Marlo Gaddis talks about streamlining tech in one of largest U.S. school systems

Marlo Gaddis has her work cut out for her when it comes to tackling IT issues in one of the largest districts in the country.

Gaddis is the senior director of instructional technology and library media services for Wake County Public School Systems in Cary, North Carolina, and these days, her top priority is simplifying technology systems in the district.

With more than 150,000 students across approximately 180 campuses in Wake County, the 80-person tech services team will spend the next couple of years streamlining systems in the district “to make sure we have the right digital resources for our students,” Gaddis said in an interview with EdScoop.

Recently, Wake County piloted two projects that had success far beyond their initial run. One was a small bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program that grew quickly and has already reached over 100 schools in the system. The other was the creation of digital learning portfolios for students.

View more of EdScoop’s interviews with innovative school CIOs.

The success of the BYOD rollout came from the district’s commitment to professional learning, Gaddis said.

“We developed an instructional framework for BYOD, we brought in teams of leaders and teachers and really worked with them on [asking], ‘What is the vision?’” she said. “We didn’t want it to be ‘BYOD is the latest thing, and so now all of a sudden we’ve got to do it and not really understand the repercussions of that.’”

The digital portfolios, meanwhile, focus on alternative forms of assessment “so that it’s not always the bubble sheets and multiple choice,” Gaddis said.

“We believe that kids can learn from the work that they gather and that they can be empowered through understanding what quality work looks like and then helping other see what their strengths and their areas of opportunity are,” she added.

As the district continues to think about cybersecurity and begins to move to the cloud, Gaddis said the greatest challenge her team faces is staying on top of the latest technologies and programs that will best serve their community.

“From the instructional technology perspective, one of the largest challenges we have is just understanding what’s out there,” she said. “What’s in our schools, what are our students using, what are our teachers using?”