“The Possibilities Are Endless”
Warner Family Gift Funds Hybrid Learning, Future Innovation
By Karen Lewis Taylor | Back to Table of Contents
As a tech entrepreneur, Amelia Warner has long believed in the potential for technology to be “part of the solution for every type of problem.”
That belief is what led her and her husband, Michael — parents of Ravenscroft students Elle ’26 and Emme ’28 — to create the Warner Family Endowment for Technology & Innovation in 2018. The fund has been used to purchase computer equipment and software and to endow the Warner Family Innovation Hub, a computer science classroom in the Keim Center for Innovation and Research.
“Ravenscroft is a school leader in technology across the state of North Carolina,” Amelia Warner said, “and we wanted to make sure they had the tools and resources available to continue to be a leader — to make sure students leaving Ravenscroft were able to seamlessly think, as they’re problem solving in the future, about how technology can be part of the solution.”
So it’s no surprise that, given the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Warners knew technology would be integral to the school’s plan for a hybrid approach to instruction. Over the summer, they came forward with a substantial gift that helped make that plan a reality.
Michael and Amelia Warner with their daughters, Elle ’26 and Emme ’28. Photo courtesy of Renee Sprink.
“TECHNOLOGY PROVIDED THE SOLUTION”
The Warners quickly homed in on what Phil Higginson, Associate Head of School for Philanthropy, described as “two essential needs” identified by school leadership: the purchase of Meeting OWL Pros — compact audio-video units that capture classroom activity and allow students working from home to interact with their teachers and classmates — and an expansion of the school’s Chromebook program to include students in grades one through four, plus upgrades for faculty and staff.
“We knew we needed to think first about the health and safety of our students and teachers and find a positive way to continue to provide education for students of all circumstances,” Amelia said. “Technology provided the solution.”
For students and teachers joining classes remotely this fall, the Meeting OWL Pros and the numerous educational platforms and apps they can access with their Chromebooks have been invaluable.
The Meeting OWL Pro, shown here in Upper School Mandarin teacher Yi-Wen Liu’s class, captures audio and video to connect students and teachers joining from home with those on campus.
“The OWL technology has been a phenomenal help toward my feeling included and present in my classes,” Ava Lindsey ’21 said of her experiences learning from home. “I can hear the commentary of all of my classmates as well as my teacher and respond accordingly. In addition, I have a 360-degree view of the classroom, which increases the feeling of being physically present. I can’t imagine learning virtually without the OWL now.”
“The OWL has helped me feel more integrated into my class and into the classroom,” said Grant Corkum ’25, who has enjoyed a mix of in-person and remote instruction this fall. “I also find the app Kami to be extremely helpful. It’s a very easy way to annotate any document or image, and it directly integrates into Canvas [the school’s new learning management system].”
Kaia Ramakrishnan ’25 noted that the school’s technology even enabled her to participate remotely in a small-group presentation inspired by her class’s study of “Animal Farm.” Teacher Sarah Baker had tasked her Advanced Language Arts 8 students with creating and performing skits, with virtual-learning students participating via Zoom, and Kaia’s group created a satire, “Keeping Up With the Kardashi-hams.”
“It was really fun because my group came up with a way to include me,” Kaia explained.
In this clip from her group’s skit, Kaia Ramakrishnan ’25 hosts “Keeping Up With the Kardashi-hams” via Zoom as Payton Earwood ’25 and Anna Sonntag ’25 — dressed as the “Animal Farm” pigs — debate proposed farm improvements.
“NOW RAVENS CAN BE ADAPTABLE”
While the impact of their gift is certainly evident today, the Warners emphasized that they value the long-term vision the school’s approach to technology represents as well.
“We’re seamless in our transitions across divisions, because everyone is using the same devices and platforms. It opens so many opportunities for our students,” Amelia said. “And now Ravens can be adaptable — they can have emergency family circumstances and travel, they can go to another location with their family for a semester or a year and still be Ravens. They can participate fully in the curriculum. That was really important for us to support.”
Ravenscroft IT staff Jason Willert, at left, and Chris Michael prepare new Chromebooks for faculty and students.
For the family of Anton Barbone ’23, that flexibility proved critical. Already well-versed in technology — Tony Barbone is a tech executive who often works remotely — the family realized it could provide a solution for them as their summer, spent in their vacation home on the West Coast, ended and they learned their daughters, Tatiana and Alexandra ’19, would not be returning to in-person learning at college.
“We faced a dilemma juggling university schedules across multiple time zones. If we flew back to our home in Raleigh, one student would be in class until midnight. Moving them into apartments in different cities at either end of the country to learn remotely didn’t seem like the right thing to do either,” Elisa Barbone explained. “Anton loves all things technology-related, so he welcomed remote learning in the spring. We had hoped Ravenscroft would provide us the option of choosing to continue learning remotely in the fall. Problem solved! We stayed on the West Coast through the end of October.”
Anton Barbone ’23 (shown here on a hike) welcomed the opportunity to continue learning from his family’s vacation home outside of Seattle, Washington, this fall.
“THEY CAN BE TRUE INNOVATORS”
The Warners’ daughters have been taking advantage of remote learning this fall as well, meaning Michael and Amelia are experiencing firsthand the impact of their gifts — and of the school’s approach to teaching and learning overall.
“One of the things I’m most proud about is that our kids are getting a holistic education,” Amelia said. “The Lead From Here framework helps them think about how their place in society is impacted by what they do today — their approach to technology really does affect outcome — and our students are learning to critically evaluate what happens in their world, what happens in technology.”
Grant Corkum ’25 has enjoyed the flexibility of the hybrid-learning approach, transitioning between at-home and on-campus learning as needed.
“The way technology moves, the possibilities are endless,” Michael said. “Having these students understand that and come out of school as knowledgeable — to be a part of every technology, really, robotics programming and artificial intelligence and everything else they’re doing right now — means they can be true innovators and disruptors. The more education and background they have in these technologies that are cutting-edge, the more they’re thinking about it at a younger age, they could be the next Bezos or Gates.”
The robust technology supporting this year’s hybrid learning allows Middle School science teacher Melissa Spainhour to lead her classes remotely.