Lacey honored for tech advances in schools
by Mark Ledbetter
Feb 08, 2013 | 1919 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA COUNTY — Schools Superintendent Suzanne Lacey was named one of eight educators to receive eSchool’s 2013 Tech-Savvy Superintendent Award.

“What this means to me is our vision and focus for Talladega County schools to integrate technology to support instruction is really minor compared to the difference we see in our classrooms,” Lacey said.

She said students are ready to accept technology, and many have tech devices at home, items such as personal or laptop computers, I-pads and smartphones.

“Education will provide the tools,” Lacey said, “and this award is a symbol we’re achieving that.”

She was nominated by a colleague and learned of the award at the end of January. She is one of eight superintendents nationwide selected based on eSchool’s 10 “Hallmarks of Excellence.”

eSchool Media is a news and information organization that provides “print, web, email and video communications to nearly one million K-12 decision makers and influencers throughout North America and around the world.”

With 290,000 registered members and more than 500,000 page views each month, eSchool Media provides “education-technology content and services for leaders in schools and colleges and helps educators successfully use technology and the Internet to transform education and achieve their educational goals.”

According to a Feb. 1 news release, eSchool says Lacey was selected to receive the award recognizing senior school district executives “who best exemplify outstanding leadership and vision in using technology to advance their district’s educational goals.”

“Research suggests that technology can facilitate better teaching and learning, but only when used wisely,” said Dennis Pierce, editor of eSchool News. “And that starts at the very top, with strong school district leadership. If you have a clear vision for how to implement technology effectively, and you make sure your staff are well trained and supported, and you seek to transform instructional practices to leverage technology’s full potential, then technology really can empower education. And that’s what the winners of our annual Tech-Savvy Superintendent Awards are doing.”

According to eSchool, Lacey’s leadership the past five years is unsurpassed by any other district in Alabama for advancing “individualized, one-to-one computing initiatives” in the seven high schools in the county system.

eSchool recognizes that technological reforms led to the county’s program receiving the 2012 National School Change Award, and having one of only two schools in Alabama to receive National Green Ribbon Awards for energy and green programs.

Lacey will be featured, along with the other winners, in a series of live webinars heard by senior-level executives from districts nationwide. The webinars will give executives the opportunity for the winners to share their keys to success.

Moving toward a technological environment has had an impact on both the schools’ infrastructure as well as on students.

Expanded Internet use has called for increased bandwidth to support and mobilize teachers and students, Lacey said.

Technology in classrooms has required redesigns and traditional desks are gone, while students now learn at working stations and in pods.

Winterboro’s move to a “1:1 student to computer” ratio required what has been coined as “learning suites.” Walls between classrooms were removed, allowing teachers from different disciplines to collaborate in teaching common lessons.

Winterboro eighth-grade world history teacher Kayla Lightsey and seventh-grade language arts teacher Kevin Studdard share adjoining rooms separated by a removable wall. Teachers and students work together on a common learning project that incorporates student collaboration and use of computers while teachers utilize flat screen monitors and integrate Internet technology to illustrate their lessons.

Lacey said this concept empowers the students and makes them responsible learners.

“The beauty of technology is that learning can take place anytime, anywhere and we have to structure the school to support that,” Lacey said. “You no longer find students in rows of desks; they are more mobile; they work in teams.”

Childersburg High School was the second school to employ the 1:1 concept and B.B. Comer High School is scheduled to become the third school in the system to be transformed into a technologically advanced learning system.

Lacey said Comer will be more mobile than either Winterboro or Childersburg because students will be issued individual laptop computers.

Moving toward technology does come with a price tag, Lacey said, and there are no extra funds to foot the bills.

“We must be resourceful and be good stewards to reach our goals,” she said.

Lacey said the cost for technology has been embedded in the budgeting process and can no longer be treated as an added thought, but part of the normal budgeting process.

“It does impact the budget significantly,” Lacey said, “but it is an investment. When our students leave us, we want them to be ready.”

Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com.