Jeff McMahon is the Chief Information Officer at the Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Decatur Township Schools in Indianapolis, IN, a public school district with over 6,000 students in grades K‐12, including a Kindergarten, four elementary schools, two intermediate schools, one middle school and a high school, as well as a charter and alternative school. With the district for over 16 months now, Jeff brings more than 29 years of experience in largely technology‐centered roles. As Decatur’s CIO, he orchestrates all their technology, including student data, student management systems and more. “I’ve always jumped in on the beginning to some of this cutting‐edge stuff over the years by writing a lot of grants,” says Jeff, who was part of a $9 million Department of Education Challenge Grant back in the early 2000’s that established Indiana’s very first problem‐based learning 1‐to‐1 laptop program, among the first in the nation.
As technology continued to advance, one of Jeff’s main concerns had to do with an abundance of student work creating overly hefty file sizes. “Students were creating really big movies and graphics and putting them together to present for their problem‐based learning projects — and we often lost everything. There was no way to transfer content back and forth; it was just really clunky. We’d have really good presentations, but no way to easily share and archive them.”
Trusted, safe and secure
From earlier days, Jeff knew Michael Kessler, a trusted contact with deep experience and success in educational productivity and communication tools. When Michael released MyVRSpot, a video management solution built specifically for education, Jeff recognized it as “the perfect solution. I can give every student an account; when they save their movie they can upload to MyVRSpot where they have a repository of all their movies. Then, we go to the presentation and there’s all that web access — and links. We can simply click and see the presentation,” Jeff observes.
That there existed a smooth, easy way to share school‐related videos in a safe, secure and controlled environment was extremely gratifying. Other benefits took Jeff by surprise. “Grandma and Grandpa could see them, Mom and Dad, other students; you had a way of sharing — and it just grew and grew,” says Jeff. An early leader in video management, MyVRSpot has only become more robust. “It really was one of the first video tools,” Jeff notes. “Now, every time you turn on your computer, videos are everywhere — but back when this came out, it was really the cutting edge of video production and sharing, in a really easy way. It was just seamless.”
Better than YouTube
Today, the platform has had the advantage of time and upgrades, so it’s still seamless, secure and easy to use, but now more than ever — and with more specific attention to school needs than another familiar video platform. “MyVRSpot gives us a safe and secure environment where we can store all of our media files,” says Jeff. “Sure, some students will still go straight to YouTube, but you don’t want all your stuff on YouTube,” he warns. “For one, you don’t own it anymore. The kids like YouTube, so when they see MyVRSpot and say, ‘Oh, okay, this looks like YouTube’ then it works out nicely. And I still think they post things in YouTube, but we have made this available to them so they can safely upload their work.” Initially, Jeff just wanted a place for videos, wherever that might be, where he could easily store and retrieve them. However, in Jeff’s experience, that kind of ease of use is simply not workable in a classroom or school situation. Overburdening existing machines with files, dealing with weakened memory, overloading laptops — all catches up to any user very quickly. He desperately needed an easy storage and management system, and got much more than he expected. “They could store a lot more stuff with MyVRSpot, and even gather people to share it and see it. But I didn’t even consider you could just send someone a link and be on it, or other kids could be in your group and see and rate videos, and things like that — like YouTube, but safer and more controlled.”
Control is good
Is it really worth it? The answer to that question depends on how much a school district values safety, security and privacy, and could have legal ramifications as well. “Part of my job is to ensure our student data is kept safe, and one thing I don’t like is for our students to post materials into a third‐party system that I have no control of,” says Jeff. He wouldn’t know if they were doing something inappropriate or even what they were doing. “And if it represented our school district