Thanks to technology, we have unprecedented access to learning opportunities today. And we're constantly reminded that the effective use of digital learning tools in classrooms can increase student engagement, help teachers improve their lesson plans, and facilitate personalized learning.
In this episode of EdTech Heroes, our host Nef Dukes welcomes Sultan Rana, a teacher and course director. Nef and Sultan get into digital education and the development of schooling culture. They discuss the importance of community and parent engagement in the classroom and different tools for improving the learning experience.
👋 Name: Sultan Rana
💻 What he does: Sultan Rana is a teacher and course director.
🏫 Company: York University
✍️ Noteworthy: Sultan's areas of interest have always been digital technology, social justice, and anti-racism education. Sultan taught in the classroom for 11 years, and in 2016, he was selected to be a digital education consultant, and he did that gig for about three years. Then, in 2019, Sultan was seconded to the York University's Faculty of Education, where he taught 101 courses on physical education and social studies to the primary-junior and junior-intermediate grades. Now, he is going back to being a classroom practitioner. Sultan is currently pursuing his doctorate in education at Ontario Tech University.
📱 Where to find Sultan: LinkedIn
The importance of community and parent engagement in the classroom. After working with educators for the last two years, Sultan is going back to being a classroom practitioner at York University. Since the pandemic, Sultan's approach to work in the classroom has also changed, and he will do some things differently now. "I need the parents to be on board.
So when we're engaging in relevant learning, culturally responsive education, relevant and healthy sexual education, mental health education, I need the parents to be on board. So I'm going to go in hard with the parent and community engagement and really heavy with the collaborative assessment. […] And empowering students to really have some clout and some influence in the grades they get and the definition of what they learned."
Screencastify’s Submit tool offers many benefits. Assessment is one of the things Sultan is prioritizing this year as a way to move away from the transactional nature of education. He tasked students with making video presentations on various topics during Zoom classes and then realized that it would be complicated to hear these students articulate their deep understanding in these presentations when he could not be in every breakout room at the same time. Sultan notes that Screencastify’s Submit tool is very helpful in this case.
"Students just click on one button, and automatically, the Apple icon comes on to your screen through Chrome, and it records your screen with or without a camera. Once they hit ‘Submit,’ it goes into a Google Drive folder. And I couldn't believe it. I was panicking. I was thinking, 'Okay, I gotta teach all these students how to record, then how to download, then how to upload, then how to submit, then how to do this and that; there has to be MP4, it has to be that.' And Submit just dealt with all of it."
You can leverage the learning experience differently through technology. While working with students, Sultan used different tools, and technology helped him enhance the learning experience. As it turns out, it's easy. It saves time. It makes you a better practitioner, and it makes the learning experience better for students. For people looking to integrate a tool like Submit, Sultan advises against making it a direct replacement for presentations.
"Don't use it simply to substitute that in-class presentation that you're looking to reform or change. It needs to grow legs. If the ends don't justify the means — and the ends I'm talking about are that the learning experience is better for the students. Your assessment practices are more relevant to the actual student learning experience and learning journey; it's not the end. It wasn't the end goal. It was the whole journey; it was the whole experience. If Submit's use doesn't set off those synapses in your head, visit it later, come to it later, play around with it. But when you want to use it, and you bring it into the classroom, you bring it with your students."
Learn about the Four Cs when integrating technology into the classroom in this episode of EdTech Heroes featuring tech coach Adam Juarez!
The importance of video presentations 🎤
"Since I got into the game — I got my first job in 2006 — the whole culture of schooling has been really transactional, performative, all about competition, and cutthroat, and I was never feeling it because it's not a competitive sport. This is like you have no choice. By law, you have to be in an institution for schooling and receive schooling until a certain age.
So I just didn't understand the culture of it. And I noticed that so much of the learning that students engaged in and that produced artifacts was very transactional, very like, 'Once it was done, throw it in the bag, knock my head over a toilet, empty out my brain. It's done. I don't even think about it anymore. It's not a part of me.'
I'm not saying all learning has to be a part of your DNA, change you, and be so transformative, but I didn't see any of it be transformative or any of it impact students. And what also bothered me was that much of the learning was almost like king and queen service.
They're only doing this because the teacher asked, and once the teacher sees it, appraises it, evaluates it, it's meaningless and nothing to anyone else, and that just sucks the oxygen out of the room. That means the only person that really matters at the end of the day is the teacher. And that made me a little nauseous.
So, I preface all that to say that with something like presentations — where students unquestionably are putting forth to either a room, a small group, a classroom, a gymnasium, or a stadium — they are being accountable for something that they're saying, that they understand, that they know, and they learn. And it always perturbed me how that dissipates in the air after it's done. It just doesn't exist anymore unless someone was recording it or unless a lot of people saw it."
Using Screencastify 🎬
"There are two states that the students are in. One state is that they're sweating bullets, and they're pooping their pants because they're about to go present. So all they're doing is being inundated with worries and concerns about when they present.
The other state is, 'I already presented. I'm good. I can chill now. I can doodle and not listen attentively. I don't have to connect with this person. The thing I'm being evaluated on, the thing that gives me my currency in this classroom, I've taken care of it. I'm good.'
And I am just so happy that this Screencastify thing has allowed me to do away with it because even if that culture still existed, I can get all these recordings and then say to everyone, 'All right, take a one-week break. Let's do some other stuff, and we're going to come back to these presentations when you get all of this out of your mind, and we can come in fresh.' So I just appreciate what the recordings do for me where they allow me to leverage and utilize time and space and people's presence differently."
[06:43] "If there's one thing that university taught me, it’s that we need to figure out a way to empower students in their learning. We need to stop being the gate holders of the currency in education, which is their grades."
[13:58] "When you have students record their presentations, and they exist in and outside of the time in which they were recorded, so much can be engaged with; so much thinking, replaying, rethinking, rehashing, conversing about, using evidence-based moments in one's presentation to bring to light inconsistencies, tensions, great learning, and moments of parallel thought."
[17:32] "We’ve got to give time and space for you to not only hear other people's perspectives but also understand that there is no one answer. There is no one pathway to this learning. There are numerous pathways, and every pathway is valuable and valid."
[41:39] "Assessment evaluation is — this is the depth of your learning, this is who you are, this is how much you’ve changed, or you didn't change at all."
[49:01] "If you shoot for the stars, even if you miss, you're going to fall on the clouds."