Josh Shepard, Chief Technology Officer for the School District of Oconee County, has over a decade of experience working in education in the US state of South Carolina. With a deep knowledge of the challenges teachers and students face, his team came up with a digital transformation plan to tackle them by investing in the right digital tools to future proof the district’s schools.
“When I took over there were a lot of siloed initiatives,” Shepard explains. “The district was in a situation where some schools had significantly better access to technology and devices than others.
“I will never forget one particular moment in 2016. Of the 17 schools in our district, 16 bought new laptops for their teachers – one did not. I drove to the outlier school to have a meeting that afternoon and saw a teacher carrying a desktop complete with monitor, keyboard and mouse out to her car to take home so that she could work on her lesson plans for the next day.
“It was a bit of a lightbulb moment. We were allowing schools across our district to make disjointed decisions about technology, but those in charge were trained to help children. They were not technology specialists.
“So, that very day, I vowed that every teacher would have the same laptop across our district; a district where all schools and students would have equal access to the tools, technologies, devices and resources they needed.”
Learning Management System
Embarking on this journey back in 2016, Shepard and his team have made momentous progress in the half-decade since.
In terms of infrastructure, a full switch replacement was completed and access point system established across all buildings. Further, the prior installation of a 10 GBPS fibre network laid the groundwork for the enhancement of capabilities at scale.
“We wanted to introduce a learning management system as a hub of real time learning for students,” Shepard reveals. “We wanted to share collaborative resources from teachers. And we also wanted students to have access to course materials and content from other schools across our county, breaking the geographical limitations of learning.”
In the modern day, many organisations are driving their digital transformation agendas aggressively out of lockdown-induced necessity. However, having made progressive preparations prior to the pandemic hitting, the School District of Oconee County has been extremely well placed to adapt as needed in the past two years.