December 2019
  • Dr. Scott R. Rocco

  • The Joys of Winter 


    Dear Colleagues,


    The month of December is here. For all of us that means three things:

    1. We all become amateur meteorologists until the end of March;
    2. TECHSPO® is just around the corner; and
    3. The holiday break and the New Year are closing in fast.


    As a child, I would often look out my bedroom window in the middle of the night at the streetlamp across my street to see if it was snowing. My hope was for a snow day so my friends and I could go out and play. This would be followed by listening to the radio or watching the scroll at the bottom of the TV to hear or see if my school was listed. Without fail, I always started listening or watching as the alphabetical list was just beyond my school district’s name. As a result, I waited impatiently for what felt like an eternity as the list of names came back around. And on one occasion, which I still remember to this day, the radio announcer finished announcing schools and said, “If your school isn’t on the list, put your jacket on and go to school.” And so, I did!


    For so many of us, our lives aren’t that much different when it comes to snowstorms. We are still watching the news and looking out the window. But now we are making the decision. No matter the location of your school district, we have been watching long-range forecasts since before Thanksgiving and we were all watching multiple TV weather forecasts, checking online weather websites for updates, and looking at the weather radar as the most recent storm approached. I personally have three weather apps on my phone, and each one tells me a little different story from the other in its forecast.


    Each winter season brings the potential for delayed openings, early dismissals, or school closures. In all of the weather chaos that spans from December to the end of March, there is some solace for those of us who ultimately make the decision. That comes in talking with colleagues, discussing with them the weather situation as you understand it, and hearing their thinking on what to do about school that day. I know many counties operate text and email groups, and the dreaded 4:30 am conference call for weather-related issues. In the end, these “weather support groups” help get us through the decision-making process, and the periodic school closing when the snow goes against every forecast and actually never falls. It’s tough being an amateur meteorologist.  But there is no doubt in my mind that each of you puts the safety of your students and staff first when you make those early morning decisions. And as you make those decisions long before the sun rises, know that there are still children looking out their window at that streetlamp to see if it is snowing. But instead of waiting for a radio or TV announcement, they are constantly refreshing their Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook feed in anticipation of your announcement.


    On a brighter note, January brings TECHSPO® on the 30th and 31st at Harrah’s in Atlantic City. This is the 25th year of TECHSPO® and it keeps getting bigger and better as the state’s premier technology conference for administrators, educators and district technology departments. Just think, in 1996 when the first TECHSPO® was held, just 25 superintendents attended, and the cutting-edge technology of the time was a Palm Pilot! This year there will be over a thousand participants and dozens of forward-looking technology tools and resources will be on display and demonstrated for all aspects of the educational world.


    This year we have two amazing Keynote Speakers to celebrate this milestone anniversary. Matt Miller will kick off the conference on Thursday morning. Matt is known for his innovative teaching methods and is the author of Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your ClassroomOn Friday, Dr. Katie Martin will get us started with a presentation on learner-centered innovation.


    A welcome addition to TECHSPO® 2020 will be Technology Fireside Chats:

    Thursday – 10:30 - 11:30am

    Esports is Taking the World by Storm, Evolving to Becoming a Billion Dollar Industry

    Chris Aviles and Steve Isaacs have been deeply embedded in esports in the education community since the beginning. They both run very successful esports programs but have come at creating their programs from different angles. Hear their stories as they will provide great insights into the challenges as well as the successes involved in bringing a program from idea to implementation. This session will provide an overview of esports in education including the academic and social emotional benefits and how we can prepare our students for future opportunities in and around the industry.


    Friday – 10:30 - 11:30am

    The Role of Students and Technology in the Future of Sustainability

    It is clear that substantial innovation and technological creativity will be needed to help us address the sustainability challenges humanity collectively faces, from climate change to global food security and more. Preparing our students to address these challenges requires a firm grounding in the STEM fields to be sure; but it also requires a strong capacity for innovation, creative and interdisciplinary thinking, ethical reasoning, and resilient problem-solving. We must train our students for a wide array of challenges, some of which are not fully understood, and ever-changing jobs, some of which do not yet exist, and all of which will be vital to our collective future. To accomplish this, we must move beyond conventional teaching practices and move towards a reinvention of STEM education for a sustainable future. Join us for a conversation with Stockton University Professor Patrick Hossay.


    As always, you can stay current by attending one of TECHSPO® 130+ presentations by administrators and educators from across the state or explore the most recent and effective educational technology available with dozens of vendors.


    TECHSPO® 2020 is set to be the outstanding technology conference you have come to know over the years.


    I wish you a Happy New Year and hope to see you at TECHSPO®2020 at the end of January.




    Scott R. Rocco, Ed.D.

    2019-2020 NJASA President