The role of technology in getting students ready for what comes after high school was a big focus of David Schuler’s work as superintendent of Illinois’ High School District 214, the second largest high school district in the state.
Schuler will now get his biggest opportunity yet to shape how district leaders use tech to reimagine teaching, learning, and workforce development when he steps into the role of executive director of AASA, the School Superintendent’s Association. Schuler replaces Dan Domenech, who led the organization for more than a decade.
Schuler is taking over the organization at a time when school districts poured billions in federal COVID relief cash towards purchasing devices and improving internet connectivity. Teachers are more familiar with technology than ever, but many are also feeling serious tech fatigue.
Education Week recently had a conversation with Schuler on Zoom in which he talked about how technology has changed the job of the superintendent and what kind of support district leaders need to tackle the challenges ahead.
This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.
How did your role as superintendent evolve because of technological advances?
The role of the superintendent has changed significantly over the course of the past two decades as a result of technological change. From the use of email to devices for all students to the cost of technology hardware and software to the creation of student information systems and learning management systems to cybersecurity, superintendents today must be much more attuned to issues involving technology than ever before.
What are the three biggest ed-tech challenges for district leaders?
I think cybersecurity is a major concern for all superintendents as is the digital access gap. I know I lose sleep over both as so much of our student, personnel, and financial information is online and students not being able to access the internet at home creates a significant inequity for our students and their families. Finally, I think it is imperative to use technology to transform teaching and learning in our nation’s classrooms, not just doing the same thing we’ve always done with the use of technology.
How important is it for district leaders to stay abreast of tech advances, such as artificial intelligence? And how can they keep up with those changes when they already have an awful lot on their plates?
Our nation’s superintendents do have a lot on their plates. That being said, it is critical that we all stay abreast regarding changes in technology. As we prepare our students to enter the workforce upon graduation, we must prepare them to be successful in the technological world in which we live. I am amazed at how superintendents are always looking for additional resources and supports in regards to staying current on the latest developments with technology and I definitely view that as part of our AASA mission.
Not all superintendents see themselves as tech leaders. Is that attitude changing?
It is definitely changing. Even ten years ago, most superintendents, including myself, empowered their CTO with resolving most technology questions and issues. That is not the case today. There are so many concerns related to cybersecurity, data privacy, and digital equity. I don’t know a superintendent who isn’t completely tuned in to the importance technology plays in our school systems.