Attend Ignite and Spark Your Digital Discoveries

Let’s say this summer you’ve made a commitment to consider new opportunities to increase student engagement and lower disciplinary incidents. Or maybe you’ve pledged to develop a program that empowers students to be the navigators of their learning destinies. Your solutions may lie in adopting an innovative digital initiative—a program that meets students, so often referred to as today’s digital natives, where they are.

For inspiration, come to Ignite ’16 in Orlando, FL, and learn from NASSP’s 2016 Digital Principal Award winners. (Nominations and applications are available now for the 2016 Digital Principals program.) Taking a page from the experience of NASSP’s 2015 Digital Principals—John Bernia, James Richardson, and Bill Ziegler—who presented an Ignite ’15 panel discussion, technological innovation in schools can be the key to achieving these goals.

John Bernia (@MrBernia) served on a committee in his Oakland Township, MI, district to create a Bring Your Own Device policy. This principal of Oakview Middle School was so committed to classroom technology integration that he freed up classroom teachers by using substitutes in order to have a series of daytime staff meetings called “The Big Think.” During those “Big Think” sessions, he challenged faculty members to imagine—if no additional resources were available—how they could leverage existing technology to grow students’ learning experience.

In Bernia’s view, “There’s a big difference between using tech tools for fun and using them for productivity, and I think we have to find ways to teach kids that in a really intentional way.”

2015 Digital Principal James Richardson at Ignite '15

2015 Digital Principal James Richardson at Ignite ’15

Coincidentally, that is the ambition of James Richardson (@PrincipalJRich), principal of Buck Lodge Middle School in Prince George’s County, MD. This 2014 Apple Distinguished Educator, who introduced a 1-to-1 Apple iPad program at his school, observed students taking greater responsibility for their learning. “Teachers are moving from being onstage to being the guide. They’re facilitators of information, not the source of the information.”

Richardson noted the 1-to-1 program resulted in “a higher level of excitement and engagement from students when it comes to their schoolwork, and a lower rate of disciplinary problems.”

Bill Ziegler (@DrBillZiegler), who also instituted a 1-to-1 laptop program at Pottsgrove High School in suburban Philadelphia, shared Richardson’s experience in terms of decreased disciplinary incidents. After launching the program, Ziegler reports, “The level of student engagement has increased significantly. I see students creating iMovies, writing blogs, tweeting about their day, and engaging with other learners in ways they would not have before.”

Noting that his school’s digital transformation has led to “students coming to school more engaged, more excited, and more connected,” Ziegler asserts, “Technology will never replace educators, but educators who use technology will replace those who don’t.”

So, if your students are connecting, ask yourself: Are you? Take advantage of the calmer months of summer to make sure you have the financial support to attend Ignite ’16, February 25­–27, 2016 in Orlando, FL. Registration is open now.

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