Inside the Broadcasting of the Sun Devil Learning Labs

When the idea of Sun Devil Learning Labs (SDLL) first emerged within Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in March, it was in response to a sudden and unexpected challenge coming from COVID-19 and the statewide closing of K-12 schools. The idea of SDLL is an online educational platform for MLFTC student teachers, known as Teacher Candidates, to continue to teach their assigned grade levels as required by their degree program while all K-12 schools are closed.

To create SDLL, a large team from across the college quickly came together over the course of one week and through the weekend, immediately after ASU schools closed in mid-March. As part of this effort, staff from the Office of Scholarship and Innovation (OofSI), along with the IgnitED Labs student staff, began preparing to produce live streams onto YouTube.

The collective production team started training and testing to perfect the use of virtual meeting platform Zoom as a meeting space from which to broadcast the lessons. Teacher Candidates meet daily on Zoom where scheduled webinars are streamed live through YouTube with educational lesson plans that are created by the groups of student teachers.

A screenshot of Grade 2 YouTube Studio with the Zoom Webinar for Grade 2 on top.
A screenshot of Grade 2 YouTube Studio with the Zoom Webinar for Grade 2 on top.

Inside of the Sun Devil Learning Labs, we have been working collaboratively to simultaneously produce the live stream channels on YouTube for Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Grades 1-8 while staying connected through Slack messaging to keep tabs on all streaming content. In my specific role as a Coordinator and co-manager of the IgnitED Labs student staff, I have been starting the Grade 2 channel daily since the start of SDLL. Lead Technology Strategist/Head of IgnitED Labs Jodie Donner, Management Intern Caitlin Jorgensen, and I put together a schedule with our available student staff and another OofSI colleague, Multimedia Specialist Claire Gilbert, to cover all broadcasts for each week. I provide coverage assistance and immediate troubleshooting for any technology related issues with Zoom or YouTube live streams. There have been many lessons learned along the way, as everyone has worked to understand the intricacies of managing and producing eight live broadcasts. Our team of student staff and unit staff met daily to reflect, assess, and resolve issues during the first two weeks.

Throughout the day, there are four main subjects that go live starting at 9 a.m. and transition at every hour until 1 p.m.: English Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies/Art. Each channel producer oversees the live stream of content and transitions the Teacher Candidates in small groups for each subject hour. While the Teacher Candidates are live, their assigned MLFTC Site Leads often coach them in the Zoom virtual chat. The channel producers also resolve issues and answer questions during the live stream, which sometimes involve very fast technology training and troubleshooting. After the “soft launch” week of SDLL, all production members, teacher candidates, and site leads who manage the student teachers have overcome a variety of problems with live broadcasts that have made the following weeks up to now nearly seamless.

Currently, our production team is working hard from early morning to early afternoon managing the live stream educational broadcasts on YouTube. Understanding that the majority of the production team are students who still have classes to attend and other commitments that demand their attention truly highlights their tireless effort. It may only take a few unit staff members to assist live production, but witnessing students help other students is nothing short of moving. This epidemic has clarified the need for community and the importance of coming together to help one another during these trying times – and the IgnitED Labs student staff are the perfect examples of how we can all help in some way.

From lab support to live educational producers, Educational Technology Champions exemplify their titles

After closing the doors on our network of IgnitED Labs at Poly, Tempe, and West, members of lab leadership were developing projects to keep our student workers, whom we call Educational Technology Champions or ETCs, employed. They depend upon their hours to earn funds to support their educations. We were determined to find ways to leverage their expertise knowing their regular work functions would be on hold indefinitely.

Consequently, two units in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, the Office of Digital Learning and the Office of Professional Experiences were working through the challenge facing teacher candidates who no longer had school sites in which to teach. Members of those groups looked to us to provide technical support since our ETCs have the necessary skill set for just such a challenge. 

What started as a discussion about technical support and minimal facilitation turned into a model in which ETCs run the show. They are behind-the-scenes producers who are providing teacher candidates and lab leads with patient, knowledgeable service. ETCs are students themselves, but they are performing as experienced professionals as they train and direct the TCs using Zoom in an instructional delivery environment unfamiliar to them. Certainly we did not expect this nor plan for it, but we were ready to step into this newly-developed role in support of the Sun Devil Learning Labs.

A Sun Devil Learning Labs presentation on the planets

Our ETCs are providing the structural support their fellow students need. The unbelievable added bonus is we are distributing live educational experiences for all who have Internet access. Our coordinated effort came together quickly because we all communicated and delivered 100%. I am so proud to have been a part of this team-led success. Caitlin Jorgensen, management intern in the Office of Scholarship and Innovation (OofSI) and Henry Borges, coordinator in OofSI, have tirelessly and effectively shared their dedication and knowledge, and their contributions are immeasurable.

IgnitED Lab staff increases to support, inspire visitors

New faces from various university programs have joined the veteran Educational Technology Champions (ETCs) in the network of IgnitED Labs that support MLFTC students, faculty, and staff.

The Tempe Lab, located in Farmer 144, has a crew of five student workers ready to collaborate and teach lab visitors. Returning for the second year as an ETC, Alejandra Arana is pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems in W. P. Carey. Ashley Goernitz and Anushka Katayan are also in their second year of employment in the lab. They are ETC Leads. Ashley is earning her BS/MCS in Computer Science from Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Anushka’s degree programs at W. P. Carey include an MBA in Supply Chain Management and an MS in Business Analytics. Abhijeet Savant joined the group in October, as did Aishwarya Batchu. Abhijeet is in the Master of Industrial Design program at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Aishwarya is earning her Master’s in Computer Engineering (Computer Systems) from Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. All ETCs provide service related to learning about lab technologies. Lab hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.

Caitlin Jorgensen, previously an ETC Lead, has transitioned into the role of Management Intern at the Polytechnic Lab after receiving her degree in Graphic Information Technology. Joining her are two ETCs. Sabrina Cervantes is another student in Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering with a major in Human Systems Engineering. Connor Weese is also an engineering student, and he supports both the Tempe Lab and the Poly Lab. He is in the Computer Science (Software Engineering) program, working toward his BS. Visitors can stop in the Poly Lab between 9:00 am and 5:30 pm.

The West Lab is a joint space. MLFTC knows it as the IgnitED Lab West, but to Herberger Young Scholars Academy students, faculty, and staff, it is their Design Lab. Abhijith Jagadeesh, another engineering student, is earning his MS in Robotics and Autonomous Systems. He works on Fridays and Saturdays. Starting soon will be Dania Al-Qasemy. She is majoring in psychology. Due to the partnership with HYSA, the IgnitED Lab hours are limited at IgnitED Lab West. Hours are available on the IgnitED Lab website. The site also includes an overview of experiences visitors can expect and blog posts about events involving the Labs.

ETCs are ready and eager to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for learning with all visitors.