“My school’s efforts to integrate technology into instruction have led to significant increases in student achievement.” – Darren Clay, USA
Darren Clay learned early on the value of an education, when his assistant principal father did double duty as the school’s evening custodian – with his sons’ help — to pay for their private schooling. Ultimately following his dad’s career path, Clay has dedicated his own career to integrating technology into learning.
“After my third year of teaching,” Clay says, “I enrolled in an Aspiring Leaders program. The program selected the top 10 teachers in the district to work directly with a district cabinet member. I was paired with the district CIO. I completed a program evaluation that has helped to change the landscape of our technology support.”
Clay’s contributions are now visible throughout his school district. “Our district is now moving to a 1:1 device initiative with students in grades 6-12,” he says, “and classroom sets for students in grades K-5. This equates to about 65,000 devices.”
Bear Creek Middle School, the Microsoft Showcase School where Clay works, is helping to set an example for education transformation, recently hosting a Redefining Learning Conference for over 1000 attendees. Dr. Anthony Newbold (@BearCreekMS), Kali Alford (@technitkali), and Clay planned the first school-led RLC in U.S. history. The school also has a unique professional development program that meets teachers wherever they are.
But this dedicated educator’s efforts on behalf of teachers and students go beyond his school. He recently spoke at a Microsoft session on “Leveraging Technology to Transform Learning and Teaching,” and is also active on Twitter.
In today’s Daily Edventure, Darren Clay discusses what inspires him, and what excites him about the potential of technology. Enjoy!
What inspired you to become an educator?
I became inspired to become an educator in the 7th grade. My brother and I attended a private school at the time and my father was serving as an assistant principal. In order to afford the $24,000 tuition for the school, my father signed up for a “vendor trade” program, which allowed parents to perform a service in lieu of tuition payments.
Why do you feel passionate about innovation and technology in the classroom?
My school’s efforts to integrate technology into instruction have led to significant increases in student achievement. We have implemented a station rotation model that incorporates technology on a daily basis. We also use a program called all-in-learning to analyze data to inform instructional decisions. Most recently, our math scores were above the national average.
Whether it’s a day-to-day challenge or larger problem, what’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?
The greatest challenge is effectively building teachers’ capacity to effectively integrate technology. This can be accomplished by taking a grass roots approach to professional development. We are currently highlighting best practices and leading by example. Our professional development is strategically differentiated to meet teachers where they are, with a focus on growth and competency.
In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future?
I am most excited about our next initiative. We are planning to become a paperless school by the 2018-2019 school year. We plan to leverage Microsoft products to create a model that is technology-enriched and focused on self-paced and data-driven instruction.
Bear Creek recently became 1 of 24 schools in the U.S. to implement the Teach To One Math program. In addition, Bear Creek is in the first cohort for Fulton County’s personalized learning initiative.
About Darren Clay
Bear Creek Middle School
Fairburn, Georgia, USA
- Birthplace: Miami, Florida
- Educational background: Current doctoral student at the University of Georgia; Ed.S.-Educational Leadership, Ed.S. – Instructional Technology, B.S.E.-Education, M.Ed.-Education. This is my fifth year serving in the Fulton County Schools district.
- Website I check every day: bearcreekpd.com
- Favorite childhood memory: Scoring my first touchdown in middle school.
- Favorite book: The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong
- Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: OneNote
- What is the best advice you have ever received? “Before you can correct…you must connect”- Gary M. Clay, Sr.