Educators have lots of questions about how edtech can accelerate teaching and learning. What’s not easy to find are reliable answers. “Your Edtech Questions,” the new podcast from the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE), tackles critical questions at the juncture of edtech research and classroom practice. In each episode, Zac Chase, PK-12 language arts coordinator at St. Vrain Valley Schools in Colorado, and Amal Giknis, an English teacher at Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy, turn your edtech questions into edtech answers with the help of an ISTE expert. As the hosts plunge into real questions from real teachers in each episode, you’ll get an in-depth understanding of the issue along with authentic classroom solutions. And you can count on the advice, since ISTE has opened up its networks and resources, and provided unprecedented access to the leading edtech experts. If you’re an educator looking for reliable professional development on critical edtech topics, “Your Edtech Questions” is the podcast for you!
How can we leverage OER to make more inclusive curriculum resources?
Chances are, if you’re an LGBTQ student, you’ve never been able to see yourself reflected in the materials teachers use at school. That’s because curriculum that is inclusive of the LGBTQ population is rare to nonexistent in most schools. That’s just beginning to change. A few states are revising curriculum standards to include the LGBTQ representation. But the biggest hope for spreading inclusive curriculum is through openly licensed resources, also known as OER, which can be freely shared. OER allow teachers to find inclusive curriculum and customize it to their needs. In this episode of Your Edtech Questions, Sabia Prescott from the New America think tank talks about the nascent efforts to create OER curriculum that’s LGBTQ-inclusive.
How are open educational resources (OER) like a free puppy?
Open educational resources are the education world’s version of the sharing economy. OER is curriculum and other learning materials that are shared without cost and without copyrights. That allows users to adapt the materials any way they want and freely share their new creations with anyone. That’s different than copyrighted materials, which are protected intellectual property that restrict sharing. With OER, there’s no revenue stream to protect. Sounds like a good deal, right? It is, but, like a free puppy, there is care and feeding involved. For starters, finding them, vetting them and understanding how best to use them takes a lot of time and resources. Kristina Ishmael, an OER specialist for the Washington, D.C.-nonprofit New America, offers an OER primer and describes what’s involved when a school wants to start using OER materials. She explains how materials from the Office of Education Technology (tech.ed.gov/open/districts/launch) and the New America website (www.newamerica.org) can help educators get started so that they experience more joy and less annoyance from their new puppy.
How do teachers working in under-resourced schools do innovative things with technology?
Michael Bonner, a teacher, author and speaker, has attracted much attention for his innovative teaching methods at an elementary school in North Carolina where the vast majority of students come from low-income homes. The school went through 14 administrator changes over the course of six years. So, the school’s 1:1 iPad initiative foundered as the lack of administrative continuity resulted in an absence of leadership for technology use and training for teachers. Bonner talks about how in that vacuum, he and his colleagues banded together to help one another learn to use technology effectively. They also found help in online communities where they connected with other educators who were happy to share how they were successfully using technology for learning. Bonner’s advice for teachers in such situations: Don’t wait for help to arrive and be fearless about asking for advice both face to face and online. Also, he says, don’t fear failure or the occasional chaos that comes with trying something new.
Danielle Feinberg from Pixar answers the question, how can we tap into our creativity using technology?
For Danielle Feinberg, computers and technology have always been about creativity and beauty. And that’s especially true now in her job at Pixar Animation Studios as the supervising technical director. In her work on such films as “WALL-E,” “Brave” and “Coco,” she knows firsthand the beauty and wonder that can come from math, science and computer code.
Sharing that perspective is part of her efforts to narrow the gender gap in technology and encourage more girls to pursue STEM education. She has firsthand experience with being one of the few women in male-dominated classrooms and workplaces, so she has ideas about the reasons for that and how to counteract it. She also shares what inspired her to travel the STEM path she has followed and what insulated her early on from the cultural forces that often discourage girls.
What’s ESSA and why should teachers care?
Teachers often feel that conversations about education are happening all around them, and yet they’re not really included. That’s the case for many educators when it comes to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Sure, you’ve heard the acronym, but what does the policy and related funding mean, and how can teachers be sure their voices are heard when it comes to edtech policy creation and implementation? On this episode of “Your Edtech Questions,” guest Anne Hyslop, assistant director, policy development and government relations for the Alliance for Excellent Education, provides a primer on ESSA, shares real-world examples of thoughtful ESSA implementation by states and districts, and explains why teachers should care about edtech policy and advocacy. Listen to get a better understanding of this critical federal policy and to learn how to add your voice to the conversation.
What’s the difference between computational thinking and computer science?
Educators are used to the alphabet soup that’s part of the education industry, but there are a couple acronyms that could use further explanation. CS and CT, or computer science and computational thinking. This episode of “Your Edtech Questions” explores the definitions of these two terms, breaking them down into understandable processes and showing what they might look like in various subject areas. Guest Jorge Valenzuela, an educational and teacher effectiveness coach, and a national faculty member for PBLWorks, explains the four elements of CT and shares how this kind of thinking can be applied to computer science and coding. Listen to get a complete understanding CT, CS and how they’re interconnected.
Zac and Amal are the perfect hosts for this. I love the conversational style. Hope to see many more!