When Agnes Slayman became superintendent of the Chester County school district, she never imagined her job would lead her to the White House and a seat among an elite group of superintendents dedicated to expanding the role of technology in education.
Slayman was one of just over 100 superintendents selected to take part in ConnectED to the Future in Washington, D.C., a one-day meeting about “the potential of education technology and the innovations needed to bring America’s schools into the digital age,” according to the official release from the White House.
The superintendents, who represented 30 states, spent Wednesday learning about what other school districts were doing, speaking with leaders from U.S. Department of Education, including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and hearing a speech from President Barack Obama.
Friday morning, Slayman was back in her office in Chester, calling her trip an “overwhelming and humbling experience.”
“The superintendents that were there in attendance were just phenomenal,” Slayman said.
During his speech, Obama nnounced his plan to connect almost all students in the United States through high-speed broadband Internet in libraries and schools. Technology in schools will help students, parents and educators become “future ready,” according to Obama’s plan.
“It was very inspiring to be on the front end of President Obama’s initiative and to be in that same inaugural class of superintendents that feel the same way about the value of technology and the value of developing a skilled work force,” she said.
In Chester County, educators are ahead of the ballgame when it comes to connectivity and devices, Slayman said. In the last year, the district’s hiTEC 1:1 initiative has put a Microsoft tablet into the hands of every high school student. Eighth-graders were recently given the devices, as well.
Comporium and TruVista have worked to create WiFi “hotspots” in the community so students can get connected when they’re not at school, she said, and the district has many other programs in place that encourage or promote the use of technology.
Slayman’s trip to Washington, and her participation in the ConnectED conference, have inspired her to ramp up hiTEC even more, to try and expand 1:1 device usage to the younger grades even sooner than they were planning.
“We are trying to be a technology-infused school district,” Slayman said. “I want us to be on the cutting edge.”
At the summit, all the superintendents took the “Future Ready District Pledge,” and in the near future, regional summits will be held to spread ConnectED’s message to more schools and school leaders.