New Normal? How K12 Schools Can Prepare for Next Year
Get tips from school IT leaders on preparing for the new learning landscape in the 2020-2021 school year.
- Amy Bennett Chief of Staff- Lightspeed Systems
- Brian Thomas President & CEO- Lightspeed Systems
- Pete Just Chief Technology Officer- Metro School District of Wayne Township
- Tina Barrios Asst. Superintendent- Polk County Schools
- Keith Krueger CEO, CoSN
- Chad Stevens Leader K12 Education, AWS
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All right. I know everyone is very busy. So we’re going to go ahead and get started people who are joining or have to leave for a couple of minutes. You should just know that this is all being recorded and you’ll get a link to that when we’re done. We have a great panel here with I did a little bit of quick math. Well over a century of Ed Tech experience ready to talk about what’s been going on in schools in the last couple of months.
Thinking about for the summer how we can all be prepared for a new normal and a fall 2020 back to school season. Let’s start off with some introductions of our panel, start with you Pete. Pete Just and Chief Technology Officer for the MSD of Wayne Township, which is in Indianapolis, and I am the current posting board chair.
Thank you. Tina. Tina Barrios with Polk County Public Schools in Florida near Orlando, and I’m the Assistant Superintendent of Information Systems and Technology.
Great. Thank you. How about you Keith? Amy, Keith Krueger CEO of CoSN the Consortium for School Networking and we’re a national nonprofit that represents district technology leaders, like Pete and Tina and we appreciate being asked to be on today’s call.
We appreciate you being here. How about you Brian?
You’re muted. I am here too Brian Thomas. Yeah, it’s like we planned that just to mirror what you all are experiencing remote learning situations every day.
Hey everybody. I’m Chad Stevens. I’m a leader for K-12 education at Amazon Web Services, former CTO, and also a member of the CoSN board. Thank you, and I’m Amy Bennett on the Vice President of Marketing at Lightspeed Systems and I’m going to be moderating this discussion that were we’ve got it split up into a couple of parts, but I’m sure it will go where these people take it and where your questions
Take it. So, feel free to ask questions as we go. You can enter those in the question box in your GoToWebinar panel and we’ll do some throughout and we’ll do some at the end.
First of all, as we all know really an unprecedented overused word, but it’s true. Challenge was put to everyone and especially to schools a couple of months ago. I want to hear a little bit about how your districts responded what worked and what didn’t and what your remote learning plans really look like let’s start with you Tina.
So, when this whole thing started it was honestly a little bit of panic on my part because I know how hard it I was going to be to try to do sort of 1:1 and distance learning. And so, the first thing we did was to try to identify what the what the actual need was and we still really don’t have a good handle on that to be honest. We know that there’s a large percentage. We have a large rural area. And so, we knew that we had some areas of deficiency for students being able to learn at home and we were actually the Friday before.
They actually shut us down had a questionnaire that we were planning to send out that following Monday. So, we ended up having to put that questionnaire online. We got about thirty-seven thousand or so responses with a little over a hundred thousand students. So about a third responded one of the questions that we were a little I guess maybe not so much baffled by but one of the questions we asked is do you have a smartphone at home with unlimited data and only about 56 percent
Had unlimited data, so I think there were a lot of perceptions out there that will all these kids have phones and they’re going to be able to connect. We also tried to look at numbers in terms of our Student Portal accounts. And again, we had just under about a third of really active accounts. And so that was the best data that we had as we started rolling out and getting prepared to send devices out. We ended up sending about 23,000 devices home with students.
I will say that one of the one of the deficiencies that we had was that we had not had a lot of licensing to send devices home for filtering. We were currently using Fortinet and we had actually been piloting in a handful of school solutions, like Lightspeed. And so when this hit us we did not have a solution and so I’m very thankful for Lightspeed because they literally came on board said we’ll set you up no charge. Let’s just get this going.
And it was a huge lifesaver for us because that was a huge deficiency. We were not sending a lot of devices home. So we didn’t have a solution that was immensely helpful to us. And then at the time we had no real way to look at access at home. And so initially we just sent out information about what providers were offering free broadband and things like that and over time what we immediately did but took us some time, so we ordered.
50 bus MiFi Cellular cradlepoint is what we ended up using and we ordered those it took us a little bit of time to get those in we ended up ordering 500, and we purchased outright just because of the pricing structure. But again, it wasn’t something we could just turn over and for five days it was you know weeks out so it took us some time to get that rolling but and the other piece is we did sort of a blended K5
Way of learning. We did learning packets that we sent home. We fed kids. So, one of the ways that we had as we already had a process at a lot of sites for feeding kids because that was for our Superintendent. There were really two major criteria that she was adamant about and that was one feeding every kid that needed it and giving every kid a device. So that was our marching orders and that’s really kind of what we work toward to put the plan in place.
The deficiency that we had is that we didn’t have a unified learning management system. We do use Office 365 Teams pretty heavily. We also support Google Classroom, and we do have a single sign-on but we didn’t have we didn’t say as a district everybody’s going to use this platform.
So there’s goods and bads about that. Multiple platforms gives you an opportunity when one fails like we had an issue actually had an issue with Lightspeed on our iPads when we first deployed Google Classroom, and it caused some problems with those that we took home but it was quickly resolved, but it was a lot of work for a couple of days to get that done. But that that’s really the reality. We you know, when you’re using these systems and updates happen sometimes things break and then that was that was our reality. So we work through we also had some issues with teams that were still working through so, you know that it again it when you massively do this, it’s not just a district effect. It’s everyone.
Affected across our country. Yeah. It’s an interesting balance. I think between wanting some consistency because it makes it a little easier to manage easier for parents and students and everyone to use but wanting to have some personalization to the audience which LMS or systems or tools are right for elementary, high school, whatever those different things are.
So it seems like you’re working through some of those balances there glad I could help you out with the filtering and student safety though. How about you Pete? What about Wayne Township?
Late to the game at least in Indiana because the very first incidence of anyone in the school getting covid-19 was the school district right next to us, Avon Community Schools. And so we have a number of teachers whose students go there. There’s a lot of back and forth because now there’s just a street that separates us and so on it was March 13th, we closed our schools.
We had worked through things over the prior week and it was a disruptor obviously, we couldn’t have things ready for this as everyone’s kind of realized. Although we were in a pretty good place to be ready, but we could never have anticipated this so for us, we’ve been one-to-one since 2019 from third grade to 12th grade with some exceptions for BYOD. We’ve been doing BYOD for 12 years.
We had the first online school in 1999, so we’ve been doing online learning for so long. We had the devices for out of our 17,000 students at least 12,000 of them, but we weren’t ready for this type of an environment. Some of those devices were kept in classrooms assigned to students but only used during the day. Well, you know, we couldn’t get those ready in time in such a quick turnaround for them to go home. So, we had to do distributions of those things like that and we’ve kind of gone
Through the whole argument. In fact thinking of like, oh, right. Well, what’s a class day look like? Seat time because we’ve done these virtual options for all for a while. But you know, again, we have a lot of staff that are highly trained in blended and virtual learning but not 1,200 staff, which is what we have. We probably have a hundred and fifty to two hundred that are highly trained and engaged in it all the time. So, we had to scale that so a lot of professional development.
To accomplish the remote learning, we recognize that this is a compromised version of what we could do because we had something really good to compare it against but we felt like we were in a good place to be able to get those devices out to students to be able to ramp up the teachers by the end of the three days that we had as a run-up and then provide some options. Now what we saw was that a lot of think synchronous learning with still being attempted. There was a huge adoption of Zoom.
You know in our district like a lot of districts, we’re at Google District. So we were using it but you know, it was interesting because a lot of even district leaders kind of thought as this type of instruction is being having to be very synchronous and trying to replicate what’s happening in the classroom and not really paying attention to maybe the better option of having a blend of synchronous and asynchronous options. So, for us, you know, thankfully
We had a lot of things in place that were already really solid and good. We had a lot of standards. We have been an interoperability focused district for a long time. So, our learning management system had a lot of content in it. It had our curriculum in it, every teacher had been in it at least once, and so it was not that unfamiliar. We had a single sign-on solution. We had, you know a single communication platform for all of our parents.
We had a lot of devices going home. So, we were using Relay and it really effectively tuned to work particularly well to kind of simulate filtering environment that we had in the school district. So, we were able to scale up pretty well.
We kind of have a pretty good environment for coordinated decision making across the district from cabinet-level folks all the way down to the team that I have who does a lot of implementation. So, this forced everyone to innovate the course of every single educator for the first time ever from pre-k to 12th grade to think differently. And so, I think that’s a very big positive. They didn’t have a choice and they had to scale up as fast as they could. So, Innovation is blooming which I think is great. But we still have a lot of problems to solve in terms of equity and in terms of improving instruction and that’s something we’re going to be tackling this summer.
You bring up so many interesting points. I’ve been doing a lot of interviews with school districts and trying to figure out some of the keys to make this smooth but maybe there are some of the stepping stones that make it a little bit easier having enough device is having them at least going home some of the time so you have filtering and other systems in place that work from anywhere, but you know, one of the keys that has really come to the forefront here and you both talked
About it is access and equity and things that I know Keith. You’ve been yelling about it for years and now everyone is talking about the digital divide. What are you guys doing from CoSN? And what are you seeing?
Yeah, and I think the great question and you know, congratulations to Tina and Pete, you know who have been on the forefront for many years and I think every kind of Ed Tech leader has had to every teacher, every student has had to see this. The last eight weeks is really a pivot and that said I think that this issue of equity and the lack of access is certainly something that a lot of us have been talking about for a long time.
This is just, you know a loud screeching siren that we now perhaps have the attention of policymakers and parents about why this is so Important. I also think it’s easy to lose sight of the progress that we’ve made that this was a really big it’s a big shift, but we had made tremendous progress on broadband at school. We do a national survey and really every school basically every classroom in the country had reached kind of the short-term goals and about a third of them had reached the longer-term higher speed broadband
Holds that the FCC had laid out. We were also making progress on devices. In fact over half of the school Chief Technology Officers reported that they had one-to-one environments and it was much higher, of course in middle and particularly high school. So, places like Wayne Township and Tina’s District, you know, we’re better placed than ever before for this.
However, the pandemic was something completely new and that was the lens of home access that has not been covered by our e-rate program historically and so suddenly overnight with a snap of a finger, school districts were expected to go to remote learning and I think those everyone who’s made this leap should be thought of as a hero but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re doing best practice yet of how to do it.
So, we’ve got a lot of improvement to go. I think that we certainly here at CoSN are working to help policymakers, you know in Congress understand why it’s so important that we make sure that we don’t leave behind the 11 million children that don’t have access and that’s in about eight million families that have children and I think Tina was right on point.
In that even you know, too often we’ve made assumptions that simply because that you do have a device that you do have internet access. Well, if that device is a smartphone, can you really use that for online learning? If you can do it for some things but not all things and you know, if your data capped, can you really do these online classes, you know, and what’s the burden that we’re putting on parents and guardians?
In terms of the expectations and what really works for accessibility, you know, there are kids obviously with very special needs. So how are they going to be accommodated and really accessibility is a much broader issue than just those with a legal definition of accessibility. It’s we ought to be baking in accessibility and I heard you know, Pete mentioning some of those key things.
Like Universal Design and interoperability that ought to be built in an outward from the get-go and finally, you know, what works for older kids probably doesn’t work for the youngest kids. So what does that look like in terms of our Learning Management systems and the expectations and so that was a kind of a long-winded answer but hopefully we’ll get a chance to have more conversation about some of these things. Yeah.
I definitely want dig into some of the things that you hit on from, you know, the different age groups and I think that ties to the synchronous versus asynchronous learning as well as the choices of systems like LMS and all of those things. I think one of the really interesting things that has happened, you know everyone on this panel talking about access and the homework gap and the digital divide and all of those things it has been hard for the general public
To understand but now they’re seeing and feeling it in a way that I think is really interesting. You know, when a student can’t go to the library or isn’t at school to go to that library or go to a public library to do research if they don’t have connectivity. How can they look anything up and do research, you know schools that are sending home packets the logistics behind that is one thing right? You’re printing packets. You’re putting them.
In the mail students are filling them out your calling on the phone to check in receiving them back. So, it’s a lot to deal with for logistics and Tina, you’re nodding. I want to hear your thoughts on this. But also, how engaging is it how much how helpful is that Tina?
Do you want to comment on that? So the I think it was chuckling because the interesting thing was when you know, we decided that initially it was going to be K5 and we were going to send packets home and just the ethics of printing and packaging and distributing right which the funny thing is that’s old technology. And and so what I know, when we first embarked on this and they were looking at me like, okay, so, what are we going to do? I said, well, you know, you’re asking me we’re struggling to do old technology and now we’re flipping it and you’re asking me to do all of this digitally sort of overnight and I tried to make that comparison of just how hard just the paper packaging.
Was which is something we know and so, you know just for people that don’t understand the difficulty about technology and making everything seemed seamless but those of us that live inthis world know that you know, we don’t get a lot of pats on the back, people just expect it to work and when it doesn’t work, you know, that’s what we hear it. Most of us embraced the positive, you know, and as Keith said we’ve made we’ve made huge progress, but there are challenges and just on a personal level.
So my daughter is a first grade teacher in Manatee County. I actually still live in Manatee and she has a kindergartener and a three-year-old and so she was essentially thrown into this first grade. And the funny thing was it the first week.
It was a little bit of emotional upheaval trying to trying to get there but she was trained, they use Schoology and she was trained on the LMS a couple years ago and her comment was well, I didn’t pay much attention because I was never going to use this for my first graders and then all of a sudden they were thrown in it. And so, you know Keith mentions grade level, you know, so she’s teaching first grade trying to at least part of the day 15-20 minutes do read aloud and you know, the other thing about these younger kids, you know from a personal perspective is they really desire to be together.
So they’re struggling not seeing their friends and so, you know trying to at least do some experience virtually, even if it’s FaceTime with their buddies, which my daughter does a little bit of and then so she’s doing for upgrade and she’s trying to do a kindergartener online and just simple things like when you login and logout you have to clear the cache and whatnot because you know, there are just those little idiosyncrasies about LMS has and then she’s got a three-year-old in the background running around, you know, trying to trying to manage this virtual learning time frame and what she’s doing with their kids.
So it you know, it really touches like you said even in education it hits teachers, but outside of that now, parents and I think we’re hearing all over the country, parents are really beginning to understand what teachers really do day in and day out and the value. I think there’s you know on a positive note, you know from challenges we have opportunities and I think the opportunity for us to really celebrate what teachers do every day in and out and the difficulty of managing all of that and you know, when we talk about this shift, we’re really talking about a second-order change now, we’ve been doing incremental as key sets.
We’ve been a long time in this world, and we’ve made some really great incremental progress. Not only with devices in the pricing coming down where it’s really truly affordable, but great online resources all of the different resources we had that we didn’t have 15-20 years ago, as robust and more user-friendly.
So I think those are positives and I think that has helped us make the transition but it’s the people sign right and there’s some things you know that we really need to pay attention to on the people side, and I will say that you know, we use Gaggle as our monitoring system. We’ve seen an uptick in our middle and high schools on incidents from an emotional mental health perspective that we’re catching. Luckily. We have that system in place, and we can address those but we’re seeing an uptick in that so there’s certainly some things on the mental health side that as educators we need to focus on as well.
Yeah, that’s a really important point and I’ve been reading so much about it. You know, since we closed all the school buildings and have students learning from home to protect them from the virus, but it brings up a lot of other safety issues and mental well-being issues. Brian talk a little bit about what Lightspeed’s doing just to help schools through this to help protect students.
Well, he’s froze up rebooted. So let’s do Chad instead. So, one of the things through all of our speakers Chad is you know, the logistics of shifting to digital and what’s involved in having systems that work on or off the school network. Whatever that looks like. What how is AWS helping schools through some of this?
Yeah, hopefully we get we get Brian backs. And yeah, so on the logistics point, you know, we’ve helped, you know tens of thousands of students just get devices which is something that we’ve never experienced before in LAUSD. We were using our delivery networks to deliver, you know, Chromebooks to students homes, which is something new for us is we try to help I think and then on the mental health since you were heading there.
We’ve also seen things like in LA spinning up very rapidly contact centers for like a mental health. So that students and teachers can get to those mental health resources. I mean, they have 700,000 students, like Tina pointed out, these are big districts that need things really fast.
So the power of the cloud means that you know, really over a weekend we can we can start up a massive contacts that are like that that really allows people to work, you know from – Hey Brian, he’s back – So, you know, I did on the other front, you know, I think our initial focus was really helping our Ed Tech Partners. So, like on this call, like one Lightspeed, you know, I think a lot of people don’t always realize you know, that many of these attacks are powered by AWS. So helping Schoology scale as somebody mentioned helping folks like Remind or Canvas, a lot of connectivity solutions.
And those are all powered by AWS. Our initial focus was really what can we do immediately to help schools. We knew that there was probably some customer need but were the closest our partner networks. And so that’s where we kind of put our resources first. And then we’ve kind of made a shift toward really remote learning and work support right?
So schools, you know, I was the CTO people didn’t work from home very often and so helping schools get those remote tools whether it’s like remote workspace out to their users so they can do a VPN and get to the tools that they need to, but we’ve also seen from an equity standpoint a real big shift and application streaming. So, we have tools that were traditionally bound to a computer lab engineering courses Project Lead, the Adobes, and you know AutoCAD you name it.
The kids weren’t getting to application streaming services to really get there and then you know last but not least teachers, you know, I was a teacher, a principal and a lot of you have talked about it, and Tina both talked about it like making the shift as a teacher to remote learning. We really work to mobilize our teacher network. We have ways to educate so there’s ongoing global webinars
And global office hours there that teachers can just dial into and say I need help with X. And so, we’re kind of putting our global teacher network when all that’s free. So that’s really you know, where we’ve been focused first is just you know on that kind of immediate customer need, you know, moving forward. We’re really starting to think about you know, what does a resilient school district look like how can this be? How can this be easier for schools? You know if God forbid this happens again.
When schools can feel less pain and that’s really kind of going to be our next focus as we I’m going to the coast and conference next week. That’s what we’ll be talking about. So, the virtual conference. So that’s what we’ll be talking about is how do you get there? So, I’ll hand it back over to you.
And yeah, let’s see if Brian can respond to a little bit of how Lightspeed ties into what we’ve been hearing about student safety and cloud systems and partnerships with all districts. Sorry about the difficulties there. So I look up first thing. I was going to point out was kind of addressed but it is that we’re just extremely impressed with our employees and being able to work from home and having really good attitudes about the mission and vision of Lightspeed. And of course, almost everyone we work with has a great attitude is trying to solve a problem. Everybody seems to be remaining calm and you know, our customers school districts are really our partners.
They’re under a much more challenging situation than a software company who can kind of work virtually and doesn’t have students watching my own children interact with their teachers and the attitudes of everybody. I think it’s been a really, really positive and impressive thing. I’ve seen very little drama, but we are hearing from our customers and from the data, we collect at the interactions that we have
That there is a very disconcerting theme around the mental health of kids and teachers and everyone else and, while it seems really pleasant at my house and probably most of your houses, there’s lots of places where it isn’t that pleasant where we’re focusing more on the fundamentals. We’re not talking about adaptive learning a personalized learning or how to maximize the use of our LMS with most of our customers at this.
We’re talking about is the device connected? Is it safe and is a student safe mentally and physically safe and you know? I’m talking to school districts who are trying to deliver food to students who went to school for food or customers who have put Wi-Fi on buses and drop them in the neighborhood so they could get kids connected and so looking from my perspective and how I think we at Lightspeed wouldn’t be running.
Our road map and our business for the next six months or longer is around the fundamental basics: equity, safety – is the student mentally and physically safe, and are they connected to a device?
Initially and then the next thing which is kind of leapfrogged a lot of the advanced development and work we we’re doing is data. Meaning what we’re hearing from our customers is: I just seem to know physically where the devices are, and that’s a pretty good indicator that I know where the student is and how that device is being used and which applications are being used. You talked about Zoom, you know, we went from everyone in the world install Zoom to everyone in the world uninstall Zoom.
If you think about school districts and we work across the world trying to help, you know, Tina’s daughter the teacher who is installing Zoom for the first time and now being asked to install Teams and the IT department, curriculum department might want to know who’s actually made the shift from Zoom to Teams of from Teams to Zoom.
I know we are really concerned with which vendor they used but there’s so much that could be done around professional development making sure that they can see what’s used by who and where’s my device where’s my student? Are they safe? And how is this thing being used and can I help educate and do more professional development and just open the visibility into because it didn’t really matter before it wasn’t nearly as important that mobile device that you knew exactly where and how a mobile devices being used because it came back to your network every day. Now, it doesn’t go back to your network every day. So that’s been kind of where we’re spending a lot of our time.
Let’s use that as a little bit of a transition to where we’ve been in the last two months to what schools can do over the summer to be ready for the fall starting with a little bit with what the fall could look like. I mean, none of us has the crystal ball into the future, but we’ve all been reading the reports and reading the news and you know, it’s everything from being prepared to school opening late not opening.
Long time to opening but with staggered remote and on campus or half the students one week or one day or periods where it’s closed and you’re remote learning, you know, all kinds of mixes to allow for social distancing and flattening the curve and all these phrases that now are just part of our normal vocabulary.
So, thinking about how we get from today in May to school starting in August taking some of the lessons that we’ve learned to use the summer project time to really get ready for what back to school looks like. What does that looking like for you, Pete? You’re nodding? Well, I think the one thing we can assume is it won’t look like 1999 or 2019. They weren’t much different. What we know now is that it’s going to be very different.
And we need to plan for the worst. Hope for the best and decide as late as possible. I think is kind of what we’ve learned through this. You don’t want to decide today what the fall is going to look like because there’s so many variables that are going to change between now and then so you really have to take into account all of the options that you’re pointing at me and for us what we’ve done is we’ve created seven committees all of our administrators and key decision-makers and key thinkers are on these committees there.
They’re working right now through the month of May giving us as a cabinet or report at the beginning of June on what’s our pandemic response going to look like next year. What’s mental health and well was going to look like next year what’s return instruction
Looks like. We’ve got a post-secondary pathways committee for what’s it look like when you get beyond our school district, you know, because a lot of students are talking gap years and things like that now, which in the districts of high poverty are often not gap years are not we’ve got facilities committee as well operations committee of technology. Those seven are looking at how do we start with three different scenarios right in person instruction with without social distancing, hybrid impersonal remote learning, and you kind of go back and forth between them and then what does fully remote instruction look like, you know, by the way teachers you got to get ready for all that.
The good news is we’ve got three months. We used to have just had three days for this? The bad news is we only have three months and of those most or not contract days for teachers is, so you know, how do we scale up for that? Quite honestly teachers are going to have to kind of volunteer to kind of read bigger everything and retool much like factories have to you know, in the olden days.
If you will in terms of your production line has to go away you got to bring it on the production line and then you know build that around what people need, so what students and families need today? They’ve experienced something in the last two months that some of them hate some of them love and everyone’s kind of someplace in between. To Brian’s point, some of those family situations – they aren’t loving having the kids home all the time, you know, we feed students.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner when we’re not in session. We still are feeding them breakfast and lunch. But where’s dinner come from? These are real problems of equity and concern that we have to think about for next year. So, for us we’ve taken the approach and honestly, there’s something called a return to school roadmap that I would highly encourage people to look at the return to school roadmap is kind of what we base our discussions off of right. Now, these committees are all in full force meeting a couple of times a week.
Weekly updates with an idea of an initial, you know plan puts that put together by the June 1st. So I think if you’re a district and you’re kind of wondering what to do, that’s a good place to start is to think about what will you do in all of these areas and you know, you’ve got specialists in all of them like distribute the work you don’t have to do it as a superintendent you don’t have to do, as the CTO distribute the work and have people bring recommendations back to you. I think that’s the key.
For what we should be doing as we get into this summer through it. Well, and I think you really hit on the fact so many of the questions that came in and continue to come in or about how do you prepare for something that you have no idea what it looks like and the answer is something like prepare for something. You have no idea what it looks like prepare for the worst. You know, there are certain systems. I’d throw Relay into this but there are certain systems that whether schools are at home or on
This either way, it’s just going to work, like where can you build that in? How can you prepare teachers for a little bit of both a little bit of either? So, what’s the summer list look like in Polk to get all of you guys ready Tina? So, one of the things that we’re looking at is that we didn’t have was sort of a deficiency was a standard learning management system. And so, we’re very quickly looking at that because one of the things while I think it’s great to
Have the flexibility, one of the challenges we’ve heard even from our own staff that have kids is I get in and I go to this link in Google Classroom and it’s this math lesson, and I can’t go, I can’t find it. Right and so they’re going all over the place. And so, we know that that’s a deficiency. So, we’re actually very actively looking at implementing that to streamline. I mean, we’re lucky like Pete that we have, you know, an infrastructure in place.
We have lots of devices, we have single sign-on. There’s not a shortage really of digital resources. And one of the things I would say going forward is one look at what you already know, but to really begin to streamline some things instead of having a hundred different resources really decide.
These are the key resources that we’re going to start with in the fall and focus on some key things that you know are going to make an impact because you can’t do it all and so For Teacher sake, I think really kind of streamlining and saying these are critical resources that we know for English Language Learners or for young readers. And Pete talked about the gap where we’re looking at is what are we doing this summer because we’re going to try to do some continued learning this summer with kids that we know are kind of on that bubble and we know we’re going to have to catch up. So, it’s looking at what do we need to do to catch up for those that are already behind and then those you know, where?
Our kids are coming in to start and for us there’s a little bit of a challenge because we’re just now getting ready to start hurricane season. And so we’re actually already having conversations with the EEOC on a weekly basis on what are we going to do? If we have a storm because all of our core of our schools become shelters, what does that look like? And so on top of you know, what does it look like in the fall with these challenges? We also have to consider. What’s the storm season going to be for us?
So those are some of the challenges that we’re working on right now. It’s be ready for anything, right, you know, and one of the things that I’ve heard is that areas where they’ve been through storms and hurricanes and closures and snow all of those things that have led to some extended closures.
They hit on some of these touchstones and addressed some of these things leading up to this. One of the things we found is we’re looking across the country about like who has some good models for this. Hey, guess what Montana they have they have so many school closures and they have so separated from one another that the Montana school boards Association put together a really great document. I’d encourage you to look at it in terms of how do you do sudden closures and continue with the learning?
Yeah, that’s a great point. And you know, one of the reasons we pulled this event together and one of the reasons I love working in K-12 is that everyone’s willing to help each other out right? So, there are lessons to be learned from Montana. There are lessons to be learned from the storms in Florida and snow elsewhere and pulling those all together can just help everyone be a little bit more prepared. Right?
So Keith what should schools be thinking about between now and back to school from your perspective, whether it’s about access to rural communities or two homes or something else. Yeah, and just to key off of what Tina was just talking about. You know, I think there we had developed a lot of resources around it crisis preparedness, but it was you know about hurricanes, floods, fires, natural disasters never through the lens of a health pandemic, so we will be releasing an updated
Covid resource very shortly because you know, it’s likely that you will have, you know, maybe 24 hours maybe 30 maybe 72 hours or something. And when you see that you’re going to have to go again remote.
So we’re doing that and we put out some other resources on video conferencing and on privacy in this time of remote learning, but I think this is another pivot moment for people who have maybe for everyone at the school district level but particularly for those that have technology in their title.
And that is you know, you’ve got to somehow hopefully move out of the muck of the moment and into being the strategic leader on innovation and that I think you know, we’ve heard a lot of the logistics around, you know, if we move to a partial reopening or you know using social distancing. Well, what does that blended learning look like? And how does it fit in and how does it change the economics of what schools are trying to do? I was listening to one school district in New Mexico that it’s a large district.
But if they were to do the social distancing for their regular daily routes with buses they would need more than every bus that exists currently with all the school districts of New Mexico.
So it’s not realistic. Some of the assumptions that some administrators or parents or policymakers might have and it’s time for this audience and tech leaders to put on their innovation hat and say there’s new and better ways to do this and that’s what we have to: come with that lens. I think it’s really your moment to shine not just to automate the things that we were already doing. But what are new ways of doing it? Let’s take a question. Like how can I arrange my desks in a classroom and instead ask do I need desks in a classroom and when it when I know things have to come to school, why do they have to be together? When did they have to be together?
And how do we use technology that supports their mental well-being as opposed to being a distraction or make things worse. I had added that. That’s an excellent point is like what’s the purpose? You know, we’ve been all kind of talking to the last couple of years of what’s the why like, why do we gather? Well, there’s a purpose together. I love to have people over for dinner. We’ve got a nice big deck. I love to have people come around and sit around the fireplace.
And there’s a benefit in that right, but there are some times when it you know, getting together in a school building is wasteful right and I think parents are seeing that in that is what’s thrusting us into there might be a lot more hybrid and totally remote options chosen by parents and if we don’t provide someone else will so we have to address the real baseline concerns that parents are now developing in terms of like why do we send our kids to school
For eight hours? For some of them the reason, you know, you think of eight hours. Why were we all doing the exact same thing every day right one of these morning and end of three, you know, especially with high school kids or older kids. They don’t even wake up till 11:00. I mean the science is pretty clear. So yeah, I’m not saying the kids need to do more than whatever six or seven hours
Of time, but is there a magic thing that everything has to stop at 3 p.m? If we extended that then suddenly the facade. I know that there was a schools in Albuquerque a few years ago for was kids that had dropped out. Well, they’re working they you know, for whatever reasons may they had a problem maybe it’s pregnancy or whatever, but they have to work now. So, the school actually stays open till 10:00 p.m. And they allow teachers and students to pick what are the six hours.
For seven hours that they’re going to do learning and some teachers. Yeah, some teachers want to do seven in the morning until noon or two or three, but others want to start at noon and or two in the afternoon, why do we have to be so regimented? It really ties into the synchronous versus asynchronous Pete that you were talking about. That’s the disruption.
I think, you know just to throw it to you Chad for a second because I think Amazon has kind of represented this in the Retail space right? I mean, I don’t know about you where you live, but we got malls that are closing all their anchors. Why? Because people are shopping on Amazon or some other online service. The big conversations are like where did the packages get dropped off at your house and can you pull up and we’ll put it in your trunk. It’s totally changed these conversations and that’s what’s happening to education right now.
So, I mean I think you know listen to this conversation like always think of this as how do I minimize risk to learning continuity but the learning continuity and where the learning happens and when it happens and where it happens is all changed, right?
So we really believe that you know, you know that at AWS, you know in the fullness of time most K-12 systems are going to leverage cloud in a really meaningful way but the time where you know when I think about it, you know, this is a tried and true technology that’s been around for 20 years that companies like Lightspeed use every day to deliver to schools but still very disruptive, but there’s a worn path to move into this new model and there’s a reason why other entities around the around the globe, you know, use these type of models.
So now I really think about it as a former CTO, I think a lot of folks think about this shift as is just so big it’s very big it. It’s kind of scary. But I really I think about it really two questions. I’ve tried to frame this up or schools is, you know can teachers adequately educate their students in a remote setting can administrators operate their departments and schools and remote setting and how fast can you move to that remote setting those are three simple kind of questions as I’ve thought about it.
I think leaders need to take bite-sized chunks right? There is their short sprints, medium sprints, and long sprints. So, for Tina talk about her pretty short sprint right to get an LMS.
There’s ways to do that relatively quickly and a lot of you have talked about scale and speed and you know, that’s something that we really pride ourselves on is how to how to move fast at scale when we think about some of the things we’ve done it had to be very fast and you know for many years probably some people on this webinar ever seen me present before I always present the slide that says schools can’t afford to be slow and people kind of go. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah schools can’t afford we saw it. Well when covid happened, that’s when we really, really couldn’t afford to be slow and we had to have these solutions. So, we feel like, you know, we have the ability to free some schools up and free our Ed Tech Partners like Lightspeed up to move.
You talked about data and analytics as your kind of back to the foundations. Reports on you have students learning at night, at home, early in the morning, different times, different places, different devices to what Chad and Tina were talking about quickly scaling up systems like an LMS. What does reporting look like to know if any of this is working if students are really
Logging in if you’re not taking attendance on a Zoom? How does that work? Right and by the way that has come up with two times and I will also give a little credit to the Amazon. AWS has been working with us when we decided to do, and I’ve been through this before over the last 21 years with natural disasters in states or areas never the entire world all the same time, but a moment we were able to say to our customers or prospects
And at no charge to you at all, you can run our software. And Amazon has been able to give us breaks in our pricing because we have costs and they have costs and basically said if we can get you ramped up as fast as possible and not charge you until you figure out how you’re going to pay for it, they’ll do that. We have the luxury of being around for a long time and having the resources to do that and having the partners like AWS to help us do that and one of those things includes the data piece. And so, if you are using, you know our filter, Relay
To Monitor and protect your students you can at no charge turn on this data piece and all we’re trying to do there is say we’re who’s using what you know, my Zoom or Hangouts or whatever examples.
We’re trying to just give you enough data and insights not just a giant file full of data, but really actionable graphs and insights and data that you can drive back to the educators and say, you know a few of my students are not online class ever and it’s because of have an internet connection and I didn’t know that and I don’t need to know that or they’re not using the LMS because the instructor in charge of their class hasn’t had the professional development and is chosen just to get all the faces on the screen and try to work through the problems with their Google Docs or Office 365 experience and so you think about what we’re seeing is maybe who’s on 365 or any kind of LMS today and I’m moving towards an LMS, but I don’t know what my adoption rate is, who has adopted when they haven’t, and how that works and so as much as it’s about which students are using which applications and where’s the device and are they safe? It’s also about we didn’t have time to do PD.
All the Educators that are responsible for this or just making sure everyone’s face is on the screen and the sixth grader isn’t, you know, multitasking with Fortnight? Those are kind of some just basic things. We’re trying to provide to the customer as soon as possible. And then we understand what that may mean that they implement some change or buy some software. There are applications they weren’t using before or understand.
They had duplicate applications running and that’s only a problem because the continuity that we talked about across all of the students like me for this class, I use this particular platform and for the other class, I use that one and that’s confusing. So, I think it’s just visibility. We’re not the only ones who could provide that but I think it’s a really useful thing right now.
Visibility hits on a topic that we haven’t addressed, but I know brought in a lot of questions, which is about how do you make sure student data privacy isn’t at risk? How do you make sure that teachers aren’t responding to all of these free offers for software that they’re seeing in their Facebook stream and doing something that puts your students at risk? So, I mean, you’re talking about the visibility into that, right?
Right being able to provide that so you know that you’re using the right tools keeping students safe.
But it also probably comes to the PD like you talked about and a lot of questions came in on that Tina and Pete. Could you talk about just what you’re looking at for professional development training teachers not just on how to teach remotely but how to use the right tools or the tools that have been vetted or those sorts of things?
So I have an instructional technology team and they’ve really blossomed during this because they are holding webinars at all hours and they get they’re getting hundreds of teachers on these webinars on various topics, whether it’s Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams, and some of the you know, various district-based applications, but they, you know, it’s almost a time that that they’ve shined because it’s a department sometimes that people are like, what do they actually do? Right.
So unless it’s one of those more progressive teachers that are attending we’ve been offering these for years and you’ve got those as Pete mentioned you got Or so of those that are ready and then the rest not and so I think we’re bringing on some of those. I kind of like to talk sometimes about you at your speedboats. You got your little tug boats and then you get your anchors and usually your speed boats are going to pull the tugboats and hopefully the anchors come up a little bit but this is kind of accelerated that and so we’ve done a ton of webinars. We’re taping the webinars. They’re doing question and answer sessions at various hours.
So they’ve done a lot of that and we’re getting ready to move into. What are we doing in the summer? What are we offering in the summer and is Pete mentioned a lot of it’s going to be voluntary. We’re not going to have enough funding to pay every teacher to attend but I think in the grand scheme of things you’re going to get a lot of those teachers that recognize that they need some skill development.
And so I think they’re probably going to invest some of their time this summer because it’s going to make their life easier in the fall, because, again, it’s probably my personal opinion that we’re probably going to be in for some blended learning, you know, so we’re going to have some form of this. It may not be as exaggerated. But they’re still going to have to learn to manage in these in these environments and you know, then some of the questions we don’t know is: are some of the parents going to send their kids back to school? You know, we don’t know what that looks like right now.
So even if we opened schools, are they going to come back? And so, there are you know alternate choices out there that you know, learning virtually has been a big platform for many, many years. So that’s you know, some of the questions that we’re asking but certainly the professional development and gearing up for that over these next three months is a huge piece that we’re working on. Yeah. Yeah for us. I’m also very blessed by having a phenomenal e-learning team.
I’ve got members of that team that are nationally recognized. One of them has a book coming out this month on blended learning, you know, I mean, so they are top-flight people that really know this material, but trying disseminate that out to the entire staff is always the challenge because there has to be purpose, a why behind it. Well now the why has presented itself in a very obvious way. And so, the the question and also thankfully we have a culture of professional learning in your first two years in Wayne Township. You have to take 30 hours of professional development or you get a pink slip at the end of those two years, and we pink slip people every year about this time because they didn’t take the classes. So, there’s a real sense
Of like hey, we have to do better every year here. Everything’s always changing. And so, this is a significant disruptive change, but it’s still change, and we’re going to get professional development for it. Thankfully,as a part of that, we’ve really standardized in terms of how you get into all of our digital tools. We’ve tried to use interoperability to put those tools inside of our Learning Management System. We have a single Learning Management tool.
We standardized on you know, our collaboration tools. They’re all Google and then you know all that adoptions were doing digitally, we’re creating easy ways for people to get to them. So thankfully, we’ve created a structure over the last 15 or 20 years that makes it easier to do the teaching. I really feel terrible for those schools that have all of these different places their students staff need to go to get access if that’s their situation. That’s their biggest problem
They have to solve because if it’s not easy students, then staff will have a really hard time. I don’t care how much professional development you do. It’s getting into the resources. So, the first thing is the ramp and then the second thing is with a pressure building, you still need to do keep it concise. We use a lot of professional learning communities so that people can choose their own path and then kind of just get the help they need as opposed to show up at this training.
That’s our approach, so I can talk a lot about the standardized consistency, keeping it simple. One of the main things I hear it with is the LMS. Pick one or at least one for middle and high school and a different one for elementary and train all teachers to use it the same way just adding to this consistency.
So that parents and students don’t have to deal with a completely different things for every class that they’re going to. Anyone I talk to that does my job across the country talks about help desk tickets. Guess what? All the questions are the ones from parents are: why are you making this so complicated for my children? You’re having them go to 20 different places in the course of a day and they can’t keep up. Simplify, simplify. And you know, certainly the other thing is obviously login IDs. I need my with my login ID for this specific digital tool, but you can eliminate all that simple.
And Amy, I’d be remiss if I didn’t jump in on the privacy issue, as I know Lightspeed has done a lot of work on privacy and you know, this might be a time when school leaders say well, we’re just too busy for that.
But I think it’s quite the opposite. With students and teachers working from home, all the more important to be very tight on understanding privacy, and I would direct people to trustedlearning.org. We’ve spent over the last four years working to identify 25 key practices that every school system should be doing now, and this includes things that you legally have to do. But it also is this best practice. So, there are certain things that are policy-related that your school board should be adopting. There are certain things that relate to the technology around cybersecurity and protection of that data.
The hardest part is probably around the teaching and learning and the professional development for teachers, you know, so please go there even if you can’t accomplish, can’t reach all 25. You should start on a continuous improvement plan to see any well, okay, we’re doing 15 of these 25.
There’s another five we can do that are low-hanging fruit, you know, and then have a plan for how will we get to the last one, and when you get to all 25, you achieve the seal of a trusted learning environment. You mentioned at the beginning that this might seem like, you know a time when things are different. We don’t have to worry about that right now, but I think the key point that you make in addition to needing to focus on student data privacy is that this is still school.
It looks different but we still need be educating students, keeping them safe, reporting on what they’re doing, providing some accountability, doing all those things that school is yeah.
It’s just in a really different way we do and it has to be done in a safe and secure network and their cybersecurity isn’t a nice to have it’s a must-have, and that’s even what we’re seeing you know, all kinds of phishing attacks are just dramatically off the charts, as we move into a home environment that you know students and teachers are distracted not knowing they’re even just the same phishing attacks that were happening at school that you know, two percent of according to the cybersecurity places, you know, two percent of teachers would click on them. Well now it’s like 20%. I mean it’s gone through the roof and there’s all kinds of new scams.
And so we need to get serious about this, and we need to invest in really good cybersecurity as well. I think it hackers are pretty smart about figuring out how to prey on people’s anxiety and the emotions that they’re feeling right now to get them to click something that three months ago. They would have just ignored right Tina. You’re nodding. Yeah because we’ve seen an uptick. I mean, I’ll be watching
And all of a sudden, Office 365 alert and you know somebody clicked on something, you know. Luckily. I have an operation team that remediate those quickly but we’re definitely seeing an increase in that just to really drive home to the whole audience. What’s at risk there? Why do why do schools really need to be thinking about security student data privacy? What could be the implication? Absolutely, student records
Hold a lot of Private confidential information and then you know just the safety and well-being of students and teachers, you know, they’re using now home networks. So that home devices home Wi-Fi, I mean, there’s a whole bunch of new challenges, a bleak as it was around the at school network in terms of cybersecurity, it’s even more problematic than it was the last eight weeks. Yeah.
There’s a technical I’ll answer to this, you know, these things that are out there but the real answer is trust. What’s at stake? What’s at stake is trust, your trust with your community if it’s broken because there’s been a vulnerability exposed. Right? I mean there’s a lot of institutions that will tell you how much they have lost because they’ve lost trust as school districts. Trust is a very difficult thing to rebuild.
Yeah, so as we’re coming up towards the end of our 90 minutes, it has really flown by I want to give all our panelists and opportunity to share the one take away one piece of advice that like are many hundreds of people who are listening to walk away with whether it’s something that worked really well for you that you just want schools to be thinking about something you wish you knew three months ago that you know now that at let’s start with you Chad.
Yeah, so I mean first I just want to say, you know, thanks to the school technology leaders for what you’re doing. I mean as somebody that’s once been there before and just watching online, it’s amazing work and I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.
I mean, I think my advice is I encourage you to use this time to rethink and maybe look outside of K-12 to see how you could do something differently. I feel like a lot of times as I’ve spent some time in the private sector now.
We still tend to stay in that silo and I think this is a time where there could be a lot of reinvention and you know, I’m really encouraged by this by the schools that we’ve been able to collaborate with over the last couple months because we’ve done some really creative and reinventions of things so, that’s where I encourage you to be and you know, we’re glad to help out there.
You know, how about you?
For me, I’ve been doing a lot of work around, you know, student devices and what not. And you know, we’ve got lots of evidence where you can implement you can build it and my question is always been how do we sustain it? So my hope out of this is that legislators and even some leaders who maybe not in the technology realm and don’t understand the criticalness.
I think even at some superintendent levels, we need to invest and rethink about budgeting because I don’t think it’s going to take a ton of money. I think it’s taking rethinking what we want and how we budget but the sustainability piece is critical because you build this environment and you provide all this training, but you have to refresh those devices. We all know technology’s changing so rapidly, so for me, I hope we’ll get some sort of sustained funding and possibly some work
Very heavily on this and I know that we’ve made, as he said, we’ve definitely made progress, but the digital divide is something that we’ve got to tackle and the only way to tackle that is to is to be equitable. We don’t ever think about what we invest in textbooks. I mean, this is always been a struggle for me as we invest millions of dollars and nobody’s asking us about what research has been done to say that this textbook makes any difference on AP calc or biology.
But we invest all this money. There’s a there’s an amazing amount of content and really free good content resources out there. So, part of it is about really getting at a cabinet level everybody on that same page understanding the budgeting and what it and what this new normal as you said. What does this new normal look like?
So, I’d like to I’d like to see us be able to really make that second order change and look at it’s time to give every kid a device. I don’t think there’s any real question about is it the right thing and when it’s going to happen, it’s here and this is our opportunity but we really need from let you know from the federal to the state to local legislators to understand what it’s going to take for us to do that. So that’s what I hope comes out of this.
Yeah, and I think a really important point here is that when school’s first shut down, they might have thought we just need get through two weeks, two months, just to the end of the year right in that sort of situation. Maybe you can just hack together the best thing that works but now we need to be thinking really long term for the fall for 2020-2021 school year and then just for the future right pick the right things that you want to and can sustain this long-term.
Keith what are your words of wisdom? I think it is a moment to lean into theme of the moment and this is not a time to roll back to what we had. But think about what we should have, and I think building on what Tina was saying about, you know, getting a device for every student.
We need to make sure that at home students have access that in this isn’t, you know, we think in our narrow lane of education but the same families that are disconnected from at-home learning are disconnected for medical care. They’re disconnected for finding a job.
And so I think we need to link arms and talk about what home access means and find allies that find those you know, and in the medical world to say, you know, the same families that are disconnected are the ones without resources, and we see this in other places in the world, you know. We took a delegation 10 years ago to Uruguay the president of Uruguay wanted – it’s a very poor country generally – and they decided that the way to ensure equity was to provide a device and connectivity to every family and yeah, it’s used by students during the day and but when they go to the bed, the nutrition programs are offered for the parent for the mothers to learn about how to cook nutrition, you know. And I think we have a tendency to silo everything in the United States because that’s the way funding happens. But we need to say to our policy maker. We need to fix and get broadband to every for every family everywhere and that includes underserved and rural.
Thanks, Keith. Pete you’re nodding. So I imagine you’re going to build on that. Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about disruption on this call. Right? And you know, I first really started hearing a lot about that idea in education through Michael Horn Christensen Institute, you know many years ago and kind of this idea of disruption really kind of brings us to the question of like hey, how can your district be if it could be anything? How could it best serve students that they could do anything and thinking outside of the box?
Because we have this disrupter right now that’s making us think or reset. So I think my word of wisdom is think about that. Don’t feel like you need to change everything with all of your systems because you don’t have time for that. You’ve got a couple of months to get ready. So, look at what’s working. Look at what’s working, scale that up make that stronger and then look at where your failure is happening and do some adoptions to fix the failure.
So, I that would be my words of wisdom, mindsets of people that are thinking through this right now.
How about you Brian? What’s one thing we want schools to be thinking? Yeah, really simple thing for me is that you know every day, I receive dozens or more email solicitations and I read covid in the subject and then delete it. So like be careful not to put covid in our subject line.
What I’m saying is trust the vendors that you know, there is just a lot of really hardworking K12 specific super dedicated people in the vendor community who may seem like at this point are being opportunistic or trying to exploit schools and their need right now, but most of them are really just trying to help you and have the expertise to help you and are willing to make exceptions to make it all work for you because we know we’re going to be working together. We’ve been working together last 20 years but to be working together for another 20 years, we both benefit from that relationship. So I would say if it all possible trust the vendors that you know and tell them exactly what you’re trying to accomplish, you know, we go from complicated rfps and competitive situations from how am I going to do all of this with, you know from your hardware providers to your manufacturers to your you know connectivity people.
All the way down to little software companies like Lightspeed, but we’re really willing to adjust and we need your advice on what to do from product development to support to how we should most help you. So, you know, the advice is to trust the ones you know.
Yeah, I’ll kind of close with that as the sender of most of those emails on behalf of Lightspeed Systems. You know, I think that for me it really hit a situation where it was like wow, the thing every single school district is dealing with and need around the world is something we provide can we help them? So, emailing that too.
Get that message out there and as Brian mentioned earlier offering these solutions for free and we’re really glad that Tina took advantage of that offer and that Pete has been using these solutions. So, in closing here, I want to thank all of our panelists for believing in us. I want to thank all of our attendees for opening and reading that email and registering for this discussion and trusting us as Lightspeed Systems and me.
As webinar ends and you leave you’re going to get a quick survey it three little tiny questions. I appreciate you filling that out because it will help all of us give you more of the kind of content you want and deliver the solutions that you want. So, I always like to make sure I end a little bit early with these things. You have time to go get ready for your next meeting. We answered a lot of the questions that came through just through the discussion as I was throwing them out.
But there are hundreds in there. So we’ll follow up on any of those specific questions those things we can help you out with and the blueprint for returning to school and the roadmap those things that various speakers mentioned and I see lots of questions about I’ll go edit the follow-up email that you’re going to get with the recording to this and make sure that those are in there so that you have access to those so in closing, thank you all.
Thank you Keith and Pete and Tina and Chad and Brian for sharing your experience and insight and thank you to our attendees.
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