Creating a Connected Experience feat. Jeff Botteron

  • Zack:

You’re listening to the K 12 tech podcast, bringing insights into the world of education technology. Stay tuned as we discuss the past, the present, and most importantly, the future of technology in our schools. Alright, thanks, everybody for listening to the K 12. Tech Podcast. I am Zack Marvel the host. And today, I have a very important guest, can you introduce yourself?


  • Jeff:

Sure, Jeff Botteron, I work for the Lafayette Catholic school system as the Director of Learning Design and Technology. I do a little bit of everything for the school system. But primarily spend our time making sure that our students have access to the learning technology they need.


  • Zack:

What’s really funny about like our relationship, like a really weird coincidental thing is actually met your brother before I ever met you. So for everyone listening, I’m actually a finance officer in the Army National Guard with all my extra free time. And I meet somebody and it’s his younger brother. And I know I think it was right after I had met you. And I’m like, this is weird. And then like a month later, I found out that you guys are brothers. Like it’s such a like two separate worlds. But I’ve built a close relationship with both of you.


  • Jeff:

Yeah, it’s definitely a small world.


  • Zack:

One thing you just said, You said you do a lot of different things. And your title isn’t just tech director, it looked like there was maybe some curriculum building and stuff like that. So can you kind of explain, break that down?


  • Jeff:

Yeah, so I think smaller private schools have two things that they’re really looking to address. One is obvious, obvious budget concerns, right? Everybody’s gonna wear multiple hats if you’re choosing to work in a small school, that comes with the gig. But the second thing is, is you have to really deliver a coherent, connected program that is, you know, for kind of lack of a better term, world-class, you want your parents to have this best in class experience when your students have this best in class experience because they’re coming to you saying, here, here’s our dollars that we’re putting towards your system, we expect a good product in return. So delivering that great product means our experience needs to be connected. It can’t be here’s technology. And here’s the learning programs. It’s how does learning design and form the technology we purchase, which then helps our students experience extremely high levels of success?


  • Zack:

No, I didn’t really think about that. Actually, that’s a really good point is, you know, typically the families and I’m not sure is is Lafayette Catholic– Do you guys do that the voucher system at all?


  • Jeff:

We definitely have about 50% of our students that are on vouchers, and it goes a little bit higher in terms of the percentage potentially up to about 70%, when you include STOs, in that, which is just another form of kind of state aid.


  • Zack:

Yeah. And like every single student that’s at your guys’ schools is a choice made by the parent to do that. And I’m curious, you feel like there’s a lot more expectation on the staff of a small private school and there is no public school?


  • Jeff:

I think that’s an interesting question. I would say private and public school staff probably does face some different, some different obstacles. But you know, I’m sure we’ll touch on COVID a little bit later. But just, you know, a quick dive in there are parents who by and large expected us to open our doors back up as soon as possible after COVID hit. So being able to, again, lead connected programs so that we can be responsive to student needs to parent needs to the community expectations. It’s just it’s critical for us.


  • Zack:

Yeah. And that was the only question I had. Do you feel like sometimes when you look at maybe the teachers from maybe a private charter school, where it’s more of like a, there is a sense of like charity being done for the community? Do you feel like that sometimes makes it harder on the technology? Because maybe they don’t have as much of that formal education in that background? I was just kind of curious how that is with like the staff in general?


  • Jeff:

I think that’s a good question. I think, first of all, we have some of the most generous and talented educators, you know, anywhere and I put them up against the best, you know, the best faculty in the state. One of the things that I think’s unique about our faculty is they’re acutely aware of how their performance in the classroom impacts not just student learning, but the long-term viability for our purposes, the Catholic Church. We know a major point of evangelization is kids coming into our school system early and staying with us through graduation. So, when they think about a student having a poor experience, it actually goes beyond education, and it enters into their faith lives. So they have this really deep commitment to ensuring the best possible parent and student experiences. So there’s, there’s a moral imperative along with an educational mission.


  • Zack:

You know, one thing I wanted to delve into specifically is kind of your background, I know, I’m pretty sure you started out in education. And I wonder if you can walk me through you graduating college, to where you are now. And then what you kind of picked up on the way in education.


  • Jeff:

Yeah, and remind me there’s a couple points I want to get back to specifically with respect to how we made the transition to virtual learning and then subsequently to a high flex model. So remind me of that, but my background is, is I started as an educator, as a biology, chemistry physics teacher, for a few years went into educational administration, mainly because, you know, you see great things happening in the classroom, and you want to be part of making that you know, kind of bigger picture went through a couple other jobs both at the state and the national level in school turned around, and ultimately decided it was time to kind of take a moment to give back to, you know, kind of the private school parochial school community that helped me find success. So when I went back, there was interesting, I interviewed for my job. And I said, you know, if you’re looking for a tech guru, I’m probably not your guy. But if you want somebody who can tell help create a connected experience for your teachers, your parents and your learners, I think I can probably do that. And that’s what led me to, you know, led me to assuming the tech director role at Lafayette Catholic school systems and subsequently launching our one-to-one efforts to bring this kind of connected experience to our kids.


  • Zack:

Yeah, I am seeing more and more schools are hiring a tech director that is more curriculum and more, how do we facilitate this conversation and the communication as a whole, from the teacher to the student to the parents? That is the movement? I feel like a lot more schools are not so much interested in Hey, do you have the most engineering back network engineering background and all these other things? I think especially smaller school is like, you know what, maybe we’ll outsource our network and our engineering, but we need somebody who can communicate with our teachers and ensure our teachers and students are successful. And I really do think that that’s the future of where the tech director is going to move. Because I’ll be honest, and this is kind of my philosophy as I’ve been in technology last 10 years, the person who knows the most is the person who is learning today. It who is learning new information.


  • Jeff:

Absolutely.


  • Zack:

I think that’s what’s happening in the technology world is changing so fast, that people who are good researchers who are good at like, teaching themselves are going to be the ones who rise up and take over these technology jobs. Because ultimately, if you’re consistently learning, and you care, I think almost more than anything if you care, that’s what’s going to drive the success of the school and the position in general.


  • Jeff:

It is, I think it’s understanding that schools can build really sophisticated, really high-end technology systems that miss the mark because people don’t use them. And I think that’s where when you have technology directors that are connected into the day to day experience of the students of the faculty have the principles, you can design systems that serve, you know, arguably a more appropriate end, which is to ensure extremely high levels of student achievement, oftentimes gained through the degree of parent and principle satisfaction with the systems that you’re putting in place.


  • Zack:

100%, I cannot tell you, you know, we work with over 100 districts, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, not necessarily tech director, maybe someone from the school board or a teacher that finds the software or this new integration, this new integration tool, we’re like, oh, look at all these tools. It’s amazing. They spend, you know, $100,000, and they realize like, Oh, we actually don’t need to use this. And then it just has been a wasted year. Yeah, and you’re right, like there are so many tools, even free tools, that if you just commit to them, and use them and educate people top to bottom, like you, you’re right, you can create just this really good system without all of this knowledge, you know, without all this technical knowledge that you know, a lot of people think is required.


  • Jeff:

Well, yeah. And I’ll tell you, you know, our philosophy and technology as we’re, you know, we’re teacher-driven, we’re student-centered and we’re outcomes-focused, right. So are the teachers invested in actively selecting the programs that we’re going to use? Do those programs link back to a really a central mission of educating the student? And can we prove that that’s happening at a higher level with technology than without technology? And if we can hit those three things, we’re pretty confident we’re headed in the right direction.


  • Zack:

Yeah, I remember a couple of years ago, when we talked, you talked about, you thought maybe the potential change in the future of education was moving away from textbooks, and actually moving towards like open-source education. I was curious if you’ve seen a little bit of change in that now that there’s so much education online that’s free. If you’re seeing a switch to that, or if you think textbooks and online textbooks are still going to be, you know, the main driver in the next five years?


  • Jeff:

I think that’s a good question. For the next five years, I tend to think that our big textbook conglomerates are going to they’re going to still be hanging around, they’ve got billions of dollars at stake, they’re going to do a good job of trying to keep a hold of that. But I’ll tell you what we’re seeing that shift and usually what happens is we get an early adopter in a department. So our social studies departments a great example, our 12th-grade government teacher created his curriculum, by and large from, you know, OCR, and did an excellent job teaching students that served as an example to other members in his department. This year rolls around, we’ve got textbook adoption coming up 100% of the Social Studies Department came back and said, you know, instead of adopting textbooks, can you just give us some time over the summer to plan and compensate us for doing that so that we can develop a curriculum that’s unique to our students needs here at Central Catholic. And I think that’s the wave of the future. Because the information is out there, the videos are out there, the resources are out there. It’s educators connecting those together to tell the story that engages their students, motivates their students and ensures they learn at high levels.


  • Zack:

Yeah, I think that’s incredible. I remember you talked to me about that, maybe three years ago, and maybe three, maybe four years ago, and I thought about my education. You know, I went, you know, I have my bachelor’s degree, but like, I learned more from watching YouTube videos than I did in my whole college career. I mean, I started my business, I mean, essentially learning on YouTube and forums and stuff. And, and, you know, when I’m looking in the workforce, actually, one of the main things we ask is, how good are you at googling things? How good are you at researching? Right? And I think like, what you’re talking about, like, potentially, you know, the future of being open source for some specific curriculums. I do think that that’s going to be the future of educating our students on like, oh, like, you can find this information out going to these places and actually teaching them and I don’t know what that would look like to teach students how to be, you know, good at researching and finding things out. And then also, you know, vetting, you know, is this actually good information? Or is it not? And I just wanted to bring it up somewhere. We talked about that a couple years ago. And I think that’s awesome that we actually, you actually did that with the social studies side.


  • Jeff:

Yeah, it’s such a perfect example. And with teachers, it’s like, when you say, you know, why would we go Oh, er, versus stick with the traditional textbook company. And it’s like, well, if your dishwasher breaks tomorrow, are you going to look for the YouTube video? Are you going to look at the product manual, because I’m gonna look at the YouTube video or somebody is going to show me exactly how that’s done. And it’s like, that’s the future of our kids’ experience. And to the extent that our curriculum can help challenge them, and expose them to this new wave of information that’s just never been present before. Why wouldn’t we do that? And I think you’ll see that probably become more and more prevalent at the high school level over the next few years, and begin to start trickling down into the elementary level where we can really create curriculums that engage our kids in entirely different ways than they do today.


  • Zack:

Yeah, no, I think you’re 100% right because I think back to a couple of classes that I had, even in high school, one specifically would be like economics, right? But there are so many YouTube videos that they could have just shown us in class and had tests, you know, that I would have been lightyears ahead of where I was when I got to college and actually, like work through a lot of those difficult things. But I think it’s a perfect example of teaching somebody economics of a textbook, I think is almost impossible. You really need like visuals and like hands-on, like, how does this work like trading supply and demand? I think that those kind of subjects are where it’s going to move to specifically.


  • Jeff:

Absolutely, our students want to see that real-world connection. transitioning away from the textbook helps bring bridge that gap between, you know, what do they need to learn that’s outlined in the Indiana State Standards? And how on earth does this stuff actually apply when I get beyond high school and maybe want to reference back to my economics lessons as I’m moving into life?


  • Zack:

Yeah, exactly. I want to move on to talk about I know, you, you worked on the implementation of the one to one devices at Lafayette Catholic, and you know, just gonna be worked with you guys. I think for almost six years now. I know that you guys had some Chromebooks at some point, and then you’ve been really sticking with Apple for the last four years. Can you talk through figuring it out in the beginning? And then how you got to where you are right now?


  • Jeff:

Yeah, I think, you know, the world of one to one is challenging, because your device costs are, are so wide-ranging, that you really have to sit down and think, okay, what’s what, what, what, what’s the short term need, but what’s my long term kind of goal that will allow me to be sustainable in this approach. And for us, you know, when we initially launched this, it was a grade seven through 12 initiative. And because we were talking about, you know, essentially junior high in high school level, we felt a little bit more comfortable going with a computer made a little bit more sense, have a little bit more flexibility, I think you could potentially rethink that argument now with some of the new tablet technology that’s out there. But you know, this is five, six years ago, wasn’t quite as as as robust. But you know, we looked at making sure that as we’re going through the device selection process, we were doing a couple things, number one, delivering reliable technology into the hands of our students, if it wasn’t reliable, and our teachers, our teachers, were going to feel that frustration, they’re far less likely to use it, right. The second thing is pairing that reliable technology with functional ways of using, right giving, giving somebody a Chromebook and MacBook and iPad, with no learning platforms, or LMS is it’s going to essentially say, to the teacher, we’ve given you 50 additional things to do, in addition to teaching your curriculum, because now you’ve got to find how to make this device functional. And that’s just not there to launch a one-to-one program. And that way, you’ve got to create the connected experience, have your learning platforms have your LMS all set up and ready to go. And then the third thing for us being a private school, in part, it was delivering a device that was high end sustainable, and, and something that, you know, our community found attractive. So when we did that valuation, we said, well, you know, should we go again, with Chromebooks and Windows device or a Mac Book. And ultimately, we were able to select the Mac Book, because we knew that if we got the proper insurance we use, we use you guys for insurance, we had the proper insurance on the devices, we were, we knew that the hardware inside of them was going to be able to last. And when we initially launched this, we thought it’s gonna last four years, through our partnership with you, we were able to realize, Nope, that’s gonna last six years, which is pretty impressive for a device. So now when a student comes in as a seventh-grader, welcome to the high school, welcome them into the high school, give them a brand new MacBook Air and tell them that they keep that until graduation, they graduate with it. And most of our students go on because that device is still in good shape. They go on into college and use it for their first year of college while they’re deciding what device do I actually need for my college career. That’s a pretty incredible setup for our families. And the consistency of using the same device means that our kids become expert users. And our teachers are trying to help them problem solve small things that distract from their curriculum. So longer answer, but nonetheless. Just really important upfront to think through all the different aspects of why you’re going one to one and how you’re going to ensure it’s successful.


  • Zack:

Yeah, you said something specifically, that I thought was really important was the synergy of from beginning to end using the same device so that teachers aren’t forced to, Oh, we got a new device this year. It’s a new OS. Now I’m having to help them. And I’m also learning. That’s a really good point. And that’s one of the things when I talk with schools that if they’re going in new one to one, and they’re like, we’re thinking about doing a mixed platform, you’d understand, hey, when they make that switch, there is going to be a little bit of a learning curve. But I think the biggest thing is I tell people like elementary schools, I almost try to advise to an iPad because every kid knows how to use an iPad coming into school. Like you don’t have to explain where the home button is and how to open an app and all these things. And you know, definitely Macbooks are a little bit different. This is more off track, but have you ever seen those progressive commercials or they’re talking about like becoming your parents?


  • Jeff:

I have, yeah.


  • Zack:

And there’s that one person. It’s like, Alright, for when you go to the movies, this is where silent is. And the lady’s like, I don’t have silent. I had that exact experience my parents yesterday. And it’s just interesting, like, Oh, my six-year-old knows more than my dad does on how to use an Apple device. And it’s interesting just how these kids are going to walk through with these devices and have this knowledge. So that’s more of a funny story.


  • Jeff:

Oh, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s definitely it’s a little bit, it’s a little bit crazy how much they know. And, you know, after we successfully launched our one to one with the Macbooks, at our junior high in high school level, we had to sit there and think, Okay, what what’s the right device, you know, for the, we go all the way down to preschool, right? So preschool, pre-K, kindergarten all the way up to sixth grade, what’s the right device for these kids. And it was based upon two things. One is the ease of use. And then second, secondary would be the durability of the device with kids that age. So we did settle on the iPad. I’ll tell you the other thing that helped us settle on the iPad is we had tons of expert users within our system already, which were our older kids that we could use in mentoring roles to go down help these elementary kids get up to speed, reduce the stress on the teacher, and then subsequently help us over the summer get all of these things geared up, we leverage kids every summer, to take our devices, preschool all the way through grade 12 and wipe them set them up for the new school year, and then launch them back into the schools. An adult never touches those that’s 100% student run program saves us more than $100,000 a year that those dollars are then reallocated closer to the classrooms to support teachers and the materials that they need. And the system just runs. But it’s because of what you just said the kids get the technology. So if you’re developing a technology plan, and you’re excluding the kids that get the technology from your technology plan, I would argue that you need to reconsider our kids. They run it from start to finish. They’ve even presented at national conferences on how to do this.


  • Zack:

Yeah, that’s one thing. From the beginning, you always had a solid student tech team like, and just kind of for everyone to visualize they had like this. I think it was the old library, right? Where you guys are set up, they’ve got like a little, you know, looks like a little like kind of kiosk area set up like, and literally students just calm they fill out a quick ticket, the students do the student text. How many of you typically have an hour one or two?


  • Jeff:

Yeah, right. We’re up to we have two student texts per hour to provide services to our students, parents and faculty members that may have any issues.


  • Zack:

Yeah. And then so basically, students go there, student teachers go there, they fill out a quick ticket, they do quick troubleshooting, they fill out a little form to set to give a loaner, if it can’t be remedied, they do a little bit more work on it to see if they can figure out what the problem is. If it’s software, if it’s a problem, that’s a break fix, they put in a tub, and then that’s where we come in and take care of it. But ultimately, the training that these students are getting for real life, it is is incredible, they’re going to be so far ahead of other students, because they already have technical troubleshooting, and then customer service. And then honestly, work ethic coming right out of high school.


  • Jeff:

And let’s be honest, right? If you’re, and I’m a little, maybe this isn’t the best way of saying it. But if you’re a kid that’s working on the tech team in high school, there’s probably some social development skills that you might need to learn along the way too. And interfacing every day, with your peers, with parents, with teachers to help solve technology problems, helps you come out and be able to better communicate and better socialize with others. So there’s a lot of hidden benefits to this.


  • Zack:

Yeah, yeah. And I think, I’ll be honest, this has been on my mind, this is kind of a little outside of this, but I really think public and private schools just for the parents and grandparents and stuff, they should start doing like monthly courses to train parents and train, train parents, grandparents, or whatever of the students how to use this technology to because there’s so much of this like gap where it would help if they know they can also hold their kids accountable on their own devices. So yeah, that expands later on. You know, kind of getting into it. There’s two things you wanted to talk about rolling out, you wanted me remind you rolling out the virtual learning. And I want to talk through just kind of what COVID was like from a private school perspective. So if you want to roll into that those be good time.


  • Jeff:

Yeah. So you know, just like everybody else, we, you know, we got the same notice that said, Hey, you know, next week, your schools are closed, schools will be 100%, virtual, I think at the time, it’s roughly like a six-week margin or as either for six weeks. But looking at how this thing was spreading, we anticipated it probably be a little bit longer. So when we saw that hit, we knew that we had teachers all across the board. So we’re no different than any school out there public or private. Some of your teachers are ready to make that transition. And some of them are. I think what helped us find success is, again, we do, I think one of the things that we do well is we do a good job at helping at identifying our early adopters and putting those early adopters of technology in the right position to teach their peers. So when COVID hit, we responded by letting our community know, we’re going to get our act together, we’re going to make sure that we’re delivering, you know, consistent high-quality education to your kids, but we need three days to get ready. And we did two days of a Virtual Learning Conference where our teachers taught each other about the technology they’ve been leveraging in classrooms and how it could potentially be used that third day, they strategized on how does this actually apply to my classroom. And then on day four, they launched. And it was a pretty incredible experience because we went from, you know, a situation where nobody had really been challenged to teach and teach online, to a scenario where every teacher was launching with Google meets on that fourth day, interacting live with their kids. And, and, and doing so in a way that I think this is where public and private schools a little bit different. Made the students want to come back, our attendance rate over that chunk of time was 93%. Now, you know, we usually have a little bit higher 97 98%, or something like that. We’re talking as we transition into COVID, 93% of our students said, Yep, when that zoom call, or when that Google call hits, I’m on it. I like interacting with my peers, I like interacting with my teachers. And I think that has to do with, you know, from a tech director standpoint, never underestimate the power of those early adopters, in being able to convey the value proposition of the technology that’s available to their peers. So it gets adopted and implemented.


  • Zack:

Well, yeah, I really liked the idea of the peers, kind of helping the others because I remember there was a school, they actually out they actually paid for an outsourced integration specialist, then essentially, that’s their job, right is to educate and make sure you know, teachers are using. And I remember I showed up one day, and she had a bowl of candy. And, you know, she had all this curriculum ready. And she was coming back, I think it was after school, and I’m like, Oh, you know, what were you up to? And she goes, Well, this is like, the sixth time I’ve done this, and no teacher came to learn. And, you know, that was kind of like, maybe I was disappointed in that there weren’t teachers that saw value in that. And then maybe I thought, maybe teachers don’t want to learn from somebody they don’t know someone who isn’t their peer. And that I think you’re right, those first adopters being the ones that are even holding people accountable and educating like, you’re right, maybe that needs to be weighted a lot more higher than then then the school being like, No, we need an integration specialists, more of like, how can we empower those first adopters?


  • Jeff:

Contextualizing things, it’s just, it’s so critical when, when you got educators in house that can say, hey, look, I know the program says it’s gonna work like this. These are some of the nuanced problems you’re gonna run into along the way, here’s how you combat those and keep kids learning and actively engaged. It’s that next level of experience that makes all the difference, so with us, and it’s like, well, how do you get them early adopters? How do you motivate early adopters or new adopters get everything new first, right, so we’re rolling out new iPads, they’re piloting those new iPads with the new cases if we’re if we’re adopting a new learning program, they’re getting first access to that to start working through the bugs and and the little nuances that are going to potentially be frustrations for teachers when they go to roll it out at scale. So by making sure that our early adopters get the stuff first, in part as a reward, and then also gets some compensation when they’re sharing out with their peers, we’re able to make better use of our teachers time and honestly, it you know, it saves us Money relative to, you know, $1,000, you know, a couple $1,000 a day for a consultant to come in and maybe not experience much success with your teaching staff?


  • Zack:

Yeah, that’s a really good point, why wouldn’t a school just pay their own staff the money that they would pay a consultant or the money that they would pay an integration specialist, because I know plenty of teachers, they’re like, Hey, I would love to make a couple extra $1,000 bucks this year, I think that’s something schools should really consider of like, maybe having, instead of hiring consultants or new employees, maybe you share that responsibility amongst five teachers, you know, and using that money to be like, Hey, we’re gonna you’re on a council or whatever you want to call them. And it’s like that, you know, you get extra pay for that. And I think a lot of schools could eliminate, you know, these positions that might not even be that effective to begin with?


  • Jeff:

Well, I, you know, obviously, I’m biased. And I agree with that because that’s kind of how we run it. But you know, what we had found is that when we were so well, let me clarify really clarify one thing, and then go into what we found. The point of clarity that I think is important to make is sometimes your early adopters can’t figure out the technology themselves. But I’ll tell you what’s better than bringing in a consultant. And this will go to my second point, and running through a whole day of PD, with your entire faculty, what is far better to do with that consultant, stick them with two teachers that are experts, and really proficient at their craft. So they can drill down to the level of information, they need to be able to then bring that back to their educators, or to their peers, I guess I should say, that are maybe a little more timid with the technology might listen a little more, if it’s coming from somebody they know and they’re familiar with. So invest that money still in the consultant when you have to, but don’t just blindly invest it because that session is not going to be worthwhile for everybody, it’s going to be high impact, high return with the right educators at the table. And, and to that point, when you have those right educators at the table, don’t, you know, don’t undercompensate them every school’s got access to Title II Part A money that gives you free money to, to pay and compensate these educators at a different level than their peers for being such good contributors to the overall professional climate and you’re building so compensate them, reward them, motivate them, and you’re gonna get such a higher return on your investment than these uniform, everybody gets the same thing, kind of approach. So I’ll stop there.


  • Zack

No, yeah, I think you’re right. And I think ultimately to every school is different. So you’re taking these, these, this technology in this in these software’s, and your school might use that differently than someone who, maybe even somebody from the actual technology or software companies would be like, Oh, look at all these tools, all these flashy things, your teachers or faculty that are experts are going to be like, Don’t even worry about that stuff. These are the three things that you need that you will use every day, if you can master these, you will be fine. I’m thinking of somebody like a teacher that might not feel comfortable, like oh, my gosh, I’m taking 50 of these tools that are out there, and I only need to know three, that’s gonna make it a lot less daunting, a lot more palatable, for sure.


  • Jeff:

I think that’s a real absolutely and, and you get that continuum of implementation, then where you’ve got your beginners that are, here’s what you need to do to get your feet wet. Those folks that are in the middle, they’re there, they’re trying to figure it out. So they’re taking the next steps. And then you’ve got your leaders in that space, we saw that with our transition to our high flex model that occurred in the fall when our parents said, you know, we know that there’s some risk associated with this, we want our kids back in school. And, and because on our initial surveys, I think it was something like 8080 to 83% of our parents and we want our kids back in school, we knew that we also couldn’t lose that other 17%. So we had to figure out with our teachers, how are you going to teach both in-person and to that kid that’s learning from home? Because we don’t have the budget to hire an online teacher? And have you teaching? So how can we accommodate both those and that exact model of let the early adopters to aren’t afraid to go out, you know, break some things, make some mistakes, learn some lesson, Share, share out with their peers, here’s what you need to do to just begin and what we realized is that’s just such a better model for us.


  • Zack:

You know, COVID has been, you know, in our lifetime, the biggest just catastrophic thing that’s really happened to our community in our country and you know, as I’ve talked to my tech directors and how they’re doing and you know, the thing I love about what we do is most of our customers stay with us long term. I have some customers that I’ve had for over nine years. And it was interesting one of the biggest qualms or biggest complaints I got from maybe the tech directors are they’re just some teachers that don’t see the value in just fully diving into the technology. And, you know, I was interesting, I kind of I try to keep this thing in my head and comments that tech directors make, and I’ve had conversations with them again, you know, like, Hey, COVID has been terrible, you know, for this country, and you know, for the school. But my teachers, for the first time understand the importance, a lot of some of my teachers that have never fully adopted, understand and fully gotten on board with our technology for the first time. And I was curious if you felt a little bit of that on your side, too, of like, you know, what, in the middle of this pandemic, teachers coming together and being like, you know, what, it’s time that I fully just understand this and integrate it.​


  • Jeff:

Yeah, so our most experienced teacher has been in the classroom for more than 40 years. And it just happens that she was the first one, to start putting students on the board, to interact with their peers who were live in the classroom, during the pandemic, and i think that goes to the point of your question, which is, you know, did this help teachers of all ability levels and backgrounds, better embrace technology? Yes, the amount of skills that we’ve gained, collectively, as a staff, arguably couldn’t have been developed over over over 5,6,7 years that were all developed in one year, because there was such a great need. And I think that’s where, you know, what COVID did is it put it aligned two important things, a moral imperative, and ambition to teach kids. And when you had both of those aligned, people dug in, they overcame their fears. And you know, that, that that second-grade teacher that I’m referencing, you know, again, she’s using an iPad, to video, the kids in the classroom while she’s using her computer to put the kids at home up on the screen, and letting them have that live interaction with each other because she understood the importance of that social interaction that had to be maintained throughout COVID. For those kids that were in isolation, just an incredible experience.


  • Zack:

Yeah, I love stories like that. And I mean, yeah, it’s just like, refined by fire. I mean, I think people don’t understand, like, you know what, like, when it comes down to it, people will step up, and we’ll take that on. You know, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation today, and what’s going on with your school and your background. And, you know, what I like to do. And what I’m trying to do more than this is, if you could give, you know, maybe just, if you could give, I don’t know, the top of your head. So it doesn’t have to be super concise. Three things that you learned that you felt like were the most important on your journey as a tech director of like, these are the three most important things that I think a tech director should be doing, what would they be?


  • Jeff:

Number one is be inclusive, and being inclusive of teachers deeply in your planning. They are the end-users that you serve, they’re your primary customer, your teachers have to feel comfortable, knowledgeable and prepared to be able to launch the technology that you’re putting in place in the classroom. The second one is, don’t underestimate the power of including students in your plan. We have with you know, to date we’ve had probably I’d say we’re approaching that milestone of 100 students that have served on the student tech team, the vast majority of those students, after they leave that experience on the student tech team are going on to their colleges and universities conserving on the tech teams there and subsequently entering into high impact it careers, it is a valuable experience for your kids, it is an excellent way for you to provide better customer service to those that you serve. And and and just the the the interactions and the stories that you’ll have to tell as you just sit back and you’re amazed by the work that they do will be fully worth it. And I’d say you know, the third thing is designed the system to support the kids. And, again, I think we can develop excellent technology systems and infrastructure in isolation that fails to actually serve the mission of the schools. So develop everything was serving the mission of the schools in mind serving the students in mind.


  • Zack:

Yeah, I love that. Thank you so much. Thanks for your time. And yeah, we’ll sign off. Thanks, Jeff.

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