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Meet the SETDA 2021 State Achievement Award Recipients

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) created the State Achievement Award (SSA) to recognize outstanding initiatives from SETDA State and Affiliate members and their teams that address meaningful challenges in teaching and learning.

The 2021 SSA awards, which were presented during the SETDA Emerging Trends Forum on June 15, 2021, celebrate the impact of these programs and projects, offering frameworks for other leaders to effect positive change in their states. 

The SETDA State Achievement Awards have five categories that align with SETDA’s priorities of Equity of Access, Digital Content, Interoperability, Professional Learning, and Digital Learning.

Learn more about the state teams and their projects:

Category: Digital Content
Recipient: Arkansas
Project: Impact with MyVRSpot

Before COVID made digital learning a necessity, Arkansas learned about MyVRSpot at a SETDA sponsored event. MyVRSpot offered a unique and safe solution for hosting and sharing a video that was compatible with the Arkansas broadband initiative. 

Over the years, MyVRSpot has continued to grow and develop its product alongside Arkansas. As a result, MyVRSpot today easily compares and combines features found in products such as Screencastify, FlipGrid, WeVideo, and EdPuzzle, and can provide far more features, often for far less money. 

MyVRSpot’s affordable solution allows the state of Arkansas to provide this service to 100% of schools and districts. For many low economic and rural communities, this type of service would be unaffordable or unforeseen pre-pandemic. When COVID shut down in-person learning, Arkansas was ready to scale and support.

Category: Digital Learning
Recipient: Arkansas
Project: Stepping Up & In with Virtual Arkansas

In 2013 and 2014, Arkansas decided to start Virtual Arkansas, a State Virtual School, to provide supplemental online courses and services throughout the state to provide equity in educational access and opportunity for students in Arkansas who would otherwise not have those opportunities, particularly rural schools and schools that have high free and reduced lunch populations.

For example, rural and high-poverty schools tend to lack access to highly qualified teachers, offer fewer advanced courses such as Advanced Placement and Concurrent Credit courses, and lack various Career and Technical Education courses and other electives. Currently, 97% of rural schools in Arkansas utilize the online courses, teachers, and services of this program, and 62% of the approximately 38,000 Virtual Arkansas enrollments come from our rural schools. To put these statistics in perspective, 30% of Arkansas students are enrolled in rural schools. In other words, 62% of the Virtual Arkansas enrollments come from 30% of the student population. It just happens to be one of the student populations who need this access to educational opportunity the most. 

The Virtual Arkansas program provides statewide access to online courses with dedicated online teachers. In addition, it offers local teachers access to affordable and high-quality digital content designed and developed specifically to meet Arkansas curriculum standards.

Category: Equity of Access
Recipient: New Hampshire
Project: Operation Lemonade

In the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, when districts were challenged to go remote quickly, New Hampshire’s largest and most diverse district, Manchester, was challenged to get devices in the hands of students and teachers throughout the district. The District was faced with the issue of not having enough devices and not having the time to wait for the relief CARES Act funding to give remote access to all students. 

The National Collaborative for Digital Equity (NCDE), a leader in the movement to provide digital equity both at school and at home, stepped in to develop Operation Lemonade, hoping to turn the lemons brought by the pandemic into lemonade for a struggling school district. 

Operation Lemonade was able to purchase devices and free broadband access to 500 low-income students throughout the Manchester School District, giving them access to remote learning during the height of the pandemic.

Category: Professional Learning
Recipient: Illinois
Project: Professional Learning Statewide System of Support

The Learning Technology Center (LTC) works with the Illinois State Board of Education to provide technology-related professional learning and services to all PreK-12 districts and schools. One of our main initiatives is our Professional Learning Statewide System of Support.

Over the past nine months, LTC staff has facilitated 718 professional learning events for over 22,000 teachers, administrators, and technology leaders. Events include in-person and online networking meetings, regional and state workshops, webinars, online courses, in-district events, micro-credentials, administrator academies, and conferences.

Through this program, the LTC has five regional coordinators and ten statewide content experts that provide professional learning on various topics, including remote education, digital learning, technology integration, leadership, etc. The team of state and national edtech leaders craft high-impact learning opportunities that address short and long-term needs and advocate for effective instructional, assessment, and curricular practices.

All of the State Achievement Award projects this year share one thing in common: in a time of crisis, these leaders were able to shift to new ways of teaching, connecting, and collaborating.

Whether it was finding a solution to issues of student equity and connectivity, utilizing emerging technologies and interactive content to engage student learning, or providing professional development for educators to adapt to online learning, SETDA members showed courage and fortitude under the most difficult of circumstances to find innovative ways to educate our nation’s students.

The Lighting of A Candle: SETDA Announces the Candice Dodson Influencer Award

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has said, “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” Candice Dodson was that leader. Sadly, we lost Candice’s bright light in July but we are here to affirm that her impact and her influence continues to be felt in her absence. As the former Executive Directors of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), we feel pride in all that Candice accomplished at SETDA, for Indiana, and for students and educators across this country.

Candice was a leader who had a uniquely positive impact on elected officials, education leaders, parents, partners, co-workers, and stakeholders from across the education community. She had a contagious joy and a generous spirit in interacting with others – and this made her influence even more profound. She had an uncanny ability to connect with everyone she met and to include them, build them up, and celebrate their successes. She was a talented consensus builder and true collaborator, a champion for innovation and creativity, an advocate for educators, and a believer in what students could accomplish. She contributed her voice regularly through social media and was highly engaged with the field, serving on panels and podcasts, contributing to articles, and organizing and participating in high-impact events.

Candice’s leadership was just what SETDA needed to move the organization and its members to the next level. Those of us who have worked in or with state government know that there are never enough people or dollars to roll out a new initiative and the red tape is never in short supply. To be effective, state leaders have to get creative, build a network of champions across the state, and partner with outside organizations in order to innovate, to shift mindsets, and to enact real and lasting change. Successful state leaders – like Candice – find ways to exert a positive influence not only in their state, but well beyond.

When we lost Candice, we lost an amazing champion for educational technology and a close friend. For that reason, we are grateful that the SETDA Board of Directors has announced the Candice Dodson Influencer Award to commemorate the values, professional influence and personal contributions to the field of educational technology that Candice championed every day, and to recognize similar qualities in present and future leaders who carry on this important work. We think it fitting to honor her memory by building up others and celebrating the influencers who follow in her footsteps.

We know that Candice’s legacy will inspire greatness in others and that her impact will always be a part of SETDA and its members.

About the Authors of this Guest Blog Post

This post was a collaboration among a group of  SETDA’s Former Executive Directors including:

  • Melinda George, Chief Policy Officer – Learning Forward
  • Doug Levin,  Founder & President – EdTech Strategies
  • Lan Neugent, Retired SETDA Emeritus
  • Tracy Weeks, Executive Director K12 Statewide Partnerships – Canvas
  • Mary Ann Wolf, President & Executive Director – Public School Forum of NC

–> Candice Dodson Memorial Page

–> Candice Dodson Infuencer Award

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