Kathy Schrock has a keen eye for the latest and greatest learning tools
When Apple unveiled the iPad, Kathy Schrock was watching intently. As Director of Technology for Nauset Public Schools in Orleans, Massachusetts, Schrock is always on the lookout for the latest tech tools. The “Gadget Queen,” as she is called, doesn’t let herself get carried away by the coolest apps or hottest tricks unless she thinks they will enhance the educational experience of Nauset teachers and students. At the beginning of the press conference for example, Schrock didn’t think Apple’s iPad could fill that role, but by the end she was convinced. She will be among the first on the purchase list to investigate the possibilities. Her philosophy? “Buy it and try it,” she says. If it’s not the right fit, “Sell it on eBay.”
Schrock notes that the worlds of technology and education, though well suited to one another, too often seem to be heading in opposite directions. Traditionally, businesses tend to develop consumer products assuming that they will automatically become powerful learning tools in teachers’ hands. This hasn’t always been the case, and now businesses are going back to school, in a sense. “A lot of companies are consulting teams of educators, to see what real teachers could use in the classroom,” Schrock says, adding that some have even started to follow educators on Twitter.
One change Schrock would like to see sooner than later is within the publishing world. “Imagine pictures in textbooks moving,” she says. Her vision has nothing to do with magic, Harry Potter, or his wizarding school Hogwarts; rather, she imagines text supported by embedded video, to feature cutting-edge content from experts. “That’s the way things should be going. Simply putting textbooks on a digital device is not the thing for me,” she says.
Keeping Up With the Kids
As technology continues to advance at warp speed, young people seem to adapt and adopt without missing a beat. “E-mail is so ’90s,” Schrock says. Teachers in her district don’t always take so quickly to the latest developments, though they are “very receptive to new things,” she says. What is holding them back? “The common mantra is, ‘I don’t have the time.’” In response, she keeps her workshops as low-key as possible, inviting teachers to learn and experiment. “I try to give all the different options and tutorials, to get them excited,” she says. “If they become comfortable with the device, or hardware or software, I show them easy ways to embed it into the curriculum.”
Schrock’s dedicated efforts have resulted in teachers using portable green screens, tablet PCs, Flip Video Camcorders, digital cameras and 2.0 apps, to name a few. Every middle- and high-school classroom has at least one computer, and Schrock has established specialty computer labs for various subjects. In addition, Nauset is a Google Apps for Education district.
Schrock doesn’t stop there. She shares her research and expertise with educators nationally and abroad through Twitter and her blog, Kathy Schrock’s Kaffeeklatsch, http://kathyschrock.net/index.htm; a Discovery Education-supported portal Guide for Educators, http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/ which lists valuable sites for teaching and learning; and through numerous articles and books.
As much as the “next big tech thing” appeals to her natural affinity for gadgets, Schrock tirelessly keeps pace for a different reason: “In the next few years, everything is going to be in the cloud,” she says. In her post as Director of Technology, she takes this very seriously. She wants to be sure that every student within her district has his or her head in this cloud, to best meet each new challenge or opportunity.
By Kathy Satterfield
Kathy Satterfield is an editor and writer with more than 10 years of experience specializing in educational media for children. Most recently, as Senior Editor for TIME for Kids magazine, she managed the content of the 2nd- to 3rd-grade News Scoop edition and researched, reported and wrote for the 4th- to 6th-grade World Report edition. Kathy has also written for Grandparents.com and Fairfield Parent magazine.