By Kim Walter
The Virginia Department of Education has recognized an employee of Shenandoah County Public Schools with the Region 4 Educational Technology Award.
Douglas Culler, the division's network systems supervisor, was honored on November 5 during Virginia Tech's Educational Technology Leadership Conference in Roanoke. He is the Region 4 winner, which includes 21 school divisions.
Culler, who's been with the Shenandoah County school system for 16 years, said his position has come a long way. On day one, he was responsible for building a network that provided internet and email access.
"When I started, we had a dial-up connection and a little over 10 servers, total," he said. "Now, we manage 40, so just the sheer number of devices and the management that goes into that is completely different."
The award, given to a winner from each of the eight regions in the state, recognizes individuals who demonstrate leadership by assisting school divisions in education technology planning and implementation. The winners can be those from the technology department, but also can be teachers and administration members.
One recent implementation that Culler was a part of a few years ago was a technology advisory group. Culler said the group meets once a month with representatives from each of the county's schools giving feedback on new technologies and what else that division should look into.
"We really wanted to incorporate teachers, because they're the ones in the classroom, actually using these devices," Culler said. "They help us determine what's out there, and how it can be brought into education."
The school system is currently looking into the "one-to-one initiative" or BYOD, which calls for every student having a device to use in the classroom. When the initiative first developed, each student would have had their own laptop, but Culler says now the focus is more on some kind of tablet.
"There are some challenges with that," he said. "We do have wireless in each building, but right now we don't have the capacity to accommodate every single student having a wireless device. That's part of why our department works so well -- we try to look at the whole picture and address issues before they would even happen."
Culler also has helped in creating websites for all the county's teachers, through which they can post assignments, lectures and other important announcements.
"It's a huge culture change to utilize all these resources," Culler said. "And training can be a big issue when you take on something like that, but it's getting easier as our teachers are more familiar with technology."
Superintendent B. Keith Rowland said he was proud that Culler won the award. Out of the past five years the award has been given, a Shenandoah County representative has won three times.
"It takes the whole department to keep the network going, but he does a fantastic job at handling more things, with fewer resources," he said. "We believe in using technology as a means of enhancing student learning ... not teaching them how to use it."
Rowland said Culler's position is important because he helps in protecting students from certain websites when they do use the internet at school. He's also made online testing possible across the division.
"He truly manages our network, and gives us access to good equipment," Rowland said. "We're very proud, that's for sure."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org