Shannon Genie Elizabeth Parks, Ph.D.
Dr. Shannon Parks is currently the Director of the Alabama Learning Exchange [ALEX], Alabama’s national award-winning state education web portal. ALEX received the prestigious “Best of the Web” award from the Center for Digital Education for multiple and consecutive years. ALEX hosts a rich repository of educational interactives and resources (over 60,000) linked to state standards, and 21st Century communications tools. She is fortunate to work with the creative and multi-talented ALEX Team (9 members) who are jointly responsible for success of the web portal. Through a unique partnership with Thinkfinity.org, the web portal is used by teachers, students, parents, and school leaders from Alabama and across the globe. ALEX logs in over 1,000,000 unique visitors per year.
The ALEX Team developed the Girls Engaged in Math and Science University (GEMS-U) Program in 2009 to encourage minority, rural, and disadvantaged girls to develop an interest and capacity to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. By special request, in 2009, the new GEMS-U Program, resulting from the pilot project (developed in 2008), was presented by Dr. Parks at the U.S. Senate, with Senator Harry Reid presiding. The GEMS-U program was also presented by request at the national State Education Technology Director’s Association in Washington D.C., as well as at the National Science Teacher’s Association Conference, where Dr. Parks co-presented the ALEX and GEMS-U Programs as a featured keynote speaker in 2009. In 2011, Dr. Parks was interviewed about the statewide rollout of the GEMS-U Program by APT’s host, Rhonda Colvin, aired during “Spotlight on Education.”
A statewide Train the Trainer program for ALEX (A.C.E., or ALEX Certification of Excellence) is currently being implemented that provides training around six (6) module topics. This training, based upon Project Based Professional Development, will help teachers engage and teach all learners using 21st C. tools and techniques. Through the Governor’s iChallenge project, Alabama’s students and teachers are encouraged to develop and submit podcasts to ALEX’s podcast treasury, gallery 360. Many of these podcasts are, in turn, shared with the Apple iTunes U International site through a contractual partnership.
Dr. Parks also co-authors the State Technology Initiatives Technology Report, which is a thorough evaluation of the use of technology in Alabama’s schools. This report is presented to the Alabama Board of Education every two years. This extensive report represents a culmination of data gathered statewide from teachers, principals, district technology coordinators, parents, and students. Data is then sorted, arrayed, and narrative written that highlights key findings of technology presence and use in every district in Alabama.
In 1998, the Alabama Department of Education engaged in restructuring the work of the department. Through this process, ten (10) teams were created to provide seamless, full service to assigned regions. Each team was comprised of one member from each section at the state department. Dr. Parks, along with a number of other employees, was interviewed to serve as a Team Leader. She served in this capacity from 1998 to 2002, when a new Superintendent was selected, and the teams were discontinued.
During her tenure with the state department, Dr. Parks directed the Bellsouth Grant, Delta³, which funded training and web resources for Alabama Colleges of Education faculty. This project, along with 13 others, was selected for funding out of over 400 applications. From 2000-2004, she directed a $3.2 million statewide federal catalyst grant, Alabama’s Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (AlaPT³), which she authored in spring, 2000. As AlaPT³’s Director, she was responsible for providing overall direction and leadership for the administration of the grant; overseeing the budget; designing and procuring contracts for state approval; serving as the official contact for business leaders and School of Education Deans; providing the vision for achievement of the grant goals; submitting bi-annual progress reports to the United States Department of Education; presenting grant products and services at state and national conferences; approving all research, communications, and documents associated with the grant; and overseeing the work of the six staff members. In 2003, the AlaPT³ Team created a new infrastructure for the Schools of Education to provide technology curriculum, leadership, and policy-development through the BellSouth-funded DELTA³ Consortium. This Consortium was comprised of twenty-nine (29) Schools of Education in Alabama.
Dr. Parks authored Alabama’s $2.4 million Gates grant and was responsible for development and implementation of all facets of the instructional leadership technology curriculum. The name of the training program was the “Alabama Renaissance Academy for School Leaders.” Hannis Roberts was recruited from Federal Programs to Technology Initiatives to manage this very successful grant.
In October, 2003, the AlaPT³ Team won the Alabama Quality Award for Team Excellence, an award based upon the highly competitive Baldrige Award, and as such, uses the Baldrige criteria to gauge each team’s project quality. Team awards are from a variety of sectors including business, and education. The ALEX Team won the National Center for Digital Education’s “Best of the Web” Award for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011. In 2009, Dr. Parks was honored to receive the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), “Making it Happen Award” presented by the Alabama Educational Technology Association, an ISTE subsidiary, statewide organization comprised of Alabama’s Technology Coordinators.
Since 2000, Dr. Parks has reviewed and approved federal grants submitted primarily by fifteen (15) K-12 School Districts for the Alabama Department of Education. Other duties include providing technical assistance to School Districts to write grants and technology plans. Dr Parks also develops statewide publications and provides leadership for state technology plan and federal grant guideline development. She is responsible for coordinating the development of policies that become law in the area of technology. For example, she has spearheaded, through the work of AlaPT3, the development and subsequent approval by the State Board of Education College of Education and K-12 Technology Standards for both teachers and administrators. She also worked with her team to lead the process to place these standards within Alabama’s statewide education personnel evaluation process. These policies were transferred into code, and, as such, were required to be implemented by every district in the state.
Dr. Parks was originally hired by the Alabama Department of Education, Office of Professional Development, in 1995 to direct professional development programs for Alabama’s superintendents, central office staff, principals, and assistant principals. When that office was combined with Curriculum and Instruction in 1996, Dr. Parks worked in Classroom Improvement, and was responsible for technology and school leader professional development until she transferred to Technology Initiatives in 1996. She currently works in the Office of Technology Initiatives and is a Merited employee.
Before coming to the State Department, she was a research graduate assistant at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where, in 1995, she obtained a Ph.D. in Leadership with cognates in Technology, Curriculum Development, and Counseling. Dr. Parks taught Education Administration graduate level classes during her graduate assistantship. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing & Merchandising as well as Elementary Education, with certification in Science Education (K-8), a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and Administration and Supervision (K-12), and an Educational Specialist Degree. She has served as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal in public schools in Alabama. As a teacher, Dr. Parks taught primarily Math and Science classes, and consulted in these curricular areas through the Auburn Regional Inservice Center.