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Oct 31, 2022

Increasing Video Watchability to Increase Connections with Sam Kary

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Technology has become an essential part of today's classrooms, but teachers still struggle to use it in an impactful way. Therefore, they must turn to valuable resources like the internet and seek consultants who are experts in the field.

One of them is our guest on this episode of EdTech Heroes. It is a pleasure to welcome Sam Kary, the founder & CEO of New EdTech Classroom. Sam and his team offer the 21st Century Teacher Scorecard, a tool that enables teachers to identify the skills they are good at and those they need to improve. Thus, the first takeaway of the episode is the importance of being a lifelong learner if you want to make an impact as a teacher. 

Sam and our host Nef Dukes also discuss how teachers can use technology as not only a means but also a goal and encourage students to learn, embrace, and explore it. As a result, we hear why Sam believes creativity and flexibility are essential skills that teachers must pass on to students. 

Finally, Sam advises teachers not to be hard on themselves. No one is perfect, and the more open they are to change, the more skilled and experienced they will become at helping new generations prepare for the real world. 

''Teaching is an experiential thing. It's not something you learn just by sitting in a class and learning about it,'' says Sam.


👋 Name: Sam Kary

🏫 What he does: Sam is the founder & CEO of New EdTech Classroom.

👩‍💻 Company: New EdTech Classroom

✍️ Noteworthy: Alongside his team, Sam offers step-by-step video tutorials, blog entries, online courses, coaching programs, and workshops to help teachers use educational technology to implement high-impact, research-based instructional practices.

📱 Where to find Sam: LinkedIn; Twitter

Key insights

If you are open to learning, you'll be a great teacher. The world is changing daily, with technology taking the lead in this transformation. Industries seek creative problem solvers, a generation of individuals who think out of the box and are willing to adapt and be flexible. 

Thus, we need teachers who are trained to help students prepare for the job market. And to do so, the teachers themselves must be open to innovation; in other words, they must be lifelong learners. 

''What makes an innovative teacher is not your ability to use technology; it's whether you have a learner's mindset. That's something that George Couros and Katie Novak write about in Innovate Inside the Box. So, we very much believe that to be a great teacher means to be a great learner.''

New EdTech Classroom helps you grow as a teacher. Sam and his team are on a mission to help teachers use their expertise and tools to make a curriculum accessible to as many students as possible. 

As we have discussed many times in our podcast, students differ in how they approach learning; so, it's our job to help them maximize on those. However, it is a tricky endeavor, and many teachers need help to reach the desired outcome. The 21st Century Teacher Scorecard can help them. 

''If I took the quiz right now and I was honest, there's no way I would score a hundred percent. I did not do all of the things that we have identified in the quiz. It's more to help teachers understand, 'This is a target area where I could develop some skills,' or notice, 'Wait a second. There's a whole category I haven't touched that maybe I want to think about.' [...] And that self-awareness is an important part of being an ongoing learner.''

Technology is not just a means but also a goal. When we talk about technology in the classroom, we often focus on the list of resources and tools teachers use to bring the lessons closer to students. 

But, as Sam explains, it is also critical to bring technology itself closer to students and encourage them to explore it and think about it as a plethora of opportunities. ''It's not about learning how to use one particular application; it's building skills to be flexible to adapt to different applications. When today’s students grow up, Google Slides might be completely obsolete. 

So I think it is largely our responsibility to create a safe environment for them to take risks and try different things to learn the skill of flexibility. That's the skill that they need to develop. We don't know what specific application or format they're gonna use. There could be new technologies, but if they have that confidence that when confronted with something new, they have the skills to tackle it, work through it, and learn how to use it — those are gonna be the skills that help people thrive in the future of work.''

Related episode

Hear Thom Gibson of New EdTech Classroom discuss creativity in the classroom in this episode of EdTech Heroes!👇

Episode highlights

Introducing ​​the 21st century teacher scorecard 📝

''We created this scorecard to articulate to teachers the skills they need to develop to reach today's students. There are lots of different frameworks for teaching students 21st-century skills or what a teacher needs to do with students. But not a lot of frameworks are describing how to do that. [...]

I think teaching now should be to implement Universal Design for Learning. So, to figure out how we can create lessons that are as open and accessible for as many students as possible and lessons that are meaningful, relevant, and authentic for as many students as possible — and technology can help us unlock this. [...]

Then, other frameworks like TPACK (Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge) categorize all the skills teachers need to develop. But a framework like TPACK is non-descriptive. So it says you need to develop technological pedagogical knowledge and learn how to use technology to implement instructional strategies, but it doesn't say what instructional strategies. 

So what we've done is bring those together to say that we want teachers to be developing their ability to use technology to help amplify agency in the classroom.''

Determine our skills and how to improve them 💡

''Teachers are struggling to elevate the experience. [...] We've been so conditioned to pre-teach and to do direct instruction before giving students an opportunity to be confused and get in there and do hands-on learning. [...] 

Teachers are scoring, [...] curating curriculum, pulling in supplemental resources to make sure that you're providing students with resources that are relevant and authentic to their lives. [...]

The other that did surprise me — that teachers scored fairly high in — is 'teach technology.' We specifically say ‘teach technology’ as opposed to ‘teach with technology.’ Some of the discourse around technology integration in the community can potentially lead to the idea that only the teacher is learning how to choose and use tools. [...]

Yes, but we also need to be teaching students how to choose and use technology as well. So we're firm believers in the need to have a collective effort to build foundational technology skills in students to truly close the digital divide.''

Why is creativity (as a skill) important in today's classrooms? ✍️

''If we're talking about skills that are gonna help people thrive in the future, being able to come up with a novel solution to a problem to apply what you've learned in one situation to something that seems to be completely different — those are skills that are going to be in high demand. So there's a need for creative problem-solving. [...] 

I also think that just on a personal level, once you unlock this understanding that creativity is just a skill like any other that can be cultivated, it's liberating and can open up so many things for a person on a personal level.''

Advice for teachers interested in creating video content 🎬

''I have to say these come directly from my co-founder and president of New EdTech Classroom, Tom Gibson. I learned pretty much everything about video from him. 

Audio is essential. You can have a not-so-great visual setup, but if you have high-quality audio, then your production is going to be a lot better. So we recommend to teachers who are not necessarily gonna purchase a nice camera and have no need to do that, 'If you invest in a very affordable — even $20 — microphone, that's going to increase the production value and watchability of your video significantly.' 

The other is to look into the camera. So I've been trying my best to look into the camera rather than the computer. It is weird, and it took me a long time to get used to that and figure out how to do that. But that also increases watchability. It helps you feel, when you're watching a video, like you're making a connection with a person as opposed to having the person look off-screen.''

Highly quotable

[02:23] ''My whole purpose for becoming an educator was about trying to give back, trying to do something positive, contributing in a positive way. If I was gonna work, I was gonna do something that had a meaningful impact on the world.''

[24:13] "I believe you need to teach students how to use these different tools in isolation. So yes, let's teach them Google Slides, and then let's teach them video, and then let's teach them graphic design. And once you've done all that, you can put that on a choice board. But I'd hate to see the Google Slide expert student only doing Google Slides the entire year and never learning how to do that other stuff 'cause it's outside of their comfort zone.''

[30:33] ''My definition of creativity is more expansive than art. And it's not my definition alone; it's just essentially applying or coming up with a novel solution to a problem or just to be able to apply learning from one discipline to another. So when you can make connections between things that appear not to be connected, that is creative thinking, and that's typically where creative solutions come from.''

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