Special Report
School & District Management

Teacher Tech Leaders: Rafranz Davis

By Anthony Rebora — June 06, 2016 3 min read
Rafranz Davis, the Lufkin Independent School District’s executive director of professional and digital learning, takes a look at the way Dunbar Primary School students Alana Booker, left, 8, and Kyla Flemon, 8, interact with the computer.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As a technologically savvy educator of color based in rural eastern Texas, Rafranz Davis has devoted herself to bridging all manner of digital divides.

Davis got her start back in 2005, as a middle school math teacher in the Ennis Independent school district, some 35 miles south of Dallas. Already alert to the possibilities of technology in the classroom, she quickly discovered that having her English-language learners use her interactive whiteboard to produce videos of their work helped deepen their understanding of math concepts and improve their grasp of key terminology.

That led to further classroom experiments with video tools and interactive platforms. “When iPads came to our school, it was the greatest day on earth,” she recalled.

As she gained experience as a teacher and instructional leader, Davis became a fierce advocate—to the apparent befuddlement of some administrators—of giving students greater access to digital devices and programs as a means of “creating to learn.” She felt technology could spark students’ intellectual curiosity and “give them a window” to resources and skills beyond the classroom. To demonstrate that potential, she embarked on her own “rogue project” of learning to code.

In time, Davis also became a prominent voice in the edu-tech blogosphere—and later a sought-after speaker for industry conferences. “Blogging made me more reflective about my practice and gave me an authentic audience for my ideas,” she said—something that has also informed her interest in giving students more opportunities to “publish” their own work.

Among the major themes of her writing and speaking: addressing inequities in digital access and boosting inclusion of “voiceless” school community members—including teachers, students, and people of color— in conversations around education technology. She argues that the ed-tech world is beset by rigid hierarchies that are too dismissive of the viewpoints of the uninitiated, leading to a counterproductive “cycle of silencing.”

Asked why the progress of digitally driven instructional change has been slow in many schools, for example, Davis says it’s because teachers, and even curriculum directors, are often left out of school technology plans. “If we put tech into classrooms without teachers having some type of input, it won’t be used,” she said. The same can be true, she said, with respect to low-income and minority students and families.

Davis now has a prime opportunity to put some of her principles into broader practice. Last summer, she took a position as the executive director of professional and digital learning in the Lufkin Independent school district, a low-income rural district that was looking for someone to “create momentum around innovation in the classroom” and help “connect [its] students to the global community,” said director of communications Sheila Adams.

Rafranz Davis, the executive director of professional and digital learning for the Lufkin Independent School District in Texas, joins Dunbar Primary School students Aden Ligon, left, and Justice Trevino, while they learn coding skills and practice math.

Davis quickly ramped up the district’s digital profile by introducing new coding and Minecraft initiatives in schools, including targeted professional development for elementary teachers. (With the help of some connections in the tech field, she’s also planning a couple of $10 coding camps for students this summer.)

True to her word, meanwhile, she has sought to be aggressively inclusive in working on the district’s three-year plan for rethinking its technology infrastructure and learning objectives. She has put together a corps of teacher ambassadors from across the district to give her feedback on instructional-technology ideas, and she has worked closely with students to get a sense of their foundational digital skills and access to technology, both in school and at home.

“This is what changes schools,” she wrote in a recent blog post. “It’s about creating a culture of openness that embraces our differences, realities, passion, and curiosities. It’s a community of learners with voices, not defined by job titles but by the common desire to help students create the world through their own curiosities.”

Related Tags:

Coverage of trends in K-12 innovation and efforts to put these new ideas and approaches into practice in schools, districts, and classrooms is supported in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York at www.carnegie.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Strategies for Improving Student Outcomes with Teacher-Student Relationships
Explore strategies for strengthening teacher-student relationships and hear how districts are putting these methods into practice to support positive student outcomes.
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Transform Teaching and Learning with AI
Increase productivity and support innovative teaching with AI in the classroom.
Content provided by Promethean
Curriculum Webinar Computer Science Education Movement Gathers Momentum. How Should Schools React?
Discover how schools can expand opportunities for students to study computer science education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Will Schools Reopen Quickly After Hurricane Ian Passes? It Depends
Even before district leaders started shelter operations, they were getting asked when kids could return.
Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
3 min read
Beulah Stand, a sixth grade math teacher at John Hopkins, carries her pillow and a suitcase into the Pinellas County special needs shelter at John Hopkins Middle School, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Fla., as Florida's west coast prepares for Hurricane Ian. Stand will be staying at the center to work during the storm. The evacuation center, which is only for people with special needs, has a capacity of over 700 people.
Beulah Stand, a 6th grade math teacher at John Hopkins, carries her pillow and a suitcase into the Pinellas County special needs shelter at John Hopkins Middle School in St. Petersburg, Fla., as Florida's west coast prepares for Hurricane Ian. Stand will be staying at the center to work during the storm. The evacuation center, which is only for people with special needs, has a capacity of over 700 people.
Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times via AP
School & District Management How District Leaders Can Make Sure Teachers Don't Miss the Loan-Forgiveness Deadline
Many teachers and other public employees may not know they qualify for a student loan-forgiveness waiver that has an Oct. 31 deadline.
4 min read
Young adult woman cutting the ball and chain labeled "Debt" which is attached as the tassel hanging from a graduate's mortarboard
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School & District Management Download A Visual Guide to Nonverbal Communication (Download)
Understanding nonverbal communication can help you improve interactions and get your message across.
1 min read
v42 8SR Nonverbal Communication Share Image
Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty
School & District Management Ensure Your Staff Gets the Message: 3 Tips for School Leaders
School staff are inundated with information. Here's a few ways to ensure they will actually hear you.
3 min read
Image showing a female and male in business attire connecting speech bubble puzzle pieces.
iStock/Getty Images Plus