Expert Interview Series: Jeff Bradbury of TeacherCast.net About the State of Educational Technology and How it Affects Primary, Secondary, and Professional Instruction

Evolution of technology

Jeffrey Bradbury, author of Kidblog: An Introduction to Blogging With Your Students, is the creator of TeacherCast.net and the Coordinator for Technology Integration for the Westwood Regional School District in New Jersey. We recently asked Jeffrey to share his thoughts on the evolution of technology in instructional settings in courses that are targeted toward adults as well as kids.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to create TeacherCast?

I was interested in creating a website that would act as a “one-stop shop” for teachers that were looking to learn about using educational technology to work with their students. On July 11, 2011, TeacherCast was officially created; and soon afterward, the TeacherCast Podcast was submitted to iTunes.  Since then, TeacherCast has grown into a worldwide educational brand that features educational blogs, podcasts, screencasts, and other online learning resources.

Is it possible to use educational technology to change the way that teachers administer tests and exams (and to do so more effectively or efficiently)?

In education, we like to think of technology simply as a tool that is used as a vehicle to provide instruction to our students.  It is certainly possible to use educational technology to change the way that teachers administer tests. The use of applications such as Google Docs, Google Forms, and other assessment tools is easier now more than ever; and every day, teachers are using these great resources to their advantages in their digital classrooms.

Talk about a particular product or type of educational technology that you’re very excited about right now. How can it potentially impact the way we teach students?

I think that the concept of podcasting or the use of podcasts in the classroom is still untapped in today’s educational learning environments. With more than 600,000 unique podcasts in the iTunes directory and thousands of iTunesU courses, teachers have an unlimited resource from which to pull educational content for their students.  Using simple apps found on just about every mobile device, teachers can also easily create their own audio and video resources for their students with little to no training or effort that can be used to provide engaging learning opportunities for their students

What advice would you give to an educator about incorporating visual learning or other technologies into teaching what is traditionally thought of as “dry” material?

When working with teachers, I try to focus less on the technologies they are using and more on their presence in the classroom.  Teaching is entertainment, and it’s important to learn that if a student is not being engaged in the classroom, sometimes it’s not the subject and it’s not the technology – but it quite possibly could be the person standing in front of the students.  Being a dynamic educator is “visual learning” just as much as a good movie or Powerpoint presentation.

What are some of the fundamental differences between teaching kids and teaching adults?

This is a great question that is so often not understood.  I have taught K-12 as well as adult learning for the last 15 years.  I have also been an orchestra conductor for beginning musicians and have led orchestras, operas, and musicals professionally.  The truth is, there is no difference when it comes to “teaching.”  The difference is simply the words that we use.

For example, when we work with young musicians, we talk to them about tempo, rhythm, dynamics, and listening.  When you work with high school or college students, you work with tempo, rhythm, dynamics, and listening.  When we are in the opera pit trying to balance a melody with what is happening on the stage, we talk about tempo, rhythm, dynamics, and listening.  The difference is in the approach and perhaps the level of vocabulary terms you use; but in teaching, the concepts are all universal.

Finish this sentence: “If you want to design a curriculum or seminar that maximizes the chances of students retaining the knowledge long after the coursework is completed, you should…” 

… be dynamic and energetic.  Think about a preacher on a Sunday morning television show or the last comic you watched command a room.  What did they do to make you want to pay attention to them for an entire sermon or comedy set?  If they are good, they are dynamic, charismatic people who make you hang on every word. They take you for a ride of emotions through their lecture that makes you want to come back the next week and see them again.  It’s never about the curriculum; it’s always about the delivery.  You come back to watch Jerry Seinfeld because he is a very entertaining person, not because he is the guy who does a specific joke on a specific topic.  Be inspiring, and you will be a memorable educator.

What do you foresee for the future of educational technology, both in traditional schools and in the continuing education space?

Technology will continue to get faster and smaller and cause more controversy in classrooms.  As more teachers enter the classroom as “digital natives,” they are increasingly being digital natives who were taught by nondigital natives. So while they have lived with the internet all their lives, they weren’t taught themselves how to properly use it.  The important goal for all educational programs is to continue to promote sound educational practices much moreso than promoting specific tools or technologies.  The students may or may not have a device with them 24/7, but they will always be able to take away those amazing memories and experiences of working with their teachers to solve a problem or create a project – and that is far more important to our society than any iPad or Chromebook.

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