practices to leverage technology’s full potential, then technology really can empower education," Pierce said. "And that’s what the winners of our annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards are doing.”
Larson said the key is embracing technology where other districts may ban it.
“Young people are constantly connected,” he said. “For other districts, to learn is to put (gadgets) away. However, we want to leverage these tools and devices to help learning.”
Technology can be utilized at every level. In his son’s pre-calculus class, Larson said students share notes and questions on a class blog. In fourth-grade classes, students are using Skype to chat with students overseas. Even the district’s youngest students are using flip cameras to tell stories of things they’re learning.
This kind of learning helps teach critical thinking and how to ask better questions, and it gives students a level of ownership and pride in their education, he said.
As for himself, Larson said he wasn’t even aware eSchool News had the award program and was pleasantly surprised when he heard the news—especially since he doesn’t consider himself tech-savvy.
“My kids got a big kick out of it,” he said, “because I’m usually calling them in to help me with computer problems.”
Larson will be recognized, along with the other nine award-winners, at the American Association of School Administrators’ annual conference Feb. 17 in Denver.