Instructional technology helps teachers create better learning experiences for their students. At the same time, it empowers teachers as creators. And by sharing their knowledge and approaches, they empower each other to become better creators and accept failure as a part of growth.
Thanks to the pandemic and technological developments, sharing knowledge has become more convenient, especially since many online platforms offer various ways of doing that.
In this episode of EdTech Heroes, host Nef Dukes welcomes Michelle Hearn, the Technology Instructional Coach at Middletown City School District. They get into the essence of instructional technology, the benefits of sharing classroom experiences with other teachers, the significance of personalized learning and how to implement it, and what empowers students to make their own choices and stand by them.
👋 Name: Michelle Hearn
🖥 What she does: Technology Instructional Coach at Middletown City School District
🏫 Company: Middletown City School District
✍️ Noteworthy: Michelle started her career as a seventh-grade social studies teacher in 2014. Today, Michelle serves as Technology Instructional Coach at Middletown City School District. She works directly with teachers and students to teach them how to effectively use instructional technology in the classroom.
Educators empower students through personalized learning. Michelle believes that traditional "factory models of education" are obsolete as they don't allow students to discover their true passion and achieve their goals.
"Our job as educators is to motivate and excite our students to figure out what their passions are and encourage them to find careers based on them. And personalized learning has the power to transform the students [so they can] learn, create, innovate, and figure out what it is that they need to be successful."
Ownership makes you feel you're in control. According to Michelle, by giving students a choice, you provide them with the opportunity to feel the power of ownership. And that feeling empowers them to choose the path they want to follow instead of taking the one that's imposed.
"Giving them [students] that choice, all of a sudden gives them ownership, and having that ownership is huge, because it makes them feel that they're in control, and it gives them that feeling of empowerment. Students being able to choose the way that they want to learn lends to that personalized learning experience because, in the end, they’re making that choice."
Failure is okay because resilience comes with it. Michelle aims to show both students and teachers that they shouldn't be afraid of failure because it leads to resilience, which is the key to success.
"If you're working on something, creating something, trying to learn something, it's not going to be perfect. You're probably going to fail in a certain sense. You're going to need to make adjustments. And by empowering students to do that, by showing them that we're doing it too — I think it is really helpful for them to know that it's okay to fail. It's okay to try again. That's what creation is all about."
Teaching and learning from teachers 🎓
"I use my classroom experience every time I work with a teacher, and I'm constantly referring to what I did in the classroom and sharing what I had created when I was a teacher. [...]. So, working with all these different teachers allows me to see what they're doing, combine it with what I did, and then, we can create some really cool things. It's always nice when you're working with someone who has experienced what you're going through.
You get that connection, and I love it. I love collaborating with different grade levels, and that's fun and different for me too, because if you're a social studies teacher, you stick with your pack, or you might do a little bit of humanities and work with the English teacher.
But now, I work with teachers of grades K through 12 in all subjects. And it's incredible to see what everyone's doing in their class, take a little bit of everything, then compile it, and share it. One of my favorite things about this job is working with [teachers] and learning from them, just like they're learning from me."
Teacher-to-teacher sharing is much easier now 🤝
"You will have those teachers who keep all their stuff to themselves, but in the last five years, I can see teachers that just don't care. They say, 'I made this awesome lesson. You can use it and modify it.' And the majority of our content providers have great sharing options.
There's a District library, and you can put everything there, and you don't even need to have any type of communication with the teacher. You can just say, 'Oh, that's a cool video. I'm going to grab that one,' or, 'I really liked this lesson that this teacher put in the Nearpod library.' So, I think what makes sharing a lot easier is that you don't even have to go up to that specific teacher and say, 'Hey, can I have this?'"
Personalized learning is everything and you can use tech to foster it 💡
"In my opinion, personalized learning is everything. When I think back to what I did as a student in school, I realize that it's like the factory model of education. Students are grouped by age. They come into the class. They sit in rows. The teacher stands in front of the class. The students are expected to be quiet and listen and take the tests, and it's really geared towards producing this uniform product, which is very similar to a factory. But, our students are not leaving the school to go work in a factory.
By personalizing every single student's learning, it allows them to grow — technology aids in that. Teachers say, 'I have 120 kids. How am I supposed to personalize every single kid's learning?' That's where content providers and technology come in.
By using Screencastify, for example, to record your mini-lessons and gather that data by adding those interactive questions, you're able to look at that data and chunk the kids. [...] You now have the ability to pull those groups of kids who need a little extra help in this area.
That's personalized learning. And content providers that create these personalized pathways push out recommendations based on how the students are answering the questions. So, using the technology has a huge benefit."
Having a choice makes a big difference in everyone's life 🤔
"I think student choice is everything. That's why I ended up steering away from playlists where the kids were going to do something in chronological order, and you were chunking information for them. You're giving them tasks, assigning activities, watching videos, or whatever it might be, and I have been gearing more towards choice boards because having a choice makes such a big difference in everybody's life.
I relate it to my personal life and my three-year-old’s. She sometimes doesn't want to go up to bed or take a bath. So, if I say, 'Come on, we're going to bed, and we have to take a bath,' it will be an immediate, 'No.' But if I say, 'It's time to take a bath right now. Would you like to hold my hand up the stairs? Or would you like to walk by yourself?' Now she has a choice. She can either pull mommy's hand or walk upstairs alone."
Related: Watch our recent webinar below to hear Michelle and other EdTech experts discuss how video empowers creators!
First-hand tips for teachers and online resources to use and learn from 💻
"How could teachers become better creators? I would say, by being resilient. I feel like a lot of teachers can't get Screencastify, because they're scared to create and build something. I say it to my daughter all the time — you're strong, you're smart, and you're brave.
And you have to take those risks sometimes and know that it's okay to fail and that you have all the tools and the technology behind you to make it what you want it to be. Also, when you think about creating with your kids, getting to know your students is my number one tip for people.
Have that connection with your kids and know exactly what drives them, what their passions are, what their home life is about, and what they're interested in creating.
I use Screencastify every single day. I teach with it, but I also use it to troubleshoot with teachers, so I don't have to be right next to them. They can send me an email, and I can easily help them by screencasting. Another favorite online resource that's recently been pulling at my heartstrings is Nearpod.
We started using Nearpod during the beginning of the pandemic. They have pre-made lessons. They have a ton of interactive and collaborative activities that you can put right into your slides. And it makes such a difference with the kids. Instead of a 10-minute or a 15-minute mini-lesson, just doing a video or talking, it allows them to do a Time to Climb, a Poll, or a Drag and Drop."
[07:46] "It's always nice when you're working with someone who has experienced what you're going through. You get that connection, and I just love it."
[08:16] "It's incredible to see what everyone's doing in their class, take a little bit of everything, then compile it, and share it. One of my favorite things about this job is working with [teachers] and learning from them, just like they're learning from me."
[17:33] "We want our kids to collaborate, share, and create together. So, if teachers do the same thing, the kids are going to model what they see."
[26:43] "We are in an era of innovators."