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iPads, Nooks and More: Q & A with HCS Tech Chief

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10-05-2012 (HCS) - HCS Chief Technology Officer Mr. Bryan Phillips (@bryanphillips) oversees the day-to-day operations of district-wide technology.  He manages a staff of technicians and has been in education for several years, working in various capacities.  He’s a married father.  Together, he and his wife have a six-year-old son who attends Hoover City Schools.  In this piece, he shares with us where we’ve been – and where we’re headed – with regard to ever-evolving classroom technology.

Q:  The Engaged Learning Initiative (ELI) – the piloting of the iPads and the Nooks - took a lot of time, planning and effort this year.  How has the process been so far?

A:  I think it has gone as well as could be expected.  Yes, we would like to put a device in every student’s hand, but we must make sure day-to-day business is still stable.  Our infrastructure will be stressed from time to time in this pilot program and we need to make sure that we address those needs as they arise. Right now, I think we are doing as well as we can while we are working through the bugs.

Q: It appears teachers district-wide continue to adopt innovative instructional methods to make learning fun.  What has impressed you the most in this area?

A: The adaptability of our teachers and students. As things grow, we have days where things are slow, or things do not go as planned. Our teachers and students do well at overcoming those bad days. I feel that the strength of our teachers is the fact they are willing to learn and adapt as things change.

Q: What has been the most intriguing ELI revelation from the technical side?

A: Everything has gone just about the way we think it would have. We knew we would have to move some access points and address some "dead spots" and we continue to do those things as needed.  We hope to have most of these issues worked out before we move on to another step.

Q: Where does ELI go for 2013-2014?

A:  It is being reevaluated every day. Right now we have no idea how fast we will be able to move forward. We have a plan, but would rather work the plan than talk timelines.

Q: What advice would you give HCS parents for using iPads/Nooks at home to further the learning process?

A: Talk to your students about being good digital citizens. Make sure you know what your child is doing while on that device at home. I try to look at what my own 6-year-old does to get a judge on the things we probably need to address.

Q: A lot of people are asking if digital textbooks will fully replace paper textbooks any time soon.  Your thoughts?

A: I would love for it to be able to replace paper textbooks. The reason it is moving slowly is the publishers of textbooks. They are not moving as fast as most people in my position would like for them to.  We have talked with them on several occasions.  Also, Apple and Barnes & Noble have those discussions with them all the time.   Apple has tried to create a place for teachers to store their own lessons - and we are about to pilot a program that will allow teachers that same storage space; a place to create, share and store approved lessons.

Q: Similar to the last question, do you envision personal digital devices replacing desktop computers across HCS in the coming years?

A: We will always have a need for desktops, but those numbers will be reduced greatly. Some of our computer labs will not be needed for research and such if every student has a device in their hand. Mobile is definitely changing tech, but there will always be a need for desktops and printers.

Q: The Engaged Learning Initiative is not the only focus of the HCS Technology Department.  Any other large-scale initiatives coming down the pike about which you can share?

A: No; daily needs and this pilot are the biggest things we have going right now.  Research and development are a part of what we always do.  We are always looking at ways to do the things our students and teachers need in a more productive way. 

 

Jason Gaston, Office of Public Relations/205.439.1054

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