John Long | School District of Palm Beach County

Name: John Long (iPad pilot project | eMobilize project | Tech Ambassador Program)
Organization: School District of Palm Beach County
Current title: Technology Program Specialist
Selected accolades: 2003 Apple Distinguished Educator, 2008 Finalist Tech & Learning Leader of the Year, 2007 EMA Outstanding Service to Media Award, Dwyer Award nominee



Is there a clear message that you’d like to communicate with readers?

Just because a teacher can use technology does not mean they know how to teach with it. Just because a student can use technology does not mean they know how to learn with it.

Some people focus on student achievement. I focus on teacher and student learning, because when they learn they achieve.

The best method of professional development is through the role of coaching and modeling. Spending time listening, developing, and modeling. Teachers then can see the vision of how technology can impact students. The students then learn that technology is a great tool for learning.


What skill(s) do you feel are most important for today’s students to explore in academic settings (tech or non-tech related)?

  • They need to know how to learn
    • Access information
    • Analyze information
    • Apply information accordingly
  • They need to know how to communicate effectively
    • Writing
    • Verbally
    • Presentations
  • They need to know how to collaborate
  • They need to know how manage their time
  • They need to know how to learn how to adapt to change


What is the best part of your job?

I get to empower teachers and enable students.


Your job clearly has far reaching implications for teachers and students in your district, as a result of years of experience and success. What was the path to your current position?

I have always worked with computers since I was a kid. I started by teaching music at a inner city school in West Palm Beach. During the years I was a music teacher, my principal asked me to take a position in the after-school program teaching technology in the lab. At that time, the school had a lab of twenty IBM Model 25 computer stations running DOS. I realized then that when students are guided and focused they really love learning with technology.

I spent the next several years researching educational technology. I spent time with my principal sharing how we could use it to improve instruction and learning. I started visiting other schools and districts on how they use technology. I found some great learning resources from Apple and found the money to purchase them.  Soon enough, I became the technology coordinator for my school, beyond my regular job of teaching music to 1,000 students.

I learned how to write grants while at this school. In my last years at that school, I had written over $1.2 million dollars worth of grants for six schools. As technology coordinator, I worked with teachers modeling technology for them and working as a coach to facilitate technology projects. My fondest memories are teaching thirty students music and then, while they were singing, working with a small group of students on their multimedia projects. I would squeeze in phone conferences with foundation coordinators and negotiate budgets in-between my classes.

After twelve years, I decided I needed to make a change and work at the district level – we now have 106 elementary schools. My department provides hundreds of workshops but  teachers were never quite satisfied and always wanted to know how they could use these tools in their classrooms.

I worked with one of my colleagues to develop an academy where teachers would have the opportunity of integrating technology as they learned. The academy would build a foundation and then build the technology around the curriculum. Teacher projects were developed from prior knowledge of other technologies and learning was happening naturally. Over two months, participants would learn a concept, brainstorm on how to use it, then go back to their classrooms and integrate it. Participants would have the opportunity to come back to the workshops and discuss the outcomes.

My colleagues asked me to carry this model to multimedia, so we developed the Digital Storytelling Academy where learning became a story. Teachers and students explain how they learn through storytelling. Purchasing equipment for this Academy became available from excess capital funds.  $300,000 purchased an iMac, digital camcorder, camera, and other equipment as a bundle for 167 schools. Each school elected one or more people to attend the Academy and earn the equipment for their school.

In order to train that many people, I had to develop a cadre of trainers/ coaches. This group became the MOD Squad (Multimedia on Demand). I am a firm believer that you cannot just purchase technology and expect people to use it. It has to be tied to ongoing, quality professional development.

In two years, we trained over 345 teachers (on twenty-five Saturdays) and gave out 142 bundles of equipment to the participants that completed two project courses.  Around this time, the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) had provisions for technology called Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT). My manager came to me to ask how we could accomplish a technology mentoring program for our 106 elementary schools. I proposed the Tech Ambassador program.

In the Tech Ambassador program, I viewed the 106 schools like countries and teachers were the Ambassadors, sort of like the United Nations. We would work with the ambassadors to make sure the schools knew of the district technology standards, integrated the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS), integrated technology into their curriculum, and developed new technologies for the classrooms of this District. The MOD Squad would become their coaches.

This program was started in 2004 and continues to this day with over 500 teachers that have or are still participating. Currently there are 207 teachers in the program representing 108 public, charter, and private schools. The program has developed over the years to help meet the needs of the participants. It now has five tracks to support the users:

Endeavor Track – This track is designed to orientate new members to the program through providing a foundation for the technology and paradigm for this program.
Envision Track – This track is designed to develop the technology integration skills for Tech Ambassadors.
Emulate Track – This track is designed to focus on infusing technology into their curriculum on a day by day basis.
Embrace Track – This track is designed to focus on providing more student access in their digital classroom.
Curriculum Endeavor – This track is designed for resource teachers, specialist, and program planners to integrate technology into their professional development for their projects.

Tech Ambassadors has evolved of the past eight years to other projects like Project SMaRT developed by my colleague Teresa Wing and now managed by John Shoemaker. This project focuses on 75 secondary schools in  this district. I have also developed other programs like Team TLC (Technology + Leadership + Collaboration) for media specialist to transform the media centers into the digital hub of the school center.

In the past two years, we have created a future track of Tech Ambassadors called eMobilize which is developing the next generation classroom of hybrid labs with iPads and MacBooks. This group will develop professional development plans to enable teachers to move to a mobile learning environment.

In twenty-fours years, my job continues to grow as technology needs to align with curriculum. I continue to work with teachers and students modeling technology and with schools on curriculum alignment and deployment.

Sites that document John’s projects:

4 thoughts on “John Long | School District of Palm Beach County

  1. I’ve been proud of my nephew a long time and now I have the details with which to brag more accurately. But you didn’t mention how many times you’ve pulled me out of “the IT ditch.

  2. Pingback: The Apple iPad will not save your school | Technology with Intention

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