An influencer is a role we associate with social media and people who try to sell us different goods, from furniture to cosmetic products. But influencers exist in all industries, and they are helping to shape their professional landscape making it more accessible to the greater audience.
One such influencer is Eric Curts — an author, a technology integration specialist, trainer, and innovator. He is also in the top 30 EdTech influencers in the U.S., according to the EdTech Magazine. In addition, Eric also leads the influential Google Educator Group in Ohio.
''Even though I do the one for the state of Ohio, we're open to anybody. Sure, there'll be a portion of our meetings where we're talking about maybe some upcoming conferences that are more local, but so much of what gets shared, it doesn't matter where you're at; it doesn't matter where you're from. It's all virtual content,'' explains Eric.
In this episode of EdTech Heroes, host Nef Dukes and Eric discuss the role of influencers in education, tools teachers should use in the classroom, and how using video takes learning to a higher level.
👋 Name: Eric Curts
💻 What he does: Author and technology integration specialist.
🏫 Company: Control Alt Achieve
✍️ Noteworthy: Aside from creating content for his blog, Eric works as a technology integration specialist for Stark/Portage Area Computer Consortium in Canton, Ohio. He is also a "Google for Education" trainer and innovator.
📱 Where to find Eric: Twitter
An EdTech influencer is dedicated to helping teachers and students improve their learning. EdTech Magazine recently named Eric one of the top 30 EdTech influencers in the U.S. Of course, opinions regarding the role of an influencer differ.
However, this is how Eric sees an influencer's job in education: ''If I have any influence, one thing I hope that influence includes is encouraging people to share their ideas and to share them freely with others because we're all better together. We all can build upon each other and take what they've got and run with it.''
We should encourage teachers and students to use video in the classroom. The technology has advanced to the degree that it is pretty straightforward today to use various tools, including video, in everyday life.
People create different content, but a video has become one of the most popular, especially on social networks such as TikTok. However, as practice shows, video is an effective learning source.
''I use video to provide tech support for folks. If I get an email from somebody and they're asking how to do something, I'll put about half a sentence into the title of the email [and think] this is not an email. This is a video. [...] I pull up, take them through, and explain everything in the video.
And once it's done, I grab the link, throw it to the email, and zip it off to them. Phenomenal because it's way faster for me than typing everything up. That's very personalized, and they can watch the video and see all that. I use videos for instructions. So anytime I do a blog post, I try to make a video with it that explains it because everybody learns differently. Some people want to read my blog posts. Some people want to watch the video that goes with it.''
Continuous learning is critical. There's no generation that didn't look forward to the summer holiday. Therefore, giving students homework during summer break is harsh. Instead, we can encourage them to engage in anything they are passionate about.
Learning is not all about the school curriculum; it's about dedicating your time to anything that makes you excited. For example, some of the household names in the tech industry, such as Google, encourage their employees to adopt the 80:20 work model. The idea is to spend 80% of their workweek completing job-related assignments and 20% on personal projects.
The same model can be applied in schools. ''Using the summer as 20% time and saying, what are you passionate about? What are you excited about? Dive into that if it's reading books about it. Great! If it's watching videos about it. Great!
If it's listening to podcasts about it, that's great. Consume information about something that a teacher didn't tell you to do. It's not on the required reading list, and you're not being told to do this.''
Learn more about how teachers can keep students engaged in this episode of EdTech Heroes with Olivia Nelson.
Being on the list of the top 30 EdTech influencers 👏
''It's wonderful. I'm very, very humbled and honored and excited by that. I want to give a big thanks to EdTech magazine for including me in that. Something that I think is an important thing to say. If I go to conferences and I'll come, I'll meet somebody, and sometimes folks may know me from Twitter or something like that. They're like, 'Oh my gosh, it's so cool to meet you.'
So one of the first things I always try to do when I meet folks is I turn it around right away, 'Tell me about you. What do I want to learn from you?' Because I think that's so important, we can't be in a situation where we review anybody above somebody else because then the learning can't happen.
If I'm doing a presentation, I want to learn from the audience. I want to walk away with something new I didn't know. And if I'm not, then I'm not engaging with people, and I'm not a lifelong learner. [...]
Having said that, there are some amazing people on that list. And so, again, I feel fortunate that whatever I'm sharing is content that somebody felt was worthy enough to call attention to. But I was so excited to see friends, [...] so many people that I've known for years that are amazing.
There are folks on the list I'm not that familiar with. [...] And so I'm excited to learn from all these folks on the list that I didn't know very well. It's opened up a whole new opportunity for me to connect with folks.''
Tools that teachers could use to be even more effective 🛠
''We need a mindset about the tools that we have because [...] we've got districts that have good funding, and we have districts that are struggling on tight budgets. We have districts with large populations, small populations, urban, suburban, and rural. And so, not every school is going to be able to get the same tools as every other school. [...]
The philosophy of what is a tool when it comes to technology, and do you have to have a certain tool that has a certain name or price tag on it? And for a long time, we didn't have money. And so it was like, 'Okay, how can we use the tools we have in creative ways?'''
Students should be video consumers and creators 🎬
''I do love how the video is becoming a lot more readily available, whether it's Screencastify, the Google classroom, mobile apps ... whatever the case that we're reducing the friction. It's just so easy to record a video very quickly. [...]
Students can very easily record themselves [...] to respond to a question in class, rather than saying, 'Okay, we want you to write a paragraph response.' No, let the students answer it themselves.
It could be, for example, the Google classroom mobile app that has video built right into it. So if a student is on their Chromebook, running the mobile app or a phone, they could just hit the video button, record themselves and submit that right with your assignment.
Or if all the students are together in a Google slideshow. Each student is dropping a video on their slide explaining how they solved this math problem or defining the science term in their own words. Maybe they're just using Screencastify to record it and then throwing it right in there from their drive. What I love about all of that is that it's giving the students a voice, letting them express something themselves, not just typing it up.''
[06:59] ''I think it's important to realize we're all learners. We're all educators. We're all folks figuring this out as we go.''
[18:20] ''Something I would encourage people to consider is [that] I wish every school had the funding they deserve. Every school, every child, every teacher, I wish that was the case. At the same time, if this is the reality we're living in, and we've only got certain budgets and restrictions, I'm going to do my best. One of my missions is to do my best, to provide people with ideas on how to accomplish as much amazing stuff as possible for free or at very low costs with the tools we have.''
[36:04] ''Learning is learning. I hate to see a love of learning squashed by saying, 'Let's fit into a mold, and you've got to accomplish these things.' I still love to learn new things. After 30 years in education, I constantly want to learn new stuff. And I get it a lot of ways. Sometimes it's reading, but a lot of times, YouTube. I'm scared to see the statistics on how many hours of YouTube videos I have viewed. But that's how I learn stuff. And it's amazing the content that's out there.''