The Pickerington Local School District recently was recognized for its work to implement technology into classrooms to enhance student learning and the delivery of education.

The International Society for Technology in Education has presented Pickerington with the 2018 Distinguished District Award for its innovative approaches to using technology in schools.

"Each year, the ISTE honors (those) who are leading the way in accelerating the use of technology to solve tough problems in education and inspire innovation," an ISTE press released stated. "Pickerington is being honored with the Distinguished District Award for its work to use technology in transforming teaching and learning."

The district will be honored during the ISTE's annual conference June 24-27 in Chicago.

Technology society officials said the district has been aggressive and effective in implementing its One2One technology program, which was started during the 2016-17 school year.

When the initiative effort began, Pickerington officials said they had planned to distribute tablet computers to all students in the district within six years.

However, the district was able to expedite the process so students in all grades had received tablets by the start of the 2017-18 school year.

Additionally, the society said, the district has been successful in "blending the best of traditional teaching methods with modern, digital approaches to education; and creating the kinds of professional development opportunities that expand the technology knowledge and expertise of district staff."

"The 2018 award honorees represent what can be accomplished by using technology to bring new opportunities to students," said Richard Culatta, the technology society's CEO.

"We look forward to learning from these exemplary educators as they share their stories and accomplishments in Chicago," he said.

Brian Seymour, Pickerington's director of instructional technology, said the award is the pinnacle of school technology recognition.

"For those of us in instructional technology, this is like winning the World Series," Seymour said.

"It's a great honor for the district and an acknowledgement that the investments Pickerington schools have made in educational technology and staff development are reaping rewards in the classroom."

The ISTE only awards one district with the Distinguished District Award each year.

This is the first time Pickerington has received the honor.

Seymour said the district has integrated technology into classroom for as long as there have been computers, but a concerted approach toward technology-infused, blended learning was stepped up about four years ago.

He said he made it a priority to develop a long-term technology plan that focused on blending "the best traditional teaching practices with modern digital practices and resources."

"You have to start with a plan, a timeline and a budget," Seymour said.

"We had seven committees in our planning process, including teachers, administrators, community members, curriculum experts and school board members.

"If everybody is not aligned, you're going to be in a classroom a year later and see a stack of devices in the corner collecting dust."

Seymour said the district also enhanced building infrastructure so it could handle an increased demand on computing power.

That included upgrading district WiFi from 50 MHz to 4.5 GHz, and more bandwidth is being planned.

"You also must determine what education looks like if every child has a personal device," he said.

"There are 100 different definitions of blended learning, and it's easy to forget the technology is less important than changes in mindset and teaching pedagogy required to make something like this a success."

Seymour said the district helped teachers buy into the shift toward technology in classrooms by acknowledging the strengths of their traditional practices, and explaining those could be enhanced by adding some digital practices.

"So, in many classrooms, there are multiple stations where smaller groups of students work independently on different aspects of a project while the teacher assists other children," he said.

"Typical station arrangements would allow for a teacher-lead activity, a collaborative space, digital content and a station focused on the 'Five C's' -- creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication and connectedness to the outside world.

"The result is a more individualized educational experience."

Seymour said the district's philosophy is that technology can't replace quality teachers, but that technology, self-directed work and group projects are how the real world works in the 21st century.

"When used correctly, technology opens doors to a student-centered, self-directed educational environment where students learn through multimedia, collaboration, and innovation," he said.

"The district hired four technology coordinators to provide daily, embedded professional development in its 14 schools.

"The coordinators guide teachers toward 'tradigital' learning, integrating the best of traditional teaching practices with the breadth of opportunities One2One opens in the classroom.

"We still ask kids to learn math, to read, to create things," Seymour added.

"We've just changed how that learning occurs. Teachers spend far less time standing in front of a classroom lecturing and more time facilitating students' own explorations and creativity."

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