OC educators seek out training that integrates instructional technology, innovation

When leaders of the Huntington Beach City School District selected a training program to enhance teaching and learning through technology, they didn’t just enroll a handful of educators — they went all in.

As of June, every single member of HBCSD’s instructional leadership team had completed the Leading Edge Certification program, including the superintendent, assistant superintendent of instruction, principals and assistant principals.

Educators from the Huntington Beach City School District
Administrators from the Huntington Beach City School District display their Leading Edge certificates. Between 2017 and 2018, the district’s entire instructional completed the program.

“Our goal with 21st-century classrooms is to better educate and engage our students,” Huntington Beach Superintendent Gregg Haulk said. “It is what we promised our community — not just to add shiny things to the room. This training is very important to develop those leaders that will take the district forward.”

Billed as the “certification for forward-thinking educators,” Leading Edge Certification is a national program designed to promote educational technology and curriculum innovation. It was created by an alliance of nonprofits, universities and educational agencies, offering targeted certifications in four categories: online and blended teacher, professional learning leader, administrator and digital educator.

What makes Leading Edge Certification unique is that it isn’t tied to a specific vendor, platform or service. Instead, through a mix of online and in-person courses, the program trains educators on how to effectively utilize high-tech tools and other resources to advance student achievement.

Topics in the administrator category include technology trends, digital citizenship, mobile learning and data-driven instruction.

“It really does give leadership an opportunity to craft their vision for what they want out of teaching and learning,” said Lainie Rowell, a consultant for the Orange County Department of Education’s Institute for Leadership Development. “We have a lot of devices in classrooms and on campuses nowadays, but are we really focusing on the right ways to utilize and leverage those to amplify teaching and learning?”

In her role with OCDE, Rowell walks local educators and districts through the process of pursuing Leadership Edge Certification. With the Huntington Beach cohort, she worked with the district’s Jonathan Ellis, a program specialist, to guide administrators through each step and moderate discussions.

They also tapped guest speakers, including Christine Olmstead, associate superintendent of OCDE’s Instructional Services Division; Mike Lawrence, then-CEO of the nonprofit ed tech association CUE; Jason Borgen, director of learning and innovation for the Portola Valley School District; and Andrew Schwab, associate superintendent of learning and innovation for the Union School District.

“Throughout the program, we brought in guest facilitators for the online discussion to share their expertise and provide a different perspective,” Rowell said.

Huntington Beach isn’t the only district from Orange County to participate in LEC trainings. Educational leaders from the Anaheim Elementary School District and the Orange Unified School District have also pursued certification.

But HBCSD is the first local district to include every administrator within its instructional team. These 19 staff members completed their trainings in 2017 and 2018.

“What Huntington Beach City did that was really interesting was they actually dedicated part of their leadership time so that they could have that rich online online discussion forum,” Rowell said. “They also had these face-to-face times where they could collaborate to work together to talk about how they could innovate at their school.”

Superintendent Haulk conceded it amounted to a lot of work.

“But,” he said, “that work allowed another opportunity for our leadership team to accomplish something important together, something real, to be able to support themselves and each other as we improve the opportunities for all of our students.”

To learn more about Leading Edge Certification, visit the OCDE website or contact Lainie Rowell at lrowell@ocde.us.