Professional Development Opinion

The Digital Buzz: EduSlam is a Slam-Dunk

By Jennie Magiera — September 28, 2013 6 min read
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Welcome to the first Digital Buzz! This is a series of posts that will feature EdTech gurus, gadgets and other great geekery. In this inaugural Digital Buzz, I am thrilled to share my favorite new EdTech show on the Internet, EduSlam, and its creators the amazing Tanya Avrith and Holly Clark!

JM: Tanya, Holly -- please tell everyone a little about yourself!

HC: I am Holly Clark from San Diego, California (@hollyedtechdiva). - I was a teacher and administrator for 17 years, but left school this year to help teachers more effectively integrate technology in the classroom. Along with helping others in this new role, I have had the chance to learn from many different educators around the US and to collaborate with them on transformative education. This might be one of the most exciting things I have ever had the chance to do in my career. Learning from others is what inspires me!

TA: I am Tanya Avrith from Montreal, Canada (@edtechschools) - I was a High School Media and Social Studies teacher for five years but for the last three years I have been working as the Educational Technology and Digital Citizenship Lead Teacher at the Lester B. Pearson School Board. I literally have the best job, I get to dream up innovative and exciting initiatives and help implement them in schools. This year I am rolling out GAFE and Chromebooks in many of my schools and training teachers to get them ready for the switch over at my school board. I have two young children and am on a mission to get the system ready to handle the way they learn.

JM: So what is an EduSlam?

HC: So the term “slam” has been used in educational technology circles lately as an educational homerun. So we wanted to crowdsource “educational homeruns” that innovative educators are doing from around the world and share them out. We are both blessed to have an amazing network of tweeps, friends and colleagues who are doing ground breaking things in their classrooms. We wanted to share all these great ideas in easily accessible chunks of information - to make them quick, inspiring and something teachers could use in their classrooms tomorrow. From this idea - the EduSlam.me site was born. A lot of people don’t realize that .me is part of the URL, but we didn’t want a .com because we wanted the play on words, and also to model the idea of thinking outside the box.

JM: What Makes EduSlam different from other EdTech shows or podcasts?

TA: EduSlams are short. We try to provide great PD in under five minutes (sometimes they might be a bit longer) but generally they are specific ideas that a teacher or administrator can watch and duplicate the very next day. Holly and I have spent many evenings speaking about how brilliant the individuals in our networks are and felt that we could harness that power to share these amazing ideas with the world.

JM: How did you come up with this idea?

HC: Tanya and I were at the iPad Summit in Boston last year, when we met each other and knew right away that we were kindred souls because of our passion for ed tech. We started talking about how we could help teachers who wanted to redefine their teaching but didn’t know where to begin. It was important for us to provide educators with with ideas they could use in their classrooms tomorrow. Voila the idea for short 5 minute (or a little more) interviews with innovative educators surfaced and we knew we had something we could be proud of. That was February and busy school schedules got in the way of production, but summer break provided the opportunity to make it happen. We spent a week - barely sleeping or eating and just hashing out our ideas. Then, we begin producing the the first segments of the show by enlisting people we highly respected, Jennie being one of them. What has come together has been one of the highlights of our educational careers. We both feel so lucky to have such amazing educators as friends and we wanted to share what they are doing in their classrooms - and what was happening in our own schools - with the world. We called first on people from our Google Certified Teacher and Apple Distinguished Educator networks and made it happen. Now if there is a innovative idea worth spreading, we highlight it. We have had teachers from New Zealand, Singapore and all over the US and Canada on the show - and we are always looking for more!

JM: What are some of the inspiring ideas you’ve learned from your show guests?

HC: Both Tanya and I have actually cried during certain episodes. The first tear-jerker came from David Theriault (@davidedu). He touched our hearts as he passionately described how blogging in the classroom has changed the lives of his students. I still can’t believe the impact that had on us and it remains one of the most watched episodes on the site. Another great segment came from Meg Wilson (@ipodsibilities) from The Avenues School in New York City and her inspiring description of how they are using augmented reality at her school. I can’t stop talking about Carolyn Skibba (@skibtech) from Burley School in Chicago and how her 3rd graders made an ebook with another class in Iceland...that is right, Iceland! Amazing right?

TA: Everytime we record an episode I feel rejuvenated and smarter! Holly and I joke that our brains are going to explode with all these great ideas. Last week we recorded a few more episodes with David Theriault (@davidedu) who told us about using ifttt.com as a solution to easily upload pictures using Intagram to a blog. Right now, the Quebec government is trying to pass a bill that would ban all religious clothing and symbols in public-sector workplaces. This disturbing piece of legislation is obviously scary on many levels. Using David’s ideas from the EduSlam I am trying to get students to use their voice in protest against this legislation. This has now turned into myquebec.org where students can take pictures on instagram and tag their photo with #myquebec which will automatically populate the site. Thanks to David and the EduSlam show, I knew right away how I would help students protest this freedom-choking legislation.

JM: So... any chance you could give us a sneak peak at some upcoming guests or show slams?

HC: We have some really ground breaking shows coming up on EduSlam soon! There will be an entire week dedicated solely to Student Voice. During this week we are asking students all over the US and Canada what they want from their education - and what lessons really resonate with them as learners. We are both very excited for these episodes because student voice is something we are deeply passionate about. Maybe Arne Duncan himself will listen to these shows and help us make a better educational system for our students. To produce these student voice episodes, we are working with amazing administrators like Jason Markey (@jasonmmarkey) from Leyden High School outside of Chicago and other teachers whose students can offer us insight into how we can create rich classroom experiences for our kids.

We also hope to highlight a week of teachers from downunder and a week with EdTechTeacher prior to the iPad Summit in Boston in November - since it is the place where we met each other. We are always looking the next great innovative idea so if you think you have something, please contact us at eduslam1@gmail.com or on Twitter at @eduslam.

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