Reimagining Technology on Campus

By Rachel Barry-Arquit, Director of Marketing and Communications

A conversation with Daisy Steele, Catlin Gabel’s Director of Technology

“The pandemic has caused us to rethink how we integrate technology in school. People are much more reliant on tech today, especially audio visual needs, than they were before the pandemic. The volume of our work has intensified because there are more tools for us to know and more problems to solve. We’ve had to become familiar with different hardware—from speakers and headsets to cameras and microphones—so teachers could provide instruction during remote and hybrid learning, and we’ve had to become AV experts, live streaming events like the auction and graduation.

Onboarding new colleagues is also harder through a 2-D screen. Making a personal connection is the piece I miss the most. People would regularly come into our office or we’d go to theirs to provide tech support. Now, we’re trying to solve things remotely or through the IT window. At the same time, we’ve been able to launch some big initiatives this year to support students’ learning, which we likely wouldn’t have gotten to as quickly without the pandemic pushing us to think differently.

We transitioned Middle Schoolers from Chromebooks to iPads and purchased enough iPads for every student from preschool to fifth grade. Sharing equipment was no longer sustainable when students weren’t in class together. We also realized that the functionality of Chromebooks was limited. Students could type on a keyboard and access web tools, whereas with an iPad they can create their own story through Book Creator, use a Logitech Crayon to draw or take notes, or share their ideas by recording a video. We haven’t changed Upper School technology hardware. Laptops are still the tool of choice due to specific software applications for science and other classes; it might change in the future, but we’re not there yet.

The IT team is having more conversations now with teachers about their needs and what solutions might fit best. We’re discussing with division heads about our approach to web filtering as the iPads go home with students. All iPads have an app that lets teachers see what students are doing and accessing, but this is only part of the solution. It’s also about helping students understand the appropriate uses of technology, which ties directly into the school’s commitment to responsible action. We want to be careful about using technology tools to solve behavioral issues.

The biggest and most unexpected benefit of the pandemic is that we all discovered we can get things done remotely! Parent coffees, parent nights, admission information sessions, and Town Halls can be held remotely, which not only makes it easier for people to join from work or ask a question anonymously, but also makes it more inclusive as the session can be recorded and shared. This format especially works well when there’s an established relationship. When meeting for the first time, in-person is better. It’s about finding balance and creating more choices. It’s about taking the best of what we’ve been able to learn during this time and incorporating it into our current practices.”