ATLIS Virtual Town Hall 12 August 2020: The Next Normal

The technology leaders who gathered for our August 12 Town Hall were in the final phases of preparing their schools for reopening. Their usual summer planning and projects have been compounded by the constantly changing landscape for opening schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.  Yet technology leaders continue to meet these challenges and carry their schools forward into the future. In our latest Virtual Town Hall, we discussed "When Your Data Is Breached" with special guest Todd Doss of the Ankura Data Response Team, school reopening challenges and solutions, the emotional impact of the pandemic, and shifts in professional development strategies. -- SD [10-minute read; 1-hour video]


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September 9: Save the date for our next Virtual Town Hall. Registration required for new participants; free and open to all. If you have previously registered, you will automatically receive an invitation to join.

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The Next Normal

We might have seen it coming. Experts at McKinsey and Co. certainly did when they asked, "What will it take to navigate this crisis, now that our traditional metrics and assumptions have been rendered irrelevant?" Their answer: Resolve, resilience, re-imagination, and reform (Beyond the Coronavirus: The Path to the Next Normal). We saw the resolve and resilience in the astounding response of technology leaders in independent schools transitioning nimbly to virtual learning last spring. But for some the re-imagination and reform got bogged down in a summer of decision reversals that seemed to change on a daily basis. Physical and emotional fatigue were bound to set in -- and yet we saw how your peers in the same or similar situations buoyed up the flagging among us and set a course for modeling the kind of leadership schools need. We have seen how technology leaders have reached into their deepest reserves to forge ahead and find a path forward into whatever the next normal may be. We have seen what technology leaders can do.

Special Guest: Todd Doss, Managing Director of Cybersecurity, Ankura
“When Your Data Has Been Breached… What Next?”

The increase in the number of cyber attack incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic has been estimated at five times the usual number, according to the World Health Organization. Recent high-profile attacks have had an impact on independent schools just as they prepare for reopening school. Our special guest for this edition of the ATLIS Virtual Town Hall offered this advice:

  • Know what data you have so that you will know what steps to take when it is compromised.
  • In particular, know where your data “crown jewels” are located.
  • Be aware of who you will need to contact; reach out to your legal team.
  • Segment your network.
  • Change passwords … twice.

If you do experience a breach (or a vendor you work with does), a professional team of forensics experts can search for exposed files on the Dark Web. A vendor that houses your data will likely conduct its own forensics efforts as well. Unfortunately, just because you or a vendor may have paid a ransom for the data, it may still be exposed. Bad actors are now stealing from each other -- and there is certainly “no honor among thieves.”

School Reopening Solutions

As schools wrestle with the many important decisions they must face to open school safely, or as they shift their attention when government mandates come into play, a number of innovations are being employed.

  • Block scheduling to create small cohorts of students
  • Stay-at-home options for those who prefer to learn in a virtual setting
  • Tech office closed to drop-ins; help by appointment only
  • Spreading out faculty PD days throughout the year rather than all at once at the opening of school

The Hard Turn

It is important to remember that the stress of the pandemic is real, and it is having an effect on students, parents, teachers, administrators, and other school personnel. At the same time, technology leaders have the opportunity to model the behaviors and practices that will benefit all in the long run.

Be kind.

  • We need to acknowledge that mourning for what has been lost is real.
  • Multiple stressors are affecting staff at many levels -- keeping safe boundaries, learning new “traffic” patterns for traversing campus, other cultural changes.
  • Some staff are needy and acting out of anxiety and make demands beyond the usual beginning-of-school requests.
  • Returning faculty energy is not manifested in its usual upbeat form.
  • Information is not necessarily being communicated in ways that help the tech team remain effective.
Keep everyone safe. Even the technology team.
  • Encourage your school to make COVID-19 testing available to teachers and other staff, as is being done at some schools.
  • Work with your administration to accommodate teachers who don’t want to return face-to-face -- with “separated” classrooms or virtual teaching assignments
  • Create smaller cohorts of students whenever possible to mitigate possible exposure. 

Ask yourself, “What have I learned that lets me prioritize the work of the tech team?” 

Shifts in Professional Development 

Town Hall participants reflected on what they are doing to redirect and redesign school opening professional development and training -- for all users.

  • In a newly expanded 1:1 environment teachers will need to support this new culture of learning.
  • Share clear expectations of how devices should be used in each learning environment.
  • How-to videos still provide some of the best just-in-time learning.
  • Rethink the AUP in a way that continues to promote joyful learning. Possibly
  • Include a copy of the AUP in the devices you send home with students.
  • Strategize where and when to deliver lessons about digital citizenship.
  • Include a parent orientation that details how the help desk can be accessed for students and families.
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