Tech & - Esports and Education equals a Winning Team - February 2021

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Also In This Issue:

Getting started - Do’s and Don’ts Building community

Racism in Technology Leadership: A Black Woman’s Perspective 4 Steps to Creating A Post-Covid District Plan



4 Steps to Creating a Post-COVID District Improvement Plan By By Dr. Kecia Ray


Despite the global frenzy over esports, the phenomenon still remains a bit of a mystery in education. Many outside of this tight education community see esports only as a huddle of kids playing video games, but dive in a bit deeper and you’ll see there is a whole lot more going on. In December, Tech & Learning, AV Technology, and Systems Contractor News hosted the Leveling Up: Esports in Education Conference, a one-day virtual conference for K-12, higher education, and pro AV professionals, during which we discussed the tools, trends, and experiences in esports and education. Many of those conversations are captured in this issue. “Everything I do today I owe to getting involved in esports,” said Kathy Chiang, assistant director of UCI Esports. “A lot of my professional skills come from leading guilds and raids in video games.” These skills include sound, coding, and game design, as well as developing leadership, marketing, broadcasting, and even legal skills. “Esports has plenty to offer participants beyond just athletic dexterity,” said April Welch, associate vice president of strategic initiatives and director of esports and digital arts at Illinois Tech. “We have a law school and legal aspects of esports, and game design and creating games are very interesting right now. How do you negotiate contract deals with these big companies that are looking to find a way to invest or figure out how they can best engage with the esports community?” Esports is also an excellent way to build communities — especially when so many of us are teaching and learning remotely. “With the evolution of media and technology, it’s crucial for us as educators and tech leaders in this space to adopt this belief that technology shouldn’t be used as a replacement of human connection,” said Tunisha Singleton, professor of psychology at Fielding Graduate University. “Rather, it should be intended to boost it, and should be complementing it with convenient fun and original ways for us to engage with one another.” This does not mean esports is without challenges. When not supported by a culture of inclusion, esports can be a place where bullying, racism, and sexism can flourish. Singleton stressed the responsibility of making sure that any esports community is accessible to those who are ordinarily marginalized, and that there is some level of media literacy and digital ethics. It also needs to be rebranded in a way that’s positive and indicative of the learning and connective opportunities that are provided for it. “Esports is so much more than a game piece,” said Rudy Blanco, Director of Entrepreneurship and Gaming Programs for The DreamYard Project in New York City. “Let students come to that on their own and I think that’s the best place to start.” We hope the articles captured in this issue help shed light on the larger esports in education story. Find more on this topic here. Enjoy!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Scholastic Esports Programs By James Wood

10 How to Build an Esports Community By Ray Bendici

14 How to Build a Higher Ed Esports Program By Erik Ofgang

18 Racism in Technology Leadership: A Black Woman’s Experience By Annie Galvin Teich

20 How to Start a Hybrid Learning Center By Matthew X. Joseph

23 How to Find an Education Grant By Gwen Solomon

Group Publisher Group Publisher Christine Weiser CONTENT Managing Editor Ray Bendici

Senior Staff Writer Erik Ofgang

Production Manager Heather Tatrow Managing Design Director Nicole Cobban

Senior Design Directors Lisa McIntosh & Will Shum

ADVERTISING SALES Sales Manager Allison Knapp, VISIT US


MANAGEMENT Senior Vice President, B2B Rick Stamberger Chief Revenue Officer Mike Peralta Head of Production US & UK Mark Constance Head of Design Rodney Dive

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4 STEPS TO CREATING A PO DISTRICT IMPROVEMENT PL A post-COVID district improvement plan should feature input from stakeholders and consider lessons learned from the pandemic By Dr. Kecia Ray The pandemic rainbow has finally arrived with the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines. Now is the time to begin putting COVID in the rearview mirror and start thinking about what school can and might look light when we can all be together in person again. But where do we begin? We’ve been in a state of reaction for so many months; how can we get back to strategic visioning and planning?

Step 1


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Step 2


Step 4

Consider which technology-rich program you want to sustain and how much money you need to begin adding or shifting in your current budgets in order to maintain it long term, post-CARES Act spending. Economies have clearly suffered during this time, so be sure to partner with your local chamber of commerce or government as you think through your budget goals. This pandemic has forced us to get out of our comfort areas and think differently about how we educate youth. We have adopted many new ways of learning and teaching and developing teachers, and some of these approaches are beneficial and should be continued as we come out of this fog. Despite the many changes taking place in our country today, now is the time to help our leaders see the benefit of fully funding education and making it a priority in the years to come. Dr. Kecia Ray is a strategic thinker and a proven leader in K12 transformation. She serves as Tech & Learning’s Brand Ambassador and is the founder of the consulting service, K20Connect.



Step 3

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SCHOLASTIC ESPORTS PROGRAMS What to do and what to avoid when setting up a school’s esports program By James Wood Esports and academics continue to become more integrated every year. For some school districts and their schools, it’s a relatively easy task to accomplish with lots of support. For others, the resources to draw from may not be as robust or as plentiful. James Wood, a 2019-20 NASEF Scholastic Fellow, now a Scholastic Mentor, is a middle school math teacher from Achieve Charter School in Paradise, California. There, he was deputized by the Butte County Office of Education to create the esports program for the local area. Wood offers some simple do’s and don’ts from his own experiences setting up and running an esports program that has quickly grown from his local region to encompass multiple states.

James Wood (right) with Principal Steve Wright during an esports match.

The Do’s Do have a timeline. A timeline is one of the most important things to have in the beginning. Participating schools will need lead time to implement everything you’re going to want to do, so account for that. It could be anywhere from two weeks to a couple of months to really get things going. Do decide in the beginning what game or games you’ll be playing/ offering. Students will all have their own preferences for what they like to play, but there are a lot of things you need to take into account as an administrator or teachers hoping to start a program. For me, I teach sixth to eighth grade math, which means my students are around 11 to 13 years old and that we need to avoid games that are more realistic in their violence, such as Call of Duty, Rainbow Six Siege, and even Overwatch. Staying


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Credit: James Wood

I started my esports program by basically being deputized by the Butte County Office of Education to make an esports league because there wasn’t an existing structure in place. If you’re in a similar situation to me, you really need to start with the basics, so you don’t get overwhelmed. away from first-person shooter games can also make it a lot easier if you’re fighting with a school district to implement an esports program. They’ll often be a lot more receptive if the game is Rocket League or Super Smash Brothers, in which there’s little to no discernable violence. Do make sure whatever you pick is accessible to your students and your school. Some games may only be playable on PC or cost $60 per license, which may not be feasible for your students or your school district. Cross-platform games are king when you have fewer funds to work with. We chose Rocket League as our game, which satisfied the district, was cheap when we got it (Rocket League is now free-to-play), and is completely crossplatform, meaning that any console or device can play against any other. One other really nice thing about Rocket League is that there’s no voice chat function. Students will chat if there is an option and eventually that has the potential to become a problem, no matter how much you try to put protections in place. It also adds a layer of protection for your students, so keep that in mind.

SCHOLASTIC ESPORTS PROGRAMS Do check out scholastic esports organizations. NASEF is one organization that has a lot of free toolkits and guides to help you get started. Many of the NASEF affiliate-run leagues also have similar tools and resources that they can share with you as our community is incredibly helpful and open about sharing resources with one another. Do make sure you have as many student-led jobs in your clubs as possible. Remember, this is a learning experience for them that will give them skills for their future. If adults are doing all the work, then your program isn’t doing its job. Administrators, teachers, and parents should be there as a safety net to put out the fires when they occur.

Let your students set up the brackets, let them run the tournaments, let them do the marketing for it. Just be that presence that makes sure everything is in compliance and doesn’t get out of hand. Esports provides career opportunities in every industry, so encourage students to explore that as well. Finally, do make whatever activity you’re doing consistent with regard to a schedule. This is beneficial to students and the parents who are used to knowing their kid has X activity on Y day. A set schedule will help you with attendance, which can be an issue if the schedule is random or unpredictable, and give parents a feeling of legitimacy around your club/ program.

The Don’ts You’re likely going to make mistakes along the way, that is a near certainty. Hopefully, though, I can help shed some light on a few things you shouldn’t do.


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First up, don’t think your students understand everything relating to technology just because they’re young. One myth that gets repeated all the time is that the younger generation understands technology like the back of their hand. That’s just not true. Students can be just as inept as adults when it comes to tech; for example, it could be something as simple as registering properly for a tournament that stops them. Try to make things as simple as possible. Being able to record a video cast of how-to do something is an excellent way to head off these issues. Don’t expect things to go smoothly the first couple of times around. Much of your learning, and your students’ learning, is going to come from trial and error. Scholastic esports is one gigantic trial by fire right now and winging it the day of a tournament is not a great way to approach it. Plan for as much as you can so you can tackle the unexpected as it happens while the tournament or event is going, such as what to do when a controller dies or if the internet goes out. Don’t ignore programs such as Discord if your district will allow you to use it. Discord is ubiquitous throughout the gaming and esports world. It’s an incredibly powerful tool for creating like-minded communities, for chatting, for voice chatting, and sharing. However, I’ve seen what happens when you have unfettered chat rooms that can be largely anonymous--it can devolve extremely fast into something that will get students expelled and programs shut down. Many clubs successfully use other platforms such as Google Classroom to share information and message only teachers, so keep that in mind if Discord doesn’t work out. As a teacher or administrator, make yourself familiar with Discord and become comfortable using it. Even if you do not use Discord with your students, most leagues and fellow teachers use it for match scheduling, communication, and helping one another, so familiarity with it is a necessity. If using Discord with your students, make sure there are very clear rules and they are enforced. I deputized a few students to assist in this and set up restrictions on the Discord server so only I could invite new members, the ones I verified were my students in my program. I know this is a lot to take in if you’re looking to get an esports club or program running in your school or local district, but it’s worth it. The “esports edu” community is great about sharing advice and resources; you can also get free help from NASEF and their Affiliate leagues. Scholastic esports is a great way to connect with students who are already playing these games. If you’re not quite ready to run your own district-wide program that’s not a problem. Look at what programs are already up and running and reach out to those administrators. See if you can join their program or if they’ll help you set your own up. You’re not alone in this and the esports community is extremely helpful when it comes to sharing information and setting up leagues. James Wood teaches math to sixth to eighth graders at Achieve Charter School in Chico, CA, and he has a passion for all things gaming. He loves to play games with his family on the weekends. At the schools where he has taught, he has started gaming clubs, esports teams and leagues, board game clubs, and even hosted a middle school esports invitational tournament.


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HOW TO BUILD AN ESPORTS COMMUNITY For a positive, nurturing esports community, educators need to consider representation, diversity, and inclusion By Ray Bendici Esports provides a perfect opportunity for students to build community and friendships, play, and learn in a hybrid model or even completely virtually. Community, at its core, is focused on social identity and is where a person develops a sense of who they are based on their membership and affiliations with others, said Tunisha Singleton, professor of psychology at Fielding Graduate University, during Tech & Learning’s recent “Leveling Up: Esports & Education Conference & Expo.” “It’s very much clear tribalism at its finest, us-versus-them at its core,” said Singleton. “With the evolution of media and technology, it’s crucial for us as educators and tech leaders in this space to adopt this belief that technology shouldn’t be used as a replacement of human connection. Rather, it should be intended to boost it, and should be complementing it with convenient fun and original ways for us to engage with one another.” With that also comes the responsibility of making sure that any esports community is accessible to those who are ordinarily marginalized, said Singleton, and that there is some level of media literacy and digital ethics, and that is also rebranded in a way that’s positive and indicative of the learning and connective opportunities that are provided for it. Singleton and other educators involved in esports discussed the key aspects of creating a safe, diverse, and inclusive gaming community.

Watch the full session here KEY TAKEAWAYS Defining an esports community. When it comes to defining community, Rudy Blanco, Director of Entrepreneurship and Gaming Programs for The DreamYard Project in New York City, recalled a conversation with a LGBTQ+ youth caucus group. “We asked, ‘What is our community like?’ and it was like, ‘Y’all are my chosen fam right now,’ and that’s what community was at that moment for that group,” said Blanco. He further defined a community as a group who agree to a relationship in which they can all explore new things, grow together, and support one another. An esports community can also set general guidelines but ultimately needs to be aware of how race, gender, and sexual identity will impact the way rules need to be shifted.

When first creating an esports community, it’s important that everyone agree to a certain set of standards, said Samantha Anton, CEO of the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF). “Is there something that we can refer to and say, ‘Hey you doing this is not okay because we’ve told everyone this and we’ve given this opportunity for you to learn more about why we do this,’” said Anton. “And then you can also evolve your guidelines so that it makes sense for your community.” By establishing a set of standards and sharing it with everyone, students and teachers can know what the standards are, and also have a mechanism to report any incidents. “It’s not that bad things won’t happen,” said Anton. “It’s how we respond to those things and move forward that’s really important. And if you don’t provide a place where people can let you know what’s going on, then you’re kind of just turning a blind eye to your community on how you can really be making sure that they are comfortable with how things are going.” Teaching defense. As important as it is to build safe esports communities, it’s also important to empower kids to defend esports spaces, said Chris Aviles, a teacher at Fair Haven School District in New Jersey and founder of Garden State Esports. “We need students to understand what those safe spaces should look like and then what to do when they encounter somebody who’s trying to poison that space,” said Aviles. “They need to be empowered and feel brave enough to stand up to them because it’s one thing for me to give some PowerPoint presentation about safe, inclusive spaces but it’s completely something different when somebody actually says something ignorant.” Those skills can help in defending other competitors who may be victims and serve students in life beyond school. Proactive steps. NASEF offers a code of conduct, which is a good starting point for anyone looking to establish standards of what conduct is appropriate and inappropriate. “And then it’s really in how you enforce it,” Anton said. “You can’t just create these standards for a safe space and say that you’re done. You need to be responsive and invested in it, and constantly changing what needs to be changed.” Keeping the code of conduct visible and malleable is important, as is having a restorative justice piece, said Aviles. “When something happens, I work with the kids to understand how they hurt somebody,” said Aviles. “And then the big question is, ‘How are you going to make this right?’” Restorative justice practices that exist in traditional education also work well in the esports space. Giving students the authority of ‘If you see something, say something’ and the ability to protect victims is critical in building an esports community, said Singleton, and part of the process is inclusion. “Not everyone can relate to being female,” she said. “That’s why you have to


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ESPORTS COMMUNITY have bipartisan and other marginalized communities get involved at the development level so that everyone can start to understand what’s a threat and what is a trigger.” “We started experiencing the most change when we started taking esports participants in ninth grade and even middle school, and teaching them our social-emotional values,” said Blanco. Dream Yard focuses on how to moderate these kinds of discussions, how to identify moments of triggers, how to alleviate certain issues, and how to resolve conflict through social justice. “When their viewers are telling them, ‘Oh that was

part of the responsibility of being in this space.” “If you are not seen doing this, you can’t see yourself doing this,” agreed Blanco. “You can’t put yourself in here, no matter how much the media is talking about Ninja, or how esports competitions are making it big time now.” Recently, Dream Yard has started working with young women who are interested in streaming and want to learn the entrepreneurship of gameplay. Getting started. “I don’t think anyone can really start an esports

messed up,’ or when the community is telling them community just by themselves,” said Anton, who ‘Yo, check yourself,’ we’ve done our job.” recommends first taking stock of the resources Gaming girls and representation. With the available and your strengths and weaknesses, and then majority of esports participants male, there’s a lot communicate and work with those students and teachers of work to be done to make tournaments a positive, who are passionate about esports. ESPORTS IS SO inclusive coed environment, said Anton. “Everything If you’re launching any sort of esport program, be sure that we need to be doing should be with diversity in to check out trustworthy organizations such as NASEF MUCH MORE THAN mind.” and other school districts, said Aviles. “Not everybody has JUST THE GAME Developing a safe coed gaming space needs to the best intentions of students in mind,” he said. PIECE. LET be a proactive process, said Aviles, who talked about Focusing on your values to create a community and STUDENTS COME reaching out to a girl who enjoyed gaming and had an esports environment that reflects that is critical, said TO THAT ON THEIR two brothers who were already participating in his Singleton. “How do you actually support diversity and OWN AND I THINK program. After the girl had a positive experience inclusion, what are you doing--show me the receipts!” she THAT’S THE BEST her first year, she recruited other girls to play the said. “This is a great opportunity to now get creative and PLACE TO START” following year. As competitive esports is a relatively reimagining and producing curriculum in a space that is — RUDY BLANCO new phenomena, patience is key. “It can oftentimes way more immersive and impactful and something that be frustrating and we have to give ourselves time to can be translated offline as well.” let those safe space seeds grow,” said Aviles. “Once Also consider getting started with students who girls see somebody breaking the barrier, if you will, then they will come.” are passionate about tech besides competing, said Blanco. “Esports is That kind of female representation can’t be underestimated, said so much more than just the game piece,” he said, adding that there are Singleton. “It has to be intentional, so you can see that others have done, opportunities for camera people, reporters, casters, and other gamelike, ‘Oh snap, okay, I can do it. I too can be a part of this, it might be fun related jobs. “Let students come to that on their own and I think that that’s for me as well.’ So it’s just about changing that culture, and we have to the best place to start. Find a way to connect your passion with gaming to invite people who ordinarily have just been looking into the space. It’s now their passion, and then just follow it.”


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HOW TO BUILD A HIGHER ED ESPORTS PROGRAM Esports can build on-campus gaming communities and help students learn a variety of career skills By Erik Ofgang

building an esports program.

Esports can provide students with an educational experience that goes well beyond gaming. “Everything I do today I owe to getting involved in esports,” said Kathy Chiang, assistant director of UCI Esports. “A lot of my professional skills come from leading guilds and raids in video games.” Chiang and other leaders of successful esports programs in higher ed discussed the skills gaming can build and the ways in which successful esports programs can attract students to campus in a recent panel at Tech & Learning’s Leveling Up: Esports & Education Conference & Expo. Christine Weiser, content and brand director at Tech & Learning, served as the moderator. Her questions focused on four key areas surrounding


Watch the full session here


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Universities don’t need a state-of-the-art esports arena to get a program off the ground, said Chris “Doc” Haskell, associate professor and head coach of esports at Boise State. “We don’t all have to look like one another,” said Haskell, who was the 2020 College Esports Coach of the Year. The gaming space is there to serve students and the needs of our campus, and not to create “an arms race of equipment,” he added. Successful esports programs have launched from within underutilized campus spaces with minimal tech. “You need people to play games, you need something to play, and something to play on,” Haskell said. “Your space can be up to 70 to 100 gaming PCs and state of the art, or it can be a room of six or eight PCs that meets your needs. It is what your campus needs it to be.” But don’t forget about tech altogether. “Work with your IT department and facilities folks who can really help you out and make sure it’s going to be a successful space that the students can utilize,” Chiang said.

WHAT CAREER PATHS CAN ESPORTS FACILITATE? From fostering skill sets such as sound, coding, and game design, to developing leadership, marketing, broadcasting and even legal skills, esports has plenty to offer participants beyond just athletic dexterity, said April Welch, associate vice president of strategic initiatives and director of esports and digital arts at Illinois Tech.

“We have a law school and legal aspects of esports, and game design and creating games are very interesting right now,” Welch said. “How do you negotiate contract deals with these big companies that are looking to find a way to invest or figure out how they can best engage with the esports community?” Careers can be found on the accounting side of esports as well. “This is an industry that is connected to every other industry that we have on the career front,” said Welch. At Illinois Tech, Welch said the campus gaming community is working closer with the off-campus community and helping foster diversity and engagement. “We have an amazing opportunity to connect our gamers and our students to the broader community, and teach unity, and teach skills that you need to actually get a job.” Large game developers and other companies are interested in working with college esports programs, and there are opportunities to create career pipelines for students. Nyle Kauweloa, head of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Esports Task Force, said that Hawaii is the subject of a great deal of interest from large companies, in part because it is located between the large gaming markets of Japan and the U.S. When the state and his university works with large companies, however, they make sure that these companies are investing in local talent and resources. “It’s not so much that they come here and plant their flag and do something and then leave. We want to make sure that they’re engaged with production companies here,” Kaweloa said. “They are not here to just do an event or to organize a tournament but they really are there to build out repositories of knowledge for our local economy.”

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HIGHER ED ESPORTS PROGRAM HOW CAN PROGRAMS ROOT OUT TOXICITY AND ENCOURAGE INCLUSIVITY? Most esports enthusiasts will tell you that the esports world is not as toxic as non-gamers might have you believe but no-one disputes that there are pockets of negativity, bullying and worse. To combat potential toxicity, the panelists recommended establishing an esports community as an inclusive one from the start and having participants take’s AnyKey pledge, which requires a commitment to fairness and respect, and taking a stance against harassment and hate speech. “The AnyKey pledge says we’re going to take control of our environment and we’re not going to have a culture that is toxic and violent and dangerous for people, and makes people feel uncomfortable. People like me who are African-American, people who identify differently with their gender,” Welch said. She added that it requires students to say, ‘I’m going to be the one that stops the bullying.’

Kauweloa said that esports facilitators have had to be even more proactive in combating negativity since the pandemic began. “Because things have moved online, communities no longer inhabit a shoulder-to-shoulder or faceto-face space, and it’s even more of an imperative that you nip this in the bud,” he said. “So much of campus culture has become Discord culture. And so one thing that we do have to take into account is how do you manage toxicity, harassment, racism, and prejudice within a platform.” Beyond weeding out toxicity within your community, you also want to make sure your community is welcoming and open to everyone. “When you notice different types of people in leadership, it really makes a really big difference on what sorts of people are comfortable joining those clubs and also participating in those activities,” Chiang said. Chiang added that while in a perfect world having nights open only to specific groups of players might not be necessary, in the non-perfect world we inhabit she has found it can help different groups feel welcome in the community. “Last year we partnered with our LGBT Resource Center and we created a trans gaming night, and we got a lot of positive feedback from that,” Chiang said. “People said that they wouldn’t have come into the arena unless we had that event, but after that event they felt more welcome to


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come in during other events.” Haskell said he’s witnessed firsthand how seeing diverse leadership fosters diverse student participation because students realize that “there’s a seat in there for me. It is critically important that we make seats available for leadership of people that we want involved in our organization.”

HOW HAS COVID IMPACTED YOUR PROGRAMS? The generally held belief is that esports was ideally situated to handle Covid and social distancing, but the reality is more nuanced. “The meme is that esports is recession-proof and is Covid-proof,” Kauweloa said. “In actuality, not all communities are transitioning well.” While esports players can still play and connect, not all games and programs are a good fit for an online-only format. “It depends on the game, it depends on the community. For us, the fighting game community has not done well because

they depend so much on co-located gaming,” Kauweloa said. While some aspects of gaming might be Covid-proof, “The students are not Covid-proof,” Haskell said. “Their families are not Covid-proof.” Haskell said that his program and many others have worked to try and support students through these difficult times and keep them connected with the community. In that regard, many esports programs have been successful during Covid. “What’s unique about esports is that we have been able to remain connected and still organize activities that you can’t do with some of the physical sports,” Haskell said. Welch said that her program was actually able to help build connectivity on campus beyond the esports community. For instance, the esports community helped organize an online chess event, which she said let many professors get involved and fostered a campus environment online. “We’re not going to train anybody to play League of Legends or Overwatch, but they can play chess,” she said. “We have professors who are now doing tutoring and sessions on Twitch because they learned it from us. So I think there’s a great service to the community. Our esports communities are supporting the escalation of the adaptation of technology. We’re pushing the envelope in so many ways.”

Dr. Tracy Daniel-Hardy

RACISM IN TECHNOLOGY LEADERSHIP: A BLACK WOMAN’S EXPERIENCE Finding a path to greater diversity and understanding By Annie Galvin Teich Like many black educators, Dr. Tracy Daniel-Hardy has experienced both sexism and racism in her professional life. Hardy is the director of technology at Gulfport School District in Mississippi. She began her career as a high school business and technology teacher before transitioning to a guidance role. From there, she was recruited as an instructional technology specialist and trainer in 2006, and then assumed the technology director’s role in 2010. With more men than women in technology leadership in schools,


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women often confront sexism. “Then, because I’m an African-American woman, sometimes the racism creeps in,” says Hardy. “When it happens, it’s a harsh reminder that I have to be poised and ready to respond and speak up for myself, speak up for the children, and often, be an advocate for the teachers and librarians.” Hardy says that often she would be the only one speaking up, and if it conflicted with the leadership’s agenda, she would get pushback and vindictiveness that has become a constant in her career. Hardy noticed the same pattern with how other black women were treated—and who were even pushed out of the district. She frequently

became the target of attacks that were racist in nature and had nothing to do with whether or not she was doing her job effectively. One white woman, in particular, was constantly aggressive. “Technology purchases must be approved by board policy, by me, and the technology department to ensure they are compatible with our network, align with our strategic goals, and fit into the curriculum,” says Hardy. “Even if I had valid reasons for saying no to her requests, this woman would complain to leadership, and I would be confronted about it to explain my response or to make concessions, and this became a regular pattern.” And it was not just happening to her. “There are others who look like me that have this experience as well,” she says. Hardy’s story of a particular incident was included in Shut’em Down: Black Women, Racism and Corporate America, published in October 2020 by Dr. Carey Yazeed, an award-winning author. After the book was published, Hardy was contacted by several retired educators, current educators, and educators who had left the district [who had experienced similar instances of racism]. “One sat in meetings and heard someone say, ‘I don’t know why these blacks are coming here with this stuff.’ How do you respond to such a blatant racist statement?” Hardy says.

How Districts Can Lead Racial Change At this time of public reckoning with our cultural racism, Hardy says it is important to focus on positive actions that district leaders can take to improve the climate for all educators: • District leaders are responsible for setting the tone of equality and equity. Diversity and hiring practices need to be intentional. • This time of social unrest is the perfect time to look at your leadership to make sure that district leadership is as diverse as the children who are taught there. • Black and brown students do not see themselves reflected by teachers or administrators. It’s difficult for children to imagine possibilities for themselves they cannot see. “We’re asking these children to be academically excellent, so we need to hire people who can be good role models for them,” Hardy says. • Be intentional about listening to others; find out what other districts do for diversity. • Technology leaders should be at the table with the rest of district leadership because it cannot operate in isolation anymore. The conversation is bigger than it used to be. The coronavirus has accelerated change in Hardy’s district. The need to remotely connect students to schools has validated Hardy’s past recommendations as districts learn how other districts are handling the crisis. Her superintendent is now on a statewide committee and has demonstrated his appreciation of her planning and counsel. Hardy’s district was ready to make the transition to virtual learning because of her past recommendations, technology preparation, and implementation of best practices. “People grow when they learn and hopefully they do better,” says Hardy. “All people have bias, not just white people. Sometimes we have to call it out before we are able to recognize it and make a change.”

I was confused and flabbergasted by his response to everything I had said as I tried to explain the problem with her plan... He seemed to be hell-bent on proving a point to her by belittling me in front of the entire team…I don’t remember all that he said, but I remember the burn of his accusations. I remember being dumbfounded because Mr. Dickens understood that I was not making the mandate but blamed me for Susan’s frenzy. What he had said made very little sense, was very inaccurate, and was not technologically sound... He was protecting her from the now, outspoken Black female who obviously did not listen to the cautionary tales about treading lightly with Susan. —Dr. Tracy Daniel-Hardy, “Shut ‘em Down”


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HYBRID LEARNING CENTER A hybrid learning center can help you maximize simultaneous learning By Matthew X. Joseph As the calendar turns to the 2021 school year, we have to reflect on what did not work with hybrid learning models and instructional practices in our classroom. When we talk hybrid, we also talk synchronous, asynchronous, independent learning, and many other terms we never talked about 12 months ago. The issues we face with hybrid learning is designing lessons that don’t fully work for students at home or in the physical classroom. By merging lessons that lack the full range of options in either environment, we have not provided the best learning opportunities to our students. One promising practice that can be used in hybrid learning is the use of centers. Just like in elementary schools, establishing centers requires some initial planning, work, and possible expense, but can save time and money, and maximize teacher connections with all learners. Learning centers capitalize on student exploration because they provide students with handson experience and teacher support.


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Hybrid Learning Centers In a hybrid model that makes use of centers, every student attends class synchronously, whether in-person or at home. Educators design learning activities that are differentiated for students based on their physical location. For example, the teacher starts class with a warm-up activity posted on an LMS. Direct instruction via a mini-lesson is provided for all students to access the content together. Centers can then be scheduled in which students engage in either in-person groupings on an LMS or in breakout rooms. The teacher rotates through each group to provide guided practice or support independent work. Once all the centers have been visited, the teacher can provide a closing activity for the whole class, much like the warm-up, in which students reflect on the learning objectives via an online form. Questions can be posted as warm-ups in a way that creates a combined classroom community. Assignments can also be designed with

mixed groups in which students at home and in-person can collaborate. While hybrid centers keep students separated based on where they are physically, students still interact through an LMS and synchronous meeting platform. These interactions increase individualized instruction (teachers work directly with all students in each group and ensure they fully understand the content) and student engagement. Centers also allow for an increase and consistency in interactions much like a full in-person classroom as opposed to traditional A/B hybrid models, in which students are subjected to the delivery of content in person and the completion of individual tasks at home.

Adoption of Hybrid Learning Centers

Time. Districts will have to look at the current learning time required to allow for additional days off to implement PD supportive of a significant shift in current practice. Districts can work with school committees/boards to be creative with current vacations and other traditional days off to maximize PD training and time on learning. Cost. Moving to a fully synchronous model in the hybrid structure will accrue costs to some districts. Initially, the cost of cameras for all teachers in all classrooms will be a requirement. Most laptops have cameras, but some classrooms only have a teacher desktop. Furthermore, infrastructure in schools will need to be increased, i.e., bandwidth for constant video streaming by all teachers simultaneously. Additional costs for districts could be for families without internet access. A full synchronous model will also require all students online at home every day during school hours. Measures of success. A successful PD plan will consist of a solid agenda highlighting the new model’s needs and exemplars. It will also consist of ongoing meetings throughout FY21 year to support district implementation. Long-term measures of success will require the collection of data including, but not limited to, dropout rates, standardized test scores, and district common assessments as each pertains to the FY 21 school year and beyond. Learning is dynamic and complicated, and teaching in a hybrid model adds another layer of complexity. However, by being intentional, consistent, and routinized via synchronous hybrid models, we can create a learning environment more closely resembling that which existed pre-COVID and in the best interest of our learners. Dr. Matthew X. Joseph (@MatthewXJoseph) is Director of Digital Learning and Innovation for Milford (MA) Public School.


Any shifts in current practice takes structured and consistent professional development (PD), training, resources, and time. Professional development. For districts to launch a consistent instructional practice/model, time and resources will need to be spent to give a clear reason for this shift. This PD will begin with consistent videos around the “why” and the expected outcomes. The message should come from the superintendent and other school leaders. From there, live PD from in-district or contracted trainers should focus on the implementation of the center model. The agenda will include exemplars, PreK-12, from districts that have successfully implemented this instruction to varying degrees. Additional PD should be added for districts moving away from asynchronous days and to a 5-day a week synchronous instructional model. • The focus of each session will be on: • Lesson planning • The technology needed to implement hybrid centers

• Sharing exemplar lessons • Unit planning • Detailing support networks


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Knowing where to look is the first step in how to find an education grant By Gwen Solomon Every school and district needs extra money to accomplish special programs. Sometimes the need is for a large-scale, district-wide approach to achievement while other times it’s for a classroom or school-wide plan to implement new ideas or programs. Ultimately, searching for the right program is complex. Where you start matters.

IDENTIFYING FUNDING SOURCES Let’s begin with a need for a big grant: You have a big idea that you want to implement for a great number of schools and students. Tech & Learning’s Grant Guide describes various types of grant programs, and there are grant search sites that are the best places to find these funds. Each is different and has a different way to search. Most are subscription-based. So review each carefully (some offer a free trial) to decide which will be the best for your needs. The most often used are: Candid, a merger of the Foundation Center and GuideStar, has comprehensive data tools on nonprofits, foundations, and grants, and include the Foundation Directory Online and a database of individual 990 forms of private foundations, public charities, and other nonprofits. A subscription is required. allows users to search for federal grants. For example, educators can look for technology grants by using a key word or clicking on the category. This site is free. Grant Gopher offers a free trial to look for grants in its grant research database by state, county, program, and keywords. You can save your searches and get email alerts about new matches. Grants Watch posts federal, state, city, local, and foundation grants that are categorized by type (for example, teacher grants). This site requires a subscription.

SMALL GRANTS FOR EDUCATORS New programs, even big ones, often start as pilots in one classroom or school. Any new program depends on the zeal and energy of the educators launching it, and sometimes requires just a relatively small outlay of funds. Tech & Learning’s grants calendar is a good place to go to find an assortment of funding opportunities that might address your needs. The list is by deadline and includes URLs.

Many varieties of small grant opportunities are offered by various types of organizations that want to see a specific approach or spark new ideas with a defined amount of money. Some have deadlines; others are ongoing. Some are national; others are local. A few examples include: • Toshiba America Foundation Science and Math Grants is an example of a corporate foundation’s nationwide giving program. • The National Association of Biology Teachers Awards offers a large variety of awards in partnership with other organizations. • The NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership Grants has provided funding to thousands of educators, enabling them to develop their professional practice to improve student learning.

FUNDRAISING AND DONATION SITES If you have a project in mind and need a moderate amount of money to pursue it, there are websites that help you organize and manage online. From crowdfunding to fundraising and other options in between, these sites can help teachers and classrooms get items and funding. For example, Digital Wish is a nonprofit that helps teachers solve technology shortfalls in their classrooms. With Donors Choose, teachers post what they need. A more complete list is here. If you’re not experienced in writing grants, it makes sense to start small. Once you’ve gotten one grant, the second proposal -- even if it’s more complex -- will be easier to tackle. And a classroom, school, or district success is a great way to introduce your next proposal. You can leverage the program into a bigger one and build one success on another.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: RESEARCH THE SOURCE Writing a proposal is a lot of work. After you’ve found one or two that you think are perfect and before you start to write, review the grant givers to make sure they are reputable and actually offer the kinds of grants you need. Fortunately, almost all of the research can be done without leaving your computer screen. You can look into their funding history online; review their websites (and success stories) thoroughly; check out their social media presence; and contact them directly through email so you have someone who can guide you through their process.


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