#45 – Insights From an Urban District With Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Ellen Dorr

Unpacking Education June 23, 2021 24 min

Welcome back to Teacher Insights at Tech Talk For Teachers. In this episode, we continue to focus on insights from educational leaders, where we explore what has happened in virtual, face-to-face, and hybrid classrooms across the country this year—what has worked and what challenges we have grown from.

This week, we meet with Dr. Ellen Dorr, Chief Technology Officer for Renton School District in Washington. As CTO of a large, diverse, urban school district, Ellen has a strong commitment to educational equity and system design, as well as a deep love for students and their families. She recently completed her doctorate in Education Leadership and Policy Studies.

Join our Digital Learning Specialists as they open the conversation with a focus on the successes that Renton School District has achieved this year. With a deeper look at what students have accomplished during remote learning, we celebrate the skills that we may not have anticipated students learning and their willingness to experiment with us to best meet their needs. We explore how the technology team brought student voices to the district-wide conversation during the pandemic via empathy interviews. In addition, the team discusses how teachers have learned to iterate, accept failure, and thrive in a technology-rich environment this year. Finally, we talk about the impact of a district’s infrastructure in ensuring that students had direct access to their learning resources.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
Digital Learning Coach
Pamela Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist

The narrative of ‘learning loss’ is weaponizing static achievement against young people and families in ways that further harms them in a time of global pandemic and disarray.

Kelly Niccolls & Rebecca Midles, educators and authors

Conversations About the Challenges, Successes, and Unsung Heroes From This Year

In today’s episode, we explore how teachers, students, and leaders in Renton School District worked together to create equitable and accessible learning experiences during the pandemic. At the core, these stakeholders worked together to create a consistent experience that optimized the use of technology to meet students’ learning needs.

District Leader Insights

Over the course of the pandemic, data points have shed light on the various approaches that districts have taken in terms of schooling. Some have provided fully remote learning from the outset of the pandemic, while others have mostly provided in-person learning, with a cross section that has fallen somewhere in between. Today, we explore the story of a large, urban district through the lens of the Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Ellen Dorr. She shares her insights on the topics and questions below.

Challenges and Successes

  • What have been some of your successes this year?
  • What are the intersections among discussions about “learning loss” and systemic issues of opportunity and oppression?
  • What role did technology play in making this year a success?

Unsung Heroes

  • In what ways has it taken a team effort to make this a successful school year?
  • How are you and others in your system tending to the hearts and souls of people who are hurting?
  • As you think about next steps as a leader of school systems and thinking about how we serve students and families who are harmed by systemic racism, how are you/others being intentional in your/their leadership and action to support this work?

Lessons Learned and Next Steps

  • What are ways that the system has changed to improve support and learning for students and educators?