APS Column: The progression of technology at Austin Public Schools

Published 5:31 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

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By Amy Thuesen

APS Director of Technology

The technology landscape seems to be changing by the minute. It feels like just yesterday we all were saving photos on a floppy disk, and today we are faced with hand-held computers, “the cloud,” and artificial intelligence.

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To help Austin Public Schools adjust as technology changes, a group of teachers, recent alumni, administrators, and community partners started meeting this past fall as a district Technology Advisory Team.

This team reflects on district technology needs, monitors the progress of the district’s Technology Plan, and makes recommendations to the superintendent and school board members for possible changes.  Starting last fall, the team has been focusing on an update to the district’s Technology Plan.

Although the team has not yet finalized the plan, it has developed four main goals:

• Safeguarding data, privacy, security, and accessibility;

• Helping educators and families promote safe and effective student technology use;

• Fostering a tech-infused learning environment that encourages the district’s core values; and

• Establishing a responsible technology management strategy

The first goal is to ensure that technology is used safely and responsibly, with policies and practices in place to protect student data and privacy, maintain secure networks and devices, and provide appropriate accessibility to users. This goal prioritizes robust cybersecurity measures and the regular review of procedures around staff and student safety.

In a technology-rich world, it is important that educators and families work together to support students in using technology safely and responsibly. The second goal of the tech plan is to provide families with information about school technology tools and help students to achieve strong digital and information literacies. By working together, we can help students develop the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly connected world.

Technology is not just an extra add-on to teaching and learning – successful technology integration can promote engaged and creative students who are strong critical thinkers. Therefore, the third goal of the tech plan is to continue providing access to a variety of digital tools and resources that support the APS instructional model. This will certainly include understanding and effectively using artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies.

Finally, the fourth goal is to manage technology resources efficiently, maximizing investments and minimizing maintenance and support costs.  We will take the time to reflect upon and consider current technology-use in the district and explore cost-saving measures.  This will include closely examining the K-12 student to device ratios and instructional software.

Ultimately, these goals are pointed at a common objective: to prepare students to make a difference in the world.  That world is ever-changing, and APS students deserve to have the skills needed to meet those changes head-on.