Tech & - New Year New Normal - September 2020

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Educators from New York City’s Department of Education share their best practices and advice for supporting digital citizenship



Diversity in technology requires intentional and proactive effort


Advice and tips for using video with students from presenters at Tech & Learning’s recent Virtual Summit


Student data privacy policies implementation needs to be hard-wired for governance, discipline, purchasing, and communications processes


Use a service design model to find new ways to deliver school services during times of change


Social-emotional learning during remote learning will be a challenge for school districts


Schools use esports programs to create opportunities for diversity and inclusion, teach students a variety of coveted skills, and prepare students for college and career

Despite the best efforts of school district educators and administrators over the summer, nothing could have prepared us for this new school year: scrambling to find enough devices, supporting the emotional well-being of students/family/staff, continually pivoting instruction delivery to keep staff and students safe —there is nothing “normal” about this year. We’ve been working hard to create content designed to support you during this challenging time. We’re continually posting new tutorials on distance learning tools on, as well as articles that showcase what’s working ­— and what’s not working ­— for your colleagues. We’re also continuing our “Lunch ‘n Learn” webinar series with Dr. Kecia Ray, now titled “New Year, New Normal.” In this series, Dr. Ray talks with district leaders about how they’re navigating challenges such as SEL, security, PD, and more. Find links to on-demand webinars here, and register for the new free webinars here. In this issue, we highlight discussions that came out of our first Virtual Leadership Summit, hosted this past July. During this virtual conference, leaders from districts around the country came together for small-group discussions to share ideas on topics such as student data privacy, digital citizenship, supporting diversity in tech, esports, and more. You can read these takeaways in this issue and watch the recordings of these sessions here. Special thanks to our Virtual Summit sponsors for supporting the work of these thought leaders: Boxlight, GuideK12 (now part of Forecast5 Analytics), Mediasite, Nureva, and Prezi Video. We will continue to report on the issues most important to you. If you would like to share your story, please contact me at christineweiser@ Thank you, as always, for all you are doing for your school communities.

26 RESOURCES Group Publisher Christine Weiser CONTENT Managing Editor Ray Bendici

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SUPPORTING DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP DURING REMOTE LEARNING Educators from New York City’s Department of Education share their best practices and advice for supporting digital citizenship By Carl Hooker With schools moving classes online, a lot of new challenges have arisen as educators engage with their students through a screen. One of the first challenges that has emerged as a result is the ease with which students can record what teachers say during video calls and then manipulate the images or recording and post it online. During Tech & Learning’s recent Virtual Leadership Summit, a talented group of educators from the New York City Department of Education— including Lisa Nielsen, Laura Ogando, and Jackie Patanio—led an engaging discussion about teaching digital citizenship to students. I was honored to attend and would like to share some thoughts. See the entire discussion

Norming Guidelines

One thing reiterated by the panel throughout the presentation was the idea that teachers need to share norms about how to interact and expectations for online behavior, especially at the beginning of the year. Some guidelines to consider and discuss with your students: • When is it appropriate to turn your camera on or off? • Please limit private chat. • Mute your mic when you’re not talking. • Check your background and the items/people behind you. These may seem fairly simple but each one has a lot of impact when it comes to student privacy laws. Now that teachers have a window into the homes of their students, there is also an added pressure to report things that they might see happening in the background. See the full list of questions for teachers to consider addressing with their students on page 5.

Personalizing Remote Learning

It’s hard to gauge your audience when they are online. Even if their cameras are on, it’s impossible to hear all your students when the entire class is off mute. Teachers need to create strategies to engage their students but also get to know them without the benefits of being in-person.




SUPPORTING DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP Holding one-on-one and small group virtual discussions can help with that. Some schools mentioned having virtual “meet the teacher” sessions planned for the beginning of the year so that teachers can get to know their students better. One idea that has gained steam over the past few months is the idea of a “BitMoji Classroom.” The premise is teachers create a mock classroom using presentation software such as Google Slides. Then students can click on different parts of the classroom that will guide them to the classroom rules, about the teacher, etc. In many ways, it’s a simpler way to make an interactive website, only with the clever BitMoji versions of the teacher. The presenters even created a slide in their presentation that represented this (at right). While I agree that it personalizes the experience, I would also encourage teachers to share their actual face with students to help build those relationships. Otherwise, they might just think their teacher is a cartoon.

Consequences for Later Life

One of the bigger hot-button issues that came up during the conversation was at which point do students’ actions online impact their future life? Recently, we’ve seen a rise in celebrities and politicians being called out for comments or feelings posted online or during an interview, but at what age should students be held in the same regard? The group was somewhat split in their responses but the majority felt that around the same time a student is allowed to drive a car is when they need to be a little more serious about their digital footprint. Posting funny TikTok videos and SnapChats are part of the exploratory nature of tweens and teens and shouldn’t be held against them. Intent is still the primary driver of whether or not there should be harsh consequences levied by schools or the public.

Setting the Routine

Teachers can’t control what is being said or encouraged at home. They can, however, control what they do and say with their students. While norms and strategies are important, the panel emphasized that teachers need to make sure that routines and expectations are continual and redundant. Both teachers and students are experiencing this new

experiment in remote learning at the same time. Creating those routines continue to be an important component of the classroom, whether it be in-person or remote. The emphasis on digital citizenship is now much more critical as learning moves online.

Additional Resources

How to Teach Digital Citizenship - Tech & Learning Magazine Digital Citizenship in the Online Classroom Checklist Digital Media Guidelines for Remote Learning Extending Classroom Management Online - Edutopia

Teachers can’t control what is being said or encouraged at home. They can, however, control what they do and say with their students.




HOW TO SUPPORT DIVERSITY IN TECHNOLOGY Diversity in technology requires intentional and proactive effort By Ray Bendici

Key Takeaways

When it comes to diversity, “It’s more than just hashtags,” said Adam Phyall III, Director of Technology and Media Services for Newton County School System in Covington, Georgia. “When you start talking about diversity, whether it’s in technology or education, what happens when the hashtag is over and it’s no longer trending on social media, what are you still doing?” Best practices, advice, and resources to address diversity in technology and education was the focus of “Supporting Diversity in Technology,” a presentation during Tech & Learning’s recent Virtual Leadership Summit, which provided an environment in which district leaders could share their successes and challenges in facilitated small group discussions.

Make yourself uncomfortable. “When we’re talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, you have to be very intentional about this work,” Phyall said. “If you don’t get uncomfortable at any point in this process, then you’re not doing the work the right way because ultimately any time you’re dealing with this conversation, it’s more than curriculum. When you’re talking about equity, diversity, and inclusion, that’s going to change you at the core of your being. After you walk out of work, you have to take this home with you. You have to second guess your preconceived notions about how you interact with individuals.” Authentic relationships. “When you talk about race, color, or sexual orientation, do you have individuals outside of your work space that you have those relationships with?” asked Phyall. “Are you building your skill set and knowledge?” Embrace your ignorance because it says that you

Watch the full session




have more things to learn. Then you can address it and inform yourself by proactively building new relationships or attending events to broaden your horizons. Take advantage of those opportunities to get uncomfortable so you can grow. Equity beyond devices. The whole idea behind digital equity and supporting diversity is ensuring that not only everyone has a device, but it fulfills the needs of the student, teacher, or even the community, said Sandra Paul, Director of IT for the Township of Union Public Schools, a particularly diverse district in New Jersey. “The device alone does not answer the question of digital equity,” said Paul. “You have to be intentional about what you’re doing—just because you’re 1:1, it doesn’t work that way. Digital equity encompasses so much more than that.” Individual needs. “We can tear down the barriers, but we want to make sure that individuals have the tools and resources needed for them to achieve what they need to achieve,” said Phyall. For example, does a student with special needs require a tablet instead of a Chromebook? “Equity is providing what that student needs, when they need it,” he said. To fill equity gaps, know your students and their needs. Staff access. Although the focus is on providing access and devices for students, many professional staff also lack. For her district, Paul had to scramble to provide devices and hotspots for her teachers and staff. “Sometimes, you don’t recognize the inequity from that point of view, but it’s real,” she said. Everyone has to be involved. In addition to minority groups, it’s important to encourage women to get into technology, said Paul. “There is a deficit of women in technology and engineering fields,” she said. It is the responsibility of white and male professionals to notice that lack of diversity because they are the ones in position who have the power to make the change, said Phyall. “You have to have allies in this work,” he said. “You can’t ask the person who is suffering from an illness to come up with their own cure.” The structures in place need to be re-examined and changed.

The leadership pipeline is dry. Even though there has been an increase in women and people of color in tech fields, more work needs to be done to get them into the proper tracks to become tech leaders. The glass ceiling needs to be eliminated, and there needs to be more diverse voices in the room, said Phyall. With different perspectives available, more solutions can be found. “Our strength is in our diversity,” said Phyall. Opportunity is knocking. With the pandemic and all the remote work and learning, the need for tech is greater than ever before. The jobs are out there but the personnel is currently lacking, which is why it’s important to encourage diverse groups to get involved. “If we don’t step into and prepare our students for this Information Age we’re presently in, we’re not going to have enough people to fulfill those positions,” said Paul. Trending in the wrong direction. Paul shared statistics showing that the number of females and students of color taking computer science classes in her district has declined over the past three years. This trend is prevalent across the state and nation as well, she said. Identifying and overcoming barriers. Be realistic about barriers, said Phyall. “If you see a big freaking hole while you’re walking, and you want to get over it, you have to run,” he said. “You can’t just say, ‘There’s a hole there.’ You have to identify the obstacle so you can put a solution in place.” Girl power. Paul identified organizations and events dedicated to supporting and involving girls in technology, including National Center for Women and Information Technology, Grace Hopper Conference, IBM-EXITE, Cisco Girl’s Power Tech Day, and Microsoft DigiGirlz Day. Paul also invites female engineers and IT professionals to speak to her students. In his district, Phyall welcomes Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code, and has organized special events for girls to explore coding.


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BEST PRACTICES FOR USING VIDEO WITH STUDENTS Advice and tips for using video with students from presenters at Tech & Learning’s recent Virtual Summit By Carl Hooker

Ravesi-Weinstein and Dr. Melissa Lizmi shared two different perspectives around the use of video to engage students.

This past March we were all thrown into a world in which video became the main connecting force for learning. Districts across the country scrambled to find a video conferencing platform that worked for them. Whether it be Zoom, Teams, Google Meet, or others, districts invested time and energy in making sure teachers could maintain that connection with their students. As schools begin to open this fall (in either virtual, hybrid, or in-person models), video will play a key role in student learning going forward. During Tech & Learning’s recent Virtual Leadership Summit, Christine




See the entire discussion

Multimodal Delivery

Content can be consumed in a variety of formats; students learn in an equally varied manner. When shifting to an online instruction, there is an opportunity to make education much more accessible. These new methods, including the use of

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BEST PRACTICES either live or recorded video, offer a chance to differentiate instruction for each learner. Creating these opportunities doesn’t have to be an either/or approach. Many schools are choosing between models, which means a teacher who has to provide instruction in a hybrid environment (teaching both in-person and virtual) could be stretched thin between their actual and virtual self. A “3-in-1 Teaching” model allows an educator to teach the lesson once, but it can then be utilized in three different formats, said Lizmi. 1. In-person - The most traditional instruction happens in person. However, in-person learning might look slightly different with smaller and more socially distant classrooms. 2. Live video online - Using tools like Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, etc, teachers can share their computer screen and audio from the classroom in real-time. Questions asked of in-person students would also apply to those viewing online. 3. On-demand - The lesson can be captured by recording the live instruction and then posting the video to a website, YouTube channel, or LMS so that those students who missed out live can replay the day’s learning at another time.

natural light when filming outside (make sure it’s not too bright or you’ll squint), or even some lamps in your house. • Keep editing simple - Using programs such as iMovie and the mmhmm app, you can quickly put together some vlogs without a lot of knowledge or experience. You can also use a web-based tool such as FlipGrid or Screencastify to record and upload your vlogs in moments. Of course, many of these comments are intended for teachers. However, as stated during the presentation, this could easily be converted into an activity for students as well. Here are some of the components that could make vlogging a powerful learning tool for students.

Vlogging If you’ve been on social media at all the past couple of years, you’ll notice that short form videos are all the rage these days. Whether it be an Instagram story or Qwibis, or even the controversial TikTok, students tend to enjoy small bite-sized content when it comes to video consumption. As educators, creating hour-long videos may not be an ideal way to engage our students in learning. But how does an educator get started when it comes to short-form vlogging? Turns out you might have most of what you need in the palm of your hand. It really comes down to content and what you are trying to communicate. Creating a short one- to two-minute video message on your phone and then posting it to your class LMS or YouTube can be a simple task or a major production, depending on the goals you want to achieve. While everyone has their own strategies, Ravesi-Weinstein outlined a few best practices when creating vlogs for your classroom: • Write out a script or general outline - This will help you organize your thoughts and main points you want your audience to takeaway. • Use a teleprompter app - Don’t feel the need to memorize everything. There are a few teleprompter apps on the market that can help you get to your main points in a timely fashion. • Check your lighting - No need to purchase fancy lighting as you can use




Tips for Teaching with Video

In summary, the two presenters shared many tips around best practices for teaching with video. Aside from those already mentioned, they also recommend the following tips PRIOR to teaching your first online video class. • Practice, practice, practice - Online video conference software has a lot of similarities between products, but also many differences. Learning how to share your screen, annotate, and manage participants are some common things you’ll want to learn prior to your online experience. • Open the session early - Opening the session early by about 10 minutes will allow you to have those informal discussions with students that are important when trying to build relationships remotely. Ask them about their weekend or something fun they might be doing outside of school to build those connections and trust. • Be honest - Especially the first few times you try a new resource or video chatting software, you’ll figure out quickly that some things don’t work right even with practice. Be honest with your students and tell them that you are trying something new that might not work the first time. • Build in tools for interaction - Using polling tools and miniassessments throughout your presentation, as well as smaller break-out discussions, will help keep your learners engaged in their learning throughout the video experience. Whether it be vlogging, live streaming, or learning on-demand, video will play a major role in connecting with your learners during this coming school year. The tips provided during this session can help prepare educators for this future by scaffolding tools and strategies for making video instruction a success in your classroom.

HOW TO INTEGRATE STUDENT DATA PRIVACY PROTECTION INTO DISTRICT DATA GOVERNANCE PLANS “Student data privacy policies implementation needs to be hard-wired for governance, discipline, purchasing, and communications processes.” —CoSN By Annie Galvin Teich In a presentation on student data privacy for Tech & Learning’s recent virtual leadership summit, Ivy Nelson, education technology manager for Belton (MO) School District #124, shared that of the free apps her district was using, only one-third were FERPA and COPPA compliant. This places the district at risk for violations of federal and state student data privacy laws, in addition to any litigation that might incur from students’ parents for data breaches. Watch the full presentation here:

Monitoring, reviewing, and approving apps for use is a huge task for districts, but an important one as the landscape is constantly shifting with new regulations. District IT professionals must ensure they are compliant with all data privacy laws. One issue that requires constant monitoring and staff development is terms of service. When a user “clicks through” their acceptance of terms of service on any app, this has the same effect as a legally binding contract. Many free apps do not have the built-in data protections required by privacy laws and puts the district and student data at risk. All apps and digital resources approved for use by a district should undergo a defined approval process. The best way to do this, Nelson advises, is to establish a data governance policy.

Designing a Data Governance Policy Everyone in a district is responsible for student data privacy; it is not the sole responsibility of the IT department. Creating a data governance policy is a labor-intensive task, says Nelson, “But a little pain now will save a lot of pain later.” Districts that are successful in protecting student data exhibit leadership from the top. Here are some of Nelson’s recommendations to get started: • Involve leadership by getting them to acknowledge the need. • Designate an Information Security Officer (ISO) who is the individual responsible for polices relating to data use and privacy. • Bring the right people to the table.




“I sent an email out to our administrative team the next day saying, ‘We saved a life last night.’ It’s not an email that I’ve ever sent before in 16 years as a superintendent, and I hope I never have to send it again.” Eric Eshbach, Superintendent Northern York County School District

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DATA PRIVACY PROTECTION • Determine which policies and procedures are already in place. • Adopt additional policies and procedures as needed. • Train data users on relevant policies and procedures. • Think about how best to communicate about privacy to parents and students. • Develop a monitoring plan to ensure policies and procedures are being followed. “Before signing students up for any online service, take a few minutes to read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for the resource (usually linked in small print at the bottom of the company’s homepage) to learn about what data they collect and how they use it,” said Nelson in a follow-up conversation after her presentation. ”Otherwise, we could find ourselves paying with our students’ personal information.”

Strategies and Tactics for Implementing Data Governance Plans Karen Fuller, director of infrastructure, communications, and networks for Cypress-Fairbanks (TX) ISD, was co-presenter of the session. As the third-largest district in Texas, Fuller and her team have taken additional steps to ensure they maximize cybersecurity while protecting student data privacy. As with many fast-growing districts, CypressFairbanks has an ongoing cybersecurity challenge, particularly in the new normal of remote and hybrid learning models. Fuller recently oversaw a two-week implementation of a 1:1 program that required the immediate distribution of 117,000 devices to K-12 students and an aggressive focus on data privacy evaluation.

Managing Data Security

The Trusted Learning Environment Seal is a mark of distinction for school systems signaling that strong and measurable steps have been undertaken to help ensure the privacy of student data. Fuller says that earning the seal takes some time, but it is a sign of the district’s commitment to protecting student privacy. Annual cybersecurity training is now required by Texas state law HB 3834 for all district staff. The district experienced a data breach of payroll information prior to staff training, which provided a real-life example of the importance of protecting data. Fuller and her team have undergone extensive staff development, believing that the more personally relevant they can make the training, the better compliance they’ll have throughout the district. Fuller participates in the Texas K-12 CTO Council, which sponsors




TXSPA, the state affiliate of the National Student Data Privacy Consortium (SDPC). The SDPC helps establish common data privacy agreements unique to the jurisdiction of each state. Districts using this common agreement do not have to negotiate separately with every edtech vendor about permissions and privacy. Vendors doing business with member districts must sign this agreement. Using the agreement mitigates some risk for districts. Data breach insurance discounts are available to Cypress-Fairbanks because of these practices they have implemented, Fuller said. Fuller concluded her presentation by emphasizing the importance of staff training again. “This is how we protect ourselves and the district,” she said.

Additional Resources

Belton School District #124’s List of Approved Free Apps that have been vetted for data privacy concerns and approved Student Data Privacy: A School System Priority. An Essential Commitment (CoSN) Trusted Learning from the Ground Up: Fundamental Data Governance Policies and Procedures. CoSN, November 2019

NEW LEARNING MODELS FOR CHALLENGING TIMES Use a service design model to find new ways to deliver school services during times of change By Annie Galvin Teich There’s no time like the present to consider new learning models, according to Donna Teuber, K-12 innovation consultant. During Tech & Learning’s recent Virtual Summit, Teuber shared that she had been teaching teachers remotely for most of the past year. Over the last six months, she has been training teachers who are not comfortable with technology on how to make the transition to remote learning. Teuber worked in Richland School District Two outside Columbia, South Carolina, until a year ago, so she has plenty of empathy for educators who are struggling to transition to technology-infused teaching. See the full session here

As an educator working with design thinking and innovation for the last ten years, Teuber believes this moment is an opportunity to take the best of what we have currently and incorporate it into a design for the

future. It is time to create new ways of defining problems with empathy and then to prototype and test them. Teuber recommended thinking about what teachers and schools offer from a service mindset. Every educator’s role is changing, there are new rules for almost everything in virtual learning scenarios. Collectively, we need to think about how to get unstuck and move forward in this moment. A need exists to redesign school services, such as serving meals, meeting state mandates, and giving teachers planning time. “To make new changes stick,” said Teuber, “we have to first become unstuck from the ineffective systems that we’ve created.” Currently the pandemic is forcing schools to make changes to respond to the needs of students and teachers, and there is a design process uniquely suited to this moment.

The Service Design Process

Teuber recommends using a service design process to think about how to solve current problems. This root cause analysis works well when bringing together a team—even on Zoom. Think of the process as a tree with the tree representing the problem: The impact of the problem is in the branches above and the cause of the problem is in the roots below the surface. In considering a new challenge, such as how teachers balance asynchronous and synchronous learning when students are fully remote, Teuber suggests asking “Why?” five times in succession to drill down to reveal the actual problem. Each “why” gets you closer to the real root of the problem. The service design process within learning environments means reviewing a service with a specific mindset and tools, according to the Learning Space Toolkit. You want to consider the service from the customer’s perspective, focusing on users and their needs first, and working iteratively with steps and tools. An initial step is to clarify who the service is being designed for. Then teams work through the five-step service design process together: • Vision—values, philosophy, and goals to provide direction and guide decision-making • Personas—the motivations and behaviors of your users • Location plan—determining what services are offered where, when, and by whom • Journey map—mapping service use over time, and identifying touchpoints in the user experience • Blueprint—guidance on delivery of a service across different channels for staff and systems Teuber advises thinking about the key moments of the experience you want to create—such as a field trip. Instead of the current state of things, you are really looking at a future state. To be successful, what will things look like from the student/teacher/parent perspective when you recreate the field trip experience?




“Think about service design as the front of the stage,” says Teuber. “For example, think of Starbucks—what is going on behind the stage for the coffee buyer to have the best experience possible?” Choose moments that are high value or unique that you can focus on to make the moment of service the best experience. Some of the current questions for schools are: • How to have the best lunch experience while abiding by social distancing guidelines? • How do schools still build community and opportunities for collaboration? • How can we connect students socially at meal times, in the media center, or at outside recess? Best practices for this process include: • Discover needs through interviews, observations, and surveys • Build a cross-functional team (beyond silos) • Determine vision and goals for your program to inform your design process • Use personas to guide journey mapping • Focus on the key moments of service delivery Everything in schools needs to be redesigned now, says Teuber. Focusing on the high-touch moments will make it more meaningful for everyone involved.

Resources Service Design Blueprint Learning Space Toolkit This Is Service Design Doing Orchestrating Experiences: Collaborative Designs for Complexity

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HOW TO REMOTELY SUPPORT SOCIALEMOTIONAL LEARNING Social-emotional learning during remote learning will be a challenge for school districts By Ray Bendici With students isolated during remote learning, the focus on their mental well-being and social-emotional learning has never been more critical. To help support that, best practices, advice, and resources to address social-emotional learning was the focus of “Social-Emotional Learning,” a presentation during Tech & Learning’s recent Virtual Leadership Summit, which provided an environment in which district leaders could share their successes and challenges in facilitated small group discussions. Watch the full session

Reaching out. The district has also developed Community 360, a website and an app for parents and families that provides resources, events, activities, programs, virtual books, and more to encourage SEL. Through grants, the district also created a counseling site that offers certified counselors to provide support for families and students. Summer programs. Klein also detailed some of the summer SELrelated activities the district provided, including virtual camps, book clubs, and dance classes.

View slide deck

Key Takeaways

Whole child approach. “We recognized that although all the college and career preparation is important, kids won’t really be successful unless we consider the social-emotional aspects as well,” said Jim Klein, CTO of Las Virgenes USD in California, during the presentation. To support that, the district developed its Student 360 program, which features six key components: positive mindset; persistence and grit; empathy and understanding; autonomy and independence; mindfulness and thoughtfulness; and collaborative communities. These points are listed on a card that is given to teachers each year as a reminder to include the components in lessons when possible. The backside of the card features principles and student vital actions, such as, “All students participate, and are present and focused on the learning.” Setting SEL standards. Once the principles were set, the district moved toward establishing scope and sequence based on ASCA National Standards for Students. For each standard, resources such as videos, guidelines, activities, charts, and websites are provided. “It’s important to not only establish the standards, but provide the resources and tools for teachers to be successful,” said Klein. “It’s a big topic and it’s not something that we’re always trained to do.” Intentional acts of kindness. The district has created more than 40 “kindness cards” for elementary school students that provide activities to encourage positive SEL behavior. Teachers distribute the cards before lunch and ask the students to perform the activity, such as “Help someone carry his or her things.” The cards encourage students to reach out and connect with one another. In addition, the district has restorative approaches cards to handle conflicts and generate conversations.



Virtual transition. One of the challenges has been moving SEL activities into the virtual environment. Districts that hadn’t been actively engaging in an SEL program may find big challenges in launching a new one remotely. Training has been particularly hard, said Klein, such as trying to have teachers learn how to remotely navigate breakout rooms. Also identifying which kids need help with SEL is a big challenge in a remote learning environment. Focus on K-2. In order to provide good SEL for the youngest learners, teachers of those grades in Las Virgenes USD have been collaborating so that all the students are experiencing the same activities and support. One challenge will be continuing these programs once classes return to normal, said Klein, as parents return to work and may not be able to provide the same level of support.


HOW TO CONNECT STUDENTS VIRTUALLY THROUGH ESPORTS Schools use esports programs to create opportunities for diversity and inclusion, teach students a variety of coveted skills, and prepare students for college and career By Annie Galvin Teich Esports can be transformative for every student in the school, according to James O’Hagan, director of digital and virtual learning for Racine Unified School District in Wisconsin. “Start with the ecosystem around esports, which is broader than the focus on games, players, and equipment,” O’Hagan said. “Think beyond the games. It’s not just a STEM activity. There are other benefits, such as developing social-emotional skills for health and wellness.” He recommended that the students on the team represent and reflect the crosssection of students in the school.




O’Hagan made his comments during Tech & Learning’s recent Virtual Leadership Summit, as part of a lively panel featuring esports educators who discussed issues around esports, including equity. Watch the full session

O’Hagan also recommended taking what kids are doing and combining it with how you want to teach, and to be clear about what you want to accomplish. In Racine the goals were to: • Redefine the athletic culture

CONNECTING THROUGH ESPORTS • Increase student participation opportunities through diversity • Increase college and career pathways • Promote good physical and mental health • Honor the importance of play • Support the district’s strategic goals through esports

Choosing Diversity and Inclusion

Former middle school teacher Carrie Linden is an advocate for esports. Her focus is on diversity and Chris Aviles started his first middle school esports team three years ago. Click the image to watch inclusion—making programs inclusive so they represent the full session. the student population. During the session, she said that the games environment is quite broad with content creation, Aviles’ students were also able to talk to Stockton University’s esports production, management, and coaching opportunities. Building these players and about career paths. Some students self-identify as gamers aspects into your program allows for a wider array of student interest. but others are not sure about it. On a campus tour of Stockton, who had Not all kids self-identify as gamers, so it’s important to build a diverse and recently partnered with the Army, the middle schoolers were able to see a inclusive program, she said. career path into the Army. “Although Fortnite has been allowed in many schools, many third-party “Adults dismiss gaming too easily,” said Aviles. “It is not a waste of time. shooter games are not allowed,” Linden said. “Look for alternative titles, Find a way to validate what kids are doing.” Aviles pointed out that there such as Minecraft, to make the games diverse.” are kids with physical or learning disabilities that keep them from playing Real diversity is a commitment. “Just letting someone show up does not regular sports who would be interested in esports. mean that you are creating an environment that makes them comfortable— “It’s important to keep in mind that more than anything, esports is about girls or LGBTQs, for example,” Linden said. making kids feel like they belong to something,” he said. “Gaming doesn’t Linden advises schools to look at what kids are playing and to make sure have to be toxic. We are educating the whole student and using socialtheir program reflects that. “Put in the time to do your research, change, emotional skills to build them up.” and adapt as you need to,” she said. Make different demographics more visible when marketing your program. “Everywhere you’re promoting, do student surveys,” Linden said. A pool of students who aren’t getting their needs met might exist, and surveys will allow you to learn why not. Ask questions, such as: • What do you play? Mark Deppe is the director of the esports program at the University of • How long do you play? California Irvine. College esports began in 2014 at Robert Morris University • Who do you play with? in Chicago which is now Roosevelt University. • Why haven’t you joined the esports club/team? Now, there are more than 200 schools that offer scholarships for esports—competitive and non-competitive. Deppe outlined important benefits to college esports: • Competition is the central pillar. Colleges offer scholarships and coaching opportunities. • Promoting academics and research with high school and college Chris Aviles, edtech coach at Fair Haven (NJ) Schools, started his practitioners. first middle school esports team three years ago. They didn’t have any • Making the world a better place by building diversity, outreach, and competitors in the area so Aviles reached out to Rutgers University, and elevating women in games. they played several matches. The middle schoolers began chatting with the • Piloting bystander intervention training—how to engage with college players in a Skype call after the game was over, and asked about what problematic behavior. the college students were studying, what their career goals were, and more. • Content creation and entertainment. Show casting, podcasting, play “Esports is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world,” Aviles by play roles. said. “We keep talking about STEM jobs, and here is a perfect opportunity • Career development. Resume building support, networking nights to learn STEM skills.” He appreciated that the Rutger students took time to with the industry, taking raw talent and polishing it. mentor his middle schoolers. “My kids can follow their gaming passion right through high school and Deppe concluded by saying that esports provides opportunities for skill college,” he said. “There are also more traditional jobs within the esports building and this helps schools send students out into the world to be the world; it’s not just gamers.” people we want them to be.

Considering the Benefits of Collegiate Esports

Finding and Working with Partners






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