Information Systems team bridges gap between remote, in-person spaces

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Nicky Edwards-Levin

Information Technology support specialist Anthony Gonzales works to help teachers navigate new technology.

Lucia Kouri, City Life Co-Editor

Most members of the Lab community have seen them poking in and out of classrooms, walking through the halls or even visited their offices in need of tech-help. While members of the Information Systems team have always played a crucial role at Lab, they are currently taking on a more crucial responsibility than ever before. 

Members of the IS team have played an instrumental role in Lab’s hybrid learning program, easing the transition for both students and teachers by helping bridge the gap between remote and in-person spaces. 

Upon returning to school after more than a year of distance learning, teachers spanning from lowerschool to highschool were introduced to a classroom technology system that allows students at home to connect with people that are at school. The general classroom setup includes a powerful microphone, speakers and a document camera. 

According to Monika Bahroos, interim director of innovation and technology, the goal was for this technology to be as user-friendly as possible. 

“It should really just be secondary in nature,” Ms. Bahroos said about the teachers. “They come into a classroom and they are back into what they used to do, with technology not being something that they’re worried about.” 

The IS team has been working hard to make this aspiration a reality, but navigating technology isn’t easy for everyone. While teachers all run their classes differently, most are making some type of use of this additional technology – and not always without difficulty. 

Catharine Bell, an English teacher who has been regularly seeking help from the IS team, said navigating the new hybrid routine has been a steep learning curve. 

At the start, being old-school and lacking the foresight to imagine schooling during a pandemic, I knew how to record grades, write reports on PowerSchool, and hook up my laptop in the classroom. That was it.”

— Catharine Bell

“At the start, being old-school and lacking the foresight to imagine schooling during a pandemic, I knew how to record grades, write reports on PowerSchool, and hook up my laptop in the classroom,” Dr. Bell said. “That was it.”

Since then, the IS team has helped Dr. Bell and other teachers through workshops, personal videos, private sessions and even on-the-spot help.

“You have seen Anthony Gonzales come from his desk in IS in the basement all the way to the third floor to help me out. Eric Schmidt, who used to be in charge of the Language Lab has also been a tremendous resource,” Dr. Bell said. “Often, I’ll ask a question and he’ll make a video to answer.”

Ms. Bahroos says this one-on-one time is a particularly valuable part of the IS team’s work.

“A teacher reached out and said, ‘Hey, you know I haven’t been in the classroom since last March, would you be willing to sit down with me and go over the tech in the classroom?’” Ms. Bahroos said. “We absolutely try and accommodate that, because we want our teachers to feel comfortable when they’re back in the classroom – and again – we understand that it’s hard dealing with folks at home and then folks in the classroom as well.” 

According to Ms. Bahroos, familiarizing students and teachers with technology isn’t necessarily just beneficial during hybrid learning, but instead could lead to long-term benefits if people can learn to use technology as a tool rather than seeing it as a burden. 

“I think we always have an opportunity to do better,” Ms. Bahroos said, “to make Lab a better place, to meet our teaching needs and goals, and to serve our community.” 

As Ms. Bahroos put it – perhaps technology is a step in the right direction. For now, however, many teachers still have a lot of learning to do, and, luckily, have a place to turn for help.

“Now, many teachers struck with the challenges of Hybrid are nostalgic for the days of just Zoom,” Dr. Bell said. “We teachers continue to be grateful to IS.”