Sophia Mendoza, who began her career at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as a kindergarten student, is now director of the Instructional Technology Initiative where she oversees the implementation of instructional technology across the nation’s second-largest school district. Mendoza says it’s important to her to give back to the district that opened so many doors for her. She was recently named a NextGeneration Leader by EdScoop and CoSN, and a 2018 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning, an honor that recognizes her work in coordinating instructional technology initiatives across the 400 schools that comprise L.A. Unified.
The focus is on leading with instruction, Mendoza says. The shift has been less on the device as the catalyst and more towards pedagogy and lesson design enhanced with technology, with a new refreshed focus on personalized learning for the district’s 589,000 K–12 students. In addition to integration the K12 Computer Science Framework and the U.S. Department of Education’s National EdTech Plan, LAUSD was the first district in the nation to adopt the refreshed 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.
Partnerships are key as well, Mendoza says, and LAUSD has established key collaborations, for example, with Common Sense Media and Code.org. These partnerships support professional development efforts for teachers as they engage in leveraging technology to create a personalized learning environment for students. Other initiatives include a three-day series for principals and their leadership teams to set their instructional technology vision, which is key for a department that leads with instruction. They then return to their schools and share the information—including digital resources and practices grounded in pedagogy that teachers can use with students around various concepts included in the ISTE standards. But, Mendoza warns, the tools are never the focus, which is a lesson learned from the District’s past initiatives. Current priorities for the District’s instructional technology efforts center on expanding digital citizenship supports, creating access to computer science education for all students, and developing professional learning opportunities that cross-stitch digital tools and rigorous instructional practices.