Reflections and Learnings from the 2015 AASA Conference


dwight-jonesPosted on behalf of Dwight Jones, Discovery Education Superintendent in Residence
One of the best parts of my role as Discovery Education’s Superintendent in Residence is that I am able to travel around the country and meet with the talented district leaders transforming education with digital content and professional development.  Recently, my travels took me to the annual AASA conference in San Diego.  While there, I connected and reconnected with many of the distinguished school administrators I’ve met during my career in public education.  While I learned a great many new things during these fascinating conversations,  I wanted to share with you some highlights:

  • The focus on professional development is stronger than ever.  The importance of sustained, job-embedded professional development that builds the capacity of teacher-leaders and principals was a recurring theme of my conversations school superintendents.  One of the districts that has committed to scaling professional development across the district is North Carolina’s Wake County Public Schools.  I encourage you see this case study and video on Wake County Public Schools’s work, as it really captures the essence of the their efforts to develop teacher-leaders who can drive their digital transition.
  • School systems are looking to share their work.  As a life-long learner, I enjoy the opportunity to hear about the work of others, and thankfully, I feel like every single conversation began with, “Let me tell you about our efforts to improve student achievement.”  One shining example of the willingness to share lessons learned is Superintendent Dallas Dance, who is leading the digital transition in the Baltimore County Public Schools.  Dr. Dance was very generous with his time and patiently took me through his Blue Print 2.0 and STAT initiatives, which are remarkable.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to learn more about the work the Baltimore County Public Schools team is doing to build the modern learning environments today’s students demand and deserve.
  • The need to engage a wide range of stakeholders in the digital transition. Numerous times, I heard my colleagues express the need to spend more effort in educating a variety of stakeholders on the importance of the digital transition to preparing today’s students for careers or college.  When the whole community (teachers, principals, administrators, students, parents, board members, business and policy makers, etc.) is focused on shifting to digital learning environments, each superintendent remarked, student engagement and achievement can truly take off.
  • School districts of all sizes are finding the funds to make the shift from hardcover textbooks to digital curricula.  As with any systemic change, finding funding can be a challenge.  However, creative school administrators from large school systems such as the Wake County Public Schools and the Baltimore County Public Schools to smaller school systems such as North Carolina’s Mooresville Graded School System, Ohio’s  Piqua City Schools , and Tenneesee’s  Oak Ridge Schools have found unique ways to pay for the shift from static textbooks to dynamic digital resources.

While these were just some of the high points of my conversations at AASA, I also had the opportunity to connect with school administrators from around the country on a number of other topics related to the digital transition.  To broaden and foster the dialogue on this important issue, Discovery Education has launched a series of thought leadership events designed expressly for school administrators.  At these events, school superintendents and others will have the opportunity to meet and share their learnings. Our next three events will be in Pennsylvania at the following locations:

Additional events will be scheduled soon in New Jersey and Washington, DC, and I’ll provide an update on those events as soon as they are scheduled, so watch this space.  In the meanwhile, if you have any thoughts on the the digital transition you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments below.  I look forward to continuing this dialogue!

Dwight Jones is Discovery Education’s Superintendent in Residence.  Prior to joining Discovery Education, Dwight served as Superintendent of Clark County School District, the nation’s fifth largest school district.  Previously, he served as Colorado’s commissioner of education for three and a half years. Under his guidance, the department refocused its efforts to better serve and support the field, partner with schools and districts on various initiatives, and strive to direct resources and intervention strategies to the districts with the most need.  Dwight’s entire career has been devoted to public education, starting as an elementary school teacher in Junction City, Kansas, and later serving as principal for elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in Wichita, Kansas.



  1. Delsia Malone said:

    I’m so honored to have met him! Is Alabama on the near future list? Lol

  2. Delsia Malone said:

    Honored to have met him! I hope Alabama is on the 2015 tour list.

  3. Greg Welch said:

    Great blog – Mr. Jones is a great leader in today’s digital movement. I have always found his expertise in both education and leadership to be invaluable.

  4. Carol Persin said:

    I think these are great points. I agree with point 1, because my district created my position and hired me as a coach this year! I especially love point 2: that that school districts are willing to collaborate and share their efforts (successes as well as things that they learned). However, although the trends may support point 4, I think it is important to still have paper text that is supported by a digital element. There are many articles coming up now that show through data that students prefer not only digital text but actually a combination of the two. Looking forward to having discussion, learning and expanding my PLN at the PA LLDW Symposium in Pittsburgh next Monday.