Director of Technology
Azusa Unified School District
Only a person like Bob Blackney, who loves change, would voluntarily move grade levels for 12 years, roving from Kindergarten through high school, and teaching everything from remedial reading to physics. Bob’s reputation for learning new things made him the recipient of his school’s first Apple computer, back in 1975. As Bob recalls, “No one knew what to do with it, so the principal put it in my room and just assumed that I would figure it out.”
While Bob learned how to use that first Apple, he’s hardly an evangelist when it comes to using technology in the classroom. He has worked for over 35 years to build his understanding of how to use technology to improve education, and sees it as an essential element of learning in the 21st century—if used correctly. “I firmly believe that technology is not about machines, but rather about access to information and communication,” he insists. “It’s a tool, like any other tool, and sometimes it’s the right tool for teaching, and sometimes it’s not.”
As the Director of Technology for Placentia-Yorba Linda School District, Blackney utilizes all of his classroom teaching experience, along with his deep understanding of technology, to support both the district and the schools with efforts to improve teaching and learning. His job spans both operational technology support at the district office—student information management, business and accounting—and school-level support for both technology and curriculum and instruction. In this broad role, Bob has had a chance to use professional development and coaching to help people utilize technology more effectively. One of his mottos is: ‘You can change technology a lot faster than you can change people,’ and he focuses the human response to technology, rather than on the software and hardware alone.
For example, he implemented a workshop for district staff on the program PowerPoint, called “Powerpointless,” which demonstrated the misuses of this popular program and explained exactly how it might be used to improve communication. “This was a big breakthrough for the district staff,” Bob remembers. “They had been sitting through horrible screens of endless text without knowing what to do. Now they use PowerPoint much more productively, and have found better ways to communicate.” As the former director of a model technology school, and in his current role as an II-USP evaluator with ACSA, Blackney has developed a wide array of workshops and presentations that he has used with schools and districts across California.
While his job keeps him busy and frequently on the road, traveling with his family is his biggest priority. In the past two years, they have visited China and Costa Rica, and in summer 2007 they are going to Africa. “Other families have fancy cars and houses,” says Blackney, “but our trips give us wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.”