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Published
Sep 24, 2021

How EdTech Can Simplify Teachers' Lives with Henry Mann

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There are more demands on teachers' time than ever before as they teach in-person and remote students simultaneously. They are available to respond to student emails at all hours, offer emotional support, and learn how to teach their entire curriculum in an entirely new way. They are superheroes.ย 

But for some teachers, their workload has reached crisis levels, taking their limited PTO to get caught up on grading because that's what is best for their students. A job where you need to take a day off to do work isn't a sustainable one.

That's where EdTech comes in. Henry Mann joins EdTech Heroes host Nef to talk about how EdTech's role should be to make a teacher's life easier, help students share their learning and help teachers support other teachers.

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Guest-at-a-glance

๐Ÿ‘‹ Name: Henry Mann

๐Ÿ–ฅ What he does: Director of Product at Screencastify

๐Ÿซ Company: Screencastify

โœ๏ธ Noteworthy: In his career, Henry is most proud of the fact that during the pandemic, Screencastify was ''in the right place at the right time with the right tool to help teachers in a dire moment of need.''

๐ŸŒŽ Where to find Henry: LinkedIn | Twitter

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Podcast Insights

EdTech companies need to remember that the size of the tool doesn't matter; its impact does. Henry believes it's vital for EdTech companies to step back and let teachers use a tech tool however it best helps them rather than being prescriptive in its use and suggested outcome. ''We want this tool to be an easy way to solve [teachersโ€™] problems. But beyond that, teachers should use it in whatever way they find is most effective for them and their students. The size of the tool is not the thing. It's the size of the impact that matters. And that impact comes from teachers being able to use the tool in the ways that work for them,'' he says.

EdTech isn't just about teachers creating instructional videos. Teachers also need a way to see students engage with those videos and show their learning. While Screencastify and other companies were at the forefront of instructional video EdTech for teachers during the pandemic, teachers were forced to go to great lengths to see who was engaging with their video. ''Teachers were trying so desperately to figure out how to meet their students' needs and still provide learning opportunities, but they didn't know if they were effective and didn't know if anyone was watching them, which was demoralizing. It really became clear to me at that moment that we were only providing half of this solution. There's this whole other part of the picture that we were blind to,'' Henry says.

The goal of EdTech is to simplify teachers' lives so they can be better teachers and increase student learning. Henry argues that Screencastify's success is due to its simplicity. ''We value simplicity and ease of use more than almost anything else [...] because we know teachers have to put all this together. So the simpler we can make it, the more clicks that we can remove from the navigation between different applications, just makes a teacher's life easier and makes them more effective and be able to get to the outcomes they want for their students. [...] When we can do that and reduce the amount of time that a teacher needs to spend thinking about what tools they're going to use and how to use those tools, teachers and students benefit.


Episode Highlights

๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿซ Teachers need EdTech to help them meet the challenges of teaching in today's differentiated classroom

''The old model of a teacher standing in front of the classroom and providing instruction to 30 students at a time, and then expecting them to learn it and then regurgitate it on a test just doesn't work. That's not leading to the outcomes we want for students.ย 

Students need to be able to learn at their own pace, to re-engage with instruction to learn it again, all of these things that just aren't possible when you have just that traditional model of a teacher in front of the classroom.

We're asking teachers to be able to teach multiple different things at the same time, in multiple different ways, often in more than one place at a time. That is against the laws of physics. You can't do that. To me, educational technology is designed to try to create a system where that kind of teaching and learning is possible.''

๐Ÿ™‹ EdTech is also about allowing students to show the depth of their learning

''There are students who do have [writing] as a barrier, who are English language learners, other students who worry about penmanship, who worry about punctuation. All of these barriers that come with just traditional written texts get in the way of actually understanding the learning that has happened.ย 

If you want to know what Henry has learned, it's a good idea to let Henry communicate in a really authentic format and has a very low barrier to communication. For many students, that is video.ย 

We're starting to see more artifacts of student learning are digital these days, whether it's an essay written in Google docs, a Google slideshow, or whatever it might be. With that artifact, you can do two things. You can either just take that artifact at its face value, or have the student record a video, narrating their thought process, why they made choices, what parts they liked, what parts they found hard about completing that assignment.

Then you get this whole other layer of understanding, what a student is thinking and what learning is happening that is so much more powerful than just looking at the end artifact.''

๐Ÿ’ฏ EdTech needs to make sure simple outcomes involve simple work

"[Teachers] would record the video in Screencastify, but then they thought, 'I need to know who has watched this video. So I'm going to embed it in a Google Slide because on Slides, I can get a view history. So then I'll share this slide deck with the students and see in the view history who had signed in to look at the slides. And then, I'll put a link to a Google form on the next slide. And in that form, I'll ask a question about that video to gauge their understanding of it.'ย 

So [the teacher] had to go from Screencastify to Slides, to Forms, and then had to look at Slides' and Forms' view history and a Sheet of answers to understand whether this one video had been watched. That is so many steps. It's ridiculous to expect anybody to have to go through that much work for a relatively simple outcome."

๐Ÿ’ป The future of EdTech is in building a teacher community to share their digital resources

''Step one is allowing teachers who want to create videos the ability to create videos right. Step two is offering a functionality around sharing those videos with students and understanding how students are learning from those videos.

Step three is we know there are a lot of teachers who either do not have time to make videos themselves or aren't comfortable making videos themselves. So if we really believe in the power of video and we want teachers to be able to implement video in their classroom if they think it's the right move for their students, then we really need to start to think about how do we allow teachers who are making lots of videos to share that video with their colleagues more effectively within their school, within their district, and how do we make that a really powerful process?''


Highly Quotable

  • [9:20] ''The role of education technology for me is trying to reduce the amount of crazy work that teachers need to do in order to be effective at reaching the outcomes they want for their students.''
  • [10:51] ''We cheekily like to say we try to give teachers superpowers. A teacher's superpower shouldn't be working on weekends and nights and taking PTO to grade essays. Their superpower should be being able to just engage with their students and teach them most effectively within what we would consider a normal working situation.''โ€
  • [24:20] ''If we actually want our students to be learning, not just getting grades, it prompts this whole re-imagination and re-examination of how we think about understanding the learning that is happening.''
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