Matt Veino has worked in Information Technology for the South Colonie Central School District since 2004. He is responsible for helping to keep students and staff virtually connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since July 1, the South Colonie IT Department has handled more than 5000 requests for assistance — more than double that of a typical year.
Q: Obviously this year is an anomaly, but do you see any of the remote learning having more of a place in our education system once we get through COVID?
A: I do, however not necessarily to the extent that students are learning virtually at the moment. Going forward I see an enormous benefit in having information at a student’s fingertips — a video of a teacher’s lesson, using the internet to research a topic, or to reach out directly to a teacher via virtual meeting to ask a specific question.
At the upper levels I foresee more remote instruction to better prepare students for independent learning in college. In addition we may be able to provide more unique opportunities for students if there is a program outside of our institution that a student would like to participate in.
While virtual learning will never be able to fully replicate the in person experience, as a supplement the benefits are enormous.
Q: What is the biggest challenge to online learning and how do you overcome it?
A: I have three children learning virtually this year so I have first-hand experience from the parent perspective as well as the IT perspective.
From the IT perspective it has been difficult to make sure that all students have equal access to technology. Getting a device into the student’s hands is only the first step — making sure it is working properly in their homes has been more difficult. To overcome that we have an incredible team in IT that monitors our help desk to work personally with those having issues.
A more broad challenge we’ve had to focus on is the privacy and security of our students. Extending the classroom to the internet creates a wider platform to which student data is transferred. We have had to work with educational vendors to obtain confidentiality agreements to make sure every program we’re working with is safe to use.
As a parent — keeping students engaged is difficult, especially at lower grade levels. My daughters’ teachers have been fantastic, but the reality is that parental involvement is key to make sure they stay on task. Variety in schedule and activities has been the best way to overcome this, but it is still a challenge.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest technological advance of the last 20 years?
A: Miniaturization. Twenty years ago I was a freshman in the computer science program at Boston College. Very few students had laptops they would bring to class — most had desktops in their rooms and we would go to a computer lab for programming assignments. Skip forward 20 years, and the phones in our pockets are more powerful than what I had on my desk and computing is integrated into everything from cars to Christmas lights.
Q: Where do you see it going over the next decade? Artificial intelligence? Embedded chips to plug us in 24/7?
A: When reading this question a quote popped into my head from “Spaceship Earth” in Epcot. The ride is an exploration of technological advances throughout history. Once it gets to the present, it ends: “Together we form a super network that goes with billions of interactions, and once again we stand on the brink of a new Renaissance.” We’re in the midst of that Renaissance right now — and while I see more and more devices being networked in the years ahead, my hope is that more time is focused on better utilizing what we already have. We’re already to the point where our devices are speaking to one another — from smart homes to social media. But my hope is that going forward we start to focus more on how we utilize this global network to better our lives and our society as opposed to ignoring any potential consequences.
Q: Is there one person from the tech world, alive or dead, you would like to have lunch with and why?
A: Walt Disney. While most wouldn’t necessarily think of him as part of the “tech world”, he pushed the boundaries to utilize technology to its full potential and further research.
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things … and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” — Walt Disney.
If you know anyone you would like to see featured in Five Questions, contact Jim Franco at 518-878-1000 or [email protected].