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Dec 2, 2021

The Best Tools for Student Engagement with Kim Nidy

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Technology has significantly influenced and transformed education. And since the beginning of the pandemic, the role of tech has become even more important. 

But not every piece of tech is the right choice for your classroom. Depending on your goals and teaching methods, you should choose the tools that support you and your students. 

In this episode of EdTech Heroes, host Nef Dukes speaks with Kim Nidy, the Director of Technology at North Canton City Schools. They get into the importance of implementing the right tools in the classroom, how to harness technology for deeper learning, and why it's essential to connect what you're teaching in the classroom to what's happening in the outside world.


👋 Name: Kim Nidy

💻 What she does: She's the Director of Technology at North Canton City Schools.

🏫 District: North Canton City Schools

✍️ Noteworthy: Kim has been working in the educational sector for almost 30 years, and she's played a key role in implementing technology in the schools in her district. 

📱 Where to find Kim: LinkedIn | Twitter

Episode insights 

The right tools can provide great pedagogical value to the classroom. Implementing the right tools in the classroom can be a game-changer for  teachers and students. Kim explains how she determines whether a tool is worth investing in.

"There are a lot of vendors who want to sell you a lot of different things. And I think, as a teacher, you get caught up in the bells and whistles of things. And sometimes, you're not thinking about the pedagogical piece. [...] That's the benchmark I always look at — is it really providing pedagogical value to the classroom? Does it help children learn and engage?"

How to use technology for deeper learning? Instead of trying to implement a bunch of different tools to promote engagement, we should shift our mindset and focus on promoting deeper learning using the right pieces of technology. Kim says,

"I think you don't have to have these shiny, flashy things to get deep with learning. Some of it may not even be technology-related. A piece of it [technology] may just literally be a conversation in the classroom, and then, maybe the discussion feature in the LMS can lend itself to continuing that conversation later. So it's a mix. It's, 'What do I need, at this particular time, to get to that learning and engagement?' And it may not start out with technology; technology may end up swooping in later and aiding it."

Let's bring the outside world into our classrooms. Kim talks about the importance of connecting what we teach in the classroom to what actually matters in the real world. She says,

"I feel like we need to completely shift away from the traditional school environment and teach these kids more along the lines of how they're going to work in the real world. Have a problem that connects to something that needs to be solved. So taking a priority standard and breaking that down by what we are really trying to get across to kids."

"And then, instead of having a worksheet or something where everybody's doing the same work, can we break that into a question or a problem around that standard? Let kids work together, let them curate their own information, and let them decide how they want to display it."

Episode highlights 

What is the TPACK model? 🤔

"TPACK is like a Venn diagram. So there are three circles, and they intersect. And in the diagram, originally, the top circle is technological, and the others are pedagogical and content knowledge. [...] What I like about it is that it's flexible enough that I would flip the model. Where you have content and pedagogy: What is the content? What am I teaching them? How am I teaching it to them? Technology, to me, is the base of that. What tools do I need to make all of that happen? And then a piece that I would probably add to that circle, and I actually have done that in our district, is assessment. Because I really feel that assessment is such a big piece of teaching and learning that gets overlooked."

Technology requires a continuous learning mindset 🧑🎓

"I would love to tell those new districts that are looking at these tools, 'You don't have to know.' It's like eating an elephant. I don't care if it's [the LMS] Schoology or Canvas or Google Classroom or whatever it is. They're big, and you have lots of moving parts, and they do a ton of things, and you just have to give yourself permission to take one bite at a time. Start with organization; start with thinking through how you want to use it and what you want to do. Know that you're going to make some mistakes along the way, but you can quickly correct them. I just think districts don't hear that often enough, and they feel they have to take on this giant weight and learn everything in the first month of school or the month that they roll it out. You don't. We're eight years in, and we are still learning."

What are the best resources to get started with educational technology?💡

"It sounds silly, but Google is your friend. […] There may be some activity at your state level. Contact the Department of Education at your state level because they may already have information and may be working toward it. We're looking at trying to make a framework that better explains, for the districts in Ohio, what personalized learning really looks like. We're trying to break it down and have some ways to identify different pieces, parts, and how to take the next steps. So I know that there are a lot of states out there that are engaged in this work, and I would recommend that you reach out to the education departments in your state."

Highly quotable

[19:02] "It's really important to have a variety of tools that are agile and flexible and stand the test of time because, a lot of times, it's a big investment not only financially but also the time spent learning."

[25:32] "I love being able to use technology tools for feedback for students because that's where growth happens. In our LMS, we have Google Docs attached. They could be doing a writing assignment. The teacher can actually watch that student in real-time on that assignment, and they can get in there and make comments, or redirect or add a resource, or whatever. So I think that feedback is another really important piece of technology."

[31:54] "It can be daunting for a teacher to make that change. Their time is so limited as far as they're working with students. So, if we're able to show them some examples of ways to do things that become as efficient as the older way of doing them, they might be more apt to try it. I've noticed some teachers — that I personally know — have changed their teaching styles, and I think it's more engaging for them too."

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