Instructional Technology Specialist for the Indian Prairie School District 204
Andrew Fekete graduated in 2004 with a degree in elementary education and a minor in communication. He uses both fields in his work today as the instructional technology specialist for Indian Prairie School District 204 in Naperville and Aurora, Illinois.
It’s Mr. Fekete’s job to incorporate technology into classrooms. “I work with teachers on how to use new programs and implement them into their daily teaching,” he says.
Before moving into his current role, Mr. Fekete spent seven years as a teacher in the district, teaching second and third grades at Clow Elementary School. Prior to that, he taught fourth grade at Briargate Elementary School in Cary, Illinois, and sixth-grade social studies, world geography, and history at Lance Middle School in Kenosha.
“As a teacher who regularly incorporated technology into my classroom and daily instruction, moving to this position was a great move for me and our district,” Mr. Fekete says. “While this move was a challenge, as it took me away from my daily interaction with a classroom of students, it allowed me to positively impact schools and students across the district.”
Now, he spends his time in multiple buildings and classrooms, from elementary through high school, supporting teachers who want to use technology to offer their students innovative lessons and activities.
“I believe that we need to provide teachers with tools and resources to provide instruction to their students in a more efficient way, while engaging their students in their learning. It is imperative that we prepare students to be 21st-century learners, by equipping them with the skills they need to be successful.”
That doesn’t mean throwing new technology at teachers all the time, but rather carefully evaluating available technologies and thoughtfully suggesting the right tools to meet teachers’ goals.
“In the field of technology, there are always new tools and ‘shiny objects’ to chase,” Mr. Fekete says. “The important conversation that we have with our teachers and administration on a daily basis is that we do NOT focus on the technology. We always urge teachers to start with the learning objective that they are trying to accomplish,” and then find the right technology to assist them in accomplishing that goal efficiently and effectively.
Many people in his position will earn a master’s degree in instructional technology. “However, with my field experience, I had the unique advantage of being in an informal leadership position within my district in the field of instructional technology,” Mr. Fekete says. He has a master’s degree in educational leadership, “which has been a huge benefit in my current role.” He also wanted to become an expert in Google Apps for Education, which is used by his district. “I went through the Google Certified Trainer program and now am a national leader in this field.”
He says one challenge in his current position is numbers: “There is only one of me, and so many teachers and students to support. I do my best to support everyone across the buildings as best I can.” To help, he has developed online resources and works closely with a teacher contact at each school who supports his work and assists with communication.
“The other challenge that I face is the number of initiatives that are on a teacher’s plate: navigating and planning instruction with the new curriculum (Common Core), student learning objectives, state and local assessments, just to name a few.” He needs to be able to show teachers and administration that technology effectively incorporated into instruction adds value, not work. “It is not one more thing on a teacher’s plate,” he says. “If done well, it is the thing that can alleviate the stress from some of these other initiatives.”
“In the field of technology, there are always new tools and ‘shiny objects’ to chase. The important conversation that we have with our teachers and administration on a daily basis is that we do NOT focus on the technology. We always urge teachers to start with the learning objective that they are trying to accomplish,” and then find the right technology to assist them in accomplishing that goal efficiently and effectively.”
What have you enjoyed most about your career?
“There is not a ‘typical day’ in my role. … I serve all of Indian Prairie School District 204, which has 33 buildings, approximately 30,000 students, and 3,000 teachers. … I spend time evaluating current technology trends, as well as developing online professional development resources and materials for our teachers to use. The best aspect of my position is when I can be out in the buildings, working with teachers one on one, or in a small group, supporting their use of technology in the classrooms. I have enjoyed working with many different people.”
How did Carthage prepare you?
“I feel that my experience at Carthage was overwhelming positive. … My classroom experience at Carthage was incredibly beneficial to learn the theory and background of why we teach content in a particular way. But it was my experiences during my classroom observations and student teaching that really gave me perspective on what it is like to be a teacher in a school district on a daily basis. Once I was hired as a classroom teacher in my first classroom, I learned more in the first months of that position that was so valuable and beneficial.
“Now I am connected to online Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), and I cannot recommend them strongly enough — both for teachers, and for students who will be teachers one day. I rely heavily on my PLN to stay current with the latest developments in the field of instructional technology, but this is not unique to instructional technology. There are great PLNs and discussions about ELA, Common Core, Mathematics, Next Generation Science Standards, assessments, and almost any other field imaginable in education. Some of the invaluable resources I use to keep in touch with my PLN are Twitter and reading blogs on a daily basis from leaders in the field around the world.
“I continue to learn and grow as the field of education is constantly evolving. That is one thing that I will say about the current field of education: Teachers can no longer stay static. You must learn, grow, rethink your philosophy, and be able to change regularly as the field is rapidly changing all the time!”