KateLynn Swaney has a fabulous laugh and a quick mind—the combination could probably power a roomful of the computers she works with. As a member of the Ottawa District’s tech team, KateLynn is leading the way in helping teachers and students have stable access to quality tech, and to feel comfortable using it.
All About That Tech
KateLynn’s path to her current job was a bit unusual. She grew up in Seneca but got her first job at Culver’s in Ottawa. We look puzzled and ask, “THE Culver’s”? “Yes, the one and only,” KateLynn says. Home to the best-frozen custard, root beer, butter burgers,” and so much more.
While she worked at Culver’s they sponsored a lot of community fundraisers, often for local schools, and this put her in contact with the world of public education. Next, she worked in a daycare. And then, boom, she got this tech job with the school system.
When asked about this unusual transition and how she managed to make it without formal training, KateLynn laughs it off and says with pride that she taught herself. “You learn different skills while you’re in it,” she said. Now, four years into the work she is clearly still teaching herself (and others) new things every day. And that includes maneuvering through the pandemic years when the school suddenly switched to remote learning. From their planned goal of getting 1,000 iPads in the hands of students and teachers, that number jumped to 2,000. But they did it, and now every student–starting in pre-school–has an iPad for learning. She described the experience as “scary, but exciting!”
Much of KateLynn’s work these days is focused on helping teachers learn how to use and feel comfortable with tech, so that they can then do the same for their students. They have put a big priority on making sure that every single classroom has the exact same equipment and systems in place. That includes a big flatscreen TV in every room. This makes it easy for teachers to move seamlessly from one classroom to the next, and for teachers to help each other should problems arise. We note that what they are doing is in a sense “making the tech disappear,” so that teachers can focus on the curriculum. “Exactly!” KateLynn nods enthusiastically.
During the pandemic, student internet access was also thought through and addressed. Where needed, the school made sure that iPads came with a cellular account so that all children would have access to the same playing field. As for parents, most only question whether they have filters in place to prevent kids from seeing inappropriate content, and of course, they do. She assures us that the filters will help with that and some controls are already built into Google Classroom.
Offered a hypothetical “magic wand” for any future changes or goals: KateLynn doesn’t want to splash out on fancy new tech, instead she has the most humble of requests. She just wants to make everyone’s life a little easier. “Oh, and my boss wanted to be sure that I mentioned one thing: We’re launching a new website later this year!”