Olivia Lara-Gresty: Hello everyone and welcome to our educator insights podcast. My name is Olivia Lara-Gresty and I’m thrilled to be your host for this episode. Whether you are a regular listener or tuning in for the first time thank you so much for joining us. I am thrilled to introduce our special guest for today – Jeffrey Bradbury. Jeff is an ISTE award winning educator and an educational strategist who uses future ready skills to promote digital innovation in the classroom. I hear you have a new position.
Jeffrey Bradbury: Hi everybody. Thank you for having me on today. It is so exciting to be here as one of your guests. As we get through these spring months, I just started a brand-new position as a Director of Digital Learning in a fantastic school district. I am really looking forward to working with so many great teachers this year.
Olivia: Yeah, Jeff, it’s nice to speak to someone else who’s in a new position. I somewhat recently left the classroom myself in order to join Magic Edtech here. It’s really exciting, and we were chatting before the show about transitions and getting used to new positions. But it’s always nice to have educators and people who are interested in this field to chat with. So, I’m excited to be speaking with you today on our topic of embracing digital teaching and learning in the new normal. I’m excited to get some of your insights on our topic.…
Olivia: So, I just wanted to give everyone a bit of background. I know you started your career in education as a music educator, and now you’re working in digital learning. Can you talk to us a little bit about your journey, from your position in music education, and how it’s been for you so far?
Jeffrey:That’s a great first question. It’s one that I get a lot, especially in the new district. They’re starting to get to know me, and they’re starting to learn a bit about my background. You always have somebody pause and say, “So, how did you get from being in the orchestra to being the director of digital learning?” I don’t find both positions to be mutually exclusive. I’ll put it this way – each of those positions, whether it be music educator, orchestra teacher (I have my master’s in orchestral conducting), all of those skills, all of that project management, all of that organizing teams, all of that being able to work both at the micro level one-to-one with students or at the macro level with full-blown 80-person rehearsals, and making sure that you can get from “here’s your instrument for the first time” to “you’ve got a concert coming up,” or “you’ve got a rehearsal,” or “we’re going to put you on a big stage, and we’re going to do a musical” – all of those skills directly transfer into the work that I’ve done over the last twelve years as an instructional coach. Being able to work with school districts, buildings, grade-level groups, classrooms, and students – it’s all the same thing. My current role as director of digital learning really just takes it one level higher. Now, the district is my orchestra, the buildings are my sections, the principals are my section leaders, and you can just break that down. Everything that I’ve been able to do as an orchestra director, if you will, directly relates to the work that I’m about to be doing in a school district. I’m so looking forward to it.
Olivia:Well, I think you can almost add poet to your resume because that was a beautiful metaphor. I really appreciated that, and I totally understand. I think just considering there’s that element of organization and the calm before the storm at an orchestral performance, it must be similar to some of the things that you deal with in any role today. So, I definitely see that. I think a lot about the fact that you teach a podcasting curriculum and have helped bring podcasting into schools. That has so much to do with the audio connection and music. Given that you have so much experience there, what are some of the biggest challenges you see students facing when it comes to creating successful podcasts, and what do you do to help them overcome that?
Jeffrey:For any student, the fear of showing themselves is huge. Now, we’ve broken down some of those barriers because we’re in the Tiktok generation, and it’s easy to turn on your phone and share your personal life. But when we are looking at things from a self-focused way, having a student share information in a way that tells a story and captivates others is a skill that every student and educator needs to possess. My concept in life is that we, as teachers, have 13 years, K to 12, to get our students to answer one question, and that one question is pretty simple: Tell me about yourself.
It was the first question that you asked me today to tell me a little bit about and in order to do so I have to be able to tell a story. Have to be able to do so in a way that’s going to not allow my audience to fall asleep. Want to check their phones change the channel find any number of 1 million other podcasts and then want to ask those follow up questions, not just listen to me pontificate and then thanks see you later.
How can we get our students to become storytellers. How can we get our teachers to be storytellers? Storytellers of their curriculum, storytellers of the subjects that they love bring that one step higher. How do we use for example, social media? And how do we bring those types of platforms into help. Our buildings tell the story of their teachers and their students and the curriculum and then you go even 1 step higher. How can a district tell their story to the community through the use of all of these tools in a way that the community wants to see it, enjoys seeing it and then when it comes time for budgets, wants to pay for it?
Olivia:Yeah, no and I love that and I was thinking a lot when I first became a teacher. Some of the advice I actually received was to watch more stand-up comedy that you know people are saying that stand-up comedians the way they command a room and really get you to listen is an amazing skill and that was really something that was pushed towards me that I really appreciate you know. I love stand-up. Anyways, that was not difficult homework to do. But I think that active storytelling is incredibly important, and I think you’re right to say you know it’s teachers who need to master it but as well as helping students really not only gain the confidence to tell the story but actually craft them. And storytelling skill as well.
Jeffrey:It’s so important for all of us to be able to capture somebody’s attention. I hope I’ve been able to do that for the last twenty years as an educator. I hope I’ve been able to do that for the last twelve years as a podcast or I hope I’m doing that right now. Think about this a lot as I’m teaching, preparing for a speech or a presentation and I got to be honest, I think about it all the time with my nine-year-old triplets, am I capturing their attention to have them just you know, follow the directions? Let’s just start with that right.
Olivia:Right? Yeah, I mean even especially as a teacher, as a parent, anyone I mean, we’re competing with a lot right now. I mean Tiktok to name one right? It’s got a lot of kids’ attention and so grabbing attention and really commanding it and retaining it is incredibly important. So do think that’s important and thinking you know, just as we’re thinking about some of the experiences you’ve had in some of the areas you know, specifically with helping students find their voice and helping teachers support that and find their own voice. I’m curious just thinking about how you see digital learning playing a future playing a role in the future of education, how it might evolve and shape the way you know teachers are actually teaching and students and adults I would say are learning.
Jeffrey:You know, I’m in the middle of writing my first book and just before we started to do this recording, I was writing this chapter about digital learning and I find that there’s a few terms that people get confused or they use interchangeably right. And when we think digital learning, we often confuse it with digital literacy. We certainly confuse it with the terms digital citizenship. So, I want to answer your question in a couple different ways but kind of put a quick bow on it because when we’re looking at digital learning, that’s that is what right? The subjects that we’re teaching, how are we putting those things together? We can do digital learning in math we can do digital learning and science and digital learning and social studies, putting all that stuff together. The way we do that is through the digital literacy skills. Your things like your mouse clicks and research skills and drag and drop and you know designing something in a presentation slide deck and understanding that those are similar yet different but when it comes to actually building these skills into our students, we have to then put the bow on it and look at digital citizenship which is really the morality cause it’s the ethics of the whole thing. So, I’ve started to really you know in writing this chapter and writing this book trying to talk about the digital competency trinity where you have to have the digital learning the digital literacy and the competency all put together in order to get one well-rounded student and that how do you shove that into your math, your English, your science curriculums so that way you are developing what some people in education call the whole child.
Olivia:Yeah, and you know shove it into, weave it into, hover when you phrase it, but I think that you’re totally right that these skills can’t be taught in a silo right? They’ve got to be woven in with the curriculum and so it can’t just be one unit on digital literacy and then never you know help giving students the opportunity to really use those skills on the project same with kind of that digital citizenship. It’s got to be consistent. Well discreetly taught I think definitely consistent and throughout the units and I definitely that’s a major part of digital learning. So, I’m glad you brought that up and I think you know, thinking about some of you know with digital Learning it’s great. We have all these amazing tools. It can also be challenging and so I’m curious just thinking as we think about that future of education and technology. What are some of the biggest challenges that teachers are facing when implementing digital learning in the classroom and as a coach how you assist them in overcoming those obstacles.
Jeffrey:I’m going to put this probably the inappropriate way of saying its but there’s a reason for saying it this way. A lot of what teachers struggle with is ignorance. I’m not saying that negatively now, I’m saying there’s a lot that teachers don’t know about. There’s a lot that I don’t know about. I want to use this application with my kids. My district is saying we need to use technology, I’m going to use this application. Great! What a teacher might not know is that, that application behind the scenes is grabbing student data and sharing it willingly with the world and they’re selling student data now. That’s not saying the teacher’s a good teacher, that’s not saying the teacher is a bad teacher, that’s saying that the teacher doesn’t know or isn’t thinking about the consequences from which a simple decision like I want to use this application, could have both on the student on the school district on their teaching career. Now on the other side a teacher might have that in mind and say well I’m just not being in a chance at, I’m not using technology at all and go in a completely different direction and so. I think one of the biggest challenges is that unknown and as an instructional coach. Our job is to make what’s unknown known we do that through you know 1 to 1 instructional coaching we do that through group level professional development. We do that through things like websites and newsletters and. all of that you know the digital chochkes if you will, that we send out every single week or every single month. It’s helping teachers identify that digital literacy and digital citizenship and even digital learning. These are not topics these are skills, right? It’s the skill of using audio – the skill of making a video, the skill of building an online presentation, the skill of being able to communicate that story through and that’s a big term through the use of a digital learning medium and putting all that stuff together. Once we start to wrap our heads around, not only the what the how? But really the why and a little bit of the why not? Then we can really start to move that ball forward and create a culture for digital learning. That’s really going to impact student behavior and achievement.
Olivia:Yeah, I definitely hear you on that and I think you know it can be challenging. I think when I hear what you’re saying at ignorance but it’s true that there’s just so much to know and teachers are well-meaning people who are going to try to get you know the best things into the hands of their kids and don’t frankly have the time always to look through that. So, it’s great that you know when they have a coach like yourself and I’m curious with that. You know I had district leaders but I didn’t have its directed digital coach, I should say or a digital learning coach and so. With that for some of those teachers that there who also may be in that position, are there any specific tools that you usually like to recommend or even just help teachers who are still getting started or is there anything in that area you could recommend.
Jeffrey:I think every school district has a digital learning philosophy and a compass for where digital learning starts, and for that, those are your major 10 pulls. Microsoft office, Google docs, right? I always suggest that teachers start there. There are so many resources. There’s so much richness and either of those 2 silos if you will, right? I mean within both Microsoft and Google, you have your docs, your spreadsheets, your presentations, a little bit of video like all these different things. Start there. I also recommend coaches and to school districts and I teach this a lot, understanding where you know there’s this thing called the innovation curve. I talk about this a lot on the show. But basically, it starts with people on the left side who are your go-getters, your first responders you know something new is out. They’re going to be the ones to try it out and then it goes up on a curve and comes back down to I’m never going to touch a computer no matter how much you make me and everybody in between. The trick to all this is figuring out how to get people from the right side of that the I’m never going to do it no matter how much you want me to how do we bring them up the curve which is difficult to push something uphill and then get them to come down on the left side of the curve. So that way. They’re more accepting their more easily using technology and I think the answer there’s being comfortable with us that way they can share this with their teachers and students and families and communities. It’s easy for a teacher and you’ve heard this say, oh my kids know more about this than I do. That’s an excuse. All excuses are true and if you think that way then it’s always going to be true, but it’s just a matter of making sure that we share these things as coaches in a way that makes people think so back and go oh I can do this and then you can start to have those bigger conversations about how to move the needle forward.
Olivia:Yeah I hear that and I think you were talking a little bit about the innovation curve and having kind of those teachers who are really interested in finding those new practices and I think something I always found helpful was having almost like you know, unofficial ambassadors when someone finds a new tool and they’re willing to share it. I think that you know if each teacher finds one that they love or maybe not each teacher but a couple and they’re able to kind of bring that into schools. I think it really helps other teachers who maybe have a little bit less experience say you know what I see someone right? there. They’re not afraid of it. they’re actually using it. They can answer a couple questions and that’s really all they need to get over that hump to then actually be able to use those tools and hopefully more and you know thinking about all these tools, there are so so many and there’s amazing ones out there. I’m curious if you could speak a little bit towards this, the importance of teachers sticking to one kill tool for their students to use and kind of master versus choosing the best tool for each subject. Maybe even each lesson where you kind of any just advice on that end.
Jeffrey:That goes back to the previous question, right? One tool could be Google workspace now and there is a billion different options and a billion different things. When I work with teachers, I do focus on those skills. Right? So, if we’re going to be creating a yearlong curriculum, I want my teachers to use audio video presentations, merge those things together, collaborate with others. We call those the ISTE standards for digital learning making sure that everyone’s a digital citizenship. They’re collaborating. Risk takers their knowledge creators. All of that stuff analytical thinking and data driven instruction I don’t really at this point say every teacher needs to know how to use insert name of edtech company here right? There’s so much stuff that is available in. Any district’s core tools that will hit every single digital learning tool just using Microsoft and Google as the example, they both have video options. They both have presentation options. They both have audio options. They both have you know docs and spreadsheets and all of those different options. Just focus on the core stuff. Don’t necessarily go far out or to the left, I find a lot of teachers get frustrated when they say oh there’s a billion things that my school has for me, I can’t stand it all. Great. Don’t focus on the one thing. How can we focus on one thing.
Jeffrey:And once we start to do all that you know, it’ll be easier for everybody and it’ll certainly help move the students forward and help them become digital competent.
Olivia:Yeah, and I think just the same goes for the students that if a teacher is you know, measuring the room and it seems like students are overwhelmed helping them master that one type of technology first. Maybe it’s a week. Maybe it’s a month. However, long before you know, bringing in more options I think is another. You know, similar translations that idea and I’m curious when teachers are looking at different types of technology and thinking about the effectiveness of that technology. Are there any metrics you use to measure student success on a particular platform or what help kind of helps you choose whether you’re going to stick with one type of technology or another.
Jeffrey:Wow that is both a micro and a macro one of the well. Let’s take the world of instructional coaching, right? Because the world of an instructional coach is to determine how competent their teachers are so that way those skills can then be passed down to the students. You never ask a coach, did you do a good job this year because I don’t know the answer to that I’ll find out next year because those kids are now going to go from say Fourth grade to fifth grade. And if I as a coach, can work with those fifth grade teachers differently this year than I did last year, that I know that those students came up with the knowledge that I needed them to did that make sense.
Olivia:Yeah, I mean the school cycle. It’s an interesting one. You have to kind of wait and see for certain things.
Jeffrey:Flip it off exactly and so my first coaching position I was the K12 instructional technology coach and I was there for 4 years I thought I did a good job but that was me. I didn’t realize the job that I did until I was actually out of the school district for a year that happened to be the 1920 year that was covered, and I actually had many former colleagues kind of email me and go. You know? Yes, we miss you. Oh, my goodness it would have been nice to have an instructional coach here during this time but the kids were prepared and they were prepared because in the high school because while I was in that district most of my time was spent in the middle school so extrapolate that 3 years. My sixth graders, when I first started, are now in ninth grade and tenth grade. The district was better off when I turned around than I could ever have thought about while I was sitting there in the middle of the action trying to figure out where I was so. You know, you always know more about your successes by turning around I think is the moral of the story here.
Olivia:Well, it’s I mean sounds like that district was lucky to have you at the time and the kids really benefited from it throughout those kind of crazy transition years. In digital learning and remote learning and I think you know speaking to that as well, I think there’s also so many kind of transferable soft skills that students are using and gaining from using technology that are not always measured by some of the more standard measurements that you know teachers are given to give to their students and so there are some of those more transferable skills that need a little bit more time to be kind of indirectly measured for sure. I’m curious if you could share any, maybe an example of a student, who’s benefited from the use of technology in the classroom that you support as a teacher coach or any stories you heard from teachers or students themselves.
Jeffrey:This is where I get to put the parent hat on my kids who just came home. So, if that bleeds into the recording are amazing and they are getting ready next week to enter a stem competition where they’re going to be sharing their love for 3d printing. And I couldn’t be more excited for them. I couldn’t be more happier for them and that is because they found something that they wanted to learn about. We got them a 3d printer for the holidays and now they’ve been printing out everything that they can under the sun and now because of that, it’s not the skill of the 3d printer that I’m worrying about, it’s the can they stand in front of strangers at this event and can they present themselves. Can they approach somebody and can they tell them the story of how a 3d print is actually made and so by having all of this technology in front of them. It’s not the technology. Let’s go back 20 minutes. It’s the skill of telling the story and how did this work that’s what I’m excited about and that’s what I’m looking forward to watching them do.
Olivia:Wow full circle are just like a good stand-up comedian. That’s great and I’m super excited. We got to hear back from how your kids did afterwards. Well thinking about you know, we’ve talked a lot about teachers using technology. What technology they should use how to decide?
Olivia:But I know there are lots of teachers out there who are curious should I maybe pursue a secondary degree. How do I become you know a digital technology leader in my school or in my district and so or even just to my classroom and so I’m curious. I know you actually did a podcast recently kind of addressing this topic about pursuing secondary degrees for teachers and I’m just curious if you would as a you know on your recommendation, are there programs for teachers to learn how to really integrate technology into the classroom or is this more of do feel like, it’s a sort of self-taught kind of trial by fire sometimes process.
Jeffrey:Twelve years ago, I was asked by my district to do some light professional development in the high school. I was teaching at and at the time I didn’t know where to start. So I started by asking questions and asking questions. So, my teachers of hey what do you want to learn about then turned into the topics that I would eventually turn into pd sessions. TeacherCast and the TeacherCast educational network really came about because I wanted to provide my teachers with the best possible pd sessions well where is I going to learn I’m only going to learn because I put a microphone in front of you and I ask you questions now I have more knowledge. Now I can pass that on for the last twelve years. TeacherCast has basically been self-serving hence. How do you teach podcasting? How do you build a brand? How do you work with an instructional coach. How do you do Microsoft? How do you do Google? You can kind of look back at the history of all of my shows and my posts and realize that in order for me to be where I am, I created my own professional development. And all of the stuff that you’ve seen me get into over the last twelve years is because I needed to know it, or I needed to be the expert or I was asked to do a presentation or any one of those options I think for anybody out there who is in a position where they want to improve themselves.
Think anybody who is out there in a position where they want to move forward in their career. I think pursuing one of two things, if not both is really important. In 2012, I heard of this thing called Google teacher academy no brainer. Let’s try it out I was accepted and now I’m a Google certified educator from there. You became a Google certified trainer. I got into Microsoft, became a Microsoft innovative educator, became a Microsoft innovative educator expert and now I’m a fellow and there’s other ambassador type programs. You know we video Nearpod Pbs learning media all of these great things. These are all badging opportunities which kind of sounds weird for adults but these are networks where people can come together to learn from each other, to share from each other. And to be able to really share how we can best support our students now when you ask should teachers be included in this or should teachers be pursuing this yeah because this is where the knowledge comes from, this is where the best practices comes from, this is where finding those resources and saying I don’t know but give me 5 minutes, I’ll ask somebody who does that’s the difference. That’s what makes certain teachers stand out from others and in many cases, that’s what makes certain teachers fall into instructional coaching.
You asked something specific which was, should we pursue secondary degrees and yes, I did that show recently because I just finished one. I finished off my administrator certs and at the time, I was using that type of a show to learn more from others. But also, to inspire anybody listening to go ahead and do that but because of that degree because of these certifications, because of the network, because of the podcast. I’m excited that I’m now in a better position, to not only support my own craziness but also to support my family and their craziness as well. So it all boils down to what are your hopes, what are your dreams and how big of a network would you like. I hope every teacher wants to take that step forward.
Olivia:Yeah, and I think it’s a great note to make that you know we’re social creatures and so having a community that’s likeminded that you yet to meet that might be outside of your school. Maybe they’re doing other you know, using other programs. Other resources is super important and so you know there’s that and then to your point.
As well I think that you know we as teachers, you know, it’s great to be modeling that kind of self-learning. You know, a lifelong learner element and so if you’re doing a secondary degree, if you’re also on the side you know, looking up new technology just being constantly kind of hungry for new information is a great thing to model for students and you know I want to just make sure we kind of leave off today with thinking about some kind of advice for future teachers and so or I should say current teachers and so thinking about advice for current teachers, what message would you like to share with your fellow educators and listeners who are passionate about digital learning and its potential to transform education.
Jeffrey:There are so many opportunities out there if you want to learn online. You can and I don’t mean as a webinar. I mean Twitter is a great place. Facebook’s a great place, LinkedIn’s a great place, right? You can always find some place where you can find these little micro areas of knowledge to immediately put into place on the bigger form. Again, going back to more of a macro sense, there are great opportunities, ISTE, right? They’ve got their conference coming up in the summertime. But also, there’s so many opportunities from the ISTE community leaders and others in that type of network that are there that are topic specific. You don’t have to weed through millions of educators. You can find just the library media specialists just the social studies teachers just the instructional coaches. Always be out there looking, always have something in mind that you’re trying to find or else the internet’s just going to gobble you up and I think having some kind of an organizational system for yourself is key, I want to learn about this. So, for myself, I’m going to go have a podcast on or I’m going to go find somebody on Twitter who knows about that, and I’m going to sit down and have a conversation or maybe I’m going to a conference such as ISTE, who can I find, who can I connect with, maybe somebody I know, maybe a stranger, maybe a vendor, who can I connect with that can directly help me out and solve a problem that I can then bring back to my students and my school district to help and support their needs. That’s what I hope for any teacher making sure that we always have our eye moving forward. We’re all passionate creatures. We’re all in this game together and we’re all here for one reason which is to help out our students. How can we do that together and for that reason, that’s why teacher cast you know started with it’s always been on the top of the website a place for teachers to help other teachers. It’s about building that community and support for others. As they go throughout their school year because it is a long school year that moves by quickly.
Olivia:It is a long school year, I remember it. Well, it’s got kind of waves there but it’s a long one. Yeah, we need support and again it’s not always. You just sometimes seen the outside perspective. I totally agree from somewhere outside your school maybe trying something different and so thinking about you know the future of digital learning which we’ve been talking about today, what do you actually see as a future of digital learning in terms of some new technologies or approaches that you think will have the biggest impact on education in the years to come.
Jeffrey:I remember a few years ago heading into an ISTE session and seeing everybody have every company have a solution or an answer for everything. Microsoft had a million different ways to do something. Okay, well then so did the interactive boards by my interactive board. We have software that does everything or by my digital whiteboard which has everything over the last few years. This concept of integrations has really crept in and that’s a good thing, that means company A can be really good at company A stuff and company B can be really good at company B stuff. And because they’re each good at what they do, they’re going to do a little API swap and they’re going to make a connection to that way you can B and B in using A’s technology and vice versa. You can share information back and forth now that is great. But if you’re on that right side of the innovation curve, that is mighty mighty scary because now you have to learn two different applications. So, when you ask what the future is, what does it look like, I don’t know. We’re sitting here, recording today at the same time, there is huge electronics show happening and I’m starting to look at all the different things that are going to be coming out this weekend and it’s a lot of it is more of the same but smaller. We’ve got this thing now; we’re going to make it a smaller form factor. So, it’s cheaper, but it does a few more extra things. That’s great. Well, which one do I buy more choices equals more confusion. More confusion for the consumer but in the classroom it’s more confusion for the teacher which is why having an instructional coach is important which is why having a digital learning roadmap is important which is why I’ll do the plug listening to my podcast is also important, like making sure that we have the right opportunities and the right resources to make data-driven decisions that are standards based and student aligned is so critically vital this year. So, I don’t know how to answer the question of what the future is looking like. I’m looking forward to seeing it over the next few months because now is the time where new things are popping out, but I do see it being more and more highly integrated as companies are really hyper focused on their particular niche and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future looks like next year.
Olivia:Yeah, and I think to your point, it sounds like you know, with all that integration and with just all the many choices that are just ever expanding, it’s going to be important that you know resources are easy to use. You know, same way as a kid needs you able to pick it up and know how to use that tool, a teacher needs it as well. And so I definitely think that there’s a lot to look forward to in, a lot to come and with that Jeff it has been so great to have you on our educator insights podcast today. I once again, want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. We really appreciate your expertise and perspective, and we really hope to have you back on the show again soon.
Jeffrey:Thank you so much for having me on. It’s been a pleasure.
Olivia:To our listeners, thank you for tuning into today’s episode. Hope you found our discussion informative and thought provoking. Before we wrap up, I want to remind you to please subscribe to our podcast, so you never miss an episode and if you’ve enjoyed today’s discussion, please share your valuable experiences and innovative ideas on how technology can be utilized in the classroom using the #MagicEducatorInsights. As Jeff was saying we are a community here and so we want to make sure that we’re sharing any resources and insights ideas that we all have. If you have any feedback or suggestions for future episodes, we would love to hear from you so please reach out. Thank you again for listening. We will be back with another episode soon.