The events that took place in Oxford, Michigan, in early December 2021 were tragic and horrifying, much like all of the other school shootings that have taken place from Columbine to Oxford. The difference in the Oxford shooting is that the parents were arrested and held responsible for their child’s actions.
How many times do we as teachers contact parents only to hear that it is our problem to handle? Now, let’s be clear, not every parent avoids school contact, and not every parent plays the blame game. But, some do and oftentimes those are the ones we need support from the most because often they are parents of children with either behavioral or academic challenges.
How do we engage parents who long to be disengaged? Why should we care? Well, just like the administrators in Oxford, as educators we recognize that the parent plays a vital role in the overall success of the student, and without their support, the student has a very difficult road ahead.
Sometimes it is hard as an administrator to engage these kinds of parents in any school activity but there are some strategies schools can employ to bring around disconnected parents.
Call-out systems – Annoying for sure but these are effective in leaving messages on phones for parents to listen to and verifying that the message has been received. This is helpful in two ways: one, it ensures the communication took place; and two, it documents the communication.
Health programs for parents – Some districts are taking a unique approach to offering services in their buildings. This isn’t a new model, however, it is becoming a more popular one. Some districts have medical clinics, dental clinics, and counseling, all available at the school. Community schools — as these are sometimes referred to — invite the parents into the building for non-educational events in hopes that a relationship can be formed between school officials and parents. In July 2021, the Department of Education announced that $443 million of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan would invest in community schools and gave guidance on how to strategically use American Rescue Plan funds. This guidance was directly created from the NEA’s best practices and Community Schools Model.
Focus on equity by recognizing that parent engagement is actually an equity issue – Students who have less engaged parents have less support in school and may have less support at home. Parents may not realize the significance of their role in school or they may not feel comfortable participating in their child’s educational process. The Carnegie Foundation recently released a report on how to engage the disconnected parent. This resource is full of suggestions and research pointed to attending to the challenge of the disconnected parent. And during the recent #NYCSchools Tech Summit hosted by Tech & Learning, educators from around the country discussed how they’re building connections with families.
Every child deserves a parent excited about their educational journey, and as education professionals, we are tasked to figure out how to solve the challenge of a disconnected parent for each and every child we teach. No child chooses to have a parent who doesn’t care about their educational process, but we can choose to help these parents know the power of engagement!
This year, California IT in Education had a record number of female attendees at its CITE conference, panelists said in Wednesday’s “Every Role is a Starring Role for Women in Technology” session.
Speaking to an audience of men and women, panel host Ari Flewelling, professional development manager at CDW Education, celebrated that word about the conference had spread. “That means the people who have been coming, whether it be our female- or male-identifying attendees, are telling people, and they are bringing someone with them,” she said. “And that is a great strategy to help with recruitment, employment and mentorship.”
Hiring practices were talked about at length in the panel discussion and in CITE 2022’s Tuesday keynote session, which featured Danielle Feinberg, a visual effects supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios. In the keynote, Feinberg explained her own early career experiences and what it took to make the leap to her current position.
Women Should Confidently Apply for the Jobs They Want
When Feinberg started at Pixar, she worked primarily on lighting in animated films because she was awestruck by the way it could change a scene and tell a story.
She showed examples from films she worked on, including “Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E,” “The Incredibles” and “Coco.” Each project had unique challenges. “Finding Nemo” needed to appear believably underwater, “Wall-E’s” setting needed to look more like post-apocalyptic Earth than Mars, “The Incredibles” pushed the team to animate a character with long hair and “Coco” featured more lights than any previous Pixar film: 8.5 million in a single scene.
Danielle Feinberg, Visual Effects Supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios, demonstrates the effects of lighting in an animated film with a scene from “Coco.”
With each challenge, Feinberg and her team rose to the occasion, often under tight deadlines. After the success of “Coco,” she applied for the visual effects supervisor position on the movie “Turning Red.”
“This has typically been a very, very technical job, and I’m not very technical. People tend to think of lighting as one of the less technical jobs,” she explained.
However, the new film’s director was Domee Shi, who had just won an Oscar for her work on the short film “Bao,” and rumors were circulating that Shi wanted the new feature to be a combination of art and technology. “So, I decided to apply,” Feinberg said.
She got the job and added that the first thing she did was stick out her neck and recommend the use of a new technology, which turned out to be so successful for animating bodily movement that the team decided to use it for facial expressions as well.
“I know I can do this, so I feel confident now applying for those jobs, and I want to integrate that into my own female coworkers’ minds,” said Lisa DeLapo, director of informational and instructional technology at Union School District in San Jose, Calif. “I feel like they’ll never try because they don’t feel qualified, and they are.”
Hiring Practices Need to Change to Include Women and Minorities
Participants in the women in tech panel also talked about the changes they can make from within an organization to support hiring and retention practices.
“When you start looking at people’s resumes and comparing what you’re hiring for, what are the things on that list that are essential? What are the things that would be nice? What could be taught?” Flewelling asked. She also pointed out that many responsibilities are collaborative and won’t need to be handled solely by a new hire.
“You have to engage your HR department,” added an audience member after raising his hand. “If you’re not proactive with them, they will overlook potential candidates because of their own bias.”
From the corporate side, Danielle Pinta, program manager for Google for Education, said she’s already seeing the effect of companies mentoring and hiring candidates more thoughtfully. “I’ve been in positions numerous times where I’m the only woman in a room full of men, and over the last five years I’ve started to see that shift. Whenever I do see it shift, it feels really good.”
Pinta pointed to the programs Google has around hiring minorities as a way tech companies are moving in the right direction.
The best gaming systems for school esports can help to make all the difference in a student and school’s experience of the ever-growing world of esports. Not only will the right rig help students win games but it can also help push the school forward in national standings.
When it comes to STEM learning and social skills enhancement, more and more research reflects positively on esports. From K-12 to college, this covers a wide age range and many students, regardless of physical limitations or skills, may already play, making it an easy transition to get socialized in teams.
Building a gaming rig, or at least setting up one, can be a valuable part of the process if students help, providing an opportunity to learn about the machines and how a system is put together while allowing them to feel ownership and develop practical tech skills and ability to fix issues should they occur.
Here are the best gaming systems for esports in schools, not only complete systems but also the key parts that make for a good setup.
Best Gaming Systems for School Esports: PC Gaming System for Schools
Dell G5 Gaming Desktop
One of the top-end gaming PC systems, which remains far more affordable than most, is the Dell G5 Gaming Desktop. This is a single desktop tower-style computer that’s powered by a future-proof 9th Gen Intel Core i3 at the basic end or up to an i7 if you can afford more power. Though with the backing of 8GB of RAM as a minimum and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics processor, even the most basic setup will handle all games with ease.
Of course, you can always lower the graphics to play more intense games in the future, meaning this will last. But for the foreseeable future this offers more than enough power to handle any gaming challenge your students wish to take on. You will still need to pair it with all the other kit to get gaming. More on that below.
Asus VP228HE gaming monitor
The important part is the gaming machine, as previously mentioned. The monitor, while also important, doesn’t require the same investment. For example, 4K gaming screens aren’t really needed to help a student have an effective online match. Lag time can be more important but with the Asus VP228HE that’s not an issue.
This monitor offers a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, and 1ms response time on a 21.5-inch screen. Alright that’s not the largest, but with most students playing close to the screen, it’s plenty. This is one of the most affordable monitors you can buy and it will get the job done. Save money here and invest that in the best desktop machine you can afford to go the distance.
Dell G7 15 Gaming Laptop
One way to avoid the expense of a desktop machine, display, keyboard, and mouse all separately, is to go for a gaming laptop. This also provides the freedom to move it to other rooms, use for other classes, and to allow students to take on tournament visits or to practice at home, if needed.
The Dell G7 15 is an affordable yet very powerful option that should see you through for a good few years of use. You get Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics, a large 15.6-inch display, and a LED keyboard, all of which weighs in at a go-anywhere friendly 5.5 pounds.
Kingston HyperX Cloud Alpha Pro Gaming Headset
A gaming headset is often classed as optional extra in a gaming setup, but for the real benefits of esports in schools, you’ll want your students connected for vocal interaction. This is a very top-end model with a lower-than-most price. Yes, there are cheaper options available, but then again, any headphones with a mic can do the job – we’re laying out the best gaming-dedicated options here.
This investment gets you a dual-chamber design that results in deep bass notes and superb highs without distortion. It’s also made with an aluminum frame, so it’s solid and built to last.
Logitech G512 Gaming Keyboard
The Logitech G512 gaming keyboard is a fully fledged mechanical affair. That aluminum-magnesium alloy construction means it’s built to last the violent button bashing that a gaming session will deal out. Since it will be getting a lot of use, across many students and years, it’s a great choice for those who want to invest in something durable.
On top of that, this is built for gaming with multicolored backlit keys that have three mechanical settings, including clicky and tactile feedback. It also has a USB pass-through, allowing you to run the mouse through this – so students can bring their own and easily plug in if needed. It also makes for easy charging for a device such as a smartphone – a very welcoming feature for students.
Razer Abyssus Essential Gaming Mouse
Gaming specialist Razer offers a do-it-all gaming mouse in the Abyssus Essential that, as the name suggests, doesn’t break the bank. This affordable option doesn’t scrimp on features with LED lighting, adjustable weights, and a good selection of buttons.
Plus, no worries about customizations, as with more high-end gaming mouse options. You can save a few bucks here while also saving on the hassle of managing and handling more complex devices.
Best Handheld Gaming System for Schools
One great way to keeping gaming simple, affordable, and easy to share is to get a handheld console. The Nintendo Switch is a prime example as it can be plugged into a display for big screen gaming or used on the go with its built-in screen. Up to four players can game at the same time locally, making it a great option for in-school use if a network connection is a problem.
Since many students may already own this console, it’s a great way to integrate with what’s already there, allowing those students who can’t afford one to join in. Switch games aren’t cheap, but since it is super simple to use, savings come on maintenance in the long term.
Aside from gaming, the Nintendo Switch also offers plenty of educational titles, and allows students to compete in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a widely played and popular esports game unavailable outside the Nintendo world.
Best Gaming Bag for Schools
As featured in our best laptop bags for teachers (opens in new tab), the Case Logic Laptop Case is ideal for students carrying a laptop and peripherals too. This features protective padding as well as a dedicated sleeve to protect a laptop or tablet. It also offers lots of pockets so students can carry chargers, peripherals, and more, all without movement that may otherwise cause damage.
Carry handle and shoulder strap options are available, as well as enough space to tote books and more. Everything is water-, tear-, and drop-resistant with high-quality zips made to last. You also have enough size to fit an 18-inch laptop while being light enough for all-day use. It’s not the cheapest out there but it’s worth the price.
K–12 schools are facing high stakes when it comes to cybersecurity. Cyberattacks not only put student and staff data at risk, but they’re also expensive and can threaten a district’s reputation. News of successful K–12 ransomware attacks spreads quickly, which may be one reason district IT leaders are looking for any way to mitigate the threats.
The interest in cybersecurity was evident in Long Beach at this year’s California IT in Education conference. Security-focused breakout sessions at CITE 2022 filled quickly, and Wednesday’s keynote featured cybersecurity expert John Sileo.
Experts in cybersecurity sessions spoke at length about how to overcome current challenges to building a stronger security posture in K–12 schools, including the need for additional resources and stakeholder support.
Invest in Security Resources to Proactively Avoid Cyberattacks
If increasing, high-profile ransomware attacks didn’t emphasize the need for stronger cybersecurity measures, cyber insurance requirements did. However, in a panel discussion Tuesday called “Identifying the Risks and Challenges of Cybersecurity,” hosted by CDW Education’s Professional Development Manager Ari Flewelling, speakers discussed why, often, meeting insurance requirements alone isn’t enough.
“There’s a difference between a checkmark in an audit box and mitigating risk,” said panelist Steven Allison, a field CISO at CDW.
It’s better to pay for a more comprehensive security solution because, while it might be more expensive, it won’t be nearly as costly as a successful cyberattack. If there is a breach, the money will be there. “It takes the incident to create the incident-based spending,” Allison said, but IT departments can try to get that money for prevention.
School districts can also stretch their cybersecurity budgets by bringing in security consultants instead of hiring full-time staff. Many districts are finding it difficult to fill vacant security positions because K–12 institutions can’t pay these specialists as much as the private sector can. However, bringing in a part-time virtual CISO or other security consultant can give districts an expert’s perspective without busting the budget.
Educate Stakeholders on Cybersecurity Risks and Solutions
Acquiring the necessary funding up front for cybersecurity is often a matter of getting the right stakeholders to understand the risks cyberattacks pose.
“There needs to be support from the top,” said Jon Carrino, director of technology services at William S. Hart Union High School District. “When resources aren’t available because there’s no support from the school board or superintendents, those initiatives become impossible.”
One challenge is that, frequently, board members, superintendents and other administrators don’t have an IT background. This makes it more difficult to convey the importance of proactively mitigating risks.
“Make sure you’re able to communicate the ‘why,’” said Brandon Weber, IT director for the Lancaster School District, adding that it can be helpful to collaborate with the teacher’s union and its leaders. “If they’re on your side, things go far more smoothly.”
Are These the Top Threats in 2023?
One benefit of the recent spotlight on cybersecurity in K–12 education is that it could lead to more resources to help schools defend against emerging threats, said Bob Turner, field CISO at Fortinet.
Turner shared his company’s predications on the future of cybercrime Wednesday morning in his session, “A Case for Cybersecurity Operations in Education.” Defending against new attack vectors is especially important as the threat landscape expands, he said, with cybercriminals targeting Linux, operational technology, esports, edge technology and more.
Here are cyberthreats schools can expect to see in 2023:
Ransomware and Wiper Malware: Ransomware will remain popular but may become more destructive with the addition of wiper malware, which can erase an infected hard drive, deleting its data.
Crime as a Service: After investing time and energy into profitable attack vectors, some cybercriminals are banding together to offer Crime as a Service to buyers who are willing to pay to attack an organization.