Perhaps the favorite part of our Digital Transition Discussion events is our Guest Administrator Panel Discussion, and for good reason. We take some of the brightest, most highly regarded administrators in the nation, set them in a panel setting, fire away questions, and ask them to take the filters off. The result is often a candid, no holds barred discussion where the challenges fly fast, and the solutions come just as quickly. This Arizona panel discussion was no exception.

The panelists include Dr. Gayle Galligan, Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Deer Valley Unified School District, Mr. Chris Knutsen, Superintendent at Florence Unified School District and Mr. Tony Camp, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning at Phoenix Union High School District.

According to Chris Knutsen, the Superintendent at Florence Unified School District, “Two years ago I was sitting in a superintendents’ symposium in LA on February six and the and the main keynote guy comes on and he says, ‘You know, basically, are you guys ready to educate all your kids online? Cuz it's coming.’ We didn't really know much about COVID at the time and here it is two years later. We know that COVID has been of a very bad thing and it's been a very challenging issue to deal with for all schools across our country. First thing I did is I walked outside and I called my tech director and I said, all right, are we gonna be able to do this?”

“You know,” continued Knutsen, “Looking back over the last two years, the shift is real and I think we've navigated about as best as we could. I mean, um, we were able to get all of our kids online and I think it went rather well. And I think we've learned a lot. We've learned that technology is something that we can use in a better way in the future. So that's where we're headed.”

Tony Camp, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning at Phoenix Union High School District said, “I think everybody did the best they could, given the circumstances of shifting. In my district, we had more computers than students if you were to inventory them, but we were not a 1:1 district. So, it pleased me in the fact that it forced us into that world. That was an inevitability I believe. Instead of technology being a supplemental resource or an addition to instruction, it has now become an integral part of the work we do. I've heard from other colleagues here today about their block schedules that they were on. Our district was in a, a standard class, six 55-minute periods, six periods a day. When we went virtual in March we admitted to ourselves that mental fatigue is definitely something that was gonna hit our kids and adults.

“So, we switched, and now we're in sort of this modified block. So, we went all the way to the other end. Now we're in the middle and now we're talking about the future of next year. Just like with traditional paper-based teaching, not wanting to go back to the old, this is the new norm. And we are looking at utilizing what I think is house bill 28.62, that gives districts a little bit of flexibility in their instructional time. As a result of the variant really hitting hitting attendance. I don't know if anybody knows the true answer, but I think everybody's trying to find it.”

“My takeaway today,” said Camp, “would be the next 10 years, what we'll need to do and what's coming, right? The individualization, as well as personalization for students, while also keeping that connection to a teacher at some point. We all know as a result of this pandemic that social interaction is important, not just for kids, but also for adults. I think the biggest takeaway is what's gonna happen as a result of COVID and education over the next 10 years. And we probably can anticipate a lot of the effects and there are some that we can't, and it makes me think about in education I've experienced all of these, not as an employee or as a teacher or an administrator, but even as a student.

“So, there's three Cs that pop in mind that really had a drastic effect on education. And the first one was computers; when a computer came out, I was in middle school, sorry, dating myself. And then the second C is Columbine, and Columbine changed a lot of the way we looked at safety for schools. And then the third is COVID and we are responsible for so much, as if a principal of a school is a mayor of a town. We have to be able to roll with the punches, dust ourselves off, get up and move forward, because our kids are coming tomorrow and the next day and the next year.”

The conversation between panelists continued and became even more intense and more frank with issues and solutions. This is definitely must-see video.