District Leadership: How Can EdTech Deepen Student-Teacher Relationships?
Stacey Roshan is a high school math teacher and technology coordinator and self-proclaimed lover of technology who is addicted to learning. I spent time with her to discuss her path in education and how she has taken the ‘flipped’ concept of learning to engage students in her classes. Check out Stacey’s approach to technology and how it can deepen relationships, within schools, by clicking through her Buncee below.
Rod Berger: Well Stacey, it’s nice to spend some time with you, and Buddy, your dog. I think he’s right there on your lap. (laugh)
You’ve been in education; you’ve been named as someone to watch over the years in technology and teaching. We are in 2016, and you’ve reached a position where people are coming to you for advice, given this “watch list” you’ve been put on as someone to know, in education and EdTech. What is it like to have people who are paying attention to what you’re doing, what you’re saying, and what you are utilizing from a technology perspective?
Stacey Roshan: I think the biggest thing is it has given me a great opportunity to connect with others. I think that is part of the of the power of all this technology in the first place; connecting to others, sharing ideas, collaborating on ideas, and the building on ideas. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with more people and correspond with them. I look to so many others for advice, and I try as much as possible to put those ideas back out because I know how helpful and inspiring they have been to me. I try and do the same. It’s always fun when somebody takes an idea and builds on it because that makes you better, as well.
RB: One of the things, in getting advice from people like you that are out in the social sphere and sharing experiences, is an understanding of the value of certain technologies in education. I think in a vacuum, we can say, “That’s a very valuable EdTech solution, or product, or app.” But understanding how it fits into the greater ecosystem of a day, in a life of a teacher, can be an entirely different conversation. How have you changed in the way in which you evaluate technology that you can use, or that you can layer in with other technologies in the classroom?
SR: Yes. That’s such a good question and such an important question because there’s so much stuff out there right now, it can become quickly overwhelming, not just for us, but also for our students. I think something else we have to think about is parents. They are trying to help their kids learn if we bring on too many different tools; it can become overwhelming to them.
One of the things I look for is, something simple for students to get started. If it’s a general tool that I want to use in class, like English, I want them to be focused on the English part of the task. I want a simple tool that the focus for the students doesn’t turn to just learning the tool. There’s a learning curve that comes with having to learn something new and stay focused on the actual task that the teacher is trying to assign in the first place. I think simplicity and ease of getting started are very important.
RB: You recently presented on, the role that technology plays in building stronger relationships. I would imagine there is student-to-student interaction as well as a teacher to student.
How do you look at integrating into the student’s perspective of how they experience technology? It’s one thing to you or I, in the adult layer of society to say, “This is a valuable technology.” It’s an entirely different take if it’s a student saying, “Here’s why I like this. It matches what I know when I’m not within the confines of the school campus, and because of that, it’s comfortable.”
How would you look at the way you can reduce that software adoption curve, but also make a connection so that the student wants to engage with the technology? The teachers can feel good because they put something in front of the student that make sense for them and their age group?
SR: Well, first of all, I think some students feel comfortable with technology and some don’t feel as comfortable. You have some kids who feel comfortable presenting in a classroom and some kids who don’t feel as comfortable talking in front of all their peers.
By offering technology to those less comfortable speaking up, you provide a different opportunity to have a voice. You can give students, who might not otherwise have felt comfortable, a voice to have an online discussion and so forth.
As far as adopting new tools, talking to the students, and seeing how they’re receiving it, is so important. Letting them know that they have a voice, through the tools you’re picking, what you’re picking, and why you’re picking it, is essential in building trust. Students have such great insight, and they think of things that we might miss. It’s important to hear their perspective because that can help inform what you do moving forward. For example, my interest in EdTech started when I began flipping my classroom. I would check in with my students, hear why they liked it, why they didn’t like it, and so forth.
Most students told me it was cutting down on their homework time and how they were doing their math homework first. When they said to me, “I’m doing my math homework first.” I was like, “What do you mean you’re doing your math homework first?” I wouldn’t have thought of that ever. And they said. “Well now, I know exactly how long my math homework is going to take. I know it’s doable. I watched a video; I know how long it is, and so I do it first. I don’t save it until last. In the past you would assign three homework problems, they could take anywhere from five minutes to an hour and a half. I didn’t know.”
Little things that you’re hearing from students, and then it suddenly clicks. “That makes a lot of sense.” But I wouldn’t have thought of it before. The students have so many insights that you better listen. (laugh)
RB: (laugh) The feedback that they can give can be very, very valuable in what we’re doing. We talked off air about presentation tools, and getting the voice out there. I think what’s interesting about technologies that are at our disposal now is that so many of them are cognizant of the role of presentation. It’s important to communicate your ideas as playing in a world where self-publishing is everywhere? It’s what young people know and what they like to do, whether it’s through music, the written word, or their unique voice. How do you look at technologies in ways that can be beneficial, from the teacher’s perspective, as well as, the student’s?
SR: Getting it out there?
RB: Yes. Are you looking for something that can help provide the opportunity to incorporate a student’s voice? Are you trying to take personalized learning to another level so you can better understand what a student is trying to say, and how they can teach themselves?
SR: Yes. I first got interested in Buncee because I found that I could make a Google slides presentation, and students could make a Google slide presentation, however, they couldn’t add voice to it without using some screen casting software or something. I just wanted something easy, where they could easily record their voice on the slide or a teacher could record their voice on a slide. That’s where Buncee came in because it was super simple. You just press the button, and you can record your voice right from your computer, you don’t even need to upload anything.
From the teacher perspective, I think if you’re making something, and add a little bit of your voice, it helps the student understand what they’re trying to do. It personalizes it. Even if you’re making an assignment in a blended courseware, the written word may be enough; but I think adding that little bit of voice can make a difference. For the different type of learners, it can make an even larger difference.
As far as students are concerned, again, presenting in front of the class is crucial. It’s a very important skill that we can’t take away, but that being said, some of the things I love using Buncee for are presentations to be done online. Students submit them online, rather than in front of the class.
First of all, it takes away a lot of, days in class, where students would have come to the board to present. Number two, as we said before, some students are more comfortable presenting at home. You get to hear their voice in a different way. Also, it’s something that students can go back, and study from later. Let’s say we hand the whole class a presentation, but we have them turn it in, online, throughBuncee, then all the students could go back and review for their exam. It’s all recorded, it’s all there, and then it’s important to do an activity with the presentation.
If I’m putting all these presentations online, then maybe we have some requirement of watching videos and doing a little reflection on it. There can be something like that to make sure students are watching, and engaging.
It’s so powerful to have those resources up there for later review. I’ve found my videos that I create for my flipped classroom to be valuable. I put my videos on YouTube, my students watch them, they go back and watch them before exams, especially my AP class, and so it’s been helpful to have them for review. Putting videos out there for a broad global audience, you never know who’s going to be watching. Most of my viewers are students that I will never meet on YouTube. It’s amazing to have the chance to spread great teaching to students that might not otherwise have the opportunity.
RB: It’s very powerful. What about the experience when you’re observing students when they’re able to personalize their voice through the tools being introduced? What is it like watching your class and seeing individual students get a chance to share their story, solve a problem, or tackle a challenge in a way, that you and I couldn’t when we were younger because the technology hadn’t been developed? What’s that like when you see a student light up because it’s a true reflection of what they wanted to create?
SR: Yes. Again, I think people express themselves in different ways. Some students, just sit down, and record themselves, which sounds completely different than if they were to type and write it up. Look at YouTube, look at how many vloggers we have now who just literally take a video camera around and record their day. They are amazingly creative.
If you look at some of the popular vloggers, and you look at their beginning vlogs, they sat down in front of a computer as I am right now, and then we are where they are right now. They go out, and do time lapses, they do all other creative stuff, they got hooked in, and they become creative over time. I think most of them don’t have blogs. They find their outlet through sitting down, talking to a screen, editing, and putting beautiful touches on it.
It’s a different outlet than somebody who might become an author, a journalist, or a writer. It’s a different type of creativity, and it’s beautiful to be able to embrace those kinds of things because we really couldn’t before.
RB: Yes. We didn’t have that opportunity. Let’s close with this Stacy, on your Twitter handle; it says you’re chasing the dreams of your inner superhero. So what are those dreams?
SR: I think it’s sharing great ideas, making better things, and allowing students to have fun learning. It’s a huge goal of mine.
One of the reasons I became a math teacher was because, more than any other subject, I heard student’s saying, and parent’s saying, “Oh, I never liked math, I was never good at math.” I think that’s just because they didn’t have a good teacher. I think there’s so much beauty in Math, and I try to share my enthusiasm, my love of math, in my teaching. If the bug infects maybe one kid in my class, it’s worth it.
Then from there, being connected through Twitter, through vlogging, through LinkedIn, and other platforms. I can spread my voice, spread my ideas, get ideas from other people, and build from there. Together we’re better. If I’m trying to do something myself, it’s not going to be as good as building on the ideas of many other people.
That’s one of the reasons I love blogging. I’ll do something for instance, in the classroom, and then I’ll blog about it. I’ll hear back from other people responding mainly through Twitter, about ideas they have, things they liked, things that I could build on, and tools that I might use. Then I can revise, and re-blog it. A lot of my ideas, you’ll see multiple blogs on the same topic because it’s as if, “Here’s iteration one, and here’s iteration two, and we just keep building and getting better.”
I think it’s been amazing to create videos on YouTube and have students watch and learn from them. I like the little comments you got from it, such as, “I needed a tutor for math, I couldn’t get at tutor, and I found your videos, and they align with what my teacher is doing. It’s been so helpful; now I’m getting As.” It’s just amazing to be able to help and give back. I think as teachers, it’s something we’re always looking forward to doing. One-on-one, you’re helping one student; through the power of the internet, you’re able to help thousands.
RB: I think it’s great. You’re a testament to the passion that educators bring to the field and a voice that we need to hear. What I’m taking away from speaking with you is; it’s about sharing everything you’re learning in new and different ways, so students and teachers can be creative, and feel energized with their content and experience.
So keep up the great work.
Stacey Roshan is the Upper School Technology Coordinator and Math teacher at the Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland. She has a keen interest in discovering and bringing innovative tools into the classroom to best engage students. She has spent a lot of time working to flip the mathematics classroom to shift the culture to a more participatory learning space, where relationships are formed and students’ individual needs are met. Her motivation for change stems from feeling rushed through AP Calculus lessons. She has since implemented the same format in her other math classes and continues to improve and share her flipped model.
Dr. Rod Berger, a specialist in strategy and PR for EdTech startups, is a global education media personality featured on edCircuit, in EdTech Review India, Scholastic’s District Administrator and on RFD TV’s Rural Education Special. As an industry personality Dr. Berger has interviewed Ministers of Education, leading voices like Sir Ken Robinson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, AFT President Randi Weingarten and others.