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Special Education Departments Explore Advanced Technology in Their Classrooms



At Val Verde Unified School District, Darren Crist’s classroom was the first with a 3D printer.

“I told my kids it was coming. We went on Christmas break. They came back already knowing how to use programs and what it can do and can’t do,” says Crist, a special education teacher at the district’s elementary school.

The students were so excited to use a new technology that no one else in the school had, he says. “I saw a lot of students really taking an initiative to learn how to do this on their own.”

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Since the introduction of the 3D printer, Crist has brought other technologies — typically reserved for advanced programs in science, technology, engineering and math — into his lessons. His students learn robotics, coding, computer-aided design and more, and they’re exposed to artificial intelligence and devices ranging from digital assistants to Chromebooks. Crist began using this technology in his special education classes when he saw how important the skills would be to his students for future jobs.

WATCH NOW: Special education teachers use technology with a focus on vocation.

Special Education Students Learn Skills for Their Future

In the early 2000s, a friend of Crist’s father was bemoaning the operational cost of his company’s new 3D printer. While he loved the technology, the company had to pay an engineer $60,000 to $70,000 “just to babysit this printer,” Crist explains. “That inspired me to get my students working with the technology. If somebody had knowledge of that technology, they could make a good living wage without necessarily going to college.”

Crist was looking for career pathways for his students in the technology field, which he felt would set them up for future success. Though he began this integration in the early 2000s, there are even more jobs available in technology today.


The percentage increase in technology job postings in Q3 2021 compared with the same quarter in 2020

Source:, “Dice Q3 Tech Job Report,” Nov. 18, 2021

In addition to developing tech skills for future careers, Crist also found that working with STEM devices and programs helped his special education students with their schoolwork and independence.

“It got them to take responsibility for their own learning, and it allowed me to use that when they’re having a hard time in reading or math,” he explains. “When they say, ‘I can’t do this,’ I say, ‘What are you talking about? You learned how to code a 3D printer overnight. What do you mean you can’t do four plus four?’”

The technology is helping to teach his students, as young as third and fourth grade, that they can be independent and responsible — in many ways, a more important lesson learned than all their 3D printing, robotics and other STEM skills.

Watch the full video to learn more about technology in special education classrooms.

Using Educational Technology to Grow and Share Produce

Students at San Bernardino City Unified School District cultivate their skills alongside their produce. One of the district’s high schools is home to the various types of hydroponics systems that special education students use to grow foods ranging from lettuce to five different types of basil. They track the crops’ progress and journey with QR codes.

“The students scan the QR code and then mark the number of plants harvested and where the plants were delivered to,” says Barbara Pastuschek, special education teacher at San Andreas High School. “That helps us keep track of how many we grew, how many we had seeded to begin with, how many came out of the seeding and when we were able to transfer seedlings.”

The lessons don’t end when the produce is ready to harvest. The students also work on a website to market and share their bounty.

“The students input photographs, videos of different kinds of recipes, what health benefits come with the produce and the growing history of the produce as well,” Pastuschek says.

KEEP READING: Technology is reinventing arts education for K–12 students.

Her students do all the work of updating the website, including capturing photos and videos. One of Pastuschek’s special education students particularly enjoys the videography work and is very skilled with editing productions in Adobe Creative Cloud programs. Working with this technology has allowed him to come out of his shell.

“He used to not make eye contact, and he was very shy in public,” Pastuschek says. “And now he’s at the forefront of everything. He loves making movies. He loves talking to the elementary students.”

izusek/Getty Images

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Product Review: Verkada’s CD62-E Camera Offers Easy Setup and Powerful Analytics



As more schools explore Video over IP cameras, IT departments like mine at the Metropolitan School District of Steuben County in Angola, Ind., are joining the effort to boost physical security at our schools.

When testing IP cameras for my district, I looked for a device that would be easy for our small team to set up and manage. I had the Verkada CD62-E network surveillance camera up and running in less than 20 minutes.

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Verkada’s CD62-E is Easy to Set up, Use and Share Footage

I plugged it into our Power over Ethernet switch, meaning no additional wiring was required. Verkada advertises the camera as “low usage” for bandwidth, drawing only 20 to 50 kilobytes per second, per camera, at rest. And indeed, there was no significant impact on our network with the cameras in use.

The Verkada CD62-E network surveillance camera also sports a durable, vandal-resistant dome design that won’t succumb to those TikTok trends.

Verkada CD62-E specs

The Verkada CD62-E network surveillance camera’s user interface is clean and intuitive. My colleagues outside of the tech department, who have a diverse range of tech skills, needed only about 10 minutes to learn how to use it.

Footage was also easy to share. By simply clicking a button and entering an email address or a mobile number, I could share an MP4 video clip, complete with a watermark that makes the footage admissible as legal evidence.

Verkada CD62-E Processes Footage on the Camera

As a bonus, footage is processed on each camera, virtually eliminating lag time between detection and alerts. Onboard storage also relieves the district of installing network video recorders for local storage and backup. All footage is stored on the camera and then backed up to the cloud.

This was my district’s first time using Video over IP cameras, and it was a huge upgrade to our current system, which dates to the 1990s. The 4K images and videos were clear and crisp. The ability to set alerts and view the cameras anytime, anywhere is a huge timesaver for staff.

LEARN MORE: Here’s what IT leaders should know about investing in IP surveillance cameras.

I also tested Verkada’s analytics, which can filter images based on face match, clothing colors, vehicle type and more. Using a staff member as a “person of interest” to test the face recognition, I received alerts each time he passed the camera, even when he was wearing glasses or a hat.

Motion detection also worked as expected, with alerts for each incident. I was surprised by how consistently well these features worked. Verkada includes these features in cross-camera tracking as well, providing more than one angle and tracking a subject’s movement. This series of Verkada cameras offer occupancy trends data with heat maps to monitor use of space and trends.

Source: Campus Safety, 2022 Video Surveillance Deep Dive Survey, November 2022

Verkada CD62-E is Scalable Across K–12 Campuses

With all of these features and the ease of use, I can see the Verkada CD62-E being a great addition to any school environment. While I only tested one camera, I could easily scale this in a deployment across the district without needing additional equipment or software.

As long as Power over Ethernet is available, each new camera could be brought online and added to the console within minutes. Even better, Verkada’s SAML or OAuth support can be integrated to offer single sign-on for all users, complete with two-factor compliance.

DIVE DEEPER: IT and security leaders lean on technology to improve school safety.


Device Type: Surveillance camera
Dimensions: 6.1×4.5 inches with mount plate
Image Resolution: 4K (3840×2160)
IR Range: 98 feet
Onboard Storage: Up to 2TB
IR Range: 98 feet
Lens Type: Zoom
Functionality: IR-cut filter for day and night use
Connectivity: 10/100Mbps, RJ-45 cable connector for network/PoE

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Free AI Writing Tools Can Write Essays in Minutes. What Does That Mean for Teachers?



Stanford professors Rob Reich, Mehran Sahami, and Jeremy M. Weinstein are sounding the alarm on a new method for student cheating: AI-generated papers. 

AI writing tools have improved rapidly in recent years, and even months, and free programs are regularly advertised to students in targeted ads, making this an issue that might already have impacted many educators’ classrooms, whether they know it or not. 

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Tech & Learning Celebrates the 2022 Winners & Finalists of the Innovative Leader Awards at New Event



On December 2, the Tech & Learning 2022 winners and finalists of the Tech & Learning Innovative Leader Awards (opens in new tab) were invited to the first Innovative District Leader Summit (opens in new tab) at the Liberty Science Center outside New York City. The event brought together some of the nation’s most innovative district leaders to collaborate on solutions to today’s challenges, including working in teams to plan the school of the future.

Taking Risks and Failing Forward 

Innovative Leader Awards

(Image credit: Future)

The Tech & Learning Innovation Summit took place at an ideal space for the event’s theme: the Liberty Science Center (opens in new tab), a 300,000-square-foot learning center located in Liberty State Park on the Jersey City bank of the Hudson near the Statue of Liberty. The Science Center houses 12 museum exhibition halls, a live animal collection with 110 species, giant aquariums, a 3D theater, live simulcast surgeries, hurricane- and tornado-force wind simulators, K-12 classrooms and labs, teacher-development programs, and the Western Hemisphere’s biggest planetarium. 

The day kicked off with a keynote from educator, author, and international speaker Carl Hooker (opens in new tab), who discussed how risk-taking and celebrating failure are key building blocks to drive innovation. During this interactive session, Hooker led attendees through a series of improv activities designed to help activate the creative side of their brains.  

Innovative Leader Awards

(Image credit: Future)

Attendees next broke into working groups to review different scenarios that could impact their districts, collaboratively discussing solutions to these challenges. During each topic discussion, attendees were asked to consider the following questions: 

  • Where have you “failed” as it relates to this topic?
  • How did this “failure” impact this topic? 
  • How did this experience make a positive impact related to this topic?  
  • What risks have you taken to impact this topic? 
  • What risks might you take to impact this topic? 
  • In what other ways might you overcome resistance to change in your district related to this topic?

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