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Returning to Normal: What "Back to School" Really Means

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With the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdowns, schools and districts scrambled to adapt to a monumental, nationwide crisis. Now, a year later, many schools are reopening their doors, and need to prepare to face new challenges. How can the technology acquisitions in response to the pandemic assist leaders with making wise budgetary choices, help with questions of student safety and mental well-being, address classroom tech needs, help districts sustain remote and/or hybrid learning options, or enhance school-parent communication and transparency?

In this roundtable discussion, our panelists will discuss the challenges in returning to physical school in the Fall and what your “new normal” may look like after a year of remote and hybrid learning. Panel members include district, industry, and organization experts who have the experience and know-how to provide thoughtful solutions and advice in combating these challenges.


  • Rob Chambers, VP of Customer Success, Lightspeed Systems
  • Annie Chechitelli, Growth Strategies Advisor, AWS
  • Steven Langford, CIO, Beaverton School District
  • Stacy Royster, CTO, Opelika City Schools
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Read the Transcript


Amy Bennett from Lightspeed Systems:
First of all, thank you, everyone, for joining us today.


We have just a really great panel of experts here, ready to talk about what returning to normal and back to school looks like.


As we start thinking ahead to the next school year, we are recording this event. So if you’re coming in late or stepping away, you’ll have access to the recording to watch later and to share with your colleagues.


And this is a discussion, so if you have questions as we go, enter those in the question panel or the question box in your GoToWebinar Panel, and we’ll have questions for our speakers as we go.


Let’s start with some introductions. I am Amy Bennett, your moderator for today.


But you’re going to be hearing from these other faces on your screen a lot more than me. I’ll start off helping you put some names to the faces, and then we’ll jump right in.


First of all, we have Stacy Roister. She’s the CTO at Opelika City Schools in Alabama.


Then we have Stephen Langford, the CIO at Beaverton School District, Annie Chechitelli,


She is the Growth Strategies Advisor at AWS, who is our co-sponsor for this event, and Rob Chambers.


Rob’s our Vice President of Customer Success here at Lightspeed Systems.


Let’s start off with really, the most fundamental thing that we’re all thinking about, which is teaching and learning.


Stacy, we’re going to start with you. How have you guys been insuring that


Students are getting the instruction they need, and how does that look different this summer, compared to what you were doing last summer?


Well, I will tell you, even though we are in summer, our school year ended May 20th. I still have about 600 students on campus, because we are filling gaps. We are running summer schools to help these students who did not perform as well in a virtual environment and bringing them back in, and supplementing, supplementing, supplementing with them. We are pushing supports and lessons out there. We’re doing PD with our teachers to really hammering on differentiation. Because next year we’re going to get all of our kids back. We have already determined that we will not be in a virtual model at all next year.


So, all of our kids are coming back, and we had about 15% virtual back last school year for a second semester, and about 30% first semester. So, there was some loss in there during that. We don’t try to have that back, and I’m sure everyone across the country is fill in some of that loss at this time. So, we’re really going to talk about how our teachers can differentiate, because we don’t want to segment those kids and put them all in one class together. We still need that peer co-operation of all different levels inside of there. And so, working in differentiation, working with things that we actually created back during the pandemic that we can use for Tier Two and Tier Three instruction at home, during next year, we’re hoping to use to fill in some of these gaps that we’ve noticed.



So you have a busy summer ahead, again, right? 


Very busy.



You, Steven. What are you guys doing it, Beaverton? And how does it compare to last year, and to what Stacy described?



Yeah, thanks, and we’re about 40,000 students outside of Portland, Oregon, and I, what we’re doing this year doesn’t compare to anything like we’ve done in the past, I think for many of us across school system leaders across the country. And this last year has been just so different in terms of instruction.


We’ve been fully remote, si- and didn’t come back until April, so our students were in a distance learning environment all of last year. They began in April at the end of April, coming back. And.


For us, this summer looks to be up to about 10 times the size of our traditional summer programs in the past. So, unlike anything we’ve ever done and very much to what Stacy is talking about, we’re looking at ways to address interventions. Extensions, a lot of enrichment for students, a big focus on social emotional learning because students have or will be moving in the fall. We’re going to be back full-time five days a week instruction in person.


And so, we’ve got kindergartners who didn’t set foot into their classroom until the end of April for just a few hours. A couple of days a week. And so, we, just like Stacy said, we’re very much engaged in that differentiation between addressing, providing some interventions, providing some enrichment and extensions, and then also taking care of this social emotional aspect from realizing what students and staff have been through.



So, Stephen, with five days back in person next year, are you preparing for any sort of hybrid or virtual or …?



We, we opened a virtual school this last year, and there are some students who absolutely thrived being virtual. And I’m, I’m, you know, for us, we want to provide that experience for the student that most connects with their learnings. So, we did open a virtual school. We are continuing that virtual school. And parents will be deciding, do they want to be back in person five days a week?


Or if they don’t, then they will enroll in our virtual school. And our virtual school, right now, we, like I said, we’re district of 40,000, and we have over one thousand.


Right now, students who will be continuing in a fully remote


So, lots of options. It ties to what you both mentioned, which is differentiation in a lot of ways. Rob, what we’ve heard from two districts, but you talked to thousands of districts, how does this mirror what you’re hearing in terms of what next year looks like?



Yeah, I think it’s, you know, it’s aligned with this we have districts all along the spectrum of what they’re planning to do, but I think that, that is the biggest key that, that we’re hearing across the board.


Is that, know, the new normal, the new back to school is different than it than it ever was before.


Um, you know, to Steve’s point. You know, I talked to a lot of a lot of schools that have students that absolutely thrived in, in this environment, and, you know, you now have communities that are saying, no, you can’t take that away, right? This was much better for my students, they are, they’re thriving, we need to keep that going.


Also, you know, you have varying degrees of what the various communities want from back to school in terms of fully in person or, or, you know, hybrid, or, or, or fully remote, and so, all of that’s changing. I think we all recognize that, um …


something can happen again, whether it’s weather, whether it’s, you know, an illness or whatever that we have to be prepared for this.


And so, I think that is just, it is the new normal, right? We’re all planning for what does that look like?


And there’s no real expectation of IN-school all the time, all year, all students anymore.



Yeah, the thing I’m hearing from all three of you there, we held a conversation similar to this last March.


So, just as the, which to remote learning was kicking off, and the key takeaway was, Be Ready For Anything, like who knows what back this will look like?


Now, we’ve got a sense of what back to school looks like, but it’s no longer one size fits all. There’s, there’s a lot of differentiation going on there.



Oh Yeah, I just wanted to share some reaction to what Rob was saying. Because, I think what you were saying, there’s this temptation that we have to get back to something, and, because that, that, there’s great comfort in that, right? When you say where we’re gonna go back to, in, person instruction in the fall. There’s a lot of comfort in there. But.


At the same time, you lose the opportunity to say, we’re not gonna go back. We’re gonna get better. And what will we have to do? I think, you know, in Beaverton at least we have to look at what we did and what worked.


Then we don’t go back.


We got to go forward into something new, and it’s, it’s to your point about being ready, and Rob’s point, we don’t know if a variant is, gonna push us into remote again, and, you know, heaven hope not. But,we have to be ready for that. But, to be ready, doesn’t mean going backwards. It means going forward into something that takes the learning, takes what we did so well prepared dynamic, and combines it with what we learned in pandemic to create something new.



Well, and we have to realize … Oh, go ahead Rob …



Oh, go ahead, Stacy.



… that we have we’ve changed the face of education and what it was.


When we say get back to normal, it’s not the normal that it was because we have the stakeholders who we always talked about were a part of education prior to this pandemic. Those people became truly invested. Parents were brought into the classroom now. They became part of the education. Our parents know more about our standards and curriculums that we teach now than they ever have in the past, they’re not gonna let that go. So, we gotta take that involvement we had from them and carry it forward, all of these new things that we’ve learned, even though, I will tell you, I’ve been in education for 21 years. Technology has my heart and I’ve always wanted teachers to be these great.


You know, just believers in technology and use it and we found some really great solutions to things that maybe I didn’t get the buy in before but the pandemic kinda forced it. We take those things forward to us. We learn, and I’ve had so many comments, so, I’m gonna keep doing this. Are we going to keep the subscription to this X, Y, Z so that we can, you know, do this? And yes, we are. Because it made a difference in what you were doing in your classroom, and I’m gonna give you the tools to be the best. So, I mean, Steven hit it head on, and we’re gonna go back, but not back to what it was, We’re going back to have in our kids in front of us and doing all of this other stuff with them while they are in front of us.



Let’s talk about, about teachers a little bit more, Stacy. I know that you talked about differentiation and I know that’s one of the things really top of mind as you prepare for next year because now teachers are ready, they’re using tools, you can really take that to the next level. Talk more about what that really looks like.



So, our teachers, they now have and I will tell you, we called a lot last year. When the pandemic hit, everybody who had any kind of software anything, it was the Wild, Wild West, “here try this, try, this, try that,” OK? So, we had a million different pieces of software that we were using and tryin’ and maybe it did align or didn’t align with curriculum.


We’re like, “hold up, y’all” The kids are going to have to learn how to use this without you there to guide them and their parents, who, not to say parents aren’t tech savvy, but they don’t know how to use the software pieces that we might be using in the classroom the way that the kids do.


And so, we called and said, OK, these are the pieces that we’re going to supplement what we’ve been doing in person and kinda stay to that core. Well now that we’ve gone through the pandemic and we’re gonna be at the point where we can be there to assist. And don’t have to rely on the parents’ knowledge of that software as much, we can go, OK, do we want to keep this? Or do we want to broaden our horizons and look at something that’s going to help on top of that and we have made some changes.


We made a very drastic change, and we were probably the only one in the United States that did this last year in the pandemic, but we actually went to a 2 to 1 Chromebook model.


We had a Chromebook for the kids at home. We had a Chromebook for the school, so that one, we didn’t have the transfer germs, our breakage went down to nothing because they weren’t being carried, but I really had to rely on Relay [Lightspeed Filter] and Alert in our classroom to help me monitoring, keep the security, of having those devices in both places. When the Parent Portal was released, the parents were like, “oh, thank you. I can cut off YouTube if I want to, for my kids on these!” And so, it became this collaboration because there are some parents who don’t want their kids connected all the time, but I will say, no, I need them to keep this Chromebook there. So, it’s been us, and the teachers, and the parents working together to make sure that we do have the correct equipment, the correct programs for them to use. And we’re gonna keep going through that.


We’ve got some meeting scheduled with parents to say, what did you see with your kids as being helpful in afterschool that would assist you with homework next year if we need it? and have those conversations? So that’s where we’re at with our teachers and parents right now.



That parent involvement. You’re also right, it’s critical number one. And it’s at a high point right now.


Like they see what’s going on in a way they never had before, Steven. My kids both go to Beaverton School district, so I get to see the communication and the technology and the tools, the parent e-mails, all of that that you guys are doing.


Talk about how, how your communication and involvement of parents as stakeholders shifted, and what’s really worked for you there.



Yeah, I think, Stacy, just all the other point Stacy raised, was key.


You know, every, everything changed last March for us, because March, um mid-March, the governor closed schools, and we had less than 24 hours to move 40,000 students remote and 5000 stuff.


And so, parents became the principal of their home school, the school in their home, and they became the janitor, and they became the teacher, and the teacher’s assistant. And alongside the teachers that are teaching remotely.


And so, parent engagement changed for the better, because it had to.


Because the parents now saw what their students were doing, as opposed to sending them to school and then hearing about that later maybe.


And so, their engagement became immediate and constant, and, and, AND everyone was going through trauma associated with the pandemic, right? We were all in Oregon, told to stay in our homes, and so, that was the context for this.


And I think for us, what we saw, again, mirroring, Stacy, we saw an explosion of technology tools, and at the same time, parents were getting highly engaged, and that combination caused a lot of confusion. And so, what, what it meant for us is we want to nourish that parent engagement. We want to remove confusion points.


And it forced us, I think, into some great decision making and governance talks. We’ve never talked about software governance before, and now we have a group that does software governments comprised of educators and technologists.


And so, what we’re able to do, then, is take that universe of apps, shrink it down to those most aligned with curriculum, vetted for privacy.


And then, we can engage parents, not on 100 different apps, but we can say here are the ones you’ve got to work with and we’re going to provide some support for you.


That support look like a helpdesk for students that got spun up in five days: visioned, implemented in five days and it was a nightmare, right? Parents waited two hours for a phone call for us but we had to do it pandemic made us, rethink what was possible.


And I think it did the same for parents in terms of it provided that opportunity for them to see what was happening with their students and learning in ways that they never have seen before.



Well, and I think for a lot of students, and for a lot of families across the world, this became a first device at home for the student.


So parents didn’t have the knowledge of how to control use of that, how to make sure kids were still sleeping or weren’t on YouTube 24 hours a day, like Stacy said, those sorts of things.


So, so you are teaching the parents along with the students in a lot of ways and empowering them.



To the point, I created a website specifically for parents and teaching them how to use every bit of a Chromebook and every piece of software that we had, we screencast, more videos of How-To tutorials that are out there in our OCS Parent Academy. And it gets hits, it gets hits all over the world, because it’s showin’ everybody how to use it. It’s great for teachers, is great for students, but the parents are the ones that needed that lift because they hadn’t been a part of that piece of their child’s education in the past. And they, it was funny, because when we first sent the Chromebooks home back in, when the original March shutdown happened, they were calling, “How do I, how do I get them logged?” You don’t want to just hand them the device, to login. They know how to do it. It was the parents being very uncomfortable themselves wanting to know how to do it, to make sure their kids were doing it right.


So, we had this other PD opportunity to spin up of us now, giving professional development to parents, to be able to be that side partner in this endeavor.



Annie, how does that match the sorts of trends you guys are seeing in AWS in terms of the tools and technology?



Yeah, it’s similar, right. I would say what we’re seeing next. Right. And we talked about the agility and being nimble and then being part of the culture. Right. And that culture change, I think, is a really important piece of the past year, but there’s that piece now of how do you do it at scale? How do you make it more durable, right? And even as a parent, Like the bar is going to raise. Right, or. Yeah. That’s good. We’re going to raise it, because it’s gonna start, we just wanted to get going. It’s like, a triage to start using it, but the expectations of parents, as well as students is that ‘ok, you’ve been doing this a year, we should be doing a little bit better, or we should have better expectations on what is expected of me.’ So, that’s kind of what we’re seeing.


And to the point, I love what Steven’s done around the helpdesk. A lot more discussion around optimal and effective communication, like, I’m a parent of three kids. So, they had, what? six teachers, maybe seven, right? Times three kids, as a team, with a B, I was getting 18 emails per day. Like, that’s not going to happen, and like, that’s not an effective practice, we all know just had to be done, but how does that, what is the right, the right way for teachers to communicate or for the parent to communicate with the school, and what should that, should that look like? And I think that’s a really good conversation. We have a lot more tools nowadays. I told my kids, like, when.


Back in the day when we had snow days, and like, we get like a phone call, like the phone rang, right? the phone rang at like six in the morning and we’ll tell you something happen like that so far, far away from that. And there are really effective ways of engaging and notifying. Those are two different things, Like, what is the communication, is the communication just a notification? Or is it a conversation, and then picking the best technology they might fit that need for, for the audience. So, that’s, those are the kind of conversations that we’re having.



Yeah, I’ve certainly seen that transition, you described from triage. Just make something work that was like, the first 30 days, right To, OK, what’s smart here? How do we standardize?


How do we choose all of those difficult decisions?


Steven, and I know that, that you have a lot of experience in kind of analyzing those tools and determining your tech budget based on usage and alignment with curriculum. Talk a little bit about how that went from, from the triage too many tools to deciding what really makes sense and what’s working.



Yeah. And I feel that if that having a moderator, be a parent in your district, puts an additional level of pressure. Just saying this as a speaker, because Amy, you’re gonna call me out if I misstate anything, so …


So, I’m feeling a little uncomfortable but, but, anyway, yeah, know, for us, we, trying to shrink the universe was a challenge. But, you know, we had some great tools we, we analyzed, because data does go through our systems, particularly a filtering system. You know, that we can look at who’s using what and how often is it used? And do we have duplication sometimes, 2 or 3 different products that are being used by teachers. And we have to resist the assumption that, well, teachers were just out there, It was the Wild West, and everyone was doing their own thing.


They were trying to solve problems, and that, in many cases, they didn’t know what resources we had.


And so, they had to go spend cycles to investigate. OK, how am I gonna get this student engaged in reading, not knowing maybe that we’ve got that contract. And we’ve got a standard, and we’ve got professional development and resources already created.


So, you know, for, for us, the problem was one, kind of getting the data to, to see what the universe was, and then it became, OK, Now, how do we reach out to teachers who are, oh, being asked to do something they’ve never done before, and are overwhelmed, and say, OK, we’re going to help you, but this help it, in this help, It takes some cycles for us to do that.


And so, we’re going to shrink the universe, but we’re also going to make it easy for you to get the tools you need. And that, that was a challenge for us. And we heard it from our parents in the spring when we surveyed our parents. They saw that was their number one concern was you have got … Annie said it perfectly, like, you’re overwhelming us, we’re already compromised due to the pandemic …


You’ve got to make this easier so that we can remain engaged and support our kids.



You know, as you were talking there, Steven I just realized that my last pre pandemic event was an advisory council we held here in Portland where a couple of other people from your district came.


And we talked about two things that just seemed really powerful here: One they talked about the parent reports that were going out through the Lightspeed Filter.


And I said, hey, I’m not getting those, speaking of calling you out. And they were in a pilot phase and then just,


Kinda very fortuitous that they were in this pilot that then was able to expand to all parents.


It was the same thing with the Lightspeed Analytics tool.


They were starting to look at that and analyze, like, what is being used?


And then it becomes really foundational all of a sudden when, when you’re consolidating tools and making best practices and all of those guidelines

Yeah, the pe-, you know, I referred to it as the, our reality was reset in the pandemic.


So, things we had to, to remove ourselves from the constraints of time impossibility because the pandemic forced us to do things that we would have thought were impossible, you know? And that that I think, is a great learning from this last year, is sometimes the constraints we make about what we can do, or others can do, are artificial. And we have to be able to, to push and realize that, you know, we did the impossible around not be written around the nation.


IT departments, especially, did the impossible this last year. Now, it’s not sustainable.


But, in many instances, but, but it should be a lesson for us to think about.


You know, we rolled that tool out and, and, and our vendors did too because we came to you and said, “we need some help” and vendors leaned in and said, “OK, we’re gonna figure this out” and we’re going to maybe develop a product on a timeline we’ve never done before.


So, I think for me was, I reflect back over that last year, that’s a lesson we have to pull forward, not, not to create an unsustainable cycle, but realize, sometimes, we’re constrained by our own thinking about what we can do, and that’s a limitation for us.


And it doesn’t allow us to explore something that maybe we should.



You think just about the move to 1 to 1 with devices and 16 months ago, we were 15 years into that shift saying, there are 10 years left to go, right, and then we’ll be there. And then, thinking about what happened and how many districts got there in the last year out of that necessity, right?


Um, I’d like to, I’d like to hear from you on what that looks like back to school. What are you going to do with those devices in classrooms?


How does that change? Stacy you can go ahead and go first.



So, with us, um, we are still going to, the reason that we went to the total one model last year is because what us holding 70% of our students were back in the classroom. But we have quarantines.


So, we knew they were going to be bouncing in and out and we want to make sure they always had a device at home whenever they needed to go. Well, we elected to not take those devices up this summer. We’re leaving them there. Next year. We’re going to allow them to use those and all of the lessons, and I’ll tell you, a lot of school districts went through and bought some kind of program today. Like the online content.


We did not. Our teachers were very purposeful in. The type of instruction that we were very investigative and our math instruction very detailed and riding in our reading instruction. And so, we put it forward to our teachers of, Hey, we can either by XYZ program over here, and have it delivered the lessons, and then you’ll have to support those lessons in the way they’re delivered. Or if you want to put forth the effort, you can create all of our content, the Opelika way, and that’s what they chose to do. So, we literally have a repository of lessons for every grade level, K-5, and then we do have an online platform for 6-12, because Alabama law requires us to offer virtual option enhanced since 2014, for our kids.


So, all of those lessons that we created in K-5, which was very big building blocks that we need to get kids, you know, to be successful throughout their entire educational career.


We’re going to use those lessons for Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction. So, if I have a student who is struggling, who’s not onto the grade level, let’s say it’s a fourth grader, I can get back into those great lessons, assign them, and then, when they’re home, can work through some of that Tier 2 instruction with their parents. Start getting them back on grade level.


We’re gonna pull in all those stakeholders who are still involved and use it to add to the fullest ability that we have.



It’s back to the differentiation then, right?


Like the devices are really very much so, how about you guys, Steven, what’s the place of devices in back-to-school next year?



Yeah, we’re, you know, I’m so jealous of Stacy. I mean 2 to 1, I never heard that, that is awesome.


I think we’re kind of, you know, we were very fortunate. Our voters passed a bond and that allowed us to transform how technology impacts learning. And that was in 2014. So, we were 1 to 1, 6-12 take home for five years.


And elementary, we were 2 to 1, 3 to 1, depending on grade level and those were in cards and so we had to quickly get those in the hands of our kids and then get devices to make up the difference. And so, we went like, to your point, Amy, we went to 1 to 1 overnight and it was just, we were so fortunate. We had some devices we could push back into service and waterfall. So that they would be most appropriate for each level and the tasks. But we’re kind of in a 1 to 1 to now, what?


Like what’s, because we used and there was some great federal money that came to support the pandemic and school systems use that.


That’s not permanent money and so now we’ve set up this reality of our students have devices.


They’re learning anytime, anywhere, um, and there’s that, to continue that, there has to be renewed investment. And so, we’ve got to figure out, like, what does that look like into the future? And it has to be connected, of course, to curriculum and its decisions around instruction to support that. So we’re, we’re very fortunate in that we were able, like many school systems, able to accomplish that work, and we are thinking hard about what does that look like into the future? You know, is our next bond going to be continuing our current level of investment with technology? Is it, does it need to be 1 to 1?


What are the pros and cons? You know, are you going to send a 400 device, dollar device home with a kindergartener?


And then your community knows that our little kids are going to be transporting very expensive equipment.


So, there’s a lot to unpack in there that affects safety, teaching, and learning, of course, technology, but those, uh, that I think is going to be an interesting thing to watch for school systems around the country over the next year.



I think, 1 to 1, to now, what? What should be the title of our next webinar event?


You mentioned safety there, Steven, and safety, security filtering, that’s really at the heart of so much of what Lightspeed does.


I want to dig into that a little bit, Stacy, you, and I chatted just over a year ago.


And one of the things that you said was, thank goodness, we have Lightspeed, doing our cloud-based filtering, and monitoring, because these kids are a little bit in crisis.


And we need to be helping them. Talk, talk a little bit more about that, and how that has evolved since last year.



Ya know,


I said it then and I’ll say it now, If we didn’t, have Relay [Lightspeed Filter] I wouldn’t be doing virtual learning, because you got to protect what you sent home to these household. I mean, that’s just a personal belief of mine. That if I’m gonna provide the device, if I’m gonna provide where they’re getting on Internet, then I need to make sure that they’re staying safe and secure. Because they’re scary pieces out there to the Internet that we have to warn our kids about daily. So, I can’t even remember, It’s been a few years back since we swap from Rocket to Relay, but whoever started that conversation, I had the foresight to do it, thank you that you were in my life that made me do it because I did watch a lot of my peers struggle, because I had not moved to that cloud based filtering. And so now it doesn’t matter what device I give them as long as they’re logged into their account is attaching that filter on there and I know my kids are staying safe and secure. And you know, through the pandemic and we talked about this with Rob about a month ago in a webinar …


We, not only saw our kids, but we saw our parents as well, you know. The parents are using these devices as well when they’re at home and we would watch parents and we would say that they were searching for jobs or that they were having issues and because of what we could read from those filters, we can help support that whole family, we have supported socio-emotional learning throughout this.


We have supported food needs, job needs, you name it, we’ve seen it come across there and things that we had not seen prior to the pandemic.


And so, I mean, I can’t say enough how grateful I am for this piece of technology in place, and what it allows us to do, to make it where I can sleep at night, knowing that this is out there, and that it’s a way that I can help and support the family as a whole that we have.



And thinking about you, being 2 to 1, that idea of students logging into one Chromebook at home, and a different one at school, and whatever it is in between there, you still get this holistic view, because it’s based on the student, the cloud, all of that.



And it makes it so easy to navigate.




How ’bout you guys, Steven? How has, how has that been important?



Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, I spoke earlier. I’m just looking at the slide here, you know, with Lightspeed, of course, AWS, and CoSN, and just realizing I spoke earlier about how important those partner relationships were for us. And.


You know, for example, we had to lift to move a CTE program remote, and, you know, we worked with AWS, and we, we implemented that in days, again, instead of months, right. Because the realities were reset.


But, you know, and so, we’re really appreciative that CoSN


provided a ton of resources and knowledge for us, so that we, we weren’t going through this alone, and we’re able to leverage our community. So, it really is about that community and our partners, and for Lightspeed, you know, some of the work we did very much like Stacy said, we, we were supporting families. And we had to realize that. And those families, again, to teach, parents, are trying to support their students who are being told, you’ve got to stay inside. Your learning is on a screen, maybe you’re only entertainment, now is on the screen.


And, we dealt with things as, you know, technology addiction with parents, and said, I can’t get my student off.


And, you know, having the ability to, and really think thanks to Lightspeed for this, having the ability to give to parents, that ability to say, OK, the devices in the house …


But, after eight o’clock at night, it’s, no, it’s not, we’re not going to use it.


Because we need you to, to go play, and we need you to rest, I think was a great help for our students’ social emotionally as well as safety. Because you know, you don’t want, particularly maybe a young person, spending all of their time on that screen. You wanted to do them to be able to learn how to use it appropriately. And so really appreciate that The Parent Reports, we rolled that out during the pandemic as well. That gave visibility for parents like they’ve never had prior to be able to see what their students are doing and support them. And I gotta tell you, when we rolled it out, there were some concerns about, you know, we had to have conversations with legal counsel, and with teaching and learning. And with our team about, this is going to be a problem for parents and for students, and is it, are there challenges and rolling that out?


And we, we went, went ahead and rolled that out, because it is information parents should have.


And the response has been overwhelmingly positive.


I would say 100% positive from parents saying “thank you for giving us the tool to help our kids.”


So, that’s, that’s really exciting, that in the midst of this crisis that we were all in, innovation was happening, and it was happening because we had to, we had to rethink everything we did.


So, thanks, and you know


And it really is that partnership we have with, with our vendor partners, that makes it possible.



Your comments there about, you know, are there challenges. Are there things we have to think about? Is it going to raise other questions?


All of that, makes me think, even about our rollout at Lightspeed of the Alerts Safety monitoring and Human Review to go along with that. Like, Is it hard? Yeah, is it scary information, yeah. Do we need to get it to the right people? Like yes, absolutely. Like hard things are worth doing.


Rob, Rob first and then I want to talk to Stacy a little bit about it.


Tell me how you’re working with districts on that and how gosh the mental health crisis that was here before, but the pandemic exacerbated for a lot of students has, has made that so important.



Yeah, I mean, you know, we lost that connection with kids, right?


They weren’t going to the classroom anymore and, and having that, you know, face to face just view from the teachers.


The teachers, you know, were, separated through the screen, through the technology and you just don’t get the same view. And, you know, we pivoted and rolled out some things very quickly to know to respond to, to the community. And Alert is one of those, we, you know, we took a tool we had and greatly expanded that. And, and, help schools meet that need.


And, you know, what, we’re, what we’re seeing is, is, when we’ve known this for a long time, when students are interacting, they, they’re on their school device, they’re on the personal device, it’s, it’s a seamless transition for them.


They, they don’t really differentiate between the two and, and I think that is, is good from this regard, because it gives us that ability to have a tool that can monitor it and have a tool that can reach out to, to the people and get help.


And, you know, it’s for me, one of the most, you know, exciting things in my job is knowing that we’re out there helping, helping students and helping schools keep them safe.


So, you know, we did shift and went from a tool that was, no, really kind of focused on, on a few things, expanded that out, added the human review component, because, you know, schools are, are overwhelmed, right? And that, that was one of the big feedback. “This is great but, we’ve got so many things going on. We don’t even have people to monitor it.” So, we had to, we had to shift and figure out, OK, how can we do that? How can we bring that in? And, you know, just, Steven and Stacy, I’ve been taking notes over here. But, they keep saying everything I want to say, which is great.


But, you know, we’ve had to respond too, and we’ve had to reset our norm. And, you know, what is, what we think? How long does it take to roll out a product that willing to take the roll out of service?


You know, we, we’ve had to shift on those things as well, too, and it is a partnership.


and, and, I, you know, I’ve had many conversations, you know, Stacy and Steve throughout this. and many other customers. And, and it’s, it’s through that. And hearing what we need and how can we adjust?


It’s really been key.


But, yeah, from the Alert side, the loss of day to day interaction, how do we fill that need?


And, and that’s really been an important tool and one, one, I’m quite proud that we were able to, to expand over the course of this year.



And, you know, you, you lose so much context shifting from walking past someone in the hall, chatting in the classroom to being on Zoom, or, or Teams, or video.


But, you also have a lot of students turning video off, either because their Internet connection isn’t good enough, or because of wherever they’re at in the household, Too many people, all of these different things.


So, then, you have no visual at all, and you need these ways to find out how is this kid doing is as Stacy was talking about.


So, talk a little bit about that, Stacy. I know you guys are doing so much around social emotional health.



Yeah, and it really surprised me. And I’ll say, I’ve been the tech director for eight years now for Opelika, and this was the first year that I had ever again. Trigger alert on a student, as young as I did, look at self-harm.


And when my first alert came through on a second grader that literally, was typing in a Google Doc, but he wanted to die.


I was like, like my heart sank, I have kids of my own, and it just about broke me. It’s a very sad statistic. But they’ve said that the reports of child abuse this year actually went down. And the reason they went down doesn’t get the kids were not a school for the teachers to see that it was happening.


And so, we had to watch for it in these hidden ways, and kids will, they will release and technology. They’ll release by the Google searches they do. They will release by the chats in the video games that they play. The release inside of a Google Doc, because I don’t think anybody’s looking, like, I can’t tell you how many times I call a high schooler, and in their eyes get this big when they realized that I just saw an e-mail they sent to their friend.


And they’re going, oh, man, it’s like yes, we were trying to keep you safe with this being a classroom teacher before I became technology director.


Unfortunately, I didn’t have a student that committed suicide and one of the vows that I made when I stepped into this role was to make sure that I can protect my kids and watch for them inside and outside of their lives. I mean, I tell the kids when I was teaching in the classroom, I’m going to take care of you when you’re here with me, and I will learn everything you do on the weekends and we will have conversations whether you want me to or not, guess what, it’s Mama Royster right here. You know, I take the into this role, I’m not the normal tech person that you meet on the street. I take everything very personal, and so I’m made diligent, like, I don’t sleep, I constantly am watching my e-mail and staying connected, just because I believe I need to make sure I’m keeping the 4700 kids and I’m responsible for safe. And my teachers, a lot of districts don’t turn, alert and stuff on for their teacher accounts, but I do because they need support and help just as well as the others do and we’ve had some conversations with some and had, you know, they need to break down and cry every now and see that they’re doing it in an e-mail and me going just having a good friendly conversation with them, helps them.


And they’re like, thank you! I needed that. I just needed that. And I’m like, we all do. It’s been a rough year. We’ve all gone through it.


And so, when y’all introduce the human element, and I’m like, ‘I can actually not worry about checking my e-mail.


But if it’s something bad, someone will call me’ kind of thing was, was amazing.


So, to see that input, to see that step up on your behalf really helped us out. Because in my role, it’s my duty, and I will do everything I can to make sure that I’m watching what these kids are doing and they’re staying safe and secure on there, and that they’re not hiding


Little issues in there that we need to draw to the attention of authorities or the HR at some time.


We have had, You know, where we’re situated in Alabama were on a major inter-state. And child abductions and sex-trafficking is something that we have to deal with. We got an alert, that actually stopped one of those in progress before. It’s, it’s mind blowing to sit and think about what we have to see on a day-to-day basis. And there’s a lot of, and Steven will attest this, the things we don’t talk about that we kinda keep internally and don’t share that. That the ugly that’s out there, that we have to combat.


But it’s because we have companies that put things out there to work with this technology, to help us see this, this hidden aspect of it, that’s a necessary piece of it.



Wow! there was a lot of powerful stuff in there, Stacy


I think that, I mean, I know that so, many schools are and technology teams, counselors, teachers, everyone is putting all they have into making the last 15 months work, and then, taking the things that we have learned from it.


It’s, it takes a village, right? It’s the parents, the teachers, the students, the technology, the administration, and the software, and the partners, and the vendors and all of those other people.


So, um, it’s been, it’s been, I think, really powerful for us at Lightspeed to be working with schools to do this because we, we’ve been in EdTech a long time.


Many of us here on this screen, and, more than ever, it’s, you really see the impact and the results, and how it’s saving kids’ lives, as you said, and how it’s helping kids learn and helping teachers teach, do all kinds of amazing things.


I want to make sure that we have time for some final takeaways from everybody, so we’re going to jump into that now.


Then the number one thing you have learned through a crazy, 15 months, and how that impacts next year.


Well, we’ll start with Annie. We haven’t heard from you for a while.



I’m going to take that trip, were I just answer how I want to answer, depending, no matter what the question is.


So, I was just thinking about that. Back to what we were talking about, like 1 to 1, then. What happens beyond that, right?


And, and there’s this sense of optimism I have around … We don’t even know the extent to which we can really improve some of these things because they really are just starting to have that culture of technology. It’s in 1 to 1 retrained more of the teachers. We have a long way to go there. We’re getting now, getting parents more involved. And so the thought is like, why do we not know now, and the about the opportunities that’s going to offer us in the future that we just don’t see? Because you’ve not seen it, it’s not, and the way things were done, And so, for me, it’ll be really interesting, the next year to focus on, kind of organic things that start to happen, and the new ideas, back to what Stacy and Stephen was saying, that thinking bigger, right?


And yes, you know, we gotta look around corners, yes, we have to think about implementation details, but don’t start there, right? Like, let’s start there, and let’s really try to think about and listen


and imagine what else we can do. I mean, I think about, obviously, I’m going to talk about data, but, like you think about it now. You know, how do you teachers aren’t going to ever be data scientists? We don’t expect that to write a master teaching data science. What can we give them that helps them make decisions in real time? What does that look like? What could content look like that, did that? Or what could, with the activity that a student does, what does that say right, or they can think about and incorporate?


So, for me, like, I’m really excited about the next 12 months to see what happens organically, and to make sure that we’re paying attention to it.



You know, I think you did answer the question too so, great job there. How about you, Stacy.





I’ll tell you full of possibilities.


Like I love even though it’s been a hard year at the end of the year before we let the teachers we talked and talked about the accomplishments of what they didn’t really pump them up because they they pulled off the unthinkable, you know, nobody would have fathom what we went through and how we were able to educate students


Virtual, in person, both. We had a day. It was one of my robotics classrooms. They went to the engineer room of the


The State Superintendent of Education had actually come on-site and we had two kids quarantine on the interactive panel talking to the kids and looking at whatever pace they were trying to put together, and it’s like … we’ve changed the face of how we operate.


Is it ok now that


Um, we can put those lessons out there, if they’re not in person, if the parents have to go to graduation and another state for another child, and that kids got to miss a week of school, there’s not going to be a gap, they’re not going to be behind. We have conditioned ourselves to be, to be flexible, and on the spot with this, I think how we learn to be flexible in this year and adapt to whatever thrown in a given moment is the biggest asset were taken moving forward, because we’ll be quicker on our feet more diligent with decisions.


We really learned how to do a recovery plan.


Like we’re recovering, we have learn how to troubleshoot it, know-how whether it’s effective or not and that’s going on pay dividends in the future for us, I believe.



It’s one of the things that, that I know Rob always says is that now, and this happens for workers, as well as students, now that you’ve proven remote can work,


People are gonna wanna go on those vacations, go to those graduations out of state, like you said. So, are you like changing district policies to allow for that and let students learn remotely in those cases? 


Yeah, we’re looking at different things to fit every need. Kinda what Steven said earlier about how we know virtual was pulled off for some and that is a better form of education for some, because they thrive in that environment. I think we all have those environments. We thrive in, now that’s going to change some of it.



How about you Steven? Your top takeaway?


You know, I think there’s two, and they’re gonna sound like they’re in contention with each other and both are gonna sound like what they’re in contention with the deeply human relationship that that is involved in education. But the first is, and I talked a little bit earlier, We’ve learned that we have to approach systems thinking differently, right?


And we’ve gotta be thinking about how we set up systems, and sometimes their governance system, sometimes their applications and use.


We’ve got to think about that in a way that takes rocks out of the road for students and staff to let them do the important work of learning.


So, those that systems component, which I think we allowed us to survive because we just, we had to, because the universe changed so drastically.


The second though, it sounds like it’s a contention this, we can’t lose that idea of, well, how can we do this? Like, taking a look at the impossible and going, OK, now how are we gonna get it done? Week, I think we, we can’t lose that because we freed ourselves, I think, from ourselves and are the constraints of our thinking. So, I think we’ve got to lean into that while we’re kind of working on how to make the system better, based on what we’ve learned. And we have to do that in the context of a deeply personal relational field that we’re in. Education. I told our team, we don’t make shoes. We don’t make coffee cups. We deal with humans and we’ve got to put our work in that context.



Yeah. You know, really, really powerful stuff there, and one of the things that it made me think about is something as simple as the parent reports for a lot of years at Lightspeed. We talked about it.


And even talk to schools. And it was like, ah, then, there’s going to be so many questions about why are they on this site? Where are they not on this site? What does this really mean? What are they doing? It sounds hard.


Doesn’t seem worth it, Like, let’s not do that.


Then this forces you to, and as you said earlier, 100% positive, right?


You’re having this additional communication, additional visibility.


Parents are better able to support their students and be part of that partnership with the schools.


So, not losing sight of the, the hard things that are really worth it in the end.


Great stuff, OK, how about you, Rob?



Yeah, I mean, it’s been repeated over and over throughout this, but I think, you know, I hesitate to say how long I’ve been around education technology, but, but a long time.


And you know seeing what, you know, it’s certainly been a rough year and everything else.


But seeing what, you know has happened in the industry, has happened in schools, and, you know, my colleagues, like Stacy and Steven, and what they’ve done, and, and, you know, you hear it on this, this webinar today, you know, the reset and resetting the norm and being able to take … you know, I look at stuff that, you know, Amy, you said it, we know the timeline, that we thought schools were going to be 1 to 1 and now, how fast that can happen.


And, I think, now, is changed in the way schools think about technology, think about implementing technology, and, and I think that’s here to stay.


And that’s, that’s what I see as the most positive thing about this, is that, you know, it doesn’t take years to roll out a new system. You can do it in days. You may not want to, and that’s not always ideal, but, you know, if you have to, it can be done.


I mean, bring up a student help desk in five days, to me


I know that would’ve been a year project when I was with, with my school, you know, we would have started, it, piloted, you know, plan it out and everything else.


So, that, to me, is, it’s exciting to see, exciting to know that this is here, and we can adapt. And.


and, I believe that that reset has really kind of taken hold in technology. And, in education, in general.



Part of the, the speed of getting to 1 to 1 also came from recognizing, like, maybe you don’t need 40,000 of the exact same Chromebook. Steven talked about finding some other devices.


I know, Rob, you have talked to lots of schools that it’s like, We can’t buy devices right now, There was a shortage for quite a while, like what do you have that can work, then it’s become about this, right?



Yeah, I’ve talked to schools that were pulling, you know, Windows laptops that had been retired and actually in the surplus pile, but had not been disposed of yet, right, and, you know, they’re pulling those out and repurposing them and making great use of them.


And so, yeah, it’s, it’s been do everything you can in very creative ways.





And then, you realize that, you know, if you’re doing what Stacy and Steven are and implementing these systems, it’s not so much about the piece of technology, right? It’s about making the connection and having the tools to give the curriculum.


We had a question that just came in, I think, probably, Stacy and Steven, but, but maybe Annie Rob, you can address this too.


How are schools and teachers planning to close the educational gap that opened up during the pandemic?


You both touched on that a little bit. Stacy, go into that a little bit more about how you’re addressing some of that learning loss.



So, because of the wonderful ESSER money that a lot of us have been given, we decided to use it to put more bodies on the ground, to be honest.


We are, we’re purchasing teacher units, more teacher units, more resource teachers we’re adding to, to all of our elementary schools, three, to some of our more severe title schools that need more of that, assistance in there. We are using all of that instructional information that we developed last year to do Tier 2 and Tier 3. And really, you know, the classroom is not going to be where the child goes in there studies in that one place to get it from that one teacher. They’re going to be so many bodies connected to every individual student to give the socio-emotional support, the instructional support. Whatever is needed is going to touch this child, and we’re going to rotate them, is going to be adaptive, and differentiated to those children’s needs. We’ve got them in summer schools right now, especially to see where there are losses are, and then we’re figuring out how to get those back in there individually. So, it’s going to take a lot more people and a lot more time, but we would rather do that and have the kiddos in front of us then to go back to where we were last year.



Anything to add to that, Steven?


Very similar, I think, you know, we’re thinking about this is, like Stacy said, a team approach, this is about building an ecosystem to support students realizing what they’ve gone through, so, it takes different specialties to be able to do that.


It’s not fair to the teacher to say, “Hey, the kids are back, go shut the door, make it 2019,” right?


We can’t do that, so we recognize that in much the same way, we’ve gotta have a team approach on this and that team, with different specialties, to address social emotional to identify what a student need and design those interventions to get them the support they need. So, we’re very fortunate in that we’ve got the resources this year to do it starting with the summer.


But it’s going to look different. And I think for us, we have to remember that our staff, including our teachers, they’ve worked for the last 15 months on an unsustainable pace sometimes and so we’re gonna have to take care of them, so that they can take care of students.



While we’re reaching the end of our time here, I want to thank our panel so much.


Stacy and Steven, really inspiring stories and information that you’ve shared.


And I know that are thousands of customers around the world are doing the same just amazing things through the last 15 months and looking forward to the future.


And the, the theme of this, if I were to sum it up, is that some really cool things have happened that we can learn from to do even smarter, better things as we move forward.


And it’s really great to be a partner to you and a parent in your districts, and to be seeing all of this happen.


Thank you, everyone who joined us to hear from this panel. There’s a very brief survey at the end if you would fill that out.


We really appreciate it, and Everybody, just have a great day, Thank you so much for joining us!


OK, Thank you, Amy.

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