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Best Student Data Privacy Practices for Schools

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The last week of January is National Data Privacy Week. As part of the global online safety, security, and privacy campaign called ‘Stop. Think. Connect.’—an initiative of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA)—this serves as a reminder to those in education to evaluate how we are doing when it comes to keeping our students and their data safe in the classrooms and beyond.

Student Data Privacy Rules—Is the Party Over? 

Educators are trying their best to keep kids feeling connected and excited about school, even in these chaotic and uncertain times during which “school” might be located in a different place each week. Does remote school safety mean an end to the fun of sharing and showing off projects and achievements?

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CITE 2022: Where Should Schools Start When Building an Esports Program?

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Esports is growing in schools around the country, and organizations are working with districts to build this activity into curricula and after-school programs.

“We’re working to legitimize esports,” said Carolyn Navarro, an executive assistant for the North America Scholastic Esports Federation, during the California Esports Roundtable at the California IT in Education conference.

Heidi Baynes and Steve Hickman, educational technology coordinators for the Riverside County Office of Education, also spoke on how their office is supporting schools’ implementation of esports programs.

“We’re really trying to lay the framework for how we want to get schools involved,” Hickman said. “We want to showcase what different programs are doing for esports. We want to lure more and more schools in to get these programs working.”

In addition to speaking with panelists — including JuanPablo Larios, a CTE teacher and esports coach at Orange Unified School District, and James Hicks and Phil Lucero, IT liaisons for Los Angeles Unified School District — roundtable host Doug Konopelko, national esports manager at CDW Education, opened the floor to questions from the audience, which led to discussions about student participation and console options in esports.

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Create an Esports Community with Student Needs in Mind

Being at school leads to success, Konopelko said, and esports helps keep kids at school who might not otherwise be there. He advised attendees in the audience to let the students’ and the program’s goals guide the choices educators make as they build esports in their own districts.

“If we make it too hard for them to stay here and play, our students will just go home and play,” Konopelko said. “What we want them to do is build that community here at school, so that they can play and find their peer group.”

Panelists also noted that the esports community wasn’t limited to just the players.

“One of the things our league did last year was host a fan art contest,” Baynes said, noting that more 80 students submitted art. “They aren’t necessarily playing the games, but they’re completely involved in their esports club.”

Consoles Affect Gameplay, but Schools Can Start Small

Audience members had many questions about consoles, wanting to know how to secure consoles when hardware is hard to come by, as well as what models are necessary for different levels of competitive play.

MORE ON EDTECH: Discover popular trends in K–12 esports arenas.

Members of the roundtable agreed that it might be best to start with Nintendo Switch consoles, because they’re not as expensive as other devices and there’s a low barrier to entry for students.

Larios noted that all of his team’s equipment had been donated by the Orange USD community, allowing him to build an esports program with limited resources.

Panelists did, however, point out that competitive teams likely would need gaming PCs to compete at the high school level. Konopelko explained that the resolution and frame rate can make a drastic difference in an athlete’s performance, but added that this doesn’t need to break the bank, depending on which games schools choose. “Three machines make a competitive team for Rocket League,” Konopelko said.

Lucero said LAUSD is in the process of building an esports lab with the help of CDW, which Hicks noted could be used as a CTE lab during the day before transitioning to an esports arena after school.

Ultimately, panelists agreed, it’s best to start small and focus on the goals of a district’s program when deciding what titles to play and what hardware to purchase for a new esports team.

Bookmark this page to stay up to date with our CITE 2022 conference coverage, and join the conversation on Twitter when you follow @EdTech_K12 and use the hashtag #CITE2022.

Photography by Rebecca Torchia



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CITE 2022: IT Leadership Hinges on Good Communication

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Sessions at this year’s California IT in Education conference highlighted the importance of communication, internally and externally, as a facet of IT leadership. District leaders shared how they made various changes to improve their image, strategies and leadership styles. These changes helped their IT teams — and their schools as a whole — lead and communicate more effectively.

Updates Help District Convey the Right Message

Before updating its district’s branding in 2019, Palo Alto Unified School District had what some called a “Charlie Brown logo,” said Sarah Patanroi, a business systems analyst for the district.

In her CITE 2022 session, “Nerds and Words: How IT Got Communication to Work,” Patanroi explained that the district didn’t want a logo that looked as old as Charlie Brown, so they commissioned a new design as the first step in revamping their communications.

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The new look incorporated many important elements for the district, such as the El Palo Alto redwood tree the area is named for.

The next step involved updating the district’s website. Previously, the site was hosted on a platform that was difficult to use, which created a bottleneck in the IT department when only a single staff member knew how to make site updates. This also resulted in various groups and departments making their own websites, rather than waiting for a webpage on the main site.

“We ended up with a forest of content and an alphabet soup of unmemorable URLs,” Patanroi said.

Building a new website on a more user-friendly platform allowed Palo Alto USD to simplify one of its primary tools for staying in touch with the community. The website can also be accessed as a mobile app for families that rely on their cellphones to get online, and the district included translation features on the site for its many Spanish- and Chinese-speaking families.

LEARN MORE: Today’s parent-teacher meetings are happening virtually.

Thoughtful Internal Communication Builds a Strong Team

On Wednesday, Jon Carrino, technology services director at William S. Hart Union High School District, also spoke on the importance of good communication. In the session “So you want to be a better leader? Me too!” Carrino shared how IT leaders can work with their internal teams. He fielded an engaging discussion from the audience, inviting conference attendees to share advice, pain points, quotes and more.

In response to a question on how to handle conflicting leadership styles with your superiors, audience member Juan Pablo Rodriguez, a database manager for the San Diego County Office of Education, stressed the importance of understanding those you have conflict with.

He shared a story about a time he worked with a difficult supervisor. “One day I started asking questions, and I found she was going through a medical situation, a kidney transplant,” Rodriguez said. “After that, I adapted my style to fit hers. Sometimes you need to give up something to the other leader so they understand you and you understand them.”

Another audience member, Nick Powell, senior computer training and support specialist at Elk Grove Unified School District, agreed that it’s important to listen to others. “I find very often I’m quick to want to have an answer, instead of taking the time to stop and listen,” he said.

Carrino also discussed with the crowd the importance of not making assumptions when communicating. “Don’t assume intent when hearing about behavior,” one audience member added.

“What you focus on, you’ll find,” said Nancy Baum, a data reporting coordinator at the San Diego County Office of Education. Baum added that she shares this advice with everyone, because she’s found it applies to relationships and life in general, in addition to good communication at work.

Bookmark this page to stay up to date with our CITE 2022 conference coverage, and join the conversation on Twitter when you follow @EdTech_K12 and use the hashtag #CITE2022.

Photography by Rebecca Torchia



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CITE 2022: Women Boldly Approach Tech and Leadership Roles

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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.”

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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.

Feinberg CITE 2022

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.

 

On Wednesday, panelists spoke about the discrepancies in women and men applying for jobs, citing a survey that found women typically will apply only for positions they’re 100 percent qualified for.

“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.

LEARN MORE: What does it take for women in K–12 to make it to the top?

“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.

Bookmark this page to stay up to date with our CITE 2022 conference coverage, and join the conversation on Twitter when you follow @EdTech_K12 and use the hashtag #CITE2022.

Photography by Rebecca Torchia



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