Lakota Earns International Technology Award

Lakota Earns International Technology Award
Posted on 11/12/2020
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ISTE awardLakota Local Schools is one of just three school districts worldwide to earn the “2020 Distinguished District Award” from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). 


“This award belongs to the entire Lakota family,” said Chief Technology Officer Todd Wesley. “Seven years ago, our community supported our levy plan to bring the best in education technology together with instructional innovation based on the ISTE standards. With the continued support of our board, Superintendent Miller, Treasurer/CFO Logan and a strong partnership between our outstanding technology and curriculum teams, this plan evolved into our ‘WE are EMPOWERED’ initiative to support our district’s recent strategic plan.”


“While the journey continues, this recognition from ISTE is a reminder, especially in this challenging year, to stop and celebrate the entire ‘WE are Lakota’ community of teachers, leaders, parents, guardians and our community partners in working together to continually empower our students’ learning!” Wesley continued.


“We live in a digital world, so a big part of preparing our students for what awaits them after graduation is giving them access to those tools and experiences,” said Lakota Superintendent Matthew Miller. “We are grateful for the ongoing support and guidance from our partners at ISTE and appreciate this formal recognition of all of our efforts.” 


ISTE serves more than 200,000 educators and education leaders around the world, providing resources and support to organizations that are committed to using technology to overcome challenges in education. 


The “Distinguished District Award” recognizes districts that are moving the needle in big ways. According to ISTE, these districts demonstrate effectiveness and innovation in the application of educational technology. They ensure equitable, accessible and appropriate technology use for all students, aimed at improving learner outcomes and increasing learning opportunities. Finally, they exhibit a progressive mindset when it comes to challenges in education and embrace new ideas and act on them.


“One of the ways we serve is by showcasing the inspiring accomplishments of outstanding individuals, school districts and organizations who are making a difference in education,” wrote ISTE’s Chief Executive Officer Richard Culatta in a letter to Miller. “Lakota Local Schools is an exceptional school district that clearly embodies each of these traits. Thank you for all that you do to advance teaching and learning, and congratulations again on this special award.”


Lakota’s partnership with ISTE has grown over the last few years and the district became one of just eight districts worldwide to pilot ISTE’s “District Partnership” program during the 2018-2019 school year. That opportunity came on the heels of the district-wide rollout of “WE are Empowered,” an initiative designed to empower students with personalized learning supported by technology. It includes new innovative instruction and outdated media centers transformed into modern “Innovation Hubs” for student creation, collaboration and learning. The district expanded access to technology devices, applications and tools, including a one-to-one device program for grades six through 12. 


The district has also assigned an innovation specialist to every school, giving teachers direct access to continuous professional development and expertise in instructional technology best practices. 


“Our innovation specialists and director of digital and professional learning, Krista Heidenreich, have been instrumental and their support of our staff and students has been critical in our success,” Wesley said. 


A cohort of Lakota teachers also participated in ISTE’s first “Educator Certification Program,” equipping them with industry-recognized strategies and resources to transform learning through technology. Since then, over 65 total Lakota educators have participated in the certification program. 


Most recently, in response to the challenges of COVID-19 and the increased demand for remote learning, Lakota has expanded its library of digital resources and lessons actually created by Lakota teachers.


“This past summer, Lakota teachers stepped up in a big way and all together, developed more than 9,000 virtual lessons to be used for our virtual learning option or in the event of a mass shift to remote learning this year,” said Lakota’s Executive Director of Curriculum & Instruction Keith Koehne. “It has been nothing short of amazing to see their efforts be put to use this year as we work to continue providing the best possible education in spite of the challenges of COVID-19.”