Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Smart Schools Commission sponsored its first Public Symposium in Albany where technology and education experts presented innovative, successful approaches to school and community connectivity and technology-enabled education practices. The Smart Schools Commission is responsible for advising the State on how to best invest the Governors proposed $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act in order to enhance teaching and learning through technology. The Governor proposed the Smart Schools initiative during his 2014 State of the State in order to reimagine New Yorks public schools for the 21st Century.
"The Smart Schools Commissions informational sessions are critical to understanding how new technology can transform the student experience and create the classrooms of tomorrow," said Governor Cuomo. "This Commission was established to help ensure the $2 billion Smart Schools Initiative is pursued creatively and responsibly. Todays first public meeting will let us hear from community members and experts alike on how to best use this opportunity to help our students.
During the Symposium, a panel of speakers fielded questions by Auburn School District Superintendent Constance Evelyn, New York State Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot and Senior Policy Advisor to the Governor Michael Laskawy. Evelyn is one of the three Smart Schools Commission members, in addition to Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and Former CEO of Google, and Geoffrey Canada, President of Harlem Childrens Zone. The community is encouraged to submit additional input on the Smart Schools Commission website; its findings will be incorporated in a final report published later this year.
Symposium speakers were selected based on a diversity of geography, technology, expertise and experience and included:
- David Salway, Director of the New York State Broadband Program Office. Salway has expanded the scope of the Broadband Program Office to include additional functions such as public outreach and coordination of the States Broadband Council activities. As the States single point of contact on all matters related to broadband, he has helped broadband project sponsors prepare grant applications for ARRA Broadband stimulus grant funding, and met with federal and State policy makers to advance and promote broadband issues, including infrastructure build-out and digital literacy efforts.
- Dr. Ellen Meier, associate professor of practice, computing, and education and director of the Center for Technology and School Change at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Meier also co-chairs the Regents' Council for Technology Policy and Practice for the State. During the last decade, she has developed a successful approach to help teachers integrate technology using a design process focused on essential questions. Dr. Meier's research examines how urban teachers use technology to promote student understanding through inquiry-based learning and policy work investigates the use of technology as a catalyst for school reform.
- Dale Breault, assistant director with the Northeastern Regional Information Center (NERIC) of the Capital Region BOCES. Breault supervises the day-to-day operations of NERICs North Country offices, staff and services. Prior to joining the NERIC in 2013, Breault was the superintendent, business manager and CIO of the Chateaugay Central School District.
- Thomas Phillips, Superintendent of the Watkins Glen Central School. Phillips has been a teacher and administrator in public education for the past 30 years and in his current role since 2006. Today, Phillips is heavily engaged in an initiative to integrate technology in to the instructional environment, creating a 21st century learning environment that addresses the issue of fairness and opportunity for all students.
- Patterson Green, Superintendent of the Sharon Springs Central School District. Green has been a teacher and administrator in public education for the past 26 years and in his current role since 2007. Green's work focuses on balancing cost efficiency with integrating technology into the instructional environment with the intended result of the school providing comprehensive technological solutions.
The five experts highlighted to the Commission and community members the need and ability to: enrich the in-classroom learning experience by incorporating the use of tablets, laptops and smartphones; extend preparation for student instruction by using web-based software accessible at home, increase communication between the instructor and student's guardian; provide more descriptive academic progress reporting; and to support these changes, build a robust network of high-speed broadband and wi-fi connectivity throughout New York's public schools and communities. Challenges that the panel encouraged the Commission to address include the difficulty of providing broadband access to rural regions of Upstate New York and the initial implementation of new technology in the classroom.
A full video of the first symposium, files of the speakers' presentations, and a place for the community to submit suggestions can be found on the Smart Schools Commission website.
Rachel Haot, New York State Chief Digital Officer, said, "Today's symposium was an exciting first step towards embracing New York's potential as global leader in education technology and classroom infrastructure. I join our Commission Members in thanking today's speakers for sharing valuable insights on how best to support New York's students through critical connectivity and digital technology investments. Underscoring Governor Cuomo's commitment to provide students with the tools and skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century economy, the Smart Schools Symposium was an inspiring opportunity to imagine a more innovative future for our schools."
Superintendent Constance Evelyn said, "There is tremendous opportunity for enhanced learning given the technological advances that society has made in the past half-century. With these tools becoming more affordable and their use nearly universal, positioning New York's public schools to incorporate them is appropriate and right. I applaud Governor Cuomo for pursuing this issue and know that the Commission's findings will have the ability to change students' lives."
Dr. Ellen Meier said, "Today's Symposium highlighted the need for New York to bring its public schools -- particularly high need schools -- up to a 21st Century standard. We are extremely fortunate to be at a moment in time when bright minds--young and old--have the tools to explore, share and ultimately learn in digitally exciting and dynamic ways. All students need access to these tools, and our students need to learn to use them in classrooms where teachers have been prepared to take advantage of the creative opportunities that technology offers."
About the Smart Schools Commission
The Smart Schools Commission is charged with advising the State on how to best enhance teaching and learning through technology. The Governor instated the Commission in spring 2014 in order to reimagine New Yorks public schools for the 21st Century. Access to advanced technology fosters a more interactive and personalized classroom experience while facilitating increased communication between parents, students, and teachers. Embracing innovation in education is an important step towards helping New Yorks students gain the skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century economy.
Members of the Smart Schools Commission include:
Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and Former CEO of Google: Mr. Schmidt joined Google in 2001 and helped grow the company from a Silicon Valley startup to a global leader in technology. He served as Googles Chief Executive Officer from 2001-2011, overseeing the companys technical and business strategy alongside founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Under his leadership Google dramatically scaled its infrastructure and diversified its product offerings while maintaining a strong culture of innovation.
Geoffrey Canada, President of Harlem Childrens Zone: In his 30 years with Harlem Children's Zone, Inc., Mr. Canada has become nationally recognized for his pioneering work helping children and families in Harlem and as a passionate advocate for education reform. The New York Times Magazine called Harlem Childrens Zone "one of the most ambitious social policy experiments of our time." In October 2005, Mr. Canada was named one of "America's Best Leaders" by U.S. News and World Report, and Fortune recently named him one of the Worlds Greatest 50 Leaders.
Constance Evelyn, Superintendent of the Auburn School District in Cayuga County: Ms. Evelyn has served as the Superintendent of Schools for the Auburn Enlarged City School District since August 2012. Prior to serving as Superintendent she has held a variety of leadership positions in Upstate schools, including the Ithaca City School District, Oswego City Schools, Rome City Schools, and Bedford Central School District.
To find out more about the Smart Schools Commission and submit comments and suggestions, please visit http://www.governor.ny.gov/smart-schools-ny.