“We’ve yet to come to terms with what it means to have essentially the sum whole of human knowledge available to us at any time.”
Ben is the Assistant Superintendent for Innovative Learning and Communications in Community Consolidated School District 59. In 2014, Ben’s team was invited by President Obama to participate in the ConnectED initiative, an effort to assist school leaders in their transition to digital learning.
This November, Ben Grey will present at Spark, OETC’s one-day event featuring world-class talks on education, technology, and leadership.
In anticipation of this event, we conducted a brief personal interview with Ben. Read the full interview below!
Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Ben Grey, and I am the Assistant Superintendent for Innovative Learning and Communications at CCSD59 in Illinois. That’s a lot of words for saying I help provide leadership for the district’s focus on modern learning, the utilization of technology, and the district’s communications. Well, I guess the title is fewer words than the description of the work.
What is the best part of your job?
Working to create the best learning experience possible for students. By far.
What are your technology “must-haves”—the technology (hardware, software—whatever falls into your definition of the category) that you could not get through the day without?
It’s pretty tough to imagine life without my phone at this point. Even more so than my computer. Although, the computer is a close second. I rely pretty heavily on Trello to organize my work and my life, and I wish that I could say that I relied less on email than I still do.
What has been fairly fascinating to me over the last couple years is my interest in social exercise tracking platforms much more so than the social media standards. I use Strava to track my cycling, and it has been pretty incredible to watch the network and community that has developed around my use and engagement of that tool.
What made you want to return to Spark? What’s changed since you were here last?
Darren asked. When Darren asks, we say yes. We all know that rule. Along with that, I am always excited to share the work that our staff have accomplished. It’s usually more fun to share that with an audience that is as excited about it as I am like the ones at OETC events.
Quite a bit has changed in the space since I was last at Spark, and it has been fascinating to watch the learning landscape continue to change while the challenge of facilitating organizational and societal change has remained largely the same. It has also been interesting to observe how we continue to find it very difficult as a society to have thoughtful, productive conversations on social media about pretty much anything.
How did technology affect your own education? Is there anything you miss about technology at that time?
I spent a full quarter of my 8th grade year programming an Apple SE to draw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. And those words don’t do justice to how lame and nerdy it was. Both for the fact I chose to create Leonardo instead of Michelangelo and that it took me a full quarter to figure out how to do it. So, I don’t much miss that technology. It really wasn’t until after I was finished with school that the promise and reality of the internet democratized information. That I would have missed if it had been available. Is it ok to be nostalgic about something you never actually had access to?
What is your hope for the future of technology in education?
I hope we are able to find ways to allow technology to amplify human potential and agency in learning. While we are absolutely trying, we’ve yet to come to terms with what it means to have essentially the sum whole of human knowledge available to us at any time. We are not allowing that reality to free us from the more menial, rote exercises of learning and move to more cognitive complexity in education. And most importantly, I hope the future of technology in education means every child in our world has access to a high-quality, meaningful education as soon as possible.
To hear more of Ben Grey’s thoughts on the future of education, register for Spark 2018, OETC’s one-day event featuring world-class talks on education, technology, and leadership.