Features

Evan OBranovic – Traverse City Area Public Schools

Leading the charge for technology standardization

In today’s fast-paced world, technology plays a crucial role in education, providing students with the tools and resources they need to thrive in the digital age.

Evan OBranovic, the executive director of technology for Traverse City Area Public Schools, understands the importance of standardizing technology across the district and ensuring equal access for all students. With his extensive background in education and technology, OBranovic is leading the charge to bridge the gap and create a level playing field for students in TCAPS.

Evan OBranovic | Executive Director of Technology | Traverse City Area Public Schools

Evan OBranovic | Executive Director of Technology | Traverse City Area Public Schools

“Right now, there are different types of technology in different classrooms throughout our district,” OBranovic says. “We’re assessing our needs and ensuring our school community has the highest quality technology and what is needed to make a difference in the classroom.”

TCAPS is the largest school district in northwestern Michigan and serves over 9,000 students across 300 square miles of Grand Traverse, Benzie and Leelanau counties. The district includes 11 elementary schools, two middle schools, three high schools and several preschool classrooms.

Whether listening to feedback from teachers, students or parents, one thing is clear. OBranovic and his team are committed to ensuring equal access to technology and education across TCAPS. OBranovic emphasizes the need for a standardized approach to technology adoption and usage to ensure consistency and reliability in the classroom.

A modern education experience

One of the primary motivations for standardization is to address the disparity in access to technology across TCAPS’ 17 schools, which span a large geographic area. OBranovic believes that if the curriculum and educational standards are consistent throughout the district, the technology and mediums used should also be uniform.

While TCAPS is currently a Chromebook district, OBranovic is exploring the possibility of introducing different devices to better meet the needs of students and teachers. This process involves carefully considering how different technologies can work together effectively in the classroom.

As part of the standardization efforts, OBranovic is piloting various technologies and solutions in seven classrooms throughout the district. These pilots test different display options, such as short-throw projectors and touch panels. Sound systems, including voice lift systems for teachers, are also being evaluated to enhance adaptive technology and improve classroom communication. Additionally, OBranovic is exploring wireless capabilities and mobility for teachers, as well as creating collaborative spaces and leveraging document cameras for elementary school classrooms.

Evan OBranovic | Executive Director of Technology | Traverse City Area Public Schools

Despite the challenges and costs associated with implementing a standardized approach, OBranovic believes it is a necessary investment for TCAPS. The district’s future success depends on setting a high standard for technology integration and demonstrating to the community that equal access and reliable technology are a priority. This vision aligns with a new bond proposal on the ballot in November 2024, which would provide the funding needed to bring these standardization plans to fruition.

“To put the high-quality components in place throughout the district, we are going to need to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 per room, and with over 200 classroom spaces, that equals a significant investment to bring everything up to par that isn’t typically accounted for in general fund allotments,” OBranovic says. “Not only is there initial cost, but a need to account for replacement and update costs down the road to keep up with the fast pace of technological evolutions.”

Challenges and changes

The days of teachers writing on chalkboards and using overhead projectors as part of their instruction are long gone. A modern classroom should be outfitted with the best technology, including high-speed internet, large touchscreen displays and an audio/video system that allows each student the same opportunity to learn no matter where they sit in the classroom.

“Students should be able to hear the teacher clearly wherever the teacher is in the room and wherever the student is sitting, and we’re upgrading our audio capabilities to ensure that happens,” OBranovic says.

Beyond standardization, OBranovic recognizes the growing influence of artificial intelligence in education. While acknowledging the potential of AI as a powerful tool, he also emphasizes the need for careful consideration and ethical implementation.

Evan OBranovic | Executive Director of Technology | Traverse City Area Public Schools

“The conversations surrounding AI in education must address how it fundamentally changes teaching practices and how it can be utilized to foster innovation,” he says. “Preparing students for the realities of AI and ensuring they have the skills and knowledge to navigate this evolving landscape is paramount.”

OBranovic acknowledges the need for collaboration and dialogue to implement these transformative changes successfully. He actively engages with teachers to address their concerns, provide support and build relationships. With the help of his dedicated EdTech team, he focuses on understanding the perspectives of teachers and technology experts to bridge the gap and break through barriers.

“I believe my teaching background and credibility in the field have proven invaluable in facilitating effective communication between both sides,” he notes.

Helping students with tech

OBranovic’s journey to his current position is marked by a strong educational foundation because he felt he had a knack for teaching. He earned his undergraduate degree in elementary education from Michigan State University and later pursued a master’s degree in educational technology from the same institution.

He started his career as a fourth-grade teacher in Aspen, Colorado, gaining valuable experience in the classroom for six years. Following this, he served as a technology integration specialist for five years, where he honed his expertise in educational technology.

“I loved teaching and had a knack for it, but I had an opportunity to take on an ed-tech coaching position, and I haven’t looked back,” OBranovic says. “But a long-term career in educational technology was not my original plan.”

In Colorado, OBranovic worked in a district with three schools, so moving to a 17-school district in Traverse City was a big jump. But he has found his footing and has earned the credibility and trust of people across the district, including the technology folks and the teachers.

With a 25-person team in his department, OBranovic says he has found a place where he is comfortable and able to make significant change.

“Despite growing up in Michigan, I had never been to Traverse City before I got this job,” OBranovic says. “But now it feels like home.”

View this feature in the Winter I 2024 Edition here.

Published on: January 3, 2024

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