ATLIS Virtual Town Hall, 22 April 2020 & Clearinghouse Update

According to the ATLIS Vitals Check, 100% of our survey participants have completed the transition to online learning. ATLIS staff reflections about the development of the past few weeks identify three stages of the transition: "All Hands on Deck, followed by "OMG, It's Working... and now "Looking to the Future" as Technology leaders are beginning to reflect on the changes that changes to virtual school have wrought, particularly on their positions within the school. More immediate challenges discussed include end-of-year programs, to record or not to record 1:1 meetings, and vetting tools and resources discovered by faculty. This VTH archive also includes an update on the new resources to be found on the ATLIS Clearinghouse page. -- SD

[10-minute read; 1-hour video]

Quick Links

Town Hall Archives (in this Waklet "blogroll," you can scroll down for a complete list)

Vitals Check 

ATLIS Clearinghouse: Coronavirus Resources for Technology Leaders

Susan Davis, Pivot, Prepare, Jump, Shoot: Observations on Independent School Technology Responses to COVID-19 (PDF)

New to the ATLIS Virtual Town Hall? Register for April 29 Virtual Town Hall here. All previous registrants will automatically receive an invitation.

ATLIS Virtual Town Hall Video Archive
April 22, 2020


The ATLIS Vitals Check survey responses now indicate that 100% of those who took the survey are now teaching in a virtual format. The Vitals Check will be suspended, at least temporarily, until we have new data to investigate. Susan Davis, ATLIS Director of Professional Development, shared part of a presentation she gave to CAIS Technology Leaders last week, which included observations based on many conversations in this group, which have revealed the three stages schools have gone through since transitioning to online learning: (1) All Hands on Deck; (2) OMG, It’s Working…; (3) Looking to the Future (see Pivot, Prepare, Jump, Shoot: Observations on Independent School Responses to COVID-19).

As has become our routine, we began with a check-in with our participants.

Positive Developments and Moving Forward

  • Technology leaders are growing into a more public-facing role as leaders at this time.
  • The transition to online learning has provided a rare opportunity for professional development in independent schools, and technology teams are making this work. The buy-in for learning is greater as faculty and tech teams are solving the problems of the day together
  • Now the shift has begun from “making this work” to growing teaching and learning for when school resumes.
  • Everyone should now have a seat at the table, it is a matter of keeping them there, instead of getting pushed back to the background like a solved problem.

How Is Tech Evolving and Being Viewed in New Ways?

  • We’ve found a rhythm and settled in. It feels like school in terms of what school is going to be.
  • We are pausing to catch our breath.
  • Knowing we have a clear path is allowing us to plan for summer and fall.
  • Weekly surveys allow us to finetune and make adjustments.
  • We’ve developed a more open mindset. For example our schedule is changing, and it may flex again. We’re more comfortable with that.
  • Teachers are shifting away from the practical “how to” questions to deeper reflections. Faculty are asking  juicier questions, for example, how to make projects more meaningful.
  • There is a new appreciation for Strategic Planning and having the technology plan be part of that critical planning process to address the overall goals and mission of the school.
  • Technology leaders are trying to find the right balance for teacher professional development between just-in-time learning and one more thing to do or learn.
  • What is showing up during this time is the lack of fundamental tech and troubleshooting skills in our faculty before we raced off campus, and those skills are still on the weaker side.

What should the relationship be between the tech team and the enrollment office?

Some tech leaders are already doing virtual tours and course counseling, reviewing numbers weekly, and positioning almost every major activity from a marketing perspective. Others feel that they are not staffed well enough to add to their plates the projects their colleagues in enrollment come up with. Also, there are concerns that enrollment personnel can steer everything towards a marketing perspective, away from teaching and learning, so priorities need to be clear.

Are there others who can take these enrollment tasks on? Teachers can promote themselves and their activities online, students can create a YouTube channel for student government to promote the community. Parent volunteers can be more  involved in marketing.

Some enrollment offices are involved in placements, their challenge is to work with the tech team to find the right tools, Digiexam, for example.

Can enrollment teams invite parents to “visit” classes and virtual assemblies as part of their introduction to the school? 

Current Challenges 

What is being done about organizing virtual awards assemblies and other events?


  • Coordinate a pickup/dropoff with a graduation sign, cap & gown, yearbook, awards etc. We are gathering everything and hoping to do a drive by drop it off by senior leadership
  • Send caps/gowns to families so they can take pictures in May and they don't have to wait until August for the actual ceremony.

Awards Ceremonies

  • Send awards to families, ask parents to capture unrehearsed video giving the award to their child. Add to video a teacher describing why the student has received the award. 
  • Break up awards and senior celebration (formerly graduation) into smaller video chunks to make it easier for families to access

What are you doing in terms of recording 1:1 meetings between students and adults?

NAIS recommendations require recording and uploading. There are privacy issues, and these can vary from state to state. Consent requirements can vary as well. This can be tricky for those schools with students from multiple states.

Bill Freitas provided sample wording from Charlotte Latin School’s web page: “As the school transitions to Remote Learning during the pandemic, teachers may record classes to make them available for review, or for students who were unable to be present when the class was taught. Such recordings are solely for the use of the teacher and students in that class and are not to be shared in any format.”

How are you handling the vetting of new tools and resources as teachers make greater (and more independent) use of technology?

There is still a healthy debate about whether or not teachers should have admin rights. One participant quipped, “All of our teachers have admin rights…not a hill I want to die on now.”

If they don’t have admin rights, the technology team has greater control over vetting and approving tools. One participant recommended a balanced approach of not sharing too many tools with teachers, helping them focus on the job of teaching and letting the tech team be on the lookout for tool solutions teachers may need. 

One advantage of allowing faculty to have admin rights is that it helps with break/fix issues.

Still there are security and data safety concerns when faculty can download onto their own computers. One school uses Lightspeed analytics to keep up with those tools that are not going through the technology department for verification.

One technology leader is leveraging meetings with Assistant Heads of School to review tools and reinforce the need to refrain from implementing too many new apps and tools. When the tech team is alerted to a need, they can investigate the options and suggest tools already being used at the school, if available. The Assistant Heads send out this information as a part of their end-of-day wrap-up, and this has had a positive effect on the school culture.

In weekly email reminders, one tech team tells faculty that “We can be partners in deployment.” Another says it will not support anything not approved -- that doesn’t stop all faculty, but it does affect some.

One helpful tip was to include a specific category for vetting tools in the help desk ticketing system already being used.

The issue of teacher downloads of tools is a familiar problem that is just being highlighted by the move to virtual learning.

New Resources from the ATLIS Clearinghouse

Looking to the Future

New Anya Kamenetz, 9 Ways School Will Look Different When (and If) They Reopen, NPR All Things Considered, 24 April 2020
 Tom Vander Ark, Hard Reset: What Will Be New Post Pandemic, Getting Smart, 30 March 2020.

Humor (for When You Need It)

StoryMotion. 5th grader's 'Hallelujah' parody adaptation about On-line Ed during COVID-19. YouTube, 2 April 2020.

Teaching and Learning Online

Cybrary Man's Educational Websites
Wendy Oliver, Keiki Interactive Learning Resources (Early Learning)


Susan Davis, Partnering with Parents to Support E-Learning, ATLIS Blog, 4 April 2020

Distance Learning Tools

Emily Triplett Lentz, Loom Is Free for Teachers and Students, 20 March 2020
Joe Thomas, COVID-19 Response: Cutting Prices, Removing Limits, 12 March 2020
George Williams, How to Build Connections When Your Team Can't Be in the Same Place, 30 March 2020

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