In part 1 of this 4-part interview, Class Tech Tips founder Monica Burns talks about why in-person classrooms still need to offer students edtech tools and digital options.

Watch the video on in-person edtech, or read the transcript below.

“In-person” and “edtech” should coexist

– Welcome to another #PLtogether Lounge Talk. I’m Adam Geller, founder and CEO of Edthena, the video coaching platform that helps streamline feedback to teachers. Today, we’re talking with Monica Burns. She is the blogger and host of ClassTechTips.com and also a former school teacher from New York City. Monica, thanks so much for joining us to be part of #PLtogether.

– Thank you for having me.

– Well, let’s get started kind of setting the stage for teachers who, ya know, are back in schools after many of them not having been there in quite some time. And many school districts are saying no to remote learning, which might kind of open the door for leaving all that EdTech right at the classroom door. So help us, I guess know, like should, how do we resist the urge? To just kinda leave it at the door and, and, and savor being back in person.

– Yes. Well, there is so many wonderful things about being physically together, sharing the same space, turning and talking to the person next to you, as opposed to going into a breakout room on a video conferencing platform. But there’s lots of things that we can bring into this school a year without leaving all of it behind. And, and one of the ways that I often frame that when talking to educators, teachers, school leaders, is that we don’t want to lean into what we are comfortable with from the past. We really want to avoid the nostalgia and some of our decision-making. So that might mean not going back because that’s the way it used to be. Right? But saying we used to do it, but it wasn’t really that great. If we think about it, we were able to do something totally different when we were using digital tools. That could be anything from giving kids quicker, access to leveled resources or things that meet their interests. We might have struggled to do that in the past with traditional print resources, but now we can have a mix of digital and print. So thinking about it from a student consumer lens, but then also the ability for students to create and make something. Um there’s lots of opportunities for students to make a product of their learning, using digital tools that might have been the default. A last year when teachers were looking for ways to get kids, to share their learning and show what they know. It doesn’t mean we have to abandon any of the hands on experiences that we’re excited to get back to, but we surely don’t want to toss all of those edtech experiences aside.

– One of the things that I’ve seen you write about is the value that collaboration and how technology can enable new types of collaboration, you know. So give us some examples again, to convince us not to kind of default back, as you said default back into the old ways, and still use those tech enabled EdTech enabled ways of collaborating. because I guess at least in your opinion, it might be better.

– Yeah. It’s an important skill set for students to grow at any age. We know that in many experiences outside of a classroom, so in a career professional environment, people are asked to work together within digital spaces and that could even mirror some of the asynchronous learning experiences or the self-paced learning experiences that were the norm for so many during a remote or distance learning, um learning a this past year. So I would encourage folks to think about collaboration in a few different ways. It might be shared screen digital collaboration, where I’m sitting side by side a next to a classmate, leaning over a Chromebook and pointing and making decisions as we’re building out or crafting out something together. It might be remote collaboration where in this past year, you might have relied on a commenting feature in Google tools to help students in the same class give feedback to one another. Now you might look at that in terms of global collaboration, maybe there’s a partner class in a different part of the world. Who’s in a different time zone when they meet together as a class. Yet they can jump into a shared document, give feedback to one another at a time that’s just right for their school day. So there’s a lot of opportunities to still support students as collaborators in digital spaces. It might just be new or far away collaborators, or the emphasis might be more on providing experiences for students that mirror what they would see in a job later on.

– Yeah. I think that idea of preparing students for experiences that feel more like what the workplace is looking like today, I, that one really resonated with me because, you know, I was thinking about how, well of course, in the field of education, we’re going back to in-person. But the rest of the working world, not maybe not the whole of the working world, because there are many jobs that are in-person, I want to acknowledge those. Ah, but there are many types of jobs that have become just much more flexible and will be permanently flexible, and it really feels like maybe that’s an opportunity to kind of double down on a getting ready for that type of not just learning, but, um you know, creative, creating productive outlets in the world that you exist in.

– Absolutely. And I think it’s important to acknowledge some of the experiences that we know students are interested in, right? So if they’ve been working collaboratively and they have enjoyed being in those environments in a digital space, that they felt more comfortable giving feedback to someone first in a digital space before, you know, jumping into a face-to-face conversation that might bridge the gap to some pieces too. So I think there may be more of an opportunity for choice for students to make a decision on what feels most comfortable for them. And that could include some of the collaborative pieces that you mentioned.

– W one of the other things that I I’ve seen you write about and this zone of kind of, you know, what did we learn from all of the learning that happened at home was really just acknowledging that learning was happening in a lot of different places. And so I’m wondering again, like, you know, speak to us as those teachers who are thrilled to be in person, but remind us why we should when it’s available, why we should be using these tools to, you um know, tee up those students to be learning in different types of environments, other than a classroom.

– Well, it definitely comes back to conversations I was having two or three or five or 10 years ago, right around using digital tools before we had a distance learning experience or the past year and a half or so, and in different, in different places, which is that we can use technology to address the needs of lots of different students. So that could include being more efficient with formative assessment data collection and pivoting instruction um based on formative assessment data. So if you are an educator or supporting an educator, that’s looking to make the most of technology or choose the moments strategically, you might look at it through a formative assessment lens, that there’s more options for kids to share their learning through video and voice and texts. And a level of ease and efficiency to analyze that information. So, that might be the entry point for examining the best use of technology moving forward. Or you might say we really want to give kids an opportunity to connect with a larger audience. They’re going to create a podcast instead of writing a traditional essay. Doesn’t mean we’re abandoning the thesis statement or supporting arguments or any of the things that would have been on a traditional checklist around an essay, but now we’re giving kids a different medium. And in order to do that, in order for them to create their own podcasts, they need to jump into a tool that allows them to do that. And we can, if it feels comfortable for students and their families open up a larger audience for them to, to publish their work more widely. So it’s a good opportunity to come back and say, what can we not do? Right? Or what are we limited in? And that might be the lens that some of the conversations are are happening around technology integration and kind of what we’re keeping as opposed to tossing everything aside.

– Well, Monica, we need to take a quick break for those of you watching this and curious what else you can learn from Monica, head to ClassTechTips.com. And if you’re interested in what we’re about to talk about, and this video was shared to you head to PLtogether.org for the rest of this conversation, as well as many more. Monica, thanks so much for joining us.

– Thank you so much for having me.

For more interviews with education leaders about edtech and other insights, check out all of our PLtogether Lounge Talks

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