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Meet Dublin Unified School District CTO Traci Bonde – Taking Ed Tech Forward

February 29, 2016

DSC_0760DUBLIN, CA–Imagine this household scenario from a mere 10 years ago. An entire family would be sharing a single personal computer. Internet access could be a bit “choppy.” And a cell phone would be most useful for just making phone calls. Today, a household may be running anywhere from five to seven devices that require WiFi and supplementary power. Most people are utilizing their smart phones to conduct commerce, research and their social lives. While this may seem like an extreme comparison, it is a simple reminder of how much are lives have been impacted/improved by technology. And, what will the next ten years provide?

While technological advances in business are typically at the forefront, the academic environment is frequently not that far behind. While we want our young people to have as much access as possible, society often demands that we provide them with as many protections from potential harm. Equally relevant is how the roles of technology management have evolved within school districts. A decade ago, a Director of Information Technology would function unseen and “behind the wall” to serve the organization’s needs. Today, that role has evolved into a much more visible role. Even the title has changed to Chief Technology Officer. Just over a year ago, the Dublin Unified School District approved the changes to this function and ultimately hired Ms. Traci Bonde. Traci possesses the unique combination of studying Special Education as a younger student and then developing a successful career in technology. Ultimately, she attained a B.A. in Political Science and then she completed a M.A. in Management and Organizational Development from John F. Kennedy University. recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Bonde and she shared her thoughts on her current role. Coming from your previous position and into the role of Chief Technology Officer for DUSD, you described your professional background as a “natural fit” between education and technology.  Please explain. 

Traci Bonde: “While going to college I worked for Boys and Girls Clubs of America for four years as a program Coordinator manage a Mac lab. I worked in non-public high school for two years as a small group and art teacher. I taught at a multi media college and was an associate director for two years. When I entered the corporate arena, I worked as a trainer and a senior website producer for four years. All of these positions let me back to schools as an Ed Technology Coordinator in 2003.  In every position, I have created program, designed curriculum, and led training and/or direct classroom instruction. From the early stages of overseen Oregon Trail in an afterschool program to currently supporting a district of 10,000 students with full technology integration. The journey has been a clear blend of a focus on systems design and technology use.” The topic of “Digital Citizenship” is a rather large one, so we will take on one segment.  Because of the ubiquity of gaining online access in nearly any environment, how does having a safe online experience differ from when students are on campus versus the moment that they leave their respective schools?

DSC_0764Bonde: “I believe a full community approach to digital citizenship is critical in this era. In classrooms at schools, our students are protected with robust content filtering while accessing online resources. When our students use their own devices, and or, leave schools for the day, they can take their skill set and commonsense approach to safe search practices into the home. Our approach with digital citizenship in Dublin Unified moving forward will be that it is a conversation that is wrapped around specific tasks and curriculum on a daily basis.”

“As an example, digital citizenship is not a check item that occurs at the beginning of setting up the school year with students in your classroom. Rather, when I am introducing my first research paper in my classroom, I should cover plagiarism copyright and best practices around research. That is a far more natural approach to digital citizenship then showing a video and having an uncomfortable conversation at the beginning of the school year.  We have created our curriculum to be just that. At home the conversation should be very much the same, if your child wants to participate in an online gaming platform your conversation with your child should be around what is appropriate – what are the triggers that will encourage your child to understand stranger danger.  If your child wants to participate in a new app that is being used with friends at school, looking at the app together and establishing the login algorithm and the parameters around that app are no different than reading a movie review and determining if your child can go to that movie with a friend on a Sunday afternoon.” As a parent, please share your personal philosophy as it relates specifically to which sites your children explore, building safeguards and developing mutual trust.

Bonde: “My philosophy with my 10 and 14-year-old at home is to be mindful that not everything they see and read online is honest and or real. My guidelines around apps and websites and YouTube follow the same guidelines. I do not allow either of my kids to participate in online chat communities nor do I allow them onto platforms that are built specifically for adults, like Facebook. I do not do this by fear of them seeing something inappropriate as much as I do this to protect them from cyberbullying and online predators.  My 10-year-old is an advanced Minecraft user. He participates in vanilla chat rooms only. Family friendly servers that I have evaluated and vetted online are permitted. I do not allow him to connect to a new server until I have a valuated it from a safety perspective.”  Partially because of the internet, the world is changing at a break-neck pace.  However, there are still some lessons from 40 years ago that still hold up today.  In the same way that you’d want kids to look both ways before crossing the street, we may have similar advice for them for their online activities.  How can a parent/guardian approach that conversation?

Bonde: “I treat online environments, apps, and digital citizenship methodology very much like doing a sleepover with friends. I asked them to have good manners went online, never say anything online you wouldn’t say to somebody’s face, and always report anything that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  Our children have the same built-in security mechanisms that adults have.”

As we proposed in the initial stages of this story, the only constant is change. So, the omnipresent challenge is to continually move with the changes in a way that will benefit our students in the best and safest way. would like to thank CTO Traci Bonde for sharing her thoughts – both as a technology professional and as a parent. Ms. Bonde can also be followed on Twitter @tr_bo.

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