Writing a New Chapter for Education Technology

An educator takes on a worldwide role to promote technology in learning. 

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

Delia DeCourcy has been an educational leader and agent of change for over two decades. She has taught public and private school students in California, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Michigan at the middle, high school, and college levels; led school, district, and county-wide digital learning initiatives to transform pedagogy; and written virtual and statewide curriculums that empower students to be engaged, self-directed learners.

She is the co-author of Teaching Romeo and Juliet: A Differentiated Approach, won a prestigious award for her teaching at the University of Michigan, and founded the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing.

She has delivered workshops, webinars, and conferences on a wide range of digital learning, new media, and literacy topics to hundreds of teachers. She most recently served as Executive Director of Digital Teaching and Learning for the Chatham County School District in North Carolina. She is now Worldwide Education Portfolio Manager at Lenovo.

In this EdTech Digest interview, Delia tell us where it all began for her, just how far back she goes with technology, her love of teaching, thoughts on technology’s role in education—and what she’s looking at heading into the future.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background before joining the Lenovo Education team.

I grew up in a small college town in rural Virginia and spent a lot of time in the university library. I liked using the card catalog and scanning microfiche. You could say I’ve had a front-row seat to some pretty mind-bending experiences like the internet revolution and the current rise of AI. The ways we access, share, and generate information has completely changed since I was a kid. 

‘The ways we access, share, and generate information has completely changed since I was a kid.

As an educator, I always felt it was my job to understand the technology that was emerging and bring it into the classroom to empower my students–first with laptops and basic digital tools and then with Web 2.0, which really democratized content creation. I’ve also gotten to witness and support the shift toward more student-centered pedagogy that technology has helped engender. In my experience, implementing personalized learning without the help of technology is pretty tough.

As a former educator, what made you decide to go into the edtech industry?

I integrated technology into my instruction for most of my teaching career. From 1999-2006, I had the good fortune of teaching 8th grade English at a school where 20 desktops lined the walls of my classroom. This made writing instruction and project-based learning easier. Later, as a professional development consultant and district leader, I worked with teachers on leveraging tech to implement instructional best practices–like putting revision at the heart of the writing process and differentiating activities for learners. So moving into the edtech industry wasn’t a stretch, and I was excited to expand the reach of my work. As a member of Lenovo’s Worldwide Education Team, I have the opportunity to support innovation in education systems globally.

Can you share some highlights or past experiences that help inform or shape your current role today?

At the University of Michigan, I taught first-year writing and worked at the writing center. Having hundreds of one-on-one consultations with undergrad and graduate students helped me deeply understand the challenges they faced as writers, especially in developing their own ideas and organizing information. I was a pretty good teacher before that, but in that role, I learned how to ask better questions and listen closely to the answers. Every day I was reminded that we must put students at the center of the learning. 

‘Every day I was reminded that we must put students at the center of the learning.’

When I worked for a large ISD in Michigan, I was on a team that wrote language arts curriculum aligned to the Common Core State Standards. We asked teachers to pilot the lessons and give feedback to inform revisions before doing a statewide rollout. That collaboration became iterative over multiple years and included empowering teachers to provide professional development on the curriculum to their colleagues.

Building, learning from, and supporting this extensive network with my colleagues showed me the passion and power of educators. Together we shifted how writing instruction was taught. When teachers have the right resources and support and are engaged as partners in change, they can do amazing things. Understanding what teachers need to innovate and make a difference in the classroom guides much of the work I do in my current role.

What role should technology play in education, and what are some of the challenges leaders face as they consider this evolving relationship? 

In the classroom, technology should be used to support instruction not drive it. Educators know what students need to master standards and grasp new concepts. If specific devices and software boost learning, they can go into an educator’s carefully curated digital toolbox. Tech should also play a vital role in making learning more accessible for all students. 

The edtech landscape is saturated with options. Identifying which tech best supports learning over the long term and is worth investing in at scale can be challenging–not to mention providing professional development to ensure effective implementation.

‘Identifying which tech best supports learning over the long term and is worth investing in at scale can be challenging–not to mention providing professional development to ensure effective implementation.’

Instructional and technology leaders are always looking at the cost benefit of tech purchases, evaluating potential risks of adoption, and surveying the horizon to try to keep pace with innovation. It’s a lot to juggle. 

Do you have any advice you can share to help education technology leaders?

Think of your trusted technology providers as an extension of your team. Given the rapid innovation that’s occurring across the tech landscape and the IT staffing shortages that so many education institutions experience, IT admins and innovation leaders should expect more from companies than just receiving what they’ve ordered. At Lenovo, we take a consultative approach to working with districts and universities. We want to problem solve with them and help build a roadmap that supports proactive and right size innovation.

Finally, what trend(s) are you the most excited about and/or think will have the largest impact on the edtech industry in the next 1-2 years?

It will come as no surprise that I’m going to nominate artificial intelligence. The use of generative AI to personalize learning and offload some of the productivity burden from educators will be game changing. But we also need to pay attention to how we’re developing students’ AI literacy and AI development skills.

‘…we also need to pay attention to how we’re developing students’ AI literacy and AI development skills.’

All industries will want workers that know how to use prompt engineering to get more and better work done. Our students should also have a basic understanding of how AI works and what responsible AI looks like. Equally pressing is the need to expand the pipeline of AI developers. Prior to the rise of generative AI, a gap existed between the number of needed and available skilled technology workers. That gap has only gotten larger in the past year. K-12 and higher education institutions have an important role to play in bridging that gap.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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