Chris Stengel, Barth Avenue, is director of technology for the Mt. Lebanon School District. He and his 10-person staff are responsible for managing the integration of technology into classrooms and other learning experiences.
How much of your job is devoted to staying current with industry trends?
Never as much as I would like! As educators, we all have a responsibility to our students to keep our learning environments as authentic to current and real-world technologies as we can. When our students graduate from Mt. Lebanon and move on to their next steps, they need to be prepared and ready to continue learning throughout their lives. Making sure that we are keeping as up to date as possible with both our technology and the way we use that technology to help students learn is crucial to helping them develop a strong ability to continue learning beyond their time with us.
How have the worldwide supply chain problems of the last year and a half impacted your job?
These global challenges are very real and they definitely have had an impact on both the technology budget and our timelines. There is an ongoing need for us to estimate very far in advance how many devices we will need so they can arrive on time for us to deploy them in a meaningful and impactful way. Additionally, costs have gone up sharply for many of the types of computers we purchase. Our overall budget holds fairly constant from year to year so when device prices go up by 10, 20, even 30 percent in some cases, we have had to be quite creative to find ways to do more with less.
What was the biggest challenge your team faced in gearing up for remote learning during the pandemic? How did you solve it?
Our biggest challenge to the pandemic was not having any time to gear up for it. When our schools first shifted to full remote in March of 2020, we worked very hard and very quickly to collect all our classroom devices for distribution to students for their use at home. From there, we shifted into “reaction mode” for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. It wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that we had a chance to take a collective breath and start to think strategically again about what remote teaching and learning could look like at Mt. Lebanon. We researched and obtained classroom equipment including headsets, microphones and web cameras that could transform every one of our classrooms into a hybrid environment with students participating both in-person and from home.
Any relation to Casey? (You probably get that a lot.)
Unfortunately not, but I frequently tell people that I am just to ensure that they spell my last name correctly. I am related to Fritz and Joey Stengel, my children, who will someday change the world—and I will no doubt be asked if I’m any relation to them!