SnapStream Blog

Interview: Jeff Ritter on being a K-12 CIO

August 23 2016 by Sara Howard



Interview: Jeff Ritter on being a K-12 CIO

Jeff Ritter was kind enough to speak to us about his role as Director of Technology at St. John’s School here in Houston. St. John's School is one of the most respected private schools in the country, currently #22 in the US and #1 in Houston . We're pleased to say they've been a long time customer and supporter of SnapStream.

Q: Tell me about your role as Director of Technology at St. John's School.

I function like a corporate CIO. I manage the team that installs, supports, and builds out any technology used by the faculty, students, and staff on campus. We have a Network Administrator that manages the infrastructure, support personnel that support the students and faculty, and a few database people that manage the data. Anything that works on the network and has 1’s and 0’s is usually our baby to take care of.

Q: How does a Director of Technology for a school differ from a corporate CTO?

The CTO is very much a true director of technology. The piece that makes this more of a CIO role is that I also manage the curriculum people that manage interfacing with faculty on how to better use the tools available at our disposal, SnapStream being one of those. Once you add in that curricular piece, it becomes more of a job where you’re managing not only technology but also managing information.

“when I bring a tool to the classroom...I try to see the value in it through the faculty lens.”

Q: Does being more of a CIO role change what you look for in a new technology?

That’s a good question. A lot of Directors of Technology that have come out of industry don’t have classroom experience so they don’t have a foot to stand on when they try to bring a new technology to the faculty.

I actually came at this from the teaching side and taught for years before I became an administrator. I continue to teach now and when I bring a tool to the classroom or a teacher, usually either I’ve used it in the classroom, or I’ve asked a teacher to use it in their classroom. I try to see the value in it through the faculty lens. Being able to say, “I’ve used this in my classroom, I love it”, “this is what my kids take away from it”, “this is what it has allowed me to do differently”...that really helps.

The people on my staff that work in the curricular side have all been classroom teachers, so that helps us be able to discuss tools with faculty from a point of strength.

Q: Does the training level of the teacher need to be considered when taking on new technologies?

It’s one of the first hurdles that we go through, looking at a new technology or tool. As all schools do, we’ve got a wide representation of skill sets in our faculty. You may look at a tool that’s fairly complicated but think, “I’ve got 5 teachers that could handle this and it would immediately help them”.

But if you’re looking for something to roll out across the board, ease of use is one of the first hurdles you look at. You can’t bring something over-complicated nowadays, unless it does something really specific and really awesome.

Q: If ease-of-use is one of the multiple hurdles, what are some of the others?

Price. It’s always something that a school is considering. Is it a one-time fee?  An on-going cost? Is there a discount for multiple years?

Breadth of use. Is it something specific for physics teachers in 11th grade? Or is it a tool that is going to be used in grade 6th-12th in all disciplines? The wider the breadth the better the tool is. It may be a struggle for those that aren’t classroom teachers, but you have to ask if it’s going to do something that really furthers teaching and learning and removes rote memorization.

Is it something you’re subscribing to outside your district or is it something within the school. If it’s in the school, will it need a dedicated server? How much bandwidth is going to take up?

"The wider the breadth the better the tool is."


Q: How is St. John’s using SnapStream?

A lot of the teachers who use it are using it to record certain TV programs that they then want to go back and figure out if there are sections they can use in their classroom to either demonstrate a real world application or use as an authentic voice in a language class.

Are there things that can be grabbed out of a video that can show a student how a topic that you’re going over applies in the real world? Or, is there something historical happening that we’re recording so that we can have record of that and have a debate about it or a discussion?

But the idea is that with SnapStream, you can find clips that are appropriate for your classroom and your kids can watch it before they come to class. Then in class you can then discuss it and have real, meaningful, thought-provoking ways to then discuss that material in class. It goes beyond just what the student may have read for homework.


We’ve had coaches use it, where they record the NCAA soccer championships and have the team watch it. Then they pick it apart to look at formations and when to attack and when not to attack. Video now is all just so easy to get points across, and kids are so visually stimulated that it makes it so easy to use the SnapStream tool to find what you’re looking for and then use it in the classroom, or for homework or whatever.

“...with SnapStream, you have real, meaningful, thought-provoking ways to discuss that material in class. It goes beyond just what the student may have read for homework.”

Do you have any interesting examples of how St. John’s is using SnapStream?

Our French teacher tapes the nightly French news because she wants her class to hear authentic voices. So, part of the homework for listening comprehension is to listen to this news program and write about what you got out of it. So, the students are working on not only the listening ear, but the comprehension, and being able to translate that into “this is what I learned”. She has the ability to record these shows and grab the snips that she wants to share, giving the students the chance to hear true, authentic voices.

Our previous American History teachers during the last few elections grabbed the debates and events going on in the news involving the political environment. You can pick your topic and grab news stories as they come up. So that if you wanted to do immigration, abortion or fiscal responsibility, you can grab those clips and then have the students have a debate to discuss what they saw and the factors that go into who our next president may be.

Q: Can you tell me what the process was like for obtaining TV shows or clips before SnapStream?

Before, teachers just didn’t really do it. If you knew of the TV clip, you might be able to google it or find it on YouTube. But even then, you’re at the mercy of “did you see it?” and go from there. Before that, some teachers might have been recording on VHS. You also had teachers buying video sets, especially from PBS, where you knew of a show like Cosmos where 3 episodes of season 6 had content you wanted. But you were at the disposal of what you knew of and what you could get your hands on.

With SnapStream, you can record the nightly news and if you know something happened you can then go search for it. If you’re not sure something’s going on, you can pick out words and it’s going to let you know where those words appear in a show and you can go and grab it. It’s made it a lot easier because you have this search capability with TV that you’ve never had before.

"SnapStream has made it a lot easier because you have this search capability with TV that you’ve never had before."

Q: Within the edtech space, are there any trends that you see?

The collaborative space is big for us right now, and that’s not fancy, but it’s just where we are. Our kids and teachers are wanting to work on things not individually but as groups and even as a teacher/student team. Video is a huge part of that collaboration. Tools like WeVideo, Animoto, and Pixie allow kids to work together on larger projects.  There are so many possibilities of how you can cut, slice and dice video to determine what content you want to get out of it.

Q: You obviously have a different point of view, having come from the classroom. When looking for new technologies, what advice would you give another Director of Technology that didn’t come out of the classroom?

1. Listen to your faculty. Have a few faculty members from different departments and grade levels that will share what they are seeing. The thing is, our faculty are going out to conferences all over the place and they’re being inundated with tools, so sometimes they come back with great ideas but once we start to scratch the surface we realize we already have something like this.

2. Teacher "brain trust". For someone that isn’t in the classroom, it’s important to have a group of teachers that they can bounce ideas off of, that they can have test a tool. If something like SnapStream comes across your desk, you think “wow, we’re trying to do more video, this might be a great tool”. Having a group of teachers that you can go to who they trust you and you trust them and say, “hey, let's do a webinar on this and test this out, is this something our faculty might like?”.

3. Undersatnd the specific need. As you’re going out to look for tools, try to get a clear idea of what the teacher is trying to accomplish with their classroom and this particular tool. Work with this teacher to investigate the possibilities, because partnering with teachers is going to help you. The Directors of Technology I see that fail are the ones who don’t try to partner with teachers and try to thrust it down someone’s throat or they don’t listen. Having teachers that you can say , “hey, what do you think about this (technology)”, or “what tools are you using now?” “are there things that I can recommend to other teachers?”.

4. Try building a rapport. A reputation as someone that is listening and learning and trying to figure out what teachers need will go a long way.

Want to learn more about how SnapStream can bring TV to the classroom with ease? Contact usto learn more.

Next up! Journalism Interactive at the University of Florida

February 06 2013 by Rachel Abbott

Journalism Interactive

Getting Interactive

Tomorrow SnapStream will be participating at Journalism Interactive 2013, a new conference focused on intertwining journalism education and digital media. Host of the second annual event, the University of Florida houses one of the top 10 journalism schools in the country.

Scholars, practitioners, teachers and students, from universities near and far, will congregate at Journalism Interactive to share their successful approaches for delivering journalism education in today's metamorphic media space.


Journalism Interactive

I graduated from UF's journalism school, so I'm filled with excitement about SnapStream's involvement with Journalism Interactive, which serves a tremendous purpose. It's admirable that this group of universities is taking an active role in seeking out new, influential technology and trends, and incorporating them into their curriculums.

Teaching Broadcast Journalism

Plain and simple, SnapStream provides universities with a new, digital platform for studying and teaching broadcast journalism:

  • With computer-based access to live and recorded television, professors can implement new teaching and research methods. Like at Emerson College, Graduate Journalism Professor Paul Niwa teaches students how to compare and contrast the coverage of a single news event across various outlets and networks.
  • By downloading transcripts and using the TV search feature, graduate students can count keywords and perform advanced content analysis.
  • Over time, universities will develop a searchable TV archive or library, which then becomes a valuable research tool and media resource.

Meet us in Gainesville

Are you going to be in Gainesville for Journalism Interactive? Let us know!

Dear Teachers, TV Makes Kids Happy

August 15 2012 by Rachel Abbott

Remember the days when your teacher would roll in a TV cart from the school library?

You knew what that meant. TV in the classroom = awesome. The day's lesson was about to come alive through video.

When we spotted this picture on George Takei's Facebook page the other day, it made us smile, because it represents a significant trend in education. And we put our own little spin on it.

Video, while not a new medium, continues to excite students in new ways. It's the fact that rich video is available anywhere and everywhere, from YouTube to mobile devices. It's because TV is always fresh, relevant and relatable. Once you have the classroom engaged, the real learning truly begins. We know video is a powerful and dynamic teaching tool, because more and more schools are streaming TV to the classroom with SnapStream's technology.


One SnapStream sits in your school's media center (not actually wheeled around). Teachers then log in from their computers and play recordings (or clips) on their projectors or TVs. See how engaged and connected your class will be when you show them the Curiosity rover landing on Mars or the latest presidential debate.

Just lose the cart and DVD player/VCR. It's not very 2012.

Engaging students in the classroom with technology

December 20 2010 by Rachel Abbott

Today's generation is "growing up digital", yet "wired for distraction."

Matt Richtel of the The New York Times put it so eloquently, as he recently covered this emerging trend to illustrate a bigger academic issue.

A myriad of tech toys are luring students' focus from their school-related tasks: computers, laptops, iPads, iPods, smartphones, handheld gaming consoles, and the list goes on ad nauseam! Imagine looking through the eyes of these millennial youngsters.

How can a standard textbook compete with the fun and interactivity of an e-book reader? How does a dull worksheet compare to a smartphone?

As educators and as a society, we must embrace new technology and applications, instead of trying to battle them or ban them from learning environments. SnapStream is a fervent believer in integrating technology into the classroom, and our specialty encompasses TV search and TV streaming.

Kids love TV. It's a hot medium with moving pictures and sounds that combine to form a brilliant memory aid when it comes to retaining information. While TV is nothing new (per se), it's still the most influential and powerful source of breaking news and local updates. (See results of a fascinating broadcast study released earlier this year.)

Plus, the delivery mechanism of TV is constantly evolving. Look at Google TV, which melds the Web and social apps with traditional TV. Consider SnapStream's technology, which enables keyword search over televised closed-captioning.

While textbooks contain unchanging history, television adds a freshly updated perspective to the lesson.

Find a relevant program on the subject or unit in progress, and the planned lesson can be adapted to what's airing today. New stories and developments found on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, CNN and elsewhere make for a brilliant curricular supplement.

So, what have we learned?

Students will be more engaged and stimulated when learning is hands-on. Taking the fun-and-games gadgetry they use outside of school, and using it in school, could be the recipe for a breakthrough.

And when technology funding is an issue, there are public service programs, such as Cable in the Classroom, and government grant programs like Ed-Tech, designed to help with that. Because let's face it, the iPad is a luxury for a public school system... but television? Open access to TV should be a staple in all classrooms. (20th or 21st century!)

Readers, I'd love to know, what ways are you using technology in the classroom today? Feel free to share how you're innovating with what budgets you have.

Talking with Paul Hitlin, Project for Excellence in Journalism

June 25 2010 by Rachel Abbott

Keeping our good word and following up from this previous post, we're giving you the replay of our J-School webinar featuring Content Supervisor Paul Hitlin at the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Paul Hitlin joined us on 5/26 before a virtual group of university educators, all eager to learn about fresh methods of conducting research, as well as sources for funneling data-rich content into their institutions of higher learning.

"We analyze primarily what topics are being covered. How much time is spent on the oil spill? How much is spent on Iraq, on healthcare?"

Catch a glimpse into PEJ below. The clip illustrates how they've incorporated SnapStream into their quantitative research process, which is quite systematic. Visit our YouTube channel to view the remaining chapters of the webinar, including further insight from Paul on how they used to do things pre-SnapStream.

Top 10 things you didn't know about PEJ:

10. Under the umbrella (not Rihanna's)
It's one of seven projects under the umbrella of the Pew Research Center

9. Defined by what they're NON
"NON partisan, NON ideological & NON political"

8. They're not a think tank, but
A "fact tank," navigating the information revolution

7. You'll never guess their claim to fame
The largest human coding news organization in the U. S. of A

6. Get this, they even have human bots
Well, kind of. 15 full-time coders that scour 52 media outlets daily

5. On a mission that's possible
To evaluate and study the performance of the press (via content analysis)

4. Historically speaking
It started 9 years ago in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

3. Serious news flash and power
News coding research began in mid-2006, with DVD burners and manpower

2. GRANTED for curricular support
Stony Brook University gave PEJ a grant to fund the SnapStream Server

1. Searching TV is a snap!
The team upgraded to SnapStream in January 2010


Customer spotlight: Project for Excellence in Journalism analyzes news with SnapStream

May 20 2010 by Rachel Abbott

Publishing widely regarded content analysis, the Project for Excellence in Journalism serves an important role: keeping the industry in check.

A non-profit, non-partisan organization under the umbrella of Pew's Research Center, PEJ is a vital resource for journalists and citizens dedicated to the study and reflection of the press.

With teams of analysts watching and dissecting broadcast news on a daily basis, the Project makes great use of the SnapStream Server to capture traditional television and stream recordings right from their desktops, all in the name of empirical research.

Speaking to the Project's Content Supervisor, Paul Hitlin, I gathered that this type of technology has made their workflow become much smoother; they were able to eliminate the hassle of burning DVDs and bringing them to their work stations, not to mention keeping them organized!

What they find useful about going digital: they can directly play back content and archive it. This makes it easy to handle simultaneous things--like side-by-side comparisons of news outlets and writing up research findings--all in one place, from the PC.

Register now

Webinar with Paul Hitlin Wednesday, May 26 3:30 p.m. EST / 12:30 p.m. PST

Paul Hitlin has graciously agreed to share his insights from the front lines, covering the bases of broadcast news analysis. On the horizon, he sees vast potential for the PEJ to expand the scope of quantitative trends they can isolate in the media from the source of TV search technology.

For professors and professionals in journalism and communications, there's so much you can learn from Paul and what PEJ is doing. I hope you'll join us next Wednesday, May 26 for a live webinar and interactive question and answer session.


How journalism schools and TV shows use SnapStream (by Columbia Journalism Review)

April 07 2010 by Rakesh

Alexandra Fenwick at the Columbia Journalism Review interviewed me on a recent trip to New York City. That interview resulted in this piece about SnapStream and how folks are using it in academia and in entertainment. Check it out!

Bye, Bye Costly Cable Drops!

March 25 2010 by Rachel Abbott

Learn how Plymouth Public Schools streams TV

Join the conversation at our webinar next Wednesday with Rich Trudeau, director of technology for the Plymouth Board of Education. He'll be logging in with us to co-host “Streaming TV into your School” on March 31 @ 2:30 PM CST. (That’s 3:30 EST/12:30 PST.)

Rich will share his thoughts on media delivery and streaming TV. It’s a real treat when we get to bring a current customer into the mix, live and ready to interact. It makes things more three dimensional for the attendees and also opens up the floor for discovering how SnapStream flows into real-world application.

The setup at Terryville High School in Rich’s district allows 50 classrooms to connect with the SnapStream Server over the LAN. From their PCs, teachers can record the freshest-airing educational content and search by keyword to pinpoint subject-related programs.

Teachers at Terryville can then create focused clips, or stream the full-length programs into their classroom activities. Up to 10 channels can DVR at one time, so conflicts don’t ever occur, and everything is stored in a shared video library that holds 2,000+ hours. No more bulky VHS and DVD archives!

One year out with SnapStream, Rich tells us that teachers in his district are “definitely integrating it into their plans books” and are “more than happy with it.”

To hear more from Rich Trudeau, consider joining us next Wednesday, March 31. Sign up here.

Monitoring Your School's TV Media Coverage

November 10 2009 by Melissa Kidonakis

Join us on Tuesday, November 17th for our web seminar geared towards Media and Public Relations Specialists of higher learning institutes interested in monitoring their schools TV media coverage.

If you are currently using a media monitoring subscription service to track TV mentions of your school and its affiliates, then you've realized how quickly the price of video clips adds up.

Unlike traditional media monitoring subscription services, the SnapStream Server is a one time purchase, turnkey appliance that enables you to record, search and create unlimited high-quality clips without any incremental costs. A cross between a DVR and search engine the SnapStream Server enables you to immediately pinpoint any mention of interest and then quickly and properly respond to the coverage.

SnapStream is currently used in Public Affairs Offices to:

  • Record & search thousands of hours of TV
  • Pinpoint mentions of interest
  • Create unlimited clips of full recordings
  • Respond appropriately and quickly to TV coverage

Attend our one hour web seminar to learn more about the benefits Media and Public Relations Specialists have found by implementing the SnapStream Server
into their workflow.

Web Seminar: TV Monitoring for Public Affairs Officers in Higher Education
When: Tuesday, November 17th, 2009; 2:30 - 3:30 PM (CST)
Cost: Free

Sign me Up!

Stream TV to the Classroom using your existing LAN

July 06 2009 by Melissa Kidonakis


On Tuesday, July 14th, join us for our web seminar geared towards K-12 schools looking to stream television to the classroom.

The SnapStream Server is a DVR appliance that allows schools to distribute television using their existing LAN, projectors and electronic whiteboards, eliminating the need for expensive RF cable drops, traditional TVs, VCRs and DVRs. In addition, the SnapStream server gives you the flexibility to record anything on TV, from PBS to Discovery to the History Channel to CNN. And unlike Safari Montage or Discovery Streaming, the SnapStream Server does not come with any expensive subscription fees.

Using educational TV programs in the classroom, teachers can reinforce and expand on material being taught and increase student interest in learning. SnapStream makes TV useful to educators in entirely new ways — using SnapStream’s easy-to-use TV search technology, teachers can pinpoint relevant TV content themselves and then easily create clips and download for use in their class curriculum.

Attend our web seminar to learn more about providing your teachers with a valuable new teaching tool - the SnapStream TV Server.

Web Seminar: Stream TV to the classroom over the LAN
When: Tuesday, July 14th; 2:30 CST

Sign me Up!

What is SnapStream? There's an unlimited amount of video content out there: 24/7 news channels, breaking news events, sports, talk shows, awards galas, entertainment shows, and so much more.

SnapStream makes a real-time news and media search engine that makes it fast and easy to find the video moments that support our customers telling great stories.

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