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Mar 21, 2022

Why ‘Wordle’ is an Apt EdTech Analogy and Video Tips with Jake Miller

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All teachers have strategies for running a class and making lessons accessible to students. But they would all have even greater results if they developed a habit of sharing ideas and challenges with colleagues and learning from each other. 

Therefore, as technology has become an inevitable part of classrooms, it's time for teachers to embrace it to the fullest and work together to help students understand and adapt to new learning. 

In this episode of EdTech Heroes, host Nef Dukes talks to teacher, author, and podcast host Jake Miller. Jake and Nef discuss the role of technology in today's classroom and the ways teachers can benefit from leveraging video. They also touch upon flexible learning and emphasize the advantages of allowing students to access the material and learn at their own pace.


👋 Name: Jake Miller

🏫 What he does: Jake is a teacher and podcast host.

🎙 Podcast: Educational Duct Tape Podcast

✍️ Noteworthy: Jake is the author of Educational Duct Tape and was on EdTech Magazine's list of top 30 to follow in 2020. 

Key insights

Regardless of their approach, all teachers aim for the same outcome. Jake talks about Wordle, a game that has become a massive hit across the globe, and explains that it lacked the social piece when it was released. People were playing it without any defined strategy and at their own pace. But once the community was built, players started sharing their scores and strategies. It could be the same in classrooms.

Teachers should share their results, determine what works for whom, and learn from each other. ''We don't all have the same word, like [...] in our classrooms, but we all have the same kind of challenges, and we're all doing the same kind of job. And I could go about something with a slightly different strategy than somebody else's, and yet we can all get good learning outcomes.''

Tech allows us to access data and make progress based on it. A few years ago, when technology wasn't so involved in teaching, teachers had to rely on old-fashioned methods to determine learning progressions. Although proven effective for so many decades, these approaches can be — and already have been — improved. Professors can now use different tools to make more informed changes in their classrooms and help students follow the curriculum.

''We have a lot of power, in terms of data, to be able to make those informed decisions, just like a marketer would have to look at how many times that link was clicked on or how many people watched that video and then made a purchase. We can see with our students — are their scores improving based on these things we're doing, or where are they having difficulties?''

Teachers and students should use videos. The focus is on teachers leveraging technology and different tools to make lessons more accessible to students. However, as Jake says, it is highly beneficial to allow students to make videos and use those to address their challenges and/or demonstrate how they understood a particular lesson.

''If my students can turn in a video to explain their understanding of a process, then I'm going to know more about their understanding than if it's just a multiple-choice test.''

Related episode👇 

Listen below to learn more about self-pacing and master-based learning with Jon Bergmann!

Episode highlights

Supporting education with technology 💡

''Through educating, I found that I was excited about educational technology and as excited as I was about that teaching moment — the teachers always referenced that like when the kid finally gets it and has that ‘aha’ moment, that's the moment for them. 

But what I liked even more was when a teacher who was feeling apprehensive about using technology realized that they could do it and saw a place to fit it into their classroom. 

So [I] took on a position as a tech coach and took on a leadership role on a committee in my school district. [I] started presenting at conferences, started a blog, started a podcast, and started doing as much as I could to support educators because this educational technology stuff can reinvent the way we do things in our classroom.''

The 'Adjacent Possible' concept 💻

''The sixth-grade teacher might start off class with a dad joke, and everybody giggles about it. Maybe the other teacher's like, 'Well, a dad joke isn't my style.' [...] So they're not doing this same strategy, but they're learning from the strategy.

[...] Everybody has a different take on it. But if we talk about it, which we don't do often enough, but if we do, we can learn from each other's strategies and tap into that 'adjacent possible,' and then share what worked for us.''

Educational technology is like Duct Tape 🎬

''I had to patch my kids' bounce house. They like to play, and I needed to find a tool to patch the bounce house. It was duct tape. 

A similarity is, [...] I needed to give remediation support to my students who struggled on an assessment, and video was the tool to do that. So we talk in the book about how educational technology is that tool we want to [use].''

Embrace flexible learning 🙋

''We're letting the student progress through the information at the pace that works for them because they're all different. They all have different styles of learning. 

I found when I do it in my classroom [...], that frees me up to move around the room. That frees me up to build relationships with my students; that frees me up to support students who are struggling. That frees me up to ask questions for deeper learning of students, and to do some of that formative assessment through discussion and things like that.

So whenever we can take video and utilize it to bring some flexible pace into our classroom, it's hugely beneficial.''

Highly quotable

[14:53] ''I listen to Seth Godin, who's an expert in marketing and things like that. And he uses the quote, 'You're not going to find out how something works until you put it out there.' So sometimes, in our lesson, we just need to try out a strategy and see how it works.''

[29:53] ''So many times in educational training, the teacher feels like they're being told, 'Prioritize this educational technology.' In reality, it's about what we need to do for our students and what we need to do to help them be successful.''

[31:26] ''Bring flexible pacing into the classroom. All of our students learn and work and process information at different rates. And so we need to, whenever possible, build in some flexible pacing or some student pacing, as I normally call it.''

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