Middle States Commissioner Alexis Torres is president of Forward Learning, an educational services company based in Puerto Rico that helps schools and learning centers integrate technology into their curriculum and training programs. He leads a team of 60 full-time employees and 150 contractors.
Torres joined Middle States as a commissioner in 2018. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Colgate University and an MBA from the University of Chicago. In addition to the U.S., Torres has studied in England, and Zambia. He currently resides in Puerto Rico.
How did you become involved with Middle States?
I became a commissioner in 2018 and it has been a great experience so far. Forward Learning is accredited by Middle States, and I always thought this was an important credential to have. I am excited about our new initiatives during this “Year of the Middle States Network.” I believe that Middle States has a bright future and I am pleased to see our growing community of international schools.
What do you see as one of the main benefits of Middle States accreditation?
The self-study. Developing a business or strategic plan is not something a business or school will always take the time to do unless it is required by an outside organization. I see great value in the self-study as an excellent strategic plan. At Forward Learning, the self-study has helped us to set and achieve a number of objectives. We are doing a better job of measuring student achievement. We have a big challenge in that our programs are spread across schools, and Middle States has helped us get a better grasp on measuring results.
How do you work with schools to incorporate technology into their K-12 curriculum?
In many of the schools where we operate, Forward Learning actually employs the teachers or facilitators that are delivering the technology education. Our facilitators are very good about integrating other more traditional subjects into their technology instruction in order to complement the lessons students are being exposed to in other classes. Otherwise, students may be excited about the bells and whistles of the technology but you miss an opportunity to deliver a subject lesson in math or science, for example.
Our teachers are also careful to give students ownership of a project, and empower them to complete work themselves so they can be proud of the product they come out with. A lot of the current work we do in schools is around video production, editing and podcasting.
How do you think about ChatGPT and other forms of generative Artificial Intelligence in the classroom? Do you think these technologies should be integrated into learning? If so, how?
Undoubtedly yes. The worst thing we can do is to ban the use of these tools because students are going to use them anyway. Our role is to make sure we teach students the proper uses, and what uses are not good, and the importance of giving credit and proper disclosure when appropriate. Obviously ChatGPT is an extremely powerful tool. It becomes even more important for us to teach students the proper use of the tool. We’ve done this with search engines, social media, and other technology that can lend itself to harm or misrepresentation. We should openly discuss the benefits and risks of using these tools. Plus, there will be new careers and work opportunities around these technologies. Some students may want to pursue a career in an emerging technology field like Artificial Intelligence.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
My father bought a 75-acre farm in the 1950s that I now manage. There are 300 fruit trees, including plantains, that need tending. I go there on weekends, get on the tractor and take care of the farm. I share some of the produce with my adult children who own two restaurants in San Juan, P.R.