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Apr 19, 2022

Harnessing the Most Powerful Learning Tool of All Time

Screencastify Squad

There's no denying that the web has become one of the most powerful learning tools of all time.

But despite what many teachers believe, you don't have to be a tech expert to embrace tech and deeply embed the web into nearly every aspect of the classroom.

In this episode of the EdTech Heroes podcast, host Nef Dukes welcomes educator, blogger, entrepreneur, and the CEO of Chromebook Classroom, John Sowash. They talk about the future of education, how to prepare students for the world, and the tremendous benefits that technology offers to both students and teachers.


👋 Name: John Sowash

💻 What he does: He's an educator, blogger, and entrepreneur.

🏫 Company: Chromebook Classroom

✍️ Noteworthy: He is an experienced educator and former school administrator who challenges educators to lead their classrooms with creativity and inspiration.

📱 Where to find John: Twitter | LinkedIn

Key insights 

Times have changed, and so have the learning tools. Education is an ever-evolving ecosystem. With new generations and new learning tools, it's time to embrace technology in our classrooms and keep up with technological developments. John says, "The web will continue to evolve over time. The web — from dial-up internet to today to whatever the heck Mark Zuckerberg and the Metaverse have got planned, I don't even pretend to understand all of that — it's going to change, but the ability to connect people and access information is a fundamental foundation of whatever the next thing is."

You don't have to be a tech expert to get the most out of tech in your classroom. Teachers don't have to be tech experts. But if they want to keep up with new generations, they have to be open to new challenges and to embracing the digital era in their classroom. John says, "The tools you have give you way more opportunity than you can possibly imagine. Even tools like Screencastify — there are 8 million ways you can use Screencastify; there's no way you have tried all of those different options. Connect with people like myself, with the EdTech Heroes podcast, who will do the research for you and say, 'Here's something you might want to hear about.' You don't have to go out and be an EdTech expert. There are plenty of people who have it as their full-time job."

Teach the same fundamental skills using new methods. There are some key lessons that all students should learn during their education. But do they have to learn them using the same outdated methods? John begs to differ. "I think essays are an easy example. To be quite frank, nobody sits around and reads essays anymore. This isn't 1780. These aren't The Federalist Papers where people publish long essays; nobody does that anymore. But again, students need to be able to write long, complex, persuasive essays and research papers. They need that skill, but the method by which we communicate that information has changed. So have your students do your writing assignment but then have them read their essay and turn it into a podcast. It's the same work. We're just communicating it through a different medium."

Related episode

Learn more about the state of technology in the classroom and how modern tools — and games — can help improve learning for any student in this episode with Jake Miller!👇

Episode highlights 

The web is the future of education 🖥

"I sometimes get mischaracterized because I promote Chromebooks so much. When I promote Chromebooks, I'm really not promoting Google as much as I am promoting the idea of the web as the most powerful learning platform of all time. And you can access the web through anything — whether it's a tablet, a phone, a Mac, or a PC. If you pick the web as your learning platform, you will not go wrong. That is the future."

Always keep it simple with tech tools 🛠

"I'm a technology person. I like tech. I find it entertaining and interesting, but I'm also just a very practical person. Look, I taught in the classroom — you've got 30 kids in front of you, and you're teaching a lesson. You've got that critical moment where it's either going to work, or it's not going to work. And it's got to perform. It's got to be simple. The directions have to be accurate. And so, simplicity is essential. There are a lot of tools out there that look great. And maybe they would do great things, but if they're too complicated or the process of getting my students signed up for them and connected with them is too complex, it doesn't even matter."

Connect with experts in your niche 🎓

"There are so many different personalities. Connect yourself to the person that fits your style and personality, you like how they communicate, and they'll introduce you to that second level — those hidden features — in tiers, and you can explore more."

Tech has given us more visibility into the learning process 🔦

"I can keep track and see what everybody's doing in real time. And I can notice, 'Hey, I've got four kids who are working on citations right now. I'm going to pull them aside, and let's do a little mini-lesson on citations.' It gives you the ability to do that with paper and pencil; I'm totally fine with it. Make that type of situation a lot more difficult. So technology has definitely given us more visibility into the learning process and allowed us to step in for that just-in-time instruction."

Highly quotable 

[10:37] "Our job is to prepare students to communicate ideas in the language of their generation, which is different from what our grandparents or our parents [learned], and will be different for our kids and our grandkids as well. But reading, writing, and math will still be an essential aspect of that."

[32:23] "Reading, writing, and math still form the foundation of the educational experience. Now that can mean a lot of things. Math, you've got to do your daily practice. You've got to do your worksheets. You've got to write; you've got to do journals. You've got to do essays, but whenever possible, teachers should seek out ways for students to communicate the reading, writing, and math assignments using modern methods."

[36:59] "It's an exciting time to be alive and to be in the classroom — certainly, lots to talk about and lots of applications to seek out. But it all comes back down to — we want students to be effective communicators through written, spoken, and recorded words and speech. So that takes on a lot of forms.”

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