Conference season is upon us and our i2e Professional Learning Specialists have been out in force attending, presenting, and bringing back valuable insights to share with the rest of our team. We didn’t want to keep this great information all to ourselves, so we are excited to be sharing it with all of you in a multi-part blog series. This week we are highlighting the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS) Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas.

Suzannah Calvery, i2e Professional Learning Specialist:

“The Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools (ATLIS) Annual Conference was a whirlwind of events and sessions. I was excited to present on design thinking and building empathic makers, but the real attraction for me was meeting other technology leaders from across the nation.

IT Directors, Technology Integration Specialists, Deans of Education Technology, Teachers, Heads of School. Independent schools are vastly different from public schools and their systems are set up in a myriad of ways—what one school does with alacrity would have another school running for cover. It was fascinating to learn from peers in so many different models and to see the ways in which the ATLIS organization supports the variety in their membership. The network of ATLIS professionals is unparalleled for independent schools. My most valuable time at this event was spent talking to other Ed Tech professionals about how their schools do the work and how they see their schools supporting students.

One of the keynote speakers, George Siemens, spoke about the great imagination required as we consider the career environment of the students of today. His presentation focused on how important the soft skills of Social Emotional Learning will be in coming decades—a theme that I revisited in my own session later that day.

I attended sessions on Digital Citizenship, where teachers discussed the models of #digcit their schools have adopted to ensure that students are using 21st century tools with 21st century responsibility. Several schools have found that Common Sense Media is the right option for them because it allows them to tailor sessions developmentally and across disciplines without requiring teachers to do much additional work. One of the session groups had a rich discussion about the freedom found in a classroom once the appropriate structures are in place. I saw teachers who curate entire boards of material for their students to interact with and assess according to various pillars of civic responsibility, as well as teachers who use the pre-made sessions and have great success.

The biggest challenge for me at this conference was to get into as many AR/VR sessions as possible in the short time we had available. I attended three sessions that dealt with this emerging technology. One of the sessions was hands-on and another was a jam session of collaborative experience and thought from people at various stages of adoption of the technology. What I came away with is this: AR/VR is a skill that students will benefit from. It can be crafted as well as experienced. There are a number of excellent tools available for coding and creating in AR/VR ranging from free on up. This is a skill set that many companies are using and will be using in the future. Students with experience creating in AR/VR will find themselves at an advantage when entering the job market. Offering children an opportunity to create something meaningful in AR/VR will also help guard against their use of it as a negative form of entertainment. For example, there are classes who are modeling simulations of being a bystander vs. an upstander in bullying environments. This allows students to model the behavior of both sides and to design the outcomes they’d like to see. I came away with lists of creation software (CoSpaces, Unity), best practices (EMS, MS, and US only), and hardware (HP Vive, Windows Mixed Reality). 

Finally, as a group, a major focus was on diversity and equity in Ed Tech. We talked through difficulties in access, addressing bias, and developing helpful models for mediating issues that may arise in our schools around tech and access. In Dr. Jeff Morrison’s session, we worked through a case study using the Equity Literacy Framework and discussed individual experiences our diverse group has had. Realizing the difference a creation vs. consumption mindset plays in developing equity in education was paramount to this discussion, and one I believe most of us will take with us as we re-enter our schools.”

Learn more about the Association of Technology Leaders in Independent Schools.