ATLIS Virtual Town Hall: Olympic-Class Technology Teams, December 9, 2020

photo of equestrianThis last Virtual Town Hall of 2020 provides numerous resources shared by our participants. Our conversation focused on assessments, content areas that may have been lost in the transition to online and hybrid learning (along with ways to recapture them), and a general accounting of the participants' well-being after this very challenging year. -- SD [10-minute read; 1-hour video]

Photo Credit: Ronjamin (Ronald C. Yochum Jr.), CC BY 2.5 


Quick Links

  • January 13: Save the date for our next Virtual Town Hall. Registration is required for new Virtual Town Hall participants and is free and open to all. If you have previously registered, you will automatically receive an invitation to join. 

  • Complete Virtual Town Hall Video Archive (Wakelet)

ATLIS Virtual Town Hall
December 9, 2020
Video Archive


Think of the Olympic equestrian show jumping. A horse and rider move through each event with remarkable grace, facing a variety of fences -- some over open water, some with deceptive brush atop the poles, and even the triple-threat oxer. Technology leaders in our community continue to show the nimbleness and fortitude of Olympic athletes, moving their schools through the hurdles of constantly changing classroom designs and cohort configurations, managing budgets and inventories of devices through seemingly endless constant revisions, and keeping their teams focused on supporting their communities with just-in-time ingenuity. And they don’t balk.

For the final Virtual Town Hall of 2020, our unflagging participants discussed the nagging challenge of assessment, as well as concerns about some disciplines that got lost in the COVID-19 shuffle. The result? A host of resource sharing as they learned from each other how to take the next jump.

Thank you to FACTS for sponsoring this online event.

The Nagging Challenge of Assessment

Technology leaders in schools have found themselves in the position of tackling assessment as educators race the reality of learning online. While some schools look for technologies that can replicate the old school quizzes, tests, and exams, others are looking at this moment in time as an opportunity to move pedagogies towards strategies for deeper learning. 

Solutions to this problem have been addressed through

  • Professional development on Project Based Learning (PBL)
  • Teaching faculty how to use assess learning through video (FlipGrid or Loom)
  • Using quiz functionality in the school LMS in a more formative way
  • Doing away with exams and encouraging teachers to explore a series of small tasks instead (especially important under the strain of the pandemic)
  • Following the example of the College Board AP exams and using writing as an end-of-semester assessment 
  • Considering replacing grades entirely with mastery assessments and artifacts of learning, which document learning over time
  • MasteryPaths in Canvas course Modules

Joe Feldman's Grading for Equity reminds educators of the importance of creating meaningful assessments. Teachers must face up to the facts of academic dishonesty -- which has “been around for eons. We could purchase expensive software for thousands of dollars” or focus on real goals and true learning objectives focusing on knowledge creation. Schools have a chance to reframe assessment in terms of their school values. 

One participant summed things up this way: “[The] assessment piece has been a game changer. [When] we find ourselves in a blended learning situation in the future, we will need good things to help teachers come up to speed with the new models. 

Critical Content Areas Left Behind 

We asked about critical content areas left behind in the transition to distance learning and hybrid learning during the COVID-19 era. Participants expressed that athletics seemed to be doing fine, having risen to the occasion with a variety of creative options. The arts were another story, particularly performing arts, along with STEAM and maker initiatives. Crowdsourced solutions are listed below.

  • Hybrid viewings for live theater with video options
  • Collaboration opportunities video-conferenced theatrical productions
  • Live streamed choral events
  • Solo performances filmed and edited as a Broadway revue
  • Online improv course using ZoomOSC
  • Online art galleries with virtual openings
  • Story theater
  • Handbells and percussion online
  • VR collaboration for choral and visual arts using ArtSteps
  • STEAM Showcase reimagined as Google site of projects, with live stream on school social media platforms
  • Using theatrical opportunities designed for online performance
  • Creating a web collection of performing arts videos to share with the community

Examples of Performing Arts Web Pages

North Shore Country Day School, IL
Albuquerque Academy, NM

How Are You Doing?

We closed with a final check in with everyone about how they were doing. Participants reported 

  • fatigue from constant fluidity of change, especially to new environments and implementing previously untried practices
  • holding patterns due to local and state directives
  • operating in “adaptive pause” mode
  • getting hit with a third wave of the pandemic and new lockdown orders
  • the need for leadership strategies to deal with ongoing fear about the pandemic
  • building new learning spaces from schools that have closed
  • staffing challenges for the tech team, some of whom are also taking on course coverage and subbing

Some strategies were offered for dealing with the numerous stressors faced by technology personnel; these included getting better at “factoring in probability”; letting go of the details when plans are adjusted on a dime; creating spreadsheets to track apps used on campus; checklists for onboarding and other processes;  limiting choices to reduce stress and make things simpler on the back end.

As schools continue to negotiate the pandemic, new strategies and solutions for health and wellness have required support and input from the technology team, for example, implementation of pool testing and bringing on new health care staff.


Natasha A. Jankowski, Assessment During a Crisis: Responding to a Global Pandemic, National Association for Learning Outcomes Assessment, August 2020.

Canvas, “How Do I Use MasteryPaths in Course Modules

Center for Teaching Excellence, “Alternative Assessment Guide for Hybrid/Online Teaching,” Texas A&M University, 5 August 2020.

Global Online Academy, Quick Wins 2: Assessment Design, (begins January 20).

Lucy Gray, Fun & Inspirational Resources for Remote Learning, Wakelet collection.

Lucy Gray, General Resources for Remote Learning, Wakelet collection.

A Killer Party: Murder Mysetry Musical

Mastery Transcript Consortium

NPR, “How a Chicago Dad Developed a Coronavirus Testing Program for His Son’s School,” Weekend Edition Saturday, 26 September 2020.

Joe Feldman, Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and ClassroomsNew York: Corwin, 2018.

Betsy Potash, “A Simple Trick for Success with One-Pagers,” Cult of Pedagogy, 26 May 2019.

SoundTrap cloud-based musical editing platform

Upbeat “app to create music with friends when socially distanced at home”

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