Lead without Limits Wisdom: Why EdTech is Essential for Education

Posted by Matt Berringer on January 13, 2016

Jonathan Redeker, U.S. history and government teacher and technology coordinator in Goshen Central School District, started in the district as an eighth-grade social studies teacher.

“In 2005, the classroom that I was in had a lot of extra space so they actually stored some devices in there—a smartboard on wheels and a projector on a cart,” he recalls. “So I just started using them because they were there. I said to myself, ‘This is cool. What else can I do?’ Over the next two or three years, I earned a master’s degree in educational technology. And now I’m certified in the state as an educational technology specialist.”

Redeker began attending additional training and conferences and participating in consortiums for technology development. “I became a turnkey trainer in the district, attending the training and then sharing that information with my colleagues,” he says. “I became a liaison between the faculty and the administration for technology.”

When the district launched a technology planning process, Redeker helped formulate the vision and was tasked with annually developing the district’s three-year technology plan. Three years ago, the district created the role of K-12 technology coordinator, which Redeker now fills in addition to teaching part time.

Now at the epicenter of a technological movement in Goshen Central School District, Redeker is inspiring greater adoption and effective use of a variety of edtech tools, including PerformancePLUS, the PLUS 360 student performance tracking solution. Redeker appreciates that his role allows him to have an even greater impact on student achievement. “In my classes, I’ve seen that technology can level the playing field for all kids,” he said. “As a trainer, I’ve helped other teachers elevate their impact in their classrooms. As a result, I’ve had an exponential impact on student achievement in the district.”

Redeker believes technology is a natural motivator for students. “When you integrate technology into your classroom, students are connecting with a platform they’re comfortable with. Then, when students are away from school, technology can be used to extend the classroom into a 24/7 learning culture,” he explains. “Today, technology is transforming teaching. Educators now can do flipped learning. We’re also giving students access to a lot more resources. I’ve even eliminated the textbook in my U.S. History class this year, because I’ve been able to create the content.”

When asked what advice he would share with teachers considering technology adoption, he said, “Failure is not fatal. Even in the era of high-stakes testing and teacher evaluation, you cannot be afraid to try and fail. Whenever there’s great change and there’s innovation, there’s also failure. Unfortunately, fear paralyzes us. We have to break that culture.”

To teachers just beginning to explore the use of technology in their classroom, Redeker recommended the following:

  • “Every teacher needs to be on a learning management system. It’s not necessarily one particular tool. It could be Google Classroom. It could be Edmodo. It could be Schoology. There are lots of learning management systems out there. You just need an interactive solution where students can connect and engage.”
  • Google Apps for Education are “robust and user friendly for students.”
  • A tool for video conferencing. Redeker recommended either Google, Skype, or an Apple device with Facetime.
  • “They’re going to have to figure out how to manage video content, so either Vimeo or YouTube.”
  • “I think that teacher need to publish content, so either a blog or a Twitter account, which they can use to reflect and engage with students.”

Jonathan Redeker has been recognized as an Information Technology Innovator in the Lead without Limits Awards program, sponsored by FIS (formerly SunGard K-12 Education). From nominations from educators and school administrators from across the country, he has been selected as the individual who best leverages technology to innovate and enhance the educational process.

Topics: Lead without Limits Awards, Best Practices, Goshen Central School District, performanceplus