“Anywhere the student is can be a classroom, and that’s an amazing accomplishment! The world really is our classroom and with access it can become multi-dimensional.” – Dr. Kecia Ray, USA

For the past year, we’ve been talking with experts all over the globe about how to best integrate technology into classrooms. For Dr. Kecia Ray, creating a classroom for today’s students means a complete re-imagination of what the classroom can and should look like. And technology is just one component. “My work is focused on increasing the use of technology in classrooms, both formal and informal,” she says. “I have worked with museums to redesign environments into more engaging learning spaces for informal learning, and I’ve worked with higher education and K12 to rethink teaching and learning.”

Currently, Dr. Ray works in the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools as the Executive Director of Learning Technology. “A focus of our department is to design blended learning environments in our schools,” she adds. Two years ago, Ray and her team designed the state’s first diploma-granting high school, and they are currently planning to redesign classrooms and instruction to incorporate blended learning models and project-based learning into K-12 classrooms.

I hope you enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Dr. Kecia Ray.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

One of the key positions I created within my department to challenge schools to rethink instruction is an instructional designer. Instructional designers are typically higher education positions working with professors to design online learning environments, but I felt we needed people with expertise in redesigning instruction to work with our teachers as critical friends, rather than instructional coaches. The result is a strategic approach to instruction redesign where teachers feel supported and not pushed into a new mode of teaching. For instance, over 200 classes have implemented blended learning and 10 schools have redesigned learning environments with support from our instructional designers. The district has recognized the benefit of that resource and is considering expansion.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

I would be happy to work with anyone wanting to transform instruction with technology. We have a template for design and a schedule for development and review. I would also be happy to share our job description or host site visits so you can learn directly from our team. We were highlighted in Converge Yearbook this year for the impact we’ve had on improving education in Nashville.

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

One of the first things we did in our department is adopt the Google framework to allow staff 20 percent of their time to focus on pet projects. This resulted in developing an amazing interactive Blooms Technology website, an iPad rollout that was recognized by Apple as an effective practice, and an increase in efficiencies in documenting our time and effort. We maintain online calendars shared across the department and keep all of our documentation in an online project management tool. We use Blackboard to collaborate and host webinars with tech leaders throughout the district, which helps inform everyone of district initiatives and effective practices. Our goal is to model expectations so we use technology as innovatively in our office as we expect to see in our classrooms.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Equitable funding for technology in classrooms.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

Common Core curriculum.

What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

Better alignment, more intentionality for technology to be effectively embedded in curriculum and instruction in a daily practice — not just on paper.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

Rethinking school! Utilizing technology in the redesign of schools to rethink the length of the school day, the utilization of school facilities, and the role of the teacher in the classroom.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Maintain the love of learning that inspired you to become a teacher and DO NOT assimilate into the institution known as school. Feed the excitement and energy you have coming into the profession, and use it to change the institutionalization of learning instead of letting the institution drive it out of students. Channel the energy to make the change you want to see in our schools.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

The trend helping students is instruction management systems (IMS). IMS enable students to be more aware of what and why they are learning and if they are reaching their personal targets. Education with an IMS is not something done to a student, it is something done with a student. The trend getting in the way is the concept that everything must be standardized. We can’t standardize the technology if we are personalizing learning.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
Access to a personal device of their choice. Every student has a device that calls to them – it may be an iPod, iPad, Galaxy tablet, laptop, phone, Xbox, you name it. As long as it has access to the Internet then we can make it a tool for learning. Anywhere the student is can be a classroom and that’s an amazing accomplishment! The world really is our classroom and with access it can become multi-dimensional.

About Dr. Kecia Ray

  • Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee but grew up in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Current residence: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Education: Doctorate in Education Leadership with an emphasis on technology
  • Website I check every day: EdWeek, EdSurge, and ISTE
  • Person who inspires me most: My dad – who passed away on October 7, 2012
  • Favorite childhood memory: Playing school
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Hawaii in May with my husband
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why?  I love my job so I laugh with my friends at work everyday and I laugh every moment I spend with my niece Faith and nephew Nathan. My last belly laugh was when my 3-year-old nephew Nathan wanted me to ride the elevator and escalator at a large Atlanta mall as if they were amusement rides – we rode them 10 times 🙂 EACH!
  • Favorite book:  Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
  • Favorite music: Country
  • Your favorite quote or motto: “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.” – Jim Rohn
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