“I’m looking forward to not having a normal year. I’m hoping that our school districts will think about their time during the pandemic and think about what worked.”
That’s the wish of Diane Doersch, senior director of Information Technology at Digital Promise, an independent nonprofit organization committed to sparking innovation in education and a featured speaker at FETC© 2023 in January.
Doersch was also the Director of Technology for Verizon Innovative Learning, a partnership that equips students with a mobile device, a four-year data plan and, for those without home internet access, a mobile hotspot.
Having spent most of her career in the classroom teaching both elementary students and computer applications for middle schoolers for the Neenah Joint School District in Wisconsin, Doersch learned the importance of getting kids involved in technology early on.
“I started teaching even before the internet came along,” she says. “Then we had things like Number Munchers and Odell Lake… Oregon Trail and all those things. I saw, even way back then, the power of technology for students. The way kids could have differentiated learning experiences due to the internet and the motivation that information could come to them in different ways really intrigued me.”
She says her students wanted to give up recess and even stay after school to play Oregon Trail. “It was gamified even before gamification was a thing,” she added.
Doersch foresaw that such technology would spur innovation in education. But to her, the power of technology reaches far beyond the classroom. Once the internet was launched, she and her students worked with senior citizens at their local senior citizen centers to teach them about technology. “Technology is just technology. But it’s the relationships that you can build out of it that I think just really made an impression on me,” she says.
Throughout her career, Doersch has focused on empowering leaders and women in edtech. She is the chair-elect for CoSN, an organization that supports education technology leaders, and serves as the president of Women in Technology Wisconsin.
“I always felt that in order to get women into the field of technology, we need to start early,” she says. “When I was asked to be part of Women in Technology, I asked if I could lead a group that helps get young women interested in the field.”
Looking ahead to FETC© 2023, she plans to speak on the importance of diversity and inclusivity in education technology. “Inclusion is very important in all aspects of education,” she says. “Being a female, as well as a person of color, in IT leadership there are not many of me. How can I help build future edtech leaders, in particular women and people of color?”
Doersch is eager to share her experiences throughout her career and hopes she can be an example for others wanting to forge a path in IT leadership. “I try to use that experience to show that, number one anybody can do it,” she says. “I’m not particularly gifted in this or that. I just have the passion to make sure that we’re delivering the best technology to the students and teachers that we have in an inclusive way.”
She adds that she wants those attending the conference to be able to learn something new to take back to their districts.
As districts across the country enter what they hope is a “normal” school year, Doersch challenges leaders to embrace any successful technology practices they adopted during the pandemic and consider using them permanently. “Is providing a device to every one of your students and having access for them at home something that is beneficial to education?” she asks. “If so, why should we pitch that and put all those laptops back into carts?”
As the new school year gets underway, Doersch is excited to help leaders in their efforts to foster inclusivity and equity. “I look forward to supporting our leaders as they move toward more diversity, equity and inclusion in providing devices to their students and making and building their technology teams,” she says, “as well as sitting at the superintendents’ table and talking about why we need to be more inclusive throughout the school district.”