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And the Winners Are

Profiles of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) 2008 excellence in technology award winners.

CoSN Awards<br />
CoSN Awards

Schools are now approaching a third generation of technology adoption.

They’ve installed the hardware and have adapted the curriculum to new technologies. Leading schools now use technology to transform education itself, changing not only how students learn but also how schools function within their community and beyond.

Every year, the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) recognizes individuals at the forefront of these advances in educational technology. The 13th annual conference, held in March in Arlington, Virginia, was especially poignant as CoSN honored one of its own, the late Charlie Garten, with a Lifetime Achievement Award. CoSN also celebrated Garten’s memory by awarding the first Garten Memorial Fund scholarships to outstanding technology advocates, enabling them to promote technology funding on Capitol Hill. Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Bryan (TX) Independent School District were also honored.

Seymour Papert Lifetime Achievement Award:
Charlie Garten, tech visionary, national advocate
The CoSN Lifetime Achievement Award has been renamed after Seymour Papert, the first recipient of this award honoring outstanding accomplishment in education and technology leadership.

Charlie Garten was driven by a single goal: helping kids learn. As director of education technology and information services for Poway (CA) United School District, Garten’s innovative work implementing and developing data warehouses and assessment testing for schools made his district a national model. Garten was also a state and national technology advocate and adviser who served on many boards, including two terms with CoSN. According to CoSN CEO Keith Krueger, Garten helped the organization articulate how it needed to change as technology evolved. Garten’s counsel “shaped the marketplace,” Krueger says.

Beyond his achievements in education, Garten will be remembered for touching the people he worked with. Although he quietly battled leukemia for 20 years, Garten always focused on others, observes Eliot Levinson, CEO of the BLE Group, a Washington, D.C., education consultant group. Garten “was beloved by everyone he ever touched,” Krueger adds. Garten died on July 3, 2007, at the age of 57.

TEAM Award:
Bryan (TX) ISD and Jennifer Bergland, CTO
This award recognizes a district that significantly employed technology to transform learning.

Ten years ago, the tech team at Bryan (TX) Independent School District comprised a part-time secretary and two trainers. Now it is 41 strong, and its tentacles reach everywhere: There’s an iSupport team of teachers who help other teachers integrate technology in the classroom and a similar i3Lead program for principals. Technology permeates the school’s business operations and its Web-based communications with the wider community.

The big ramp-up, explains CTO Jennifer Bergland, began five years ago. Consulting with the community, Bryan ISD developed a strategic plan to get technology into students’ hands and, in turn, into the homes of this high-poverty community between Houston and Austin. Based on a vision of mobile computing, the district started applying for grants and won a whopping $8 million in a decade. To date, all kids in one of the three middle schools have their own laptops, and in a second middle school, all sixth graders have their own laptops. One quarter of the district’s tech grants go for professional development.

A key factor in Bryan ISD’s success is coordination at the top. Previously, Management Information Systems, tech support, and instructional technology each reported to a different assistant superintendent. “People used to complain that they didn’t know who to call when they had a problem,” Bergland says. Under her reorganization, the three functions are combined into one department with adjacent offices. Now everyone works as a team and solves problems together, she says.

The results? Not perfect, but overall, students are more engaged in learning, spend more time on task, and need less external discipline, which should translate into higher academic achievement.

Award for Excellence in Public Service:
Sen. Patty Murray
This award recognizes outstanding work of an elected or appointed public official to promote the use of technology in K–12 education.

She was just a mom leading an uphill battle to save a preschool program from budget cuts. But the 1988 victory led Patty Murray to a successful run for the local school board, followed by a stint in the Washington state senate, and finally, election to the U.S. Senate, where she has served since 1992. CoSN selected Murray for the Excellence in Public Service award for her leadership of personalized education initiatives in her home state as well as her support for federal funding to train teachers in technology by sponsoring the Enhancing Education Through Technology bill and its successor, the Achievement Through Technology and Innovation bill.

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