To teach and to learn, a team from the Neosho R-5 School District has traveled to St. Louis to participate in the sixth of 12 Future Ready Regional Summits, being held around the nation to help school district leaders improve teaching and learning through the effective use of technology.

To teach and to learn, a team from the Neosho R-5 School District has traveled to St. Louis to participate in the sixth of 12 Future Ready Regional Summits, being held around the nation to help school district leaders improve teaching and learning through the effective use of technology.

“It’s an across the nation push by the Department of Education to make sure that schools are preparing their students for the future,” said Dan Decker, superintendent. “The future that they are going to leave high school or college and go into. So this is six of 12 that they have put on across the country. And I think for us, we’ve started with the technology, we’ve started looking at ways to bring good things, new things to Neosho that are going to help our kids maybe get the edge in comparison to those either that are around us, or those — you know they can compete at least across the nation in the global economy.”

President Barak Obama announced the regional summits at the ConnectED to the Future Convening hosted at the Whitehouse in November 2014. Decker, along with R-5 technology director Scott Harris, technology education specialist Mandy Lybeck, and Neosho High School assistant principal Jonathan Wengert, are attending the summit today and Wednesday, in the IL Monastero Banquet Center in St. Louis, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Affton School District.

“Going up there will allow us to talk about the things that we are doing, but we’ll also get training and we’ll get to talk to other school districts from across the country who are coming in about the things that they are doing,” said Decker. “And they way they are using technology as tools to enhance and advance the education. It’s going to be two-fold: it’s going to be great for us to go show what we are doing here in Neosho, what our vision is, but it’s also going to be good to get fed back into from districts who are maybe a little further in the process than what we are.”

He reported each attending school district had to do some pre-summit homework to compile the technological aspects they have implemented and how.

“And how we are planning, what our vision is going to be and they sent us back kind of a rubric as to where they felt like we were on a scale of one to ten, how prepared we were” he said. “And we were actually a seven and a half, which was very encouraging considering we’ve just been at this not quite two years.”

A release announcing the summit states: The summits are open to district leadership teams that have made a commitment to developing the human and technological capacity needed to transform teaching and personalize learning using digital tools, by signing the Future Ready District Pledge. Already, more than 1,500 district superintendents nationwide have taken the pledge.

“Superintendents provide critical leadership to ensure that every child in their district benefits from what we know matters and what we know works for kids,” said Arne Duncan, Secretary, U.S. Secretary of Education. “The Future Ready Regional Summits will be a forum where local leaders can share knowledge with their peers, engage leaders from outside their region and better equip themselves with skills and tools necessary to provide students with what they need to be successful in life.”

Decker said the Neosho team will be fitted into work groups at the summit with other districts of similar size and which are in a similar place in the process of applying technology to learning.

“They’ll train us, they’ll give us a little bit of information,” he said. “And then we’ll be able to work together as groups to see how it fits with what we are currently doing or how we need to maybe tweak or fix some of things that we are doing to make them better. It’s going to be a learning, and it’s also going to be a working summit.”

Decker said Neosho earned its technology grade by incorporating One-to-One at the high school, where each student has been assigned a Chromebook.

“We have Smartboards in every classroom in our district, which allows for the hands-on technology work with students and teachers,” he said. “We are one-to-three with iPads in our lower grades, we have eMINTS classrooms, but we’ve also worked with our budget. Within our vision, we’ve budgeted to where we are going to have a continuous line item dollar which will allow us to continue to upgrade our technology every three years; so we’ve made it self-sustaining to where we’re not going to have to worry about at the end of three years or the life of this machine, ‘How are we going to get the money to do something else?’ Our board has already committed to make that a line item in our budget.”

Decker said the school district’s vision for the future also figured into the grade it received.

“As far as having some online classes that our students can take,” he said. “Where we want to go as far as developing standards and allowing our students to use technology to learn at whatever level they are capable of learning. Those are some key areas that they felt like we were really strong in. I’m anxious to go and find out what we need to do to get to ten. So hopefully when we come back we’ll have a clearer picture of how to take our seven and a half to 10, which basically once you score ten means that you’re doing all you can to as far as preparing students and giving them the tools — all you can do to make sure that they are ready for the future, the job market, the world that they are going to experience after they leave high school.”

Decker said he talked to people in the school district about technology before he even accepted the job as superintendent in December 2012 and one of the first people he met with upon being hired was Harris.

“And I just basically told him I want to be One-to-One in a year,” he said. “And that was in January of 2013, and by January of 2014 we were handing out the Chromebooks. Since that point our staff — teachers and all of our staff at the central office because we’re technology not only in the classroom, but we’re also doing it in food service and in maintenance and in custodial — are really beginning to operate in that manner. And our teachers caught hold of it and are really beginning to use those tools and see how those tools can level the playing field for a lot of their kids and so I think from that first communication with Scott that got things beginning to roll we’ve just grown from that point. And everybody’s has kind of bought into the vision and I think we’re going to continue to do great things for kids.”

Decker said it is a huge opportunity to be invited to the summit.

“I consider it a giant step forward for the district to be able to get a jump start in an area that is certain to be the future of education,” he said.