teach, Work

A multilayered approach to supporting our learners

Misk Schools is a community of learners. By modeling a thirst for learning, we all play an integral role in our students’ education. To elevate the level and pace of learning of our students Misk Schools has created a campus environment that presents opportunities for exploration and inquiry at every turn. From embodied learning systems such as SMALLabs; immersive virtual reality experiences via Oculus Rift and Google Expeditions; experiential adventures with robotics such as Beebots and LEGO Mindstorm EV3; to enriching our Computational Thinking challenges with Parrot Mambo Drones, our campus resembles more a massive creative and invention space than it does a traditional campus as found elsewhere. Having this incredible space and offering such an array of learning opportunities and resources brings with it its own set of challenges. Mainly, that we must go the extra mile to support our teachers in ways that reflect the complexity of the tools at their disposal.   

According to Wood and Jocius (2014), as schools continue to increase available of digital resources, teachers don’t have the tools to leverage the technology for authentic and meaningful purposes. Too often, electronic devices are used to only develop basic skills. Similarly, Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, E. Sendurur and P. Sendurur (2012) found that a variety of external barriers prevents teachers from using technology in ways that align more closely with their beliefs. Those barriers are usually related to access to digital resources, which is something we do not suffer from. Another barrier identified by Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, E. Sendurur and P. Sendurur (2012) is support. It is in supporting our teachers where we have placed our focus on from the start.

Following are details of the various support layers in place for our teachers:

  • Digital Literacy Coordinator – To best support our teachers, and to foster a transformation of learning in the classroom, we have had a Digital Literacy Coach from the first year of operation. The position has morphed over time into the Digital Literacy Coordinator (DLC) as we added the Computational Thinking Program. The DLC’s role is paramount to supporting our teachers and ensuring digital resources are used in the most optimal way. Teachers meet with the DLC on a regular schedule for coaching sessions or to explore new ideas for integrating digital resources into their lessons. The DLC is also present during collaborative meetings to provide resources for integration.
  • Technical Support – Teachers receive support from our technology support team, to resolve any technical issue reported. Our IT support team is ready when network printing is not working to when students make their own presentations and need audio and video.
  • Professional Development – Throughout the year our teachers take advantage of continued professional development opportunities such as attending the BETT trade show and conference in London last week and/or taking part in Apple events. Through our partners we also offer a variety of online and on-campus workshops and courses throughout the year.

A unique part of our ecosystem is that teachers often have access to the creators of some of the systems we have in place, such as the Misk Schools OS mobile app and the SMALLab Learning embodied learning system. By being proximate to the creators our teachers influence the continued development of the tools we use.

Misk Schools is a unique school. In ways that often creates amazement and sometimes even disbelief when shared with colleagues from around the world, the availability of digital resources, and the support layers available to our teachers make ours a model for continue professional learning and development worthy of envy. The level of integration of digital resources our teachers bring to every lesson ensures our students‘ experience in our classrooms closely resembles their digital world outside.


How I got hooked …and now I can’t get off

VR has been part of my life for the past two years. I started testing when I had my first look at Oblong’s G-Speak system while living in Barcelona. Sure Oblong is not VR, but it served to expand my view into what was possible beyond what I had come to take for granted. I realized the keyboard, mouse and screen combination I used so easily could do much more than what I was doing with it. All of a sudden it has legs, arms and fingers. I was no longer tethered to the primary three components I interactive with on a daily basis. Now, I could use my body to interact with the world on a screen.

Shortly after the Oblong experience I started to learn about Oculus, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). I became fascinated by it. Soon after beginning my learning experience in this new world I had stumbled into I started working at a school in Los Angeles. Shortly after arriving at Vistamar School I arranged a video conference between our Theory of Knowledge students and MIT’s professor Noam Chomsky. The public at large was invited a guests, while our students asked questions and interacted via the video conference. Towards the end of the scheduled session we opened up the conversation to the adults in the room, and a parent stood up and asked Chomsky about zombies. Imagine that!

Scott, the father with the zombie question, and I became friends almost immediately. I learned from him that there where many levels deeper of VR than what I had been exploring. As an artist, he creates his own hybrid worlds made from recorded videos and manipulated images and shapes he has created from scratch. These are incredible to experience using VR. So, now that I was really hooked, I started asking questions. What can I do with this new medium? How can I get started? How can I make this add something of substance to education?

For the past couple of years the question of adding to education has driven my curiosity as I learn more about the hardware and software being developed for the VR/AR space. It is amazing how much is being done in this space now, and it’s hard to keep up. Unfortunately very little is being done in education relative to entertainment, or even military uses. I will continue to search for hardware and software, and content that I can put in the hands of teachers and children to make learning more meaningful, engaging, real, connected and profound.

I wrote this piece because I just caught this video on TED that brought the message home of what VR is capable of doing, and of where we are in adopting and using this medium. Great talk by Chris Milk.

I want to share out a bit of what I’m tinkering with, and what I’ve made so far. I hope this helps anyone trying to get started or simply looking to stay up to-date on everything going on.

These are a few of the things I’ve created and published thus far:


Photo Collections


This is the gear I create with:

For video editing I use a MacBook Pro with Adobe Premiere and After Effects installed, along with the Mettle’s 360/VR Plugin for After Effects


17 Subversive Tactics …ahem, Strategies


Over the past few months the IT Office I manage has taken a totally different form. There are now 3 people instead of 2. However, the 2 people that have joined me are not fundamentally trained in IT. My challenge is to train both of them while maintaining operations of the IT Office and plan for the future of tech at the school.

The technician that I hope to make the Jr. Network Admin has very different needs than does the integration coach that is working day-in and day-out with faculty in their classroom. In this podcast I share the tactics I am utilizing to get both of them up to speed on how to be most effective in their respective corners of tech at this school. Comments and questions are always welcomed at rbaldizon@gmail.com

Click here for the iTunes podcast.


16 Cheap IT Staff Professional Development …does not exist


I have 2 new members in the IT Office I am responsible for, and neither of them brings any sort of IT certification. I am looking to make one of them a Jr. Sysadmin, but am faced with the challenge that he has no network/server admin experience. Bringing him up to date on network admin skills is a long-term project, and I will help myself out by sending him to Microsoft certification training, which is not cheap.

This is my approach to providing adequate and timely IT training to the staff of the IT Office.

Check out the podcast episode here.