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Future building in education - and the role of technology

In this episode Brett Salakas speaks to Texthelp's Greg O'Connor about future building in education. Brett is a teacher, leader, poet and the founder of aussieED (the largest online network of teachers in Australia) and the co-founder of both the ED Poets Society and TheWalkingED.

Greg and Brett discuss:
-Preparing children for the future
- Access to Ed-tech and equity issues
- Learner agency in a changing world
- The role of the teacher in building for the future

Transcript

Greg O'Connor:

Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of the Texthelp Talks Podcast, where we gather together experts to talk about a range of topics from education right through into the workplace. Before we get started, make sure you subscribe to Texthelp Talks through your preferred streaming service so you never miss an episode. And remember, if you want to get involved in the conversation online, you can use the #TexthelpTalks and also use the #aussieED. But more about that in a moment.

Greg O'Connor:

I'm Greg O'Connor, Head of Education for the Asia Pacific region here at Texthelp, and today I'm joined by our guest, Brett Salakas. Good day, Brett.

Brett Salakas:

Good day, Greg. How are you doing, brother?

Greg O'Connor:

I'm very good. Now, Brett, you are a teacher, a leader, a poet, and you're the founder of what I just mentioned, #aussieED.

Brett Salakas:

Yes. And handsome devil, you forgot to mention handsome devil.

Greg O'Connor:

That's right. They're only hearing your voice, they can't actually see you.

Brett Salakas:

Well, you can vouch for me.

Greg O'Connor:

I'm taking a screenshot as we talk. #aussieED, tell me a bit about #aussieED.

Brett Salakas:

Oh, look, #aussieED started close to almost 10 years ago now. It's probably about eight years back. It began as a Twitter chat. I was certainly in a position at school where we were just starting to bring in portable devices into the classroom. My school was one of the first schools here in Sydney to start having one-to-one exploration with this new-fangled device called an iPad and we were trying to figure out how we could use it. But the normal lines of professional development weren't really open to us because no one else had these portable devices.

Brett Salakas:

They just weren't around, they certainly weren't around in schools. They were brand new technology at the time. So to look at what people were doing, we really had to look overseas and abroad and start reaching out, and the only way to do that was via social media. My eyes were open to just how powerful the social connected education world actually is and the sharing that goes on there. And it became pretty apparent that we were desperately in need of something like that in Australia, and timing was right.

Brett Salakas:

And we began on Twitter at first with this hashtag called #aussieED, and we met every Sunday and discussed all range of various issues. We built up an awesome team of about 10 great educators. And look, we ended up growing to become the largest online network of teachers in Australia. We still meet every Sunday at 8:30, Sydney time, Melbourne time, 8:30 PM on a Sunday night. Look, sometimes the Twitter reach, even on a quiet night, the Twitter reach is well into the millions.

Brett Salakas:

We probably got a couple of thousand teachers sharing at anyone at any one time. And on several times, we've trended globally, we will be the number one trending thing in New Zealand, UK, early morning in the U.S. and simultaneously. So our tweet reach has actually sometimes exceeded the entire population of Australia for even a single event. Look, we are Australian-based, talking about Australian education issues, but it certainly has a huge impact and draws on expertise from around the world.

Greg O'Connor:

I know, I think I've been on... I was just checking when I joined Twitter. Since 2009 and I think pretty early on I started using the #aussieED just to get involved in that conversation. So anyone listening, by all means check that out and they can find you on Twitter as well, Brett.

Brett Salakas:

MRsalakas. I'm very creative with my Twitter handle, MRsalakas, M-R.

Greg O'Connor:

And mine is just gregoconnor, all one word. I must have got an early one when it was all early and you could get your full name without putting numbers or whatever. And you're also co-founder of ED Poets society and also The Walking ED as well.

Brett Salakas:

Yeah. Look, actually, funnily enough, not that this works on a podcast, but I'm actually wearing The Walking ED shirt as I speak. And I see you're wearing your Texthelp t-shirt at the moment as well.

Greg O'Connor:

I could do a swap.

Brett Salakas:

Yeah. That's it. Look, The Walking ED was actually an interesting one. I'm a bit of a big guy, probably carry a few extra kilos. I'm sitting just over 6'3, but probably carry a little bit more weight. Ex rugby front row forward, pretty big for a kindergarten teacher I am. But primary school teacher by trade, but look I was looking for a way during the pandemic to be able to keep exercise, keep mental health going. And I was talking to one of my friends, Matt Joseph, who's set up in Boston in America and we were just talking.

Brett Salakas:

I would call him on WhatsApp and we would have a yarn and keep each other company. I would walk in the morning, he'd walk in the evening. And we just jokingly said, "We should start up like a bit of a discussion called The Walking ED as a bit obvious pun on The Walking Dead sort of thing." I think we both sent out a tweet and it went viral. And throughout the pandemic, we had teachers from all over the world, it was a great success for people's wellbeing, and mental health, and community building.

Brett Salakas:

Hundreds, if not a couple of thousand people using The Walking ED hashtag and going out for their daily walk, posting what they're doing. And we ended up making like a really nice, little supportive community during a time of the pandemic where the world was a little bit crazy. Even though it was only 18 months ago when COVID hit, I think we forget how uncertain everything was. We just weren't sure of what was going to happen, what the next day or the next week could bring.

Brett Salakas:

There was a huge bit of uncertainty, especially when the first lock lockdowns started happening. So being able to have that connected community when we were isolated from one another and you couldn't really go into your staff room to talk. But you could go online and have a walk, and have a conversation, and have a link with other teachers who are facing similar challenges was very powerful.

Greg O'Connor:

Actually, that's a good segue on what we're going to talk about, because the uncertainty piece is really where we've been at. And the topic of this podcast is future building and education, the role of ed tech. And uncertainty is what's all... The future is uncertain and there's been a lot of conversation around this, how's the pandemic going to affect education of the future? What is the future? And we were actually originally going to call this conversation, have something around future proofing here in the office.

Greg O'Connor:

And we had a discussion around that and we focused on that word proofing, and we thought, well, we realized that assumes that we needed to put some barrier up to the future. That it's so uncertain, we want to hide from it. And we thought, "No, no, no, the future doesn't have to be negative or scary. It actually can be quite the opposite, but we need to unpack it a bit." So what I thought it would be really cool, Brett was to talk about, okay, where to from here, what does the future look like? And what do we think?

Greg O'Connor:

So in that regard, just to step back a bit, you talked about when we started, it was really uncertain, we didn't know what're in for. What lessons do you think we've learned from the last 18 months, two years?

Brett Salakas:

Look, I think as we move forward, I think we all know that technology has a place not only in education, but a place in our everyday lives as we move forward. But there are obviously some people who traditionally or recently have been resistant to the role technology may or may not play in education. But just the simple reality is every day, every month, every year, technology becomes more infused with our daily lives. There's a reason right now where you can't go out and buy a new car because there's a worldwide silicon shortage. We've got long delays on buying a new computer.

Brett Salakas:

And our cars are delayed as a result because our cars effectively are just computers with wheels. Now, look, our technology is infused with what we do. We all walk around with these little devices in pockets that connect us to the entire history of human intellect and knowledge. Look, the future is going to be infused with technology, but it's how we use that technology that will really play out within the education space.

Brett Salakas:

Look, I'm glad you actually mentioned the COVID, and the lessons, and whatnot from COVID because I think the lessons and the pathways that we found or perhaps even the lessons that we learned from business and how business struggled at the early stages of the pandemic and how they have adapted are an opportunity for educators to observe, and then actually take lessons from. Look, what I mean by that is if we have a look, pretty much every city in the world, when lockdowns started to happen, we had all these shortages.

Brett Salakas:

We had this immediate shortage, particularly of toilet paper. And I think we all saw on our social media and the news flooded with images and video of people battling over getting rolls of toilet paper and all sorts of things. And I think what we like to pretend, it was only in our little city, it was only happening in Sydney, it was only happening in Melbourne, it was only happening in Brisbane. But if you step back and have a look at what was happening around the globe, what was happening in Sydney happened in London, happened in Atlanta, happened in New York. It was a global phenomenon.

Brett Salakas:

And why was that? Because we had a breakdown in supply chain. We had companies and the toilet paper was obviously first hit, but it hit on a number of different in industries. We had companies that had over relied on one particular delivery method, one particular line of supply chain. And when something unforeseen or unpredicted happened to that supply chain, it interrupted that supply chain. There was no way to circumvent to get around. It broke the supply chain.

Brett Salakas:

We know that obviously initially China was heavily affected, Australia particularly relies on anything that needs to be manufactured, we rely very heavily on manufacturing in China to import or export into Australia. And when those supply chains were broken, because we didn't have any other alternative routes, we then didn't have that supplier as a end user. Now, to deal with that, to cope with that, and we know now, I've just come out of a five-month lockdown, certainly had no issue getting toilet paper right now.

Brett Salakas:

So what have businesses done differently? Why were they struggling so much with supply chain originally, yet now, no issue in a much harder, much, longer, much lengthier lockdown? And the reason is they have diversified that supply chain that they're not over reliant on one single source. Whilst a product may have previously been almost exclusively manufactured in China because of a number of, usually economic reasons, companies are diversifying. Maybe they have 50% of their product done in China, maybe 30% done in Thailand, or Taiwan, or Indonesia or something.

Brett Salakas:

And then perhaps even more extensively done in our home territory in Australia as well. So they have actually broken up and diversified, so if one arm, one element of that supply chain gets interrupted for whatever reasons, political, economic, whatever it might be, then they just have to dial up the percentages on existing supply chains. And then the end user does not have an interrupted flow and experience.

Brett Salakas:

Now, as educators, we have had to hugely struggle and adapt during a home learning period, where a lot of our students have been at home for extended periods of time. And don't get me wrong, as much as I am as happy that we are out of lockdown and we are moving into our next phase, I do believe, and I think a lot of the medical scientists out there would say that the year ahead is not going to be without its own challenges. So it is very, very likely that either individual schools or entire regions will be experiencing similar disruptions coming forward.

Brett Salakas:

So what do we need to do? We need to look at our curriculum delivery. How is our curriculum supply chain? If we are over reliant on one particular methodology of delivering curriculum, just like that toilet paper issue. If we have a disruption to that method, then how do we execute curriculum? How do our students get their lessons done? Previously you may have been able to see a great portion, we're over reliant on face-to-face teaching exclusively. As soon as we came into a position where we could not do face-to-face teaching, the old school chalk and talk sort of stuff.

Brett Salakas:

As soon as we weren't in a position to use that, then a large number of schools, a large number of classes, a large number of students were not able to experience the lessons and the learning that they deserve. And those teachers weren't able to share the expertise that they've built up over years and years and years of experience. So we need to diversify our curriculum delivery. We need to have face-to-face, we need to have online, we need to have hybrid learning.

Brett Salakas:

We need to be able to have a blend of synchronous and asynchronous solutions so that as we move forward, if the internet goes down, no worries, we dial up the face-to-face. If we can't go of face-to-face, we dial up the asynchronous stuff and we've got our other work there. We may have online teaching or we may have established work that students can move through at their own pace with their own agency to be able to overcome. So we have more than one way of teaching, we have more than one methodology within our toolkit.

Brett Salakas:

In fact, our students are constantly experiencing 2, 3, 4 styles of curriculum delivery so that we can dial up what we need to dial up when the situation requires it.

Greg O'Connor:

Look, there are so many things that we can unpack to say, what you've mentioned. You mentioned earlier on about obviously ed tech's essentially is process. You mentioned some teachers being maybe still resistant to educational technology. I got a white paper done and we looked at some research around the role of ed tech and teachers during the pandemic last year. And we found in Australia that the increase in teachers downloading apps, educational apps increased by 190% in Australia during the pandemic initially.

Greg O'Connor:

What that indicated to us was all of a sudden teachers realized, they realized they needed all these ed tech tools, but they didn't know what they needed. There was almost, "I need something," so they were just grabbing things from everywhere. And so that told me, maybe they thought about the tool, but they didn't really understand where they were going to use it. What's your take, another round?

Greg O'Connor:

How do we, this kind of sometimes teachers are resistant or they're not used to using ed tech in this way, or it's gone from a maybe to a must have now. Obviously, you've been thinking about this in this supply chain issue, all of a sudden we've kind of addressed this. But is it hard for some teachers to just switch the button like that and go face-to-face to online?

Brett Salakas:

Yeah. No, you make a really valid point. And I think there's two elements of a discussion out of that, and one probably is SAMR Model that your listeners are likely to be familiar with, S-A-M-R. At the lower end of the SAMR Model, which just replacing digitally what we would have done in the classroom in-person. So we might have a worksheet or we may have had something written up on the board, direct instructions that then students then responded to and did on the paper or in their exercise books.

Brett Salakas:

For many teachers or certainly as an observer during this time, for many teachers who are in the beginnings of digitalization of their curriculum, digitalization of their lesson, they started at point where they replace what they have done with a digital alternative that really achieves the same goal. Now, the thing there is there's a temptation when you don't need to do digital, you'll just go back to the other way because there was no actual gain.

Brett Salakas:

Now, what we need to do is actually be very transformative. You and I both know, and I'm sure your listeners are well aware that doing things on a digital platform, using digital pedagogy, effective digital pedagogy allows you to transform the teaching and learning. Allows you to do more than has previously been able to be done. So your students are more engaged, your students are having experiences that they previously were not able to experience.

Brett Salakas:

They get deeper learning, they can do more, they can be more creative. They can target those higher blooms evaluative, analytical creative style of skills. And actually process the information that they're getting, process the content that they're getting and deliver something. There's that old, and I know JFK used this quote in one of his famous speeches. I don't know if you know, but I know some of the people who probably already follow me know that for a big period of my early teaching in career, I lived and taught in Southeast Asia.

Brett Salakas:

And there's a Chinese character in the Chinese language and the character for crisis is the same character for opportunity. There's two different ways to look at the same situation, the same event. One is that it is a great problem, and the other is that it is a great opportunity for change and improvement. The COVID period has been a crisis, there is no way around that, but it is also been this huge opportunity where not only the evangelists have able to jump on with ed tech, but there has been a mainstream need to upskill all teachers to improve their digital skill, their digital knowledge.

Brett Salakas:

Now, because of this, we are now sitting at this opportunity where after we've been watching for 10 or 15 years, technology improving, improving and getting to a point where it's really, really powerful, but still question mark over the percentage of educators that have embraced it. Whereas now on, not even a local Australian sense, but on an entire global sense, we have had the most immense upswing in professional development of digital tools that none of us could have predicted.

Brett Salakas:

So suddenly we have this huge amount of teachers who have skilled up to a basic level of competency. So there is this opportunity presenting itself right now to allow us to take that next step, to actually engage people with that SAMR process to actually be able to say, "Well, you know what? Now you are functional in this digital world. Let's take it a level and let's transform the teaching and learning process and provide your students with opportunities that you've never been able to provide before."

Greg O'Connor:

Almost the pandemic and the changes that we're forced upon us has actually created this environment where we've actually seen the future has been possibilities is not barriers we need to fight against. Michael Fullan wrote a book called Stratosphere. It's quite old now, it's a little book. And he talks around that the future can be both dangerous and unknowable, but our job is not to fight against it, but it's to move towards it and figure out how we're going to use this like it's an inevitable thing that we are dealing with.

Greg O'Connor:

One of the tools we have at Texthelp is called Read&Write, it's a literacy tool and supports kids with literacy around reading and writing and stuff. And during these last 18 months, there's been a huge spike in its use. When you talk to teachers, they've gone from, "Oh, this was a tool I used and I was just using it to support what I was always doing in my classroom." And because the kids were at home or whatever, and they had more agency, they were using it differently.

Greg O'Connor:

And teachers were realizing, wow, I could use this tool differently. I can actually push, not only push my pedagogy, but also give more agency to my students. So that's what you're talking about, it's actually about, we're at this stage now where we've got kind of a springboard, haven't we? To actually really get on and use it in a more transformative way, this kind of tech. So that being the case, Brett, coming back to that PD stuff and the resistance...

Greg O'Connor:

Another quote that I got from a friend in the U.S., he used to use this term that perfect is the enemy of done. And when teachers look at technology, they kind of go, "I'm not going use it because I'm not a Jedi in that particular bit of software." And I often say, "Do you have to be a Jedi in ed tech to use it with your kids?"

Brett Salakas:

You just remind me of the... I think it's a bit of a twist of the Muhammad Ali quote of "Good is the enemy of great." If you're satisfied with being good, you'll never be able to achieve greatness. Again, it's looking at, do you just do that minimum? Are you happy and contented with just doing the same or do you want to push it into that new barrier? I will admit, recently, I've just started in a new role with HP, as the HP Education Ambassador to Australia.

Brett Salakas:

It's a dream job to be honest with you because my whole entire role is to evangelize great digital pedagogy. So all the stuff that we've been talking about in this episode of your podcast are looking at how we actually are able to make genuine transformative change. So I'll be bringing to life this concept here in Australia called Reinvent the Classroom, where we'll be looking at exactly the things that we've been talking about. How do we grab tools and make a difference so that it's not just good enough, it's actually great, it's transformative?

Brett Salakas:

Texthelp's a great example. I've been aware of Texthelp, but I've used it in my own classrooms. And even now, I actually showed a friend of mine who was doing a university essay not too long ago. She's doing her master's and I used the highlight feature. I said, "Do you know what? When you want to do your bibliography, just actually use your highlight. Go on your web pages, highlight, highlight, highlight. Switch colors, highlight, highlight, highlight and it will actually source all of the information that you've highlighted into one single document.

Brett Salakas:

And then it'll have your source information there, plus what you've highlighted, then you can actually go through and process that information, analyze that information." That's a great example of, not throwing out the baby with bathwater. We know that research and having multiple sources is a terrific, long-term, well-established pedagogy. We give students a research assignment, we have them go out, they read multiple sources, they take their study notes, they process that information, and they summarize that in their own words. That isn't as old as... I forget the metaphor, as old as …

Greg O'Connor:

As us. As old as you and I.

Brett Salakas:

Yeah, as old as us. But here we have an opportunity where now, we've got a tool like Texthelp, where we've got the highlight feature within Texthelp to actually be able to use this whole new medium of the intent and all of these sources, and be able to do it at the click of a button. And have students who, maybe from an equity standpoint may not have had the same amount of books in the home environment, or may have not had access to the library, or may have not had that same support.

Brett Salakas:

As long as they've got their internet connection, they can get out there. So we're breaking, we're disrupting that equity barrier of access to information. And now we're able to actually give them the tool to then source all this material, collate this material, and then they get to use their own learning, their own skills of summarization, and analyzing, and then creating new content, and deepening their understanding.

Greg O'Connor:

Well, things like that, just to create the bibliography for you, that it does it automatically. The thing about that is that students, they need to know why is bibliography, how it's set up. What is APA and why are they different? But once they know that, we don't want kids spending the whole time doing the cover page of their essay and the bibliography. Let's get that stuff done. What's important is what in the middle, what their thoughts are, what they feel. How they can actually put that down either in paper or by a video, or whatever way they want to demonstrate their understanding.

Greg O'Connor:

So I think it's really cool how technology can let us get on with the pedagogy that we need to do. And it looks after that stuff that's often been in the way. You've met kids who spend the whole time just trying to figure out where the dots are and the commas are in their citation format. So I think that... The other part of this, as I'm thinking about this, is that ed tech, what it does, it shines a light on our pedagogy.

Greg O'Connor:

So it's showing us what's really important here and it's actually not about the technology, it's about us as teachers. We use it to support our teaching and learning.

Brett Salakas:

And that's it. Technology is a resource. They're the tools that exist in our toolkit, but it's how we utilize those tools. You can have a tradesman who have all the fancy tools on his belt as much as possible, but if he's not skilled at the craft of using them, how effective are those actual tools? You talk there, you reminded me of, I think it's pronounce the Pareto principle. And the Pareto principle talks about 80% of the results that you get as an educator comes from 20% of your actions.

Brett Salakas:

So it's that how do we... Such a small part of what we do, actually that's where the real work, the real learning and the real impact actually comes from. So how do we actually increase that time, that 20%? And decrease that 80% of administration and all the things that you're talking about, those functional I have to do in APA style, or I have to do it... All of those things where kids can get lost for hours in doing those functional things.

Brett Salakas:

And then they spend 20% of their time on the bulk of the actual work, the learning. So how do we get rid of that unnecessary distracting time, that unnecessary administration time, functional time and we get into the heart and soul of the teaching and learning? Look, I think that there's a book coming out of a young teacher, Sydney-based author, kind of say, Dan Jackson and he's got a book called Work Less, Teach More.

Brett Salakas:

And I like that concept, it alludes a little bit to what you are saying about, let's actually be smarter about how we work. Let's minimize that 80%, let's spend less time on the things that don't make impact, and maximize our time on the activities and the tasks that actually engage and have impact in learning. If we impact, then we increase that teaching time, then our students are the great beneficiaries of that. And technology allows us to do that.

Greg O'Connor:

Yeah, yeah. That's that transformational part of it, isn't it? When we can do... One thing that I discovered talking to teachers was the dreaded handout had to be digitized, because I was handing out these handouts in my classroom. Oh my goodness, you're at home, I need to digitize that handout. And as soon as I digitized that information and provided it with my students, it opened up a whole different way that I could actually produce material, but also that way my kids could interact with that content and learn and digest it.

Greg O'Connor:

And it's a whole bunch of ways that just occurred. Now, you and I have to be careful, I guess, because we have what I often call SOS, shiny object syndrome. We see the value of this and we get kind of, "Ah, this is all fantastic." But we've always got to come back and remember, we've got this teaching force out there and teachers, and a whole bunch of people managing this in a day-to-day life of a school.

Greg O'Connor:

So I often think about transformation happens not only at a teacher and a classroom level, but it needs to happen at the school and a systems level. So, how are you seeing that playing out now as we've got this kind of hybrid... We know we need to have a hybrid system, we know we need to have a blended learning environment. Do you think you're seeing that same kind of impact happening at a school and even beyond school level?

Brett Salakas:

Yeah. Look, I think transformation only works when it has buy-in with the school leadership. The principal needs to believe in it, the deputy needs to be driving it. There needs to be senior people within the school who actually value and believe in and drive, and own the transformation of something. If you are just paying lip service to say, "I want to be innovative and I want to be transformational," and you want your latest tech in there, just because you want it to look good because the school down the road has that.

Brett Salakas:

Then you're getting into it for the wrong reasons and you're not actually going to be able to get any genuine change in the pedagogy that's occurring in your school. You need to actually buy into it and lead it. Teachers are extremely time poor. They do not have excess time to do things that aren't genuine priorities within their school environment. So a principal or a deputy needs to own any transformative change and needs to prioritize that. And if they do that, then the teachers... Teachers make good students.

Brett Salakas:

Teachers are very, very good at playing the role of the student very well. So when we know what's asked of us, we will try very hard to comply and deliver what's asked of us. So if the principal or the deputy is driving change, and wants to see real change, and wants to see a measurable impact, then teachers will look to create that change, try those new things, measure the impact that they're having and be reflective, and reiterate where necessary.

Brett Salakas:

However, like I said, if it's just that people are jumping on the bandwagon because they think they should and they just blindly buy new hardware or subscribe to new services, and think some magical pedagogy fairy is going to come, and wave its magic wand. And teaching practice is going to change, and students are going to be engaged, it just doesn't happen that way. It goes back to that metaphor of our trade person. You can put as many hammers and fancy tools in her toolkit that you can, but if you don't train her up, she's not going to be able to use those tools to their maximum efficiency.

Brett Salakas:

Yes, you definitely need to invest in the hardware, but at the same time, you need to invest in the professional development, you need to invest in the training. But you also need to have that scaffolding off support that you prioritize that within your school's annual plan or whatever it might be.

Brett Salakas:

I think from a system perspective, we are seeing systems start to take this. Even recently, I'm based in New South Wales, there is a huge reinvestment, hundreds of millions of dollars, a record investment from the state government in digital technologies and teacher training. I know there's that what they call The RAG, The Rural Access Gap initiative, spending millions and millions of dollars. So I think systems are seeing that this is an issue, systems are investing in it.

Brett Salakas:

I think we are all uber-aware or hyper-aware that are the COVID showed us that there are inequalities within our system with technological point of view that need to be addressed. And that there are immense benefits to having tech-savvy teachers or proficient teachers who have access the right resources, so they can provide the types of learning experiences that is best practice globally.

Greg O'Connor:

Yeah. I was talking to a principal and she was saying, "When I buy a bit of technology for my school, whatever the cost of that technology is, I multiply that cost two or three times in my budget, because I need to budget for PD, for Teacher Release. I need to a budget for... If it's hardware or any upgrades, I need to do changes." So you're right, it's just not about, "Oh, here's your subscription, do this bit of tech.

Brett Salakas:

It's a wise principle. Whenever you are doing anything, you need to invest in services and professional development simultaneously whenever you invest in hardware. You do not do one without the other. If you're investing in hardware, you must consider investing in professional development at the same time. And I must admit, that's part of why I'm excited about my new role within HP, is obviously HP is a hardware provider, but there's all these new Reinvent the Classroom services, Professional Development.

Brett Salakas:

And obviously, I've got the support of HP and great companies like Intel or Microsoft, Google, and whatnot through alliance to be able to promote great digital pedagogy. I'm hoping that people listening to your podcast will be able to hear my name more and more in the coming year or so and become familiar with that concept of Reinvent the Classroom. And really, I'll stand next to you, my brother, shoulder to shoulder as we both loudly advocate for quality digital pedagogy.

Brett Salakas:

I think we all have the same goal because the better we can support teachers, the better we can have digital pedagogy happening within our schools, the better our students are, and the better our society is as a result.

Greg O'Connor:

Yeah. And one of the changes that have come out of the pandemic is, you mentioned at the beginning about the change how we deliver PD. The teachers now are engaging in PD more than ever. And one of the reasons that this is, it's because they can do it online, but also they can do it when and where and how they want. An example of that is I used to go and deliver face-to-face PD in one part of Australia, again, around Read&Write. And I might get a bunch of people come and we'd have a great time, but they'd have to get released from school or be after school.

Greg O'Connor:

As soon as I changed that to a different way of delivery with giving people options, this is... You can actually engage with this material in a whole potential different ways, we had four or five times the number of people engaging in that learning. And it just made me realize that not only are we asking teachers to be transformative in the way they use pedagogy with ed tech with their kids, but we need to be transformative in the way we roll our PD and professional learning.

Brett Salakas:

So true. So true. How familiar, how common is the term personalized learning? We have all of these interventions for our students. We know we need to personalize the learning that occurs for our students, for whatever that might be. Whether it's a comprehension or reading intervention, or writing intervention, or mathematics, or whatever it could be. We know that having personalized learning, individual learning plans, et cetera, et cetera, such IEPs are immensely important and incredibly powerful.

Brett Salakas:

But at the same time, even for our high-achieving students, we know that giving them student agency and giving them the opportunities to personalize their learning means that they can get better. Why has it taken so long for us to go, "Well, if it is good for the student to have personalized learning, how could it not be good for the adult learner to have that same sort of concept, that same experience of being able to personalize their learning"? Why is it cookie cutter as the adult, but so customized and personalized for the younger student?

Brett Salakas:

Obviously there is a difference when we talk pedagogy, there are things that work great for students. And good teaching practice for students does not always mean exactly the same as good teaching practice for adults. There is a difference between andragogy and pedagogy. We have to know and we have to own the fact that students, children and adults learn differently, but there are underlying principles that are the same.

Brett Salakas:

You've banged on there, that the individualized learning for students, wow, who would've guessed adults like that too. The COVID, it comes down to that crisis and opportunity. Yeah, look, wow, you couldn't go out face-to-face anymore, but it created this opportunity and you've increased your reach tenfold or whatever of being able to provide things. And you know what? Teachers are voracious learners, we value learning. We promote education, we are all about it.

Brett Salakas:

So when it is easy to access, teachers are hungry to learn. And so that's it, as we move forward in the future, we create it. Make accessing information, accessing learning easier and easier, and teachers are just going to eat that up every day of the week.

Greg O'Connor:

Yeah, I totally agree. Look, we've run out of time, Brett.

Brett Salakas:

I'm just warming up, brother. I thought that was warm up.

Greg O'Connor:

I was going to say, I think this might need to be number one of a series of podcasts that we dive into around agency. Universal Design for Learning came up in my thoughts there as you're talking about systemic changes and stuff, and a whole bunch of things. So look, we will catch up again, but thanks for being here. Just to remind everybody the hashtags they can find you on and where they can check you out online is?

Brett Salakas:

Particularly on Twitter, #aussieED, A-U-S-S-I-E capital E capital D, #aussieED, as in Aussie Education, obviously with the hashtag there. I am MRsalakas, Brett Salakas, so just have the @ symbol, M-R and then Salakas S-A-L-A-K-A-S. But look, I am super easy to Google. If you Google Brett Salakas, you'll find me pretty darn quick. I am always very happy to engage with people. And like I said, I'm really excited about this new role that I have with HP, because I'm going to be able to have the opportunity to engage with people more and more frequently.

Brett Salakas:

It gives me the chance to sit down with people like you, Greg, and talk about the importance of digital pedagogy. We didn't even get to touch too much on accessibility, which one of the parts that I absolutely love about Texthelp. But look, there's lots to talk about and let's park it, and hopefully we can talk again. I know we've got a round table lined up soon so we can talk with two of my other favorite educators in the world, two Queensland ladies who are absolutely phenomenal. But look, I'm looking forward to talking to you and thank you very much for the invitation to talk with you today.

Greg O'Connor:

No, that's great. And I'm looking forward to ongoing... We will be doing lots of things together in the future. What I'll do for the podcast in the notes with the podcast, I'll actually put links to your stuff in Twitter and some of the things like Dan Jackson's book and stuff. We'll put that in the notes. So-

Brett Salakas:

That was easy for me to think of because that's actually the thing for this Sundays #aussieED, is that we've got Dan doing a chat on teach less... Oh, sorry. Work Less, Teach More.

Greg O'Connor:

And so that's a heads up to remind everybody on a Sunday afternoon at 5:00?

Brett Salakas:

8:30 PM.

Greg O'Connor:

8:30 PM, get into #aussieED and join the conversation. Thank you, Brett, for being here and thank you, everybody for tuning in. You can tweet us here at Texthelp, our Twitter handle is just texthelp, T-E-X-T-H-E-L-P, and the hashtag of course is #TexthelpTalks to join our conversation. And don't forget, subscribe to this podcast via your whatever streaming service you are. And make sure you catch up and all the episodes that are coming up and the ones that we've already done.

Greg O'Connor:

Until next time, thanks for listening and see you soon.