Tag Archives: School

4 Take Aways from ATLIS 2017

ATLIS logo.pngI returned from ATLIS 2017 last Wednesday invigorated and, to be honest, a little exhausted. It wasn’t just the time change (although that was a challenge in and of itself). Rather, it was from participating in so many robust and deep conversations with my peers, taking part in various presentations and workshops, and the depth and breadth of the conference in its entirety. I’ve taken a few days to reflect on the conference experience (one of the key tenants of the ATLIS mission). Here are some of the key take-aways I had as both a Tech Director and an Educator.

Coding & Computer Science are More Vital Than Ever

Coding and Computer Science have been primary topics in education for the past few decades. However, the significance of coding has become even more vital. Jaime Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google, kicked off the conference with a humorous but compelling keynote where he highlighted the need for young people to learn both Computer Science and Coding. Computer Science jobs are still both high in demand and well paying. He was also sure to point out that children can often learn coding on their own (with the self-directed software today). However, we as educators must prioritize the role of Computer Science (and not just of the AP kind) in becoming central to our educational priorities. This concept was further driven home in various sessions.

Doug Kiang of the Punahou School and Mary Radlhammer Kiang of St Andrew’s Priory led a deep dive session on Teaching Coding for the Non-Coding teacher.

Using some key techniques and incorporating games, they demonstrated how even non-coders (like myself) can incorporate coding into their curriculum.

Justin Curtis of the Bryn Mawr School discussed the challenges and rewards of building a robust K-12 Computer Science curriculum (still a rarity in the country that built the first home computers and developed the internet).

All of these hammered home to me that we need more computer science and coding in schools in the whole curriculum, not just a one off course in the Middle or High School.

Cyber-Security is More Important than Ever

With the rise of hacking and ransom-ware, institutions need to be more savvy about how they protect their systems and educate their community. Hospitals remain the number 1 target for attacks. However, schools (especially independent schools) are quickly catching up. As they are repositories of information (social security numbers, credit cards, names and address, etc), schools need to be especially vigilant about the security of their systems.

Denise Musselwhite of Trinity Preparatory School and Jamie Britto of Collegiate School led a deep dive into Cyber-security and Independent Schools. This was a robust look into security policies (like two factory authentication), training sessions, and phishing tests. It’s a precursor to their two day cyber-security workshop in Chicago this summer.

In addition to Denise and Jaime, other presenters led sessions on security, highlighting that cyber security and systems are a key element for Technology Directors around the country. Building systems and keeping them secure is an ongoing struggle as every upgrade brings new vulnerabilities and every day brings new potential attacks.

Equity in Education & Tech

Equity was a prominent topic this year. While equity is often on the forefront of public education, it is a concern for independent schools as well. What made this conversation unique, however, is that it was not just about equity for students, but for administrators as well.

As a woman in technology and education, I was especially struck by Renee Hawkins of Garrison Forrest and Jeff Dayton of Madeira School in their session on “What do Girls see in IT?”

Information Technology is a community within a school that can staffed entirely by men, even when many EdTech faculty are women. Disturbingly, the percentage of computing occupations held by women has been declining since 1991, while women who do enter the profession quit at a rate double that for men. What can schools do to counter the message that IT jobs such as network and systems administration are nearly exclusively masculine?

When I popped into this overflowing session room, I walked into a robust discussion about the role of women in technology and leadership. As someone who has solely operated in co-educational institutions, it was especially striking how male-dominated technology departments are – even in all-girls schools. How does that impact the next generation of young women and men?

In addition to gender, there were several sessions about equity and access. For example, Margie Llines and Rurik Nackerud tackled Equity in BYOD. Many schools with even the most robust scholarship and needs programs still do not include technology and access as a part of those packages! This is especially concerning when a school has a mandated BYOD program. I touched on this issue in my own blog post “Growing Number of Poor Americans are Phone Only Internet Users – What does that Mean for Education?

It is (or should be) About the Kids

The kind of Tech Directors you find at ATLIS are a little unique. We are the Tech Directors that don’t demand “lock it down” systems… in fact, we often rebel against them. ATLIS Tech Directors focus on what is ultimately best for the kids and education. It is always great and refreshing to see that be the focus once again. Whether it’s talking about coding and computer science, how to set up devices, equity and access, or how to support faculty, the center of the conversation was always “what is best for the kids and education?”

As an ATLIS Board Member, I am always excited to watch it grow and evolve. This year, the conference blew me away. I’m excited for the coming year as we develop more robust professional development opportunities, publish our first academic journal, and take technology at independent schools to the next level.

Inspiring & Supporting Innovation at Independent Schools at this year’s ATLIS



Courtesy of Pixabay

“Innovation” — there’s a reason it’s a provocative and powerful topic in the landscape of education. Public, Charter, and Independent Schools are all feeling the pressure from disruptive innovation as well as turning to innovative practices to solve curricular, financial, and recruitment woes. The reality is, we are living in an ever-shifting landscape. Traditional routes of career readiness are no longer reliable, previously “safe” jobs (think accountants, lawyers, and doctors) are now seeing job security fade away, and “traditional” schooling is coming under more scrutiny. The cost of university education is having many individuals rethink the options of pursuing higher education given the relatively flat career landscape facing them on graduation. As such, schools are now looking at innovative practice to help them solve these problems – how can they prepare their students for the jobs of the future (especially if we don’t know what those jobs are)? As a Technology Leader, I am often a part of conversations about innovation. This is not to say that innovation is all about technology, but radical innovation often encompasses employing new technologies. Innovation is challenging… it’s hard. Why? Because it necessitates culture shift and “organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner” — Peter Drucker.

Facing the challenges of innovation in my career and public life, I am especially excited about attending this year’s ATLIS conference in Los Angeles, California (April 24-26) as its theme is “Magic Magic Happen” and its focus is on innovation. I know that I will be inspired by the keynote speeches of Jaime Casap (Educational Evangelist) and Tim Fish (Chief Innovation Office of NAIS); both of them have worked with Independent Schools, helping them to innovate their curriculum and institutions. Looking at the posted schedule, I’m excited to learn more about innovative curriculum enhancements such as incorporating coding into the whole curriculum, implementing gamification, and creating new educational spaces, such as maker spaces in the library. Even better than learning about these initiatives, I’m especially excited to learn how to support them at my institution through transformative professional development and creating & fostering a culture of change.

This year’s ATLIS conference is the most exciting yet. If you are exploring innovative curriculum and technologies in your school, this is the year to attend! You can still register on the ATLIS website.


The Night Before the First Day of School

1186007_10100384508014834_1282121961_nTomorrow is the first day of school. While the focus of the first day is often on the students, for teachers this is also an exciting time. We have some of the same considerations – what will our classes be like, how will the year progress, will we be successful or struggle… It is always an exciting time.

For me, tomorrow isn’t just the start of the new school year, I am beginning at a fresh school in an untested position. While I have been at Ransom Everglades School as their Director of Educational Technology for “officially” six weeks, I have been working with the faculty for only one and tomorrow I will be meeting the students. I feel like it’s the night before 7th grade all over again!

Today, I went to a local restaurant for breakfast and to work on my syllabus and lesson plans for the week. I felt pretty good when I finished. On the walk home, I got caught in a torrential downpour – the kind that prop up in South Florida without warning. I looked like a drowned-rat. Let’s hope that this is not a foreboding sign of what’s to come… 😉

The Learning Institute Project Day 2 – Digital Storytelling

This is day 2 at the Learning Institute at the American School of London led by the esteemed Leah Treesh. Our big project of the last couple of days has been Digital Storytelling. Now, I had heard of digital storytelling, and played with a few examples but had never really sat down and played with it. I’m so glad that I got the opportunity to do so because there’s a lot of cool stuff that I plan to implement in the next academic year!

The goal of digital storytelling, at least broadly (teachers will need to develop their own immediate and focused goals), is to enable story to use images, text, video, audio, etc to present a topic or idea. It allows for greater creativity and, from the experience in class, focus and investment. It’s a lot more engaging than a simple oral report and combats my problem with students giving PowerPoints presentations (they all want to write their report on the slides). We were given a step-by-step process (I’ll go over it here) that you can tweak for individual needs. I’ll even put in here my finished product.

The overall step-by-step process was published by the University of Houston’s Digital Storytelling webpage (a great resource and tool – if you’re interested at all in Digital Storytelling, this should be your first step).

Part One: Define, Collect, Decide

  1. Select a topic for your digital story
  2. Begin thinking of the purpose of your story – are you answering a question? provoking a response? informing your audience? etc.
  3. Create a folder in your documents in which to store, text, pictures, video, etc.
  4. Start locating resources such as music, photos, text, etc.

I decided to specifically choose and write a project that is directly related to my course content. Leah Treesh brilliantly suggested that we build our projects around an existing lesson plan and then we could use it as a demonstration to our students for what we are looking for in their projects. Since I will be teaching U.S. History again this Fall, I decided that I would adapt my lesson plan on Civil War Battles and focused specifically on the Battle of Gettysburg. Instead of having my students do an oral presentation (with PowerPoint or other visual aid) on a battle of the Civil War, I will have them present a Digital Story along this model.

I then proceeded to collect a number of resources, images, audio, etc. To ensure that there wasn’t a copyright issue, I used a website called Creative Commons. This website searches for license free (or educational license) content, to ensure that copyright is not violated. Being the Battle of Gettysburg, and the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, there was a lot  of material available – photos, videos, music, and more (all at a professional level) for free! It was very cool.

Part Two: Decide, Select, Import, Create

  1. Decide on the purpose and point of view of your video.
  2. Select Select the images you would like to use (you may want to edit them)
  3. Select the audio you would like to you.
  4. Select the content and text you would like to use for your digital story.
  5. Modify number of images and/or image order, if necessary.

The way that we did this was with story-boarding. Apple’s Pages actually has a story-board template. However, you can easily use Keynote or PowerPoint to the same purpose. Because I didn’t have access to pages on my loaner computer, I wrote a story-board (think of it as an outline with pictures) using Keynote.

A quick shot of my story-board

It essentially serves the same purpose as an outline for an essay and ultimately can be tweaked and changed. I moved the order around in mine and completely removed the reference to Vicksburg. I also, when seeing how the timing worked, put in a few additional photos.

Part Three: Write, Import, Record, Finalize

  1. Write a scrip that you will use for the narration in your digital story.
  2. Import images into your chosen application (e.g. GarageBand, iMovie, Keynote, PowerPoint, JayCut)
  3. Use your microphone (many computers already have it built in) and record the narration of your script.
  4. Finalize your digital story and then save it in the appropriate format (hint – you can even upload it onto YouTube to share!).

I took about an hour or so to write up my script. I’ll attach a copy of it here: The Battle of Gettysburg Script. If you want to read it, it’s a simple Word document. If I had had a little more time, I would have spent more energy editing it and likely given a copy to a friend or colleague for review. Still, not bad considering the time constraints.

I then used iMovie (yay for loaner-Macs) to make the final product. I find it a lot easier to use and it present a much more professional looking final product. Most of my colleagues that used iMovie for the first time found it very easy to adopt-to and the process itself wasn’t overwhelmingly time-consuming or cumbersome. Others in the group used PowerPoint or JayCut – but the process there was less straight-forward. Clearly, your actual creation process is dependent on the software you elect to use. However, thanks to intuitive modern software, google, and patient friends, most of us can make a pretty solid product with little investment and a shallow learning curve.

Part Four: Demonstrate, Evaluate, Replicate

  1. Show your digital story to your colleagues.
  2. Using a rubric, gather feedback about how the story could be improved, expanded, and used in your classroom.
  3. Teach your students how to create their own digital story.
  4. Congratulate yourself for a job well done!

When we all finished, we then took turns showing our presentations. As we’re all at different divisional levels and have various responsibilities (e.g. administrators, educators, tech people, etc), we all had different topics and presentations. The level of creativity in the room was amazing!

We had a sample rubric that we used that had been developed by UMass (and readily adaptable to every classroom). Another great rubric developer, also free for teachers is Rubistar.

So, here is my finished product. It’s not too bad (although I can still think of ways I could improve – especially the sound). Still, I was pretty happy with how it turned out and think it will be a great resource in my classroom and am excited to see what my students come up with.

I thought I would also include a video created by my friend and colleague Jane Cooper who not only made her first video, but did it her first time using a Mac computer!

You should also check out Karen Arrington’s blog, where she highlights her experience.