2013 Digital Principals of the Year

Recognizing extraordinary, tech-savvy school leaders

Digital Principal award winners are honored for integrating digital media in their efforts to improve instruction, student achievement, and their own leadership. The winners were honored during the Ignite ’13 conference in National Harbor, MD.

2013 Digital Principal Award Winners

Dwight Carter
@Dwight_Carter
Gahanna Lincoln High School
Gahanna, OH

An educator for nearly 20 years, Carter has built an army of digital citizens at Gahanna Lincoln High School and Clark Hall. Opened in 2010 as an addition to Gahanna’s campus, Clark Hall is a hub of technology integration and collaborative learning. More than 400 juniors and seniors take classes in rooms outfitted with wireless Internet, open-concept seating, and plenty of natural light. In the short time since the building has opened, Carter has gone from a tech newbie to a visionary leader. Twitter has become an irreplaceable part of his personal learning network, and he maintains blogs for teachers; parents; and, as a Connected Principals blogger, his peers. Likewise, he encourages teachers to take charge of their own professional development by using social media and other tools to network and share ideas. He pushes teachers to think innovatively and supports them with intensive inservice training. Parents are also kept up to speed with free technology workshops, and students regularly take part in sessions on the responsible use of social media.

Technology has become so ingrained in Gahanna’s culture that even the band, parent-teacher organization, and lacrosse team have gotten in on the action by creating their own Twitter accounts. Gahanna’s connectivity—and online presence—hasn’t gone unnoticed. Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited the school last February (which led to Gahanna trending on Twitter), and Carter was featured on a National Public Radio segment about the school’s use of social media and web 2.0 tools. Over the next five years, Carter plans to work with district leaders to launch an online academy and add 25 blended learning and 25 dual-enrollment courses to the curriculum.

Ryan J. Imbriale
@Ryan_Imbriale
Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts
Baltimore, MD

A technology guru of sorts, Imbriale racked up several years of experience as an e-learning specialist for the Baltimore County Public Schools before becoming a principal. He developed the curriculum for the Maryland Technology Academy as part of a federal Challenge Grant, reviewed and approved online courses, and led the county’s e-learning program in its infancy. He also made connections with such organizations as iNACOL and ISTE. When he was appointed principal of Patapsco—an urban, high-needs school—in 2009, he was eager to use technology to increase personalization. Despite contending with cuts in funding and a reduction in staff members, Imbriale led an aggressive plan to outfit the 50-year-old building with a robust wireless infrastructure, equip classrooms with the latest technology, implement an open policy for mobile devices, create a sustained plan for the use of social media for communication and learning, and provide high-quality professional development for the entire staff. He helped pilot a fully blended learning curriculum in science as part of a collaborative effort between the school, the district, and a local community college. He also worked with Patapsco alumni to start a student app club.

Valuing instant communication, Imbriale grew the school’s social media presence and keeps parents apprised of news through YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Parents can access newly collected data on attendance and can go online to track their children’s physical location at any point during the school day, thanks to new ID cards. Also, to provide immediate feedback to teachers, administrators now capture walkthrough data on handheld devices. In the last four years, Patapsco has gone from barely registering to ahead of the curve in technology. The school was recognized last year by both US News & World Report and the Washington Post as one of the top high schools in the United States and by the College Board as one of the nation’s top arts integration schools.

Carrie Jackson
@jackson_carrie
Timberview Middle School
Fort Worth, TX

When she helped open Timberview Middle School in 2010, Jackson worked with staff members to set a tone of collaboration, flexibility, and novelty that would support 21st-century teaching and learning. From the physical design of the classrooms to the systems and processes, everything was carefully organized to promote personalized learning and teacher collaboration. Students own the learning spaces, and teachers’ desks are placed in team office areas that inspire collegial sharing and planning. Risk taking is encouraged and rewarded, but everyone is given the chance to adopt technology at their own pace. The device-rich school boasts a powerful wireless network and easy access to netbooks, MacBooks, iPads, iPods, and Flip cameras.

Still, none of those tools would affect student learning without Jackson’s guidance. As the lead learner of Timberview, she uses digital tools to transform the way she does her job. She has built a professional network through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest—and she uses social media to connect with staff members, parents, and the community. Once a week, Jackson hosts a Twitter chat with stakeholders to discuss topics related to education. She also leads campus “Tweet-alongs” where she takes photos of students and teachers engaged in innovative learning experiences and shares them on Instagram and Twitter. Jackson posts to the campus Facebook page to allow for two-way interaction and writes a principal’s blog, encouraging readers to comment and participate. Her use of social media extends beyond the walls of Timberview. As an officer for the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals, Jackson created and manages the association’s Facebook page and Twitter account to reach out to members.