As a superintendent with over 30 years of experience in education, Roberto Salinas has seen the transformative effects of technology in both the classroom and at the district level. He has taken two of his districts from “dial-up” to high speed Internet connections, and hired the right staff to make sure that the networks would be available to support the district’s curriculum and support programs. Roberto has also been an active grant writer and fundraiser for technology projects.
While working as a teacher’s aide to earn money to complete his undergraduate degree at CSU Bakersfield, Roberto was experienced the joys of “punch card” computer programming as his first encounter with technology. Since then, Roberto has come to believe that fear of failure is the biggest barrier that holds most adults from learning about technology. “Back in my college days, computers were primitive and complicated, but we all worked hard to figure things out,” Roberto recalls. “Today, as superintendent, I strive to model for staff and students that technology can be simple to access, it just takes the time to learn it.” Without a formal background in computers, Roberto has utilized on the job training to get up to speed on technology. And like many of his generational peers, Roberto is not shy about calling on his technology-savvy children to help when he gets frustrated with a new program or piece of equipment.
In his role as Superintendent of Dixon Unified School District, Roberto had a chance to integrate his yen for technology into a wide variety of district programs and initiatives. Technology has been particularly instrumental in the district’s efforts to use data-driving decision making to improve curriculum and instruction. “Crunching data to determine the right decisions is a crucial piece of our administrative program, and the right technology is an important aspect of this process,” Roberto notes.
In October 2007, Roberto was named Executive Director of the Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative at the California Deparment of Education.
Roberto sees technology as a powerful teaching tool that can help teachers tap into the wide variety of ways that students learn, including tactile and visual modalities. However, he also believes, without the right professional development, technology cannot reach its full potential. As he has seen in his own experience, both in the classroom and with his family, kids are eager learners when it comes to computers, but adults tend to shy away from the unknown.
While his free time is fairly constrained by such a demanding job, Roberto never misses a chance to travel. When it comes to his penchant for participation in athletics, his wife, who is a kindergarten teacher, is fond of saying, “If it is round and bounces, he’ll be there!” One of his passions is softball and his current team, the Black Hawks, will participate in the Tournament of Champions in Florida this spring.