Today more than ever, the classroom can easily become a fun learning environment for students and teachers. With the help of technology, there are unlimited opportunities for engagement, innovation and fun. But some teachers might not feel ready to implement the newest technologies into their classrooms.
In this episode of the EdTech Heroes, host Nef Dukes welcomes Thom Gibson, a two-time teacher of the year educator and the Creative Director at New EdTech Classroom. We get into the role of tech in transforming classrooms, why teachers should also embrace a learning growth mindset, and how to use video to connect with students.
👋 Name: Thom Gibson
👨🏫 What he does: Creative Director at New EdTech Classroom.
🏫 Company: New EdTech Classroom
✍️ Noteworthy: Thom is a two-time teacher of the year educator and 10-year classroom educator, teaching middle-school math, science, robotics, and YouTube video production.
Embrace the growth mindset. Besides students, teachers should also embrace the learning mindset in the classroom. Not only would this be a great way to lead by example, but it would also help to create a fun learning environment. Thom believes that any teacher can learn new technologies, even if they think otherwise. "You can learn these new technologies — not learn them just for the sake of learning them, but learn them, because in many cases, they can create a different kind of experience for your students that you might not be able to have without certain technologies in the classroom. [...] You don't have to be a pro at those things, but you have to come in with a learner's spirit and attitude and just believe that you can learn these things."
Technology can help streamline and optimize innovative ideas. Technology is a useful teaching tool. It allows teachers to implement some innovative ideas that they may not have had the chance to do before on their own. Thom says technology helped him streamline some of his favorite classroom ideas. "I started streamlining so many aspects of it, and I kept with it, and I kept iterating and changing it and making it better and sharing ideas with other teachers. [...] We were both benefiting from the mutual growth, but I went into it knowing I'm doing this. It's not going according to plan; how can I change it? How can I iterate it? Because there is value here. I don't want to give up on it. And technology ended up playing a really big role for me in making that switch and making that end up working in my class."
Video is an opportunity for greater connection with students. Every student is different. Some students benefit the most from one-to-one teaching, while others prefer using videos as a learning tool. We need to cater to students' needs if we want to improve our education system. Thom talks about the benefits of adding video to the table. "I think with everything in the classroom, teachers are so hesitant to try something new because they feel it's not going to reach all the learners, but there's a lot of things we do that don't reach all the learners. The goal is [to figure out] what we can do to reach more learners, to become more accessible, and then differentiate and fill in the gaps from there."
🎬 YouTube is a great jumping-off point for a career in education
"In an effort to make better content, I tried to make better lessons. And so, creating YouTube content with an online business for other teachers actually made me a better teacher; it helped stretch me a little bit more than I think I might've otherwise done. And around 2019, I also invited Sam onto my podcast at the time, and that's what started a friendship between two people that were doing the same thing. We were both making YouTube content. We're both building this educational brand and creating resources for teachers. And then, if teachers wanted to go beyond the YouTube channel and dive deeper and learn more, we both had online courses and other resources that we sold to teachers."
✅ The role of creative director entails many different tasks
"If we know exactly who we're making videos for, we can actually make more effective videos and more helpful videos for that target audience [...] because YouTube is not only a game of how do you create a meaningful video, but also about coming up with a creative title and a thumbnail that is going to entice people into thinking, 'Oh, watching that type of video will actually solve one of my problems.' And a lot of it is a blend of art and science, so taking the lead on some of that as well as coming up with ideas on how we can reach different audiences on various social media platforms. The audience on TikTok and on Instagram is different from those on YouTube. [...] That's my role as creative director at New EdTech Classroom and how I landed here."
🚵🏻 Use your students' hobbies in the classroom to create a fun learning experience
"Over the summer, I did go through several Minecraft modules. I played the game. I built some things. I realized, 'Wow, this is actually kind of fun, even though I'm not gonna invest all of my hours into mastering Minecraft.’ I got a general feel of what I could do with the game and then started exploring how other teachers were utilizing Minecraft in their classrooms. And then, I found ways that I could use Minecraft in my classroom to teach students about cube roots. And I told them, 'Okay, here's what I want you to build in Minecraft and record a screencast of what you build and turn that in. And that's what I'm going to grade.'
And so I made it a point to not be the master of this [Minecraft]. I don't have to be an expert in it, but I do want to learn enough to bring it to my students because many of them were just so stoked that they could actually do a Minecraft activity."
[10:05] "If you want to also have a classroom where you're teaching your students how to learn new technologies — whether it be screencasting, word processing, or email management — you yourself have to also become a student of those things. You don't have to be a pro at those things, but you have to come in with a learner's spirit and attitude and just believe that you can learn these things."
[21:42] "You do what you know is going to be best for you and your kids, and you cross your fingers, hope for the best. And, sometimes, that is what it takes. And, of course, just a word of caution — there may be repercussions with that. But, sometimes, I think that's what it takes to do interesting, innovative, engaging work in our classrooms when we don't always have the most supportive administration behind it."
[26:13] "Teachers are so hesitant to try something new because they feel it's not going to reach all the learners, but there's a lot of things we do that don't reach all the learners. The goal is to figure out what we can do to try to reach more learners, to become more accessible, and then differentiate and fill in the gaps from there."