TLI: Technology Leadership Institute Recaps

TLI Event Recaps

Below are recaps of TLI events to remind us of the bright spots, to inform those who couldn't attend, and to simply serve as an artifact from a memorable series. Enjoy the stories. We look forward to seeing you at our next event.

Event Photos

About TLI

LHRIC's TLI program offers our districts the opportunity to come together to learn about, share ideas on, and discuss excellence in teaching and learning through technology. Our efforts each year are formed by our ability to expand upon our connections with vendors to allow you to experience new technologies and learn how they have impacted teaching and learning. The programs brings in new as well as established vendors to help you plan out and realize the vision of your school district.

Participation in TLI's member-only events gives you the best opportunity to stay abreast of the rapidly changing landscape of education technology. The goal of the TLI Leadership Series is to bring national conferences, topics, and discussions to local venues.  We continually provide opportunities to learn from and engage with renowned keynote speakers that are thought-provoking and inspiring. TLI also provided your district with the chance to network with peers are we explore each leadership topic as it pertains to current challenges and future planning. 

Virtual Keynote Series Recap · October 2022

TLI Series kicks off with a trip through the Metaverse

 Kelly VeroRenowned game developer Kelly Vero, a self-described future-gazer and Metaverse nerd, recalled her school experience as a young girl interested in software engineering but instead encouraged, as she put it, to do “girly things.”

“Here we are in 2022, looking really broadly at a different landscape, with different language and activities, so we have to drive this forward,” Ms. Vero said.

Speaking at the Technology Leadership Institute’s first virtual keynote of this school year, Ms. Vero said she is inspired by New York State’s K12 Computer Science and Digital Fluency Learning Standards and the ways she expects they will empower students.

“We have to embody this literacy and this fluency,” she said, “and feel like it’s going to become like second nature to us so learners don’t feel forced into an education they don’t feel is part of their future.”

Over the course of an hour or so, Ms. Vero shed light for keynote attendees on the next stage in the evolution of the Internet, specifically the Metaverse and Web 3.0. Her presentation, “The Role of Education in a Phygital World: The Wonder of Learning for Today, Tomorrow and Beyond!”, kicked off the 2022-23 TLI virtual keynote series.

The evolution she described will have a bearing on education in ways that are only beginning to become clear. Instead of an online landscape dominated by technology companies and user-generated content, the next phase, she predicts, will see more and more users developing and leveraging platforms themselves.

Ms. Vero brings the credibility of a pioneer to her predictions. In 2009 she was the first in her school to teach inside the Metaverse. She showed TLI attendees Small Worlds, a groundbreaking early platform she developed.

These online spaces will provide opportunities for growth in education, in her opinion. Unlike in video games, where rules restrict users, the Metaverse offers greater freedom, she said. Students may gather and play a game or perform an activity relevant to English or math. Or they might address basic activities like furnishing an apartment or preparing a meal.

“If kids and young people can simulate these activities now, inside a Metaverse that’s safe, we have a really good opportunity of being able to create a very able, sound vision of our future with young people,” she said.

Students will need support as well as supervision, she added.

“We should be building a world that encapsulates everything they’re doing in real life,” Ms. Vero said. “And if we can do that through a variety of devices, techniques and platforms, that would be really cool.”

To get started in this realm, she advised, teachers should expect to see traditional classroom learning challenged; typical teaching frameworks don’t apply, she said.

Gamify your class, she said. Students are coming to the Metaverse from an understanding born in video games. Digital wallets will be increasingly common, incentivizing success.

Ms. Vero dedicated a portion of her presentation to changing terminology. She detailed the meaning behind possibly familiar concepts — Non-Fungible Tokens, Blockchain, and Web3 — and some that may have yet to enter the lexicon, like DeFi (decentralized financing), DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization), and POAP (Proof of Attendance Protocol).

Before concluding, she asked attendees to explore a Metaverse of their choosing and share their feedback. This is an opportunity for once, she said, for teachers to be the digital natives relative to their students, leading and guiding technology discussions.

She suggested exploring the following worlds: Avakin Life (Gaming, social, brands, music, private servers), Decentraland (Money, brands, experiences, events), The Sandbox (Brands, music), Roblox (Kids, brands), Zepeto (Music, brands, kids), Minecraft (Kids, SDGs, Communities, Social), Zwift (Sports, Peloton-style), and (Art, museums, social, events).

“Test the waters,” she said. “Build a world for your community and try to add in every type of peripheral or device to see how your users connect with your world.”


Ms. Vero was gracious enough to allow us to share this replay of her presentation, for those unable to attend.

We invite you to review and register for upcoming events and sessions for 2022-23 at the TLI home page.

TECH EXPO · May 2022

Educators Become Engaged Pirates, Share Expertise at Energetic Tech Expo

 Over 300 technology-minded educators flocked to the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center’s Tech Expo, eager to gain knowledge about teaching and technology at the fun-themed “Carnival of Learning.”

On May 20, Briarcliff’s Edith Macy Conference Center hosted the annual event. It swarmed with smiling teachers and directors, who were eager to learn with—and from—their peers. The Tech Expo is the LHRIC’s capstone teaching and learning event of the year, highlighting the contributions of the region’s teachers and administrators, while providing ample opportunities for networking with peers, experts and vendors.

The energetic, carnival-themed day kicked off with an entertaining, high-energy and fast-paced keynote from New York Times best-selling author Dave Burgess. Mr. Burgess wrote the well-celebrated book “Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity and Transform Your Life As An Educator.” Having the spirit of a pirate, he said, means that teachers are mavericks in the classrooms. In addition, they have hooks, and Mr. Burgess invited the audience to learn how to “hook” students in for motivated learning.

During the Tech Expo, he inspired attendees with a rousing presentation aimed at helping them become the best at what they do so that they can provide a first-rate education to their students. With audience participation and much laughter, he inspired the attentive educators to change the way that they view their roles in their school districts.

On the stage in front of a packed room, Mr. Burgess pulled out a prop raw steak and asked audience members to pretend that they were at a picnic. He emphasized that the meat could have the potential to be the tastiest steak ever, but no one would know unless it was prepared well—from marinade and seasonings to the sides served with it.

“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it,” he said. “You are the magic! Don’t just teach a lesson, create an experience.”

Mr. Burgess underscored that school is not solely about students paying attention in class. Rather, it is about their engagement level. “An engaged student is rarely a behavior problem,” he said.

Mr. Burgess’ “Teach Like a PIRATE” premise is based on an acronym: Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and Analyze, Transformation, and Enthusiasm. At the Tech Expo, he shared information about three of the letters, emphasized why they are important for educators and how they can improve teaching and learning.

The “P” stands for “Passion.” Mr. Burgess explained that passion comes from three main areas: content, professional and personal.

“We know we’re supposed to be passionate about our work,” he said, as he highlighted why having zeal in all three areas is beneficial. “But we’re not passionate about everything we teach—and that’s okay.”

The “A” stands for “Ask and Analyze.” Mr. Burgess encouraged educators to accept all feedback throughout their careers. He noted that pirates don’t “yell at the wind” when their boats do not travel straight; instead, they shift their sails and use it to their advantage.

The “T” stands for “Transformation”—and Mr. Burgess encouraged educators to help children reframe what is possible in their lives. He asked two questions to the crowded room: 1) If students did not have to be in class and it was optional, would teachers be teaching to empty rooms? and 2) Do they have any lessons that they can sell tickets to?

“Our kids are hit with so much knowledge that we can’t just be good anymore—we have to be remarkable,” he said. “Education is not a bitter pill. It’s life-transformational.”

The keynote was largely beloved by educators, who gave Mr. Burgess a standing ovation. Jessica Maneyapanda and Melissa Lugo, elementary science teachers in the Ardsley School District both appreciated
Mr. Burgess’ candor and honesty.

“If this event ended right now,” said Ms. Lugo after the morning keynote, “I’d feel like I already got so much out of the Tech Expo. It was really amazing.”

Ms. Maneyapanda agreed: “It was awesome. It made me feel better about myself. My room is the ‘loud room.’ People complain it’s sometimes too loud, but the kids are engaged in my class.”

Throughout the day, breakout sessions took place around the Edith Macy Conference Center, highlighting the expertise of local educators and placing key teachers at the center of the room to spread their knowledge with colleagues.

“I’m happy to finally meet the people in person who I’ve corresponded with on Zoom,” said Bhavin Gandhi, Director of Information Technology in the East Ramapo Central School District. “I particularly enjoyed the breakout session given by my colleague on how to engage incoming ELL students using Microsoft Translate. It’s a game-changer for any district with a large ELL population.”

The professional development session, presented by Sonia Dominguez-Saravia, East Ramapo’s Director of Instructional Technology and Curriculum, focused on the benefits of using Microsoft Translate to communicate with ELL students and their families, and to address social-emotional learning and cultural responsiveness in
the classroom.

“I’m mostly excited about what the vendors have to share today about all the different technology tools that will be trending for the next few years in the educational technology space,” Mr. Gandhi added.

The afternoon continued with various breakout sessions, including project-based learning, media consumption, bias and student-centered coaching. In each session, presenters and attendees engaged in productive dialogue and shared examples of ways to implement technological tools across all educational disciplines.

The final breakout session of the day saw all attendees gather again for a presentation by Mr. Burgess. He once again took the stage with the same energy he shared during the morning keynote presentation.

Through his animated antics and fantastical photos, Mr. Burgess inspired teachers to find their “creative alchemy” and use it to form lessons that engage and motivate students.

“Be prolific, not perfect,” he said. “Take your job seriously without taking yourselves too seriously.”

He equipped educators with tangible tools to implement in their own schools, while reinforcing his ideas with examples from his own classroom. These included turning his room into a speakeasy to teach students about prohibition and the Roaring Twenties, having students sit on upside down desks while donning goggles to depict aviator Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic, and creating a far-out experience full of colorful wigs and tie-dyed shirts to the recreate scenes of the 1960s.

“The goal is to come up with collaborative ideas that draw students in while creating unforgettable experiences for the kids,” said Mr. Burgess.

Another example he provided was from his colleague, a math teacher who used photos of hilarious hairstyles and mathematical equations to quantify the perfect mullet. Students learned what the exact combination of “party-in-the-front” and “business-in-the-back” is needed to create the legendary hairdo.

By the end of the breakout session, Mr. Burgess had the audience laughing and learning – the very things he wants all students to do when they arrive at school every day.

Sarah Campbell, an English as a Second Language teacher at Croton-Harmon High School, hopes to bring the tools that she learned from Mr. Burgess back to her school.

“He was very engaging and he provided practical ways we can improve our classrooms,” she said. “He gave us license to be wild and crazy with our students.”

Virtual Keynote Series Recap · April 2022

TLI Keynote Series speakers discuss the pandemic after-math as an opportunity for change

 Will RichardsonThe world of education is not the same as it was pre-pandemic. Experts argue now is an ideal time to implement changes to educational practices and spaces to ensure schools offer better opportunities for students to thrive as opposed to maintaining the status quo.

Among those experts are Will Richardson and Homa Tavangar, co-founders of the Big Question Institute, who view this post-pandemic era as perfect for bringing innovative teaching methods to the classroom. On April 29 they presented “Passing through the Pandemic Portal: Who Will We Choose to Become as Individuals and as Institutions?” at the Technology Leadership Institute’s Virtual Keynotes Series, hosted by the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center at Southern Westchester BOCES.

A former public school educator for 22 years, Mr. Richardson, has become an internationally known writer and speaker leading the discussion on the “intersection of social online learning networks, education, and systematic change.”

Ms. Tavangar’s work has focused on themes of “culture, innovation, leadership, global citizenship and global competence, and deep diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion.” She has worked with Fortune 50 companies as well as K-12 schools around the world.

“Our question is how might we lead school communities to design systems, structure, practices, and pedagogies that move us toward greater relevance, wellness and justice,” Mr. Richardson said.

“As we frame this conversation, it is important to offer context,” Ms. Tavangar said. “We are in a historically challenging moment in the world.”

The co-founders were inspired by Indian author Arundhati Roy, whose reflections on the global pandemic led her to conclude:

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers, and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

“We want you to think about this pandemic portal,” Ms. Tavangar said. “What are we carrying with us through this portal? It is not just the pandemic. There is this racial recognition, this war, the recognition of extremes of wealth and poverty. Democracy is under siege, an infodemic in which it his hard to discover the truth. The climate crisis is here.”

“There is this crisis of mental health,” she continued. “Our brains are not built for all of this. Reports have shown that pandemic anxiety has not gone away.”

All of this is overwhelming, to educators, to parents and students. However, finding solutions to guide us to a better place, is not without hope, Ms. Tavangar assured.

“Going back is not the optimal goal,” Ms. Tavangar said of the way schools functioned before the pandemic.

To that end, Mr. Richardson said, the goal now is to figure out who we, as educators, are and who we will become.

“It’s heavy. It sounds hyperbolic. This is a big undertaking, a big challenge,” he said.

The two shared what they feel is the starting point for change: asking questions. They outline several questions for consideration in their eBook, ‘9 Big Questions Schools Must Answer to Avoid Going ‘Back to Normal.’

The questions they ask are:

  •        What is sacred?
  •        What is learning?
  •        Where is the power?
  •        Why do we (fill in the blank)?
  •        Who is unheard?
  •        Are we literate?
  •        Are we OK?
  •        Are we connected?
  •        What’s next?

During an interactive session at the event, they asked participants to answer the question, what is sacred? Several respondents said relationships. Others shared: collaboration, rigor, mentors, safety, community, and SEL.

Focusing in on the question about what learning is, Mr. Richardson said as an educator it was something he never thought about. Now, he said, he’s concluded that humans by their very nature are learners.

“The challenge in school is that there is a dissonance there,” he said. “We can’t not learn. It’s how we evolve. It’s how we grow. The problem in schools, these are not natural places of learning. It’s a contrived, unnatural space.”

“What are the conditions required for deep and powerful learning,” was another question participants were asked to consider. Answers included: a safe learning environment, fun, social, shows relevance in their lives, passion, and feedback.

Mr. Richardson noted that no one answered this question with the reality of what schools look like today — students sitting in rows for 45-60 minutes while grades are emphasized.

Another important question Ms. Tavangar said must be considered is, “are we OK?” Or “what stands in the way of our well-being?”

“Once we understand the barriers, then we can address our collective wellness,” she said.

She suggested educators take inspiration from writer and teacher Margaret Wheatley, who created the concept of what she called “islands of sanity.”

“Within our own sphere of influence there is a lot we can do,” Ms. Tavangar said, including “play more, tell different stories, grade and test less, create space for time and reflection and do work that matters,” all items that could be placed on the aforementioned island.

Two new questions the speakers said they have added to their eBook, include ‘what is your story?’ and ‘what is success?’

Admittedly, confronting these challenges, and more importantly, finding solutions for them is not an easy task.“This process is a marathon,” Ms. Tavangar said.

“It’s mindset building. All those entry points create a beautiful tapestry of our school and district.”

“Every one of these questions is now framed as a design question,” Ms. Tavangar said. “We want to practice our hope every day.”


TELL AWARD recap · March 2022

LHRIC Honors Seven Transformative, Impactful Educators

Gratitude and respect for colleagues reverberated throughout the Edith Macy Conference Center as the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center honored three teachers and four leaders at the annual Transforming Education Through Leading and Learning (TELL) Awards.

A deep appreciation for collaboration was palpable on March 24 as educators were celebrated for their innovative and unwavering work over the past year. The awards returned in person for the first time since 2019.

The evening ceremony kicked off with a keynote address from author, Dr. Devorah Heitner. Known for her work around screen time and “raising digital natives,” Dr. Heitner focused her address on the inventiveness of children across the world. She shared touching stories from her research which included a description of a custom-built water-heating solar contraption dreamt up and assembled by a South-American-girl who noticed how much wood was being burned anytime her village wanted hot water. The ‘maker’ was quoted as saying “I still take a quick shower to make sure there is enough hot water for my brother.” The inspirational tone continued as Dr. Heitner, one-by-one, highlighted all seven TELL winner’s work through sharing social posts she’d curated from winner’s feeds.

Making her last official appearance at TLI as the Executive Director, Kathy Conley joined virtually. Mary Lynn Collins-Callanan, the Instructional Technology manager with the LHRIC, read a fitting tribute to the Retiring administrator who in turn graciously thanked the honorees.

Kindness and selflessness continued as honorees were eager to express their heartfelt thanks for their technology departments.

 TELL Award Winners 2022

 “Any success that I’ve been fortunate to experience is the result of working as a team,” said Gerald Crisci, director of instructional technology and innovation, and the co-director of the Center for Innovation in Scarsdale Public Schools. Mr. Crisci noted that his coworkers are a genuine source of inspiration for his work. “I’ve always been fortunate to collaborate with amazing colleagues.”

Charles Von Hollen, director of technology in the Blind Brook-Rye Union Free School District, expressed his gratitude for his mentors and fellow teachers. He noted that a colleague once told him to “empower others and get out of the way,” and said that philosophy has allowed him to let his students and fellow educators thrive.

The prestigious TELL awards are given to individuals who continually demonstrate innovation, showcase best practices, and implement systemic change in teaching and learning. The winners were nominated by their colleagues and peers.

This year’s three Outstanding Teacher award recipients were: Adele Kivel, a fifth-grade teacher at Crompond Elementary School in the Yorktown Central School District; Kimberly Persaud, an elementary school instructional technology staff developer in the Rye City School District; and Brittany Kozlenko, a physics and robotics teacher at Brewster High School in the Brewster Central School District.

This year’s four Outstanding Leader award recipients were: Mr. Von Hollen; Mr. Crisci; Bhavin Gandhi, the director of information technology and cyber security in the East Ramapo Central School District; and Scott Staub, the districtwide instructional technology coach in the Lakeland Central School District.

“I am so inspired by all the awardees - our region is so lucky to have everyone in this room,” said Ms. Kozlenko, adding that the honored educators are able to share so much knowledge with children in their districts. “We are not islands by ourselves. We are all part of a team. There’s something to learn from everybody and every experience.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the biggest obstacles that educators have ever faced, said Mr. Gandhi. However, it was heart-warming to see the extra time, support and kindness that his colleagues extended toward students to ensure that their learning did not suffer.

“We’re all here together for one purpose: the children,” he said. “I feel so privileged to be working with the best technology team around. I would not be standing here if it weren’t for them. They are some of  the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.”

Over the past year, Ms. Persaud has focused her work on providing effective support to staff members so that they can better navigate the complexities of evolving technology. While it has been challenging, she was encouraged by colleagues who saw its benefit and were able to turnkey what they learned immediately.

“We are committed to meeting teachers exactly where they are, hearing their concerns and finding where we can leverage technology to help enhance student learning,” she said.

Ms. Kivel noticed quickly how impactful technology was for her students throughout the pandemic, adding that it allowed the world to be at their fingertips. She said that she became a teacher to help children “take risks and reach for the stars” and never give up throughout their learning journey.

“Integrating technology into the curriculum is a powerful tool; it opened up a whole new world for my students this year,” she said. “The real reward is seeing the sparkle in their eyes every day when they are collaborating with each other.”

As a technology coach and parent, Mr. Staub saw - and appreciated - that from both sides. He keeps a picture of his daughter on her first day of using Google Meet in March 2020 tacked to the bulletin board in his office.

“The work that we all do, that’s what’s on the other end of it," Mr. Staub said. "As a father, I thank you all for all the work that you did. As a colleague, I thank you all for sharing so many ideas that I used. Thank you all. I can’t say it enough.”

Click here to view the TELL Awards booklet and learn more about the awardees' work.

“This was a really special night,” said Mary Lynn Collins-Callanan, adding that the award winners have touched the lives of so many students. “There is no better profession than the one we’re in.”


Active-Con Recap · March 2022

Active-Con Invigorates Educators with Captivating, Inspiring Discussions

 The joy and engagement of Active-Conreturned in-person to the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center for the first time in two years. Keynote speakers Dr. John Spencer and Dr. Robert Dillon wowed audiences with thought-provoking and dynamic presentations about student choice, divergent thinking, physical space and sustainable design.

Active-Con is the LHRIC’s annual hallmark event of its TLI series. It highlights the intersection of technology, instructional design, and active and flexible learning spaces. Now in its sixth year, the event welcomed 53 educators to the Harrison campus on March 4 and hosted another 32 virtually.

Dr. John Spencer KeynoteThe morning kicked off with Dr. Spencer’s humorous yet introspective keynote, “Navigating the Maze of an Unpredictable World.” His talk was founded on a statement that one of his middle school teachers said to him: “When you hide your voice, you rob the world of your creativity.”

As a student, Dr. Spencer – a current college professor who previously taught middle school for 12 years – was a self-described nerd who felt invisible. One day, a teacher asked him to do a special History Day Project. Despite being shy and unsure of himself, he ended up competing at the district, state and national levels.

“That was the first time I owned my learning,” said Dr. Spencer, who created a project about baseball and the civil rights movement. “It was the first time that I had voice and choice. For the first time ever, I could organize my own research. I was working harder than I ever had before… And it wasn’t fake. It was real and authentic.”

During his keynote, Dr. Spencer encouraged educators to give their students some freedom. For example, as a middle school student, not only did selecting the topic of his project engage and inspire him, but so did the freedom to organize his work the way that suited him best. Instead of creating notecards and filing his work into a binder, he used a spreadsheet, which worked better for him.

“I believe to my core that classrooms should be bastions of creativity and wonder,” said Dr. Spencer, adding that the act of creation is a magical experience. “Meaningful projects are something that every single student deserves access to.”

He continued to say that a learning transformation is always taking place. While in school, students are taught a typical path forward: work hard in school, graduate from college and climb the corporate ladder. However, due to ever-changing technology, the path has transformed into a maze.

While the future of technology is uncertain, educators must empower students now. Students should chase their curiosity and be encouraged to ask questions.

“It’s the idea of chasing your geeky interests,” Dr. Spencer said. “It’s not about the product you create but the process you use.”

However, not everything will go according to plan, he said. Throughout his time creating his History Day Project, he felt lost while performing research and he made mistakes while presenting. During his keynote, Dr. Spencer asked educators to remember that every human is “always under construction,” adding that “we’re always trying things and doing things differently” to be at our best.

“In a world of constant change, our students will need to be adaptable,” he continued. “It’s not that we want students to embrace failure - we want them to see that it’s okay to fail forward.”

Despite the potential to make mistakes, trying new things and sharing your passions with others are positive steps forward in learning. To grow as learners, students must be given opportunities to share their work with an audience. Dr. Spencer listed its benefits: students will grow more empathetic, they embrace constructive criticism, they become fearless, they work harder, they develop a growth mindset, they connect the learning to their world, they find their creative voice and they engage in iterative thinking.

“Empathy is a deeper definition of empowerment,” he said. “To truly be empowered means to move beyond yourself and go feel what other people are experiencing.”

 Dr. Robert Dillon in Breakout SessionThe second keynote featured Dr. Dillon, who passionately shared his presentation, “Sustainable Space Concepts that Will Survive the Stress Test of COVID.” His talk focused on the notion that students are influenced by where they learn.

Following several months of virtual learning, students and staff members returned to in-person and hybrid learning. Schools battled against a variety of COVID mitigation strategies that, while beneficial for health and safety, were not conducive to learning. For example, increased ventilation in classrooms meant that students were often freezing, especially during the winter months. In addition, plexiglass shields made it hard to hear and lowered personal connection.

“It wasn’t how they wanted to learn,” said Dr. Dillon, who has been an educator for two decades, focusing on conceptual design, active learning and healthy buildings. “Don’t let us forget the lessons we learned of what we don’t want… We should continue to make sure that the idea of concurrent learning is happening.”

Living, teaching and learning through the COVID-19 pandemic has caused people to “feel off,” not be at 100% and not be learning at their best. The added stress resulted in poor academics, less growth and increased absenteeism.

“If we don’t make changes and continue to move things forward, we’re going to keep having those feelings,” said Dr. Dillon, a longtime educator and thought leader who has served as teacher, principal and director of innovation. “Where kids learn has been causing learning loss for decades.”

He explained that if students are in classrooms that do not promote learning, they will not learn. One solution is through neuroarchitecture - buildings or spaces that are created to increase cognitive capacity, improve memory and boost mental stimulation.

Simple ways to tackle the problem include enhancing choice and agency for students, as well as creating more quiet spaces for students to refocus themselves. Dr. Dillon urged educators to reduce visual noise as “research says that this hurts kids.” He encouraged more time for children to draw and write, as it improves their memory, along with bringing natural elements into the classrooms, like natural-toned colors, which have been shown to lower stress and anxiety. In addition, Dr. Dillon urged that there be more productive movement in every classroom so that students do not have to sit in a chair the entire lesson.

“It’s not humanly possible to be still,” he said. “You can be quieter with the body, but you can’t be still. You need to give people the opportunity to move around.”

When creating a space, educators should design in partnership with students, not only for them. Making them part of the process gives planning committee members direct access to feedback on what is working for students and what is not. Dr. Dillon added that “learning spaces should be a human resources priority,” as educational environments largely impact students and staff members’ efficiency and effectiveness.

With much emphasis on classrooms, Dr. Dillon said that hallways are also prime opportunities for learning. Schools can set up their halls like museums, offering students the chance to learn while they walk through. Children can be engaged if the information is interesting and relevant to them. For example, this could include mentioning what was on the site before the school was built.

In between the two keynote addresses, Dr. Dillon and Dr. Spencer each guided a breakout session twice. Dr. Spencer led “Divergent Thinking for Deeper Thought,” while Dr. Dillon conducted “Maximizing Spaces Using the Creative Constraints Protocol.”

 District Panel shares active learning ideasActive-Con concluded with a district panel discussion, which centered on sharing information about school districts’ new active learning spaces. The discussion featured educators from Pelham Public Schools, the Valhalla Union Free School District, the Brewster Central School District, the Chappaqua Central School District and White Plains Central School District.

Virtual Keynote Series Recap · October 2021

TLI Virtual Keynote Series kicks off with an agent of change

Shawn Rubin launches 2021-22 series with 'Pathways to Personalization'

Shawn Rubin

The Technology Leadership Institute kicked off its 2021-22 Virtual Keynote series with a speaker who specializes in an area that is exceedingly relevant in education today: change. 

Highlander Institute Executive Director Shawn Rubin is his organization’s lead architect, ensuring their work serves students most of all. 

A former teacher, he says the language of personalized learning has been around for a long time. Personalizing schools and classrooms requires a new approach to the change process, said Mr. Rubin, who broke down his organization’s “Pathways to Personalization” Framework and the components necessary for school redesign through stories of successes and challenges.

He is a national thought leader on coaching and consulting approaches to classroom personalization and school change management. His days are split between providing on-the-ground support in districts supporting educators and leaders, and the creation and design of new processes for systemic educational change.

In his keynote, Mr. Rubin said that his own approach as a young teacher was centered on a personalized model, but he found that it didn’t scale beyond that level. There were not enough people who understood the vision or were informed enough to sustain it, he said. There was no systems-level lens, and families didn't understand enough to advocate for the approach.

Since 2012, his organization’s theory of change has evolved in response to research and lessons learned in the field. Starting with Blended Learning, his work moved to Personalized Learning that let students see themselves in their learning. Along the way,  in studying the impact of what was working, “we weren’t pleased with what we saw,” he said. 

The approach didn’t put enough emphasis on safe spaces for students, their lived experiences and on building academic mindset. 

“If we had been focused in on that the last 20 years, I don’t think we would have had as many challenges during the pandemic,” Mr. Rubin said.

His focus today is on the processes of getting to our aspirations as educators. He said he is shocked by how little opportunity there has been to restart coming out of the remote learning period and returning to in-person instruction. We realized, he said of his organization, students and families actually didn’t have the skill sets to succeed in a virtual setting.

“When we think about perspectives, we’re talking about how capable and supported a student is to be successful in the individual learning environment that they find themselves,” he said.

Virtual Keynote Series Recap · January 2022

TLI Keynote: Leading with Evidence

Insights into the use of data science in education

 Alex J. BowersArtificial Intelligence and Data Science practices are getting increased attention in the field of K-12 education, but research shows these things may have had less of an effect than expected so far on instructional improvement.

So says Alex J. Bowers, a Professor of Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the featured guest speaker at the Jan. 28 Technology Leadership Institute Virtual Keynote Series event. 

Professor Bowers's address was titled “Leading with Evidence and Data in Schools: How Data Visualization, AI, Pattern Analytics, and Data Science can Inform Evidence-Based Improvement Cycles.

Citing ample media coverage of data science in education and record capital investment in educational technology companies—up 1,600% in the last decade, including $8.3 billion pumped in by venture capitalists last year—Professor Bowers detailed his research into data science and offered warnings and advice regarding what works and what isn’t working.

“Some of the problems that I’m seeing are that AI and data science practices continue to gain increasing attention across education, these ‘AI in Ed’ conversations that we see in the media a lot,” Professor Bowers said. “There are many recommendations to increase the use of data dashboards in schools, yet the research to date shows little effect of data dashboard use on instructional improvement.”

Professor Bowers helps school leaders use the data they already collect more effectively to direct limited resources to meet specific student needs. His research focuses on the intersection of effective school and district leadership, organization and HR, data-driven decision making, student grades and test scores, student persistence, and dropouts. 

His work also considers the influence of school finance, facilities, and technology on student achievement. Professor Bowers studies these domains through the application of data science, and big data analytics, such as data visualization analytics, machine learning, multilevel and growth mixture modeling, and cluster analysis heat map data dashboards.

He said that last year the U.S. Department of Education found that there were only three online instructional technologies that work. All three are free platforms. And yet, across K-12 education there are many more technologies in use even as research shows they may not be so widely used by teachers or proven very effective at improving instruction.

Still, education is seen as a growth industry for machine learning and artificial intelligence. Data dashboards are used widely by districts, but he asked whether they address educators’ needs, and are they accurate?. If so, he added, what is the evidence? 

Professor Bowers proposed using educational leadership data analytics: a combination of evidence based improvement cycles, data science & data analytics and educational leadership. The idea, he said, is to help leaders become facilitators of evidence-based conversations.

We need to develop data that meets teachers’ needs, he said. Data scientists need to know what that is because teachers won’t necessarily know what to ask for. 

For constructing a useful data dashboard, he referred to the “Four A’s of Early Warning Indicator System algorithms: Accurate—High accuracy compared to benchmarks; Accessible—Easy to understand and open to investigation; Actionable—Predictor can be used to take action; and Accountable— Regularly checked for bias, audited and inspected in collaboration with the communities for which they are predicted.

Take his course!

Professor Bowers offers an online, four-week course through Teachers College for teachers and administrators on how to facilitate evidence-based conversations in schools. “Leading with Evidence in Schools: Data and Research Literacy" runs March 7 through April 3. The course recurs in July and November.