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Transforming School Libraries into Media Centers

Do you remember going to the school library for a research project, browsing the card catalog, pulling several books, taking out a stack of 3×5 cards to take notes on meticulously, and arranging all the materials around you on a large table before getting to work? Congratulations, your school had a library!

Although schools still have libraries—wide-open spaces with good lighting, comfortable furniture, and space to work—the work done by students and educators in those spaces has changed. Students take entire courses on iPads; YouTube and Twitch videos are part of many lesson plans; and digital textbooks are, in some cases, supplanting research materials. Although these activities can coexist within traditional library spaces, new design sensibilities and upgraded technology are needed to help students and educators leverage these shared spaces effectively to improve learning outcomes.

Upgrading your K-12 school library to a media center can help you meet your tech-savvy, digital-first learners (and teachers) where they are without sacrificing any of the library’s current functionality. With simple but meaningful changes—like the addition of internet connectivity, places to charge devices, and comfortable, modular furniture made from noise-dampening materials—the traditional library becomes a modern media center, a catalyst for improved teaching and learning, and a point of pride for your school. 

In many cases, the school library is a multifunctional space shared by students, educators, and the community—serving as a polling place, community meeting center, or a place to host other school functions like awards ceremonies. When you plan with flexible use in mind, all the furniture can be repurposed and repositioned on the fly. The space can be a polling place in the morning, a research/media center during the day, and host an awards ceremony for student-athletes that evening.

When you partner with STS to upgrade your school library to a modern media center, you’ll get expertise from working professionals trained in modern pedagogy. We have real educators on staff to help you make informed decisions and realize the best ROI on your media center investment. Contact us today to get started!

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STS EDUCATION Loves Giving Back in Ventura County

It was our pleasure to support Ventura County’s 6th annual Skoolcade competition this past weekend at Rio Vista Middle School.

In the Skoolcade challenge, students from Ventura County schools create a game on any platform and submit it for consideration. At the main event, the top 3 student games from each site were available to play by all. The arcade style event also included local speakers, game walkabouts, industry professionals, food, prizes and a STEAM Playground that showcased amazing school STEAM programs and commercial educational products available in Ventura County. All students who submitted a game received a certificate of participation and an invitation to the finals. Prizes were then awarded to the top three games in each category/grade level, and the top 3 games in the High School division may be entered into IndieCade in October!

STS EDUCATION is also extremely proud to perenially support the Ventura County Impact II Grant competition, which puts innovative and creative teaching methods on display for the entire country while raising awareness of exemplary classroom practices. We always welcome opportunities to support the educators and learners of our home county- Ventura County!

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2022 ACSA Every Student Succeeding Sponsorship

I was lucky enough to represent STS EDUCATION at the Bowers Museum on Friday, March 18, at the ACSA Every Student Succeeding Breakfast and Awards. STS has sponsored a Chromebook for each of these award recipients for many years and 2022 was no different.

The ACSA awards honor students that have overcome extreme adversity in order to achieve academically- some examples included a single teenage mother who’d recently completed her degree, and a young hearing impaired individual that emigrated to the US from Colombia after teaching himself ASL via YouTube to maintain a 3.5 GPA at his school. There were also students who’d overcome severe mental and physical limitations to achieve academically- this was their chance to be recognized, and to have their support teams stand and be recognized also.

I’ve mentioned before that I used to work as a teacher and I feel privileged to be able to bring that experience to the Marketing department at a company that has students at the center of its Golden Circle– it felt really great to get out from behind my computer and actually meet some of the students- in person, faces uncovered- that this company provides solutions and services for.

The Bowers Musuem is a wonderful venue in Santa Ana, a town filled with wonderful little venues– they host free family festivals all the time, make it a point to attend! It was a breautiful Southern Californa morning and the French Toast and orange juice were flowing.

I got to be one of the two sponsors that handed the prize recipients their goodie bags and gave them congratulations after they came off the stage, and they were elated.

The students and their sponsors didn’t know they’d be receiving Chromebooks as prizes- the emcee announced that all the bags had a $100 gift card for Boomers and the crowed oooooohed and then they announced the inclusion of the Chromebooks and the crowd OOOOOOHEEED. It was a spine tingling moment, connecting with students that viscerally. I also got approached during the picture session after the ceremony by a teacher who told me that one of the honorees could barely contain himself, as he was so excited to receive a Chromebook.

It was a wonderful morning and helped me reconnect with the core of our mission at STS- Students!

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STS is proud to roll into 2022 as one of Inc. 5000’s Fastest Growing Companies in the Pacific Region

STS EDUCATION has recently been named as #125 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in the Pacific region! STS and its peer companies had an average growth rate of close to 200%- these organizaions represent the most successful private companies in the Pacific Region when it comes to generating jobs and growth. Combined, they added $5.1 billion and over ten thousand jobs to the region’s economy.

At STS, we’ve been specializing exculsively in education technology solutions for more than 11 years. We’ve evolved from a refurbished PC provider in to a full-service , high touch, full spectrum service provider for educators. From equipment to consulting to professional development, STS has got you covered- we acquired two companies in 2021 to serve you better! We look forward to hearing from you soon and partnering to create a dyamic learning environment at your school!

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As Schools evolve into centers of Community Wellness, K-12 Wellness Rooms offer students a place to recharge

In another life, I was a middle and high school teacher. I taught in and around Metro Detroit at the turn of the century. I had a very diverse, predominantly high-risk set of students throughout my five-year career, which was spent in a mix of both public and charter schools. Many of these schools lacked the resources for professional counselors and, in many cases, didn’t even employ a nurse for student health issues. Intervention with students who needed it and a calm place to recover from the rigors of the academic day weren’t something that we ever had the luxury of thinking about. I can remember many times when a troubled student’s best option was simply to wait it out in class or call their parents and punitively sit in the office until they could be picked up. I’d wish for a better way.

Well, I’m excited to see my wish coming true and tell you about the positive changes happening in education. School officials have recognized the needs and are starting to take steps in the right direction. As schools evolve into community wellness centers, students and their parents are starting to expect a hub of education and attention for the community.  The concept of It Takes A Village is as valid as it ever was. Part of the larger discussion that’s happening in communities now is around student and staff wellness- not just physical wellbeing, but mental health.

Let’s face it, the last two years have been rough on students- and educators, also. It’s a lot to ask to go from being on a Zoom call in pajamas with classmates listening to presentations for a few hours and then working independently, back to 6 or 7 periods a day of 40 minutes of sitting still, paying attention, and getting back into the routine of learning. It’s natural that some students- especially those in K-6 grades- are having some trouble adjusting. Many of them haven’t been in the classroom long enough to develop coping skills that would allow them to quickly get back to “normal”- whatever that is.

Enter STS EDUCATION Wellness Rooms. Picture spaces with soft, indirect, natural lighting and neutral tones on the walls. The furniture is soft-sided, includes sound-defeating insulation for privacy, and is available for students to use in several different orientations and postures. Whether they’re having a face-to-face conversation with a counselor at a table, or they are simply laying down on their back, an arm over their eyes, the students get the agency to choose. These spaces can also incorporate more modern biophilic designs and actual living plants- even animals such as fish tanks- to create a relaxing atmosphere as a respite from the somewhat more rigid traditional learning experience.

These spaces can also function as secondary “employee lounges”- adults need time to refocus and rejuvenate attention as well. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation with the use of VR headsets and headphones could also be an option for a person requiring more of an active way to screen out stimuli. The space doesn’t have to be huge or hugely expensive- but it should be an oasis of calm that helps students and learners reorient themselves to the task at hand.

AT STS, we have many working educators on staff, keeping current with all the pedagogical trends and products to help meet the diverse needs of students, both mainstream and neurodiverse. We’ve done installations of wellness rooms such as the ones pictured all over the country, in large and small spaces of all types. We’d love the opportunity to help you create an oasis of calm at the center of your bustling district with student and staff Wellness Rooms.

 

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How is technology in your K-12 school? STS EDUCATION wants to learn from California school districts

School technology two years after COVID-19 changes

This month marks two years since the global pandemic suddenly rewrote education norms across the United States and the world. The COVID-19 pandemic changed life quickly for everyone. One week students and teachers gathered in classrooms, learning together in person. The following week, students were at home with their families, school doors were locked, and almost all learning moved to online platforms. 

The shift was shocking and swift. School administrators and information technology directors had to act immediately to get devices into the hands of students. Districts bought and distributed Chromebooks, iPads, and laptops rapidly to families, in some cases, more than quadrupling their supply of devices within weeks. Often government support helped with this rapid influx of new technology for schools.

The stress on teachers and students has been documented in the media frequently in the past two years. But, there was also immense work and pressure placed upon technology directors and support staff responsible for meeting the growing and changing technology needs of every student, teacher, and family. 

It was exhausting. Somehow we made it through the spring semester. But, the 2020-21 academic year brought with it the continuation of virtual learning and device management. Although school administrators and IT leaders perfected some processes, challenges remained in almost every district and school. 

So, where are we in 2022? STS EDUCATION wants to know.

What are the technology challenges in school districts in 2022?

We’re curious about the state of technology in schools in 2022. What does technology look like in your school in 2022? Are there new or continuing challenges that have developed in the past couple of years? As educational technology thought leaders and thought partners, we have been with education IT leaders throughout the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic― co-developing solutions and best practices for technology in schools.

Now, as we continue to support educators in using technology to achieve positive student learning outcomes, we want to take a closer look at the state of technology in schools. We are surveying K-12 school leaders to learn more about technology in California schools and districts, and we want to learn from educators like YOU! 

Many schools have developed best practices for maintaining and using technology throughout the learning process, while others may still need help developing solutions that work. Staffing shortages and broken devices have also presented new challenges for some. 

Broken devices, inventory management, and cybersecurity

A survey conducted by Education Week reported that, by March 2021, the vast majority of schools had at least one device for every student. Is this still the case in California? Are all of those devices still in working condition? 

As longtime partners of California educators and technology experts, we know that schools and school technology directors are leaders in finding solutions for effective learning. We also know that many challenges remain unresolved. So, we’ve launched a survey to help California school leaders share edtech challenges, information, ideas, and best practices. 

We value our school partners’ time, expertise, and experiences. So, upon survey completion, participants will receive a complimentary digital copy of A Teacher’s Guide to Online Learning: Practical Strategies to Improve K-12 Student Engagement in Virtual Learning by educator and instructional technologist Linda Hockenberry. We hope this text will continue to inspire and assist schools and districts in navigating the educational technology challenges of 2022.

Thank you for joining us in this collaborative conversation and for helping us learn how to provide even better edtech solutions to our California K-12 school partners! 

Click here to complete the survey. 

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STS EDUCATION and MJP Technologies Join Forces

Some things are better together

The evolution of STS EDUCATION takes a giant leap forward with the addition of a major technology services provider.

As we look to expand our footprint nationally, MJP Technologies will help us transform our business from one that has been device centric to one that can now offer comprehensive and sustainable edtech solutions that help enhance teacher effectiveness and ultimately improve student outcomes.

Dedicated to meeting all the technology needs for K-12 schools, this union gives an immediate boost to service capabilities and will provide schools with a resource to meet all their education technology needs.

“The acquisition of MJP Technologies is the culmination of a years long relationship with their founder Indy Batra,” said Marc Netka, CEO, STS EDUCATION. “Having a founder of Indy’s stature trust that STS will be a good steward of the company he and his family have nurtured for all these years is unbelievably flattering and we are humbled that he has put the future needs of his customers and staff in our hands.”

The talented and passionate team at MJP brings tools, knowledge, experience, and hands-on support to help customers deploy and manage technology. This addition doubles the company workforce, adds a second production facility, increases the fleet, adds valuable members to the leadership ranks, and is a key driver to accelerating growth nationwide. In addition, MJP brings an excellent managed services team and a C-7 contractor license that allows onsite teams to handle more installations.

“I am also excited for the benefits to our employees such as more career opportunities, better job security, and additional experience and expertise from a larger leadership foundation,” said Indy Batra, founder of MJP Technologies. “Customers from both companies will benefit from this union because we can now provide the complete array of technology offerings.”

While the most immediate impact will be the ability to directly serve Ventura, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara County school districts, charter schools, and private schools, both companies have a national presence that can now be grown faster with enhanced offerings and customer service.

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Tip Sheet: Adapting to Limited Supply of Student Devices

Navigating the sea of supply and demand can be treacherous during bad conditions. And, the current backlog of laptops and Chromebooks is not clearing up anytime soon.  

Here are 6 tips to help you avoid running aground while still sailing toward your destination.


1. 
Ignore False Promises
No reseller or vendor has access to a secret stash of computers. Every device being received is tied to an existing customer order. Some schools are placing orders based on verbal assurances from some resellers that devices can be delivered in 6-8 weeks. Given current demand and production, a more honest and practical timeline is 10-12 weeks. Have an honest conversation with your vendor to set expectations before you place an order so you can plan accordingly.


2.
 Stay in Line
If you have already placed an order, stick with it. The allure of shaving a couple of weeks off your delivery date is enticing; however, you will just end up at the back of someone else’s line.


3. 
Beware of Price Gouging
Desperate times bring the rats out of the bilge. Some companies are offering gray market and used devices at 200% of the going rate. Schools desperate for devices might see this as a viable short-term solution, but long-term it will cost even more money and create many headaches.


4. Consider Alternatives to Laptops
Desktop computers and Chromebox desktops are still available. For non-hybrid learning environments like in-school classes or 100% distance learning, these devices can save the day.


5. Re-evaluate Who Needs Computers
Free up hundreds or thousands of devices for redeployment to other grades or schools. Instead of implementing a 1:1 take-home program across a district, reach out to families and identify children that can use an existing home computer.


6. Bring New Life to Older Machines

Supplement your current Chromebooks with converted computers. Many schools that switched to Chromebooks have older PCs that are not being used. Neverware software allows any desktop or laptop to begin a new journey as a Chrome device.

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A straight look at the real picture.

Many schools are still waiting on devices they ordered in months ago. Complaints from parents, local public officials and school board members are placing extreme pressure on school IT officials to secure the devices by any means necessary.

Under such pressure and hearing promises for quicker delivery, some schools have jumped from one ship to another by switching manufacturers or resellers. Those false promises have placed schools in a worse situation.  An article in USA Today cites one district that switched manufacturers after being promised they would receive the devices before the first day of school in August. That delivery date was ultimately pushed back to September and then to October.

According to an Associated Press article on the plight of K-12 schools looking to implement remote learning, “Lenovo, Dell and HP have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops.”

That’s a very long line.

The truth is the backlog for laptops and Chromebooks is much higher. Even under optimum conditions, manufacturers are only able to produce a finite number of devices per month. However, those production numbers have decreased because of multiple factors such as: workforce, health and safety restrictions, availability of components, and shipping. Currently the shortage of computer processors is a major driving force behind delivery delays.   

The whole world is vying for devices from the same supply pool. Jumping ship for one that claims to have more cargo only puts you in the back of the line.

We wish that we could magically solve this global supply issue and personally deliver devices to every child. Unfortunately, at this point, the best thing we can do is keep you informed by telling it to you straight. 

 “We pledge to provide honest, accurate and transparent communication to all customers.” Marc Netka, CEO, STS Education


STS Education stands ready to assist you and your community with resources to help make informed decisions and solutions for meeting education goals.

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