Community Spotlight: Keri Randolph

We continue to celebrate the great people and work across the globe this month with Keri Randolph, Assistant Superintendent for Innovation for the Hamilton County Department of Education in Chattanooga, TN.  She began a STEM fellows program for educators while at the Public Education Foundation as the head of Southeast Tennessee STEM Hub. She spearheaded the fascinating 4K microscopy project, with support from the Enterprise Center, and has been at the forefront of creating innovative learning opportunities that leverage gigabit technology.

Keri Randolph

Photo provided by Keri Randolph

We asked Keri to tell us more about her gigabit journey. Here’s what she had to say:
What is your background with gigabit-enabled educational technologies and with Mozilla?
I was a science teacher for 10 years before moving to Chattanooga.  I worked for the Public Education Foundation as the Vice President of Learning and Director of the Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub before joining the Hamilton County school district as Assistant Superintendent of Innovation in October.
I became fascinated with the Gig around 2012.  To be honest, I didn’t really know or understand what it meant to be a GigCity until I saw LOLA (LOw LAtency audio visual streaming system) in action. Here is an example. As an educator, I saw the potential for so many amazing learning experiences from connecting and communicating in robust and authentic ways to people a world away, to having access to resources and tools not physically present in our community. In 2013, we began brainstorming applications of the Gig to education which was truly innovative, because no one was really applying the Gig to K-12.  We received funding from NSF through an Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) grant to partner with the University of Southern California (USC) on a gigabit project which allowed STEM School Chattanooga students to design and conduct experiments in microbial ecology under the guidance of research scientists at USC.  The students collected data by controlling a 4K video microscope that was 1800 miles away using a GENI connection. You can watch a short video about it below. I first became connected with Mozilla around the same time as part of the Hive Learning Network and the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund.

What is your favorite thing about gigabit technology? Why?
I like that it is a disruptive space in K-12 where there aren’t many examples to copy, or even from which to learn.  This allows for true innovation and dreaming of what’s possible.  The blended learning models that are and will be possible with gigabit technology are changing education- maybe as much or more than the printing press.  The fact that we are on the ground floor of the technology means that we get to dream and think deeply about what really is best for kids and imagine learning environments that will be – not the ones that are.  That’s exciting.
Tell us about the gigabit project that you are most proud to have contributed to.
The 4K video microscope project is my proudest gigabit moment thus far.  The chance to provide a learning experience for students that wouldn’t otherwise have been possible – and inspire interest in science – that’s the ultimate as an educator.
How did the 4K microscopy project get started? How did you help? Why was gigabit technology essential for this work?
The 4K microscope project started through conversations with the Annenberg Innovation Lab at EPB, PEF and USC.  We needed ultra-high speed, low latency through the GENI for students to be able to remotely control the 4K video microscope and stream the 4K video in real time.

Keri Randolph

Keri Randolph and Maria Jefferson, student at STEM School Chattanooga, demoing the 4K video microscope at the US Ignite/GENI Summit in DC last year. Photo provided by Keri Randolph.

How are you inspiring others in STEM? Tell us more about your fellow program.
The STEM Teaching Fellows is a year-long professional learning experience for K-12 public school teachers from around the region.  We focus on project-based learning, community partnerships and best practices in STEM.  Teachers complete a job shadow, and we meet in workplaces around the region to tie our experiences to the real-world and to workplace skills.  As part of the experience, we also focus on innovation in education including makerspaces, technology, computer science, etc.  We also do leadership training and provide support for teachers to become STEM leaders in their classrooms, schools, districts and community.  They are required to complete a community partner project, with many hosting STEM nights or developing project-based learning experiences by partnering with a local business.  Now in its fourth year, the program includes almost 120 STEM Fellows.
We’d love to hear about Teacherpreneur Incubator, a new support system for teachers.
Through my work at the STEM Innovation Hub and collaboration with partners such as Hive, I became fascinated with the growing tech entrepreneurial community in Chattanooga.  The dynamic ecosystem forming around the Gig provided both support and spark for innovation.  I felt we needed this same support and community for our teachers.  After all, the best teachers are entrepreneurial in that they are constantly thinking of ways to improve and innovate to better serve their students.  In 2014, we launched the Teacherpreneur Incubator which offers teachers the time, space and support to launch big ideas in the best interests of their students, community and the teaching profession.  It brings together educators, community members and business to launch and support transformative ideas.  Modeled after Co.Lab’s 48Hour Launch, teachers receive support to develop their ideas into a pitch which they give to a team of judges at the culmination of the Teacherpreneur 48Hour Launch weekend.  Now in its third year, the Teacherpeneur Incubator has elevated the teaching profession by creating and supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem for our teachers and  creating a public forum for their work.  Through the support of Mozilla’s Hive Network and other partners, we’ve been able to connect teachers like Cristol Kapp to technologists and makers to turn dreams like Cristol’s of turning her elementary school library into a makerspace where her kids could create and collaborate into reality. You can find more information on the Teacherpreneur Incubator here.
To learn more about Keri, follow her on Twitter.
Do you know someone that has made tremendous strides towards spreading global web literacy or has made an impact through a gigabit community, Mozilla Club, classroom, or the #teachtheweb community at large? Share their story with us.