Ready to learn more about EdTech? For the next few weeks, Ali and JoDee will be talking more about EdTech. Today, they dive into what it is exactly, how JoDee got her start in EdTech, why she chose to work as a contractor in the field, and the actions you can take to get a job in EdTech!
Connect with Ali and JoDee:
Ali’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alisimon/
JoDee’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jodeescissors/
For episode transcriptions visit: https://thegreatteacherresignation.buzzsprout.com
All teachers are natural innovators, entertainers and problem solvers. They dream of growing old into the profession, teaching their kids kids. But sometimes career goals shift or change, and that makes opportunities outside of the classroom seem intangible questioning who am I, if I'm not a teacher? I'm your host, Alexandra Simon.
And I'm your co host, JoDee Scissors.
This is The Great Teacher Resignation.
It's a special episode today. Because JoDee and I are together in the studio. In between all the guests we've interviewed, we wanted to squeeze in some time to talk about an industry JoDee landed in after she left teaching; edtech and digital learning. To top it off, the next few weeks will focus on the many facets of the edtech industry, and why teachers are perfect candidates for these open positions. JoDee will take us deeper into the field of edtech. And how educators are finding their space in this industry.
Yes, this is a special space for me. But also, we have been getting a bundle of messages from our listeners requesting help on how to penetrate into the edtech industry. And I know we need more than just one episode to do that. So Ali and I decided that we're going to have a full few weeks of edtech. And I think we're going to learn a lot. We have a really nice lineup, don't you think?
Oh, I absolutely agree. And really just to get us started, can you tell our listeners what is edtech?
All right. So edtech is when you use technology to support learning. And what that means is you have hardware that you use, like a tablet, a iPad, a computer, a desktop, handheld devices, or software, when you think about that, any programs that you use any apps, even the web is part of the ed tech realm. So those work in conjunction with best teaching practices, and educational theory to provide really rigorous and fruitful learning opportunities for students. And I want to say that it is not a replacement for traditional learning or best practices. So when we have digital books, it is not a replacement for print books. Print books are still really highly effective, but they're not as accessible. If I can get 100 books to a child via a device, and only a few books that they can check out from the library. That's a huge difference. That's a huge amount of literature that can be in a child's home just based on technology.
I think we really saw a big growth in this industry during the pandemic as well, because we had to make education more accessible as students pivoted to online learning and as teachers learned how to navigate education in a virtual space. So what I'm interested in knowing is how did you find yourself in that space?
That's a really good question. So I'm gonna go back in time a little bit. But during one of the first years I was teaching, I got observed by my principal. And we went over my observation, and she had a lot of great things to say. And she said, I'm wondering, you know, I didn't see any use of technology. How are you using technology? And I really didn't have an answer for her because I wasn't using it in the way that I could have been using it. I was giving presentations and stuff. But like, when you really want to amplify learning, you have to use technology in different ways. And so I took that so personally, that I was not doing that. Because you know, I'm so hard on myself.
Because I also got that question in my observations my first couple years. And I was like, I'm just gonna find one thing to use, check. But no, JoDee, you have to go above and beyond.
Yeah, so I was immediately like,oh my gosh, well, how am I using technology? And so I really clung onto the idea that students are recipients of information from technology. But we also need to be contributors to the internet, to the EdTech world. And so that is a huge responsibility, one to be responsible user of it, the content that you select, how you treat your devices. But also if you're going to be adding to the internet, or building programs to support do it for the greater good of people and education. And so, obviously took that to heart and decided that I wanted my students to not only just like utilize technology for learning, but become responsible users of technology, and be able to create. Create things that are positively impacting this vast internet world, which we know can derail very quickly. And so when I started thinking about how to do that. I found ways for them to create. I found ways for me to design presentations that were interesting and impactful. And then also, you know, I became an early adopter of any technology that the district was implementing. So when they were like, we're rolling out Google Chromebooks, I was like, sign me up, I will be an early adopter. So I took that to heart and eventually became this teacher that everybody relied on for technology integration support. And from there, I was deciding that, like, I went through this identity crisis, as I spoke of in episode one. Thinking like, well, who am I if I'm leaving the classroom? And I met with my friend, Marcos. So shout out to Marcos, who helped me during my journey of transitioning out of the classroom. And he connected with a woman who said, shine the light on what you do best. That is what you need to focus on. And so when I thought about, okay, well, what do I do? And I thought about what teachers came to me for, not just like for learning a strategy or a skill, but what was, what was it that made me shine? And it was technology integration. It was media creation, and thinking outside of the box when it came to learning. And so I immediately latched on to that and really made sure that I was going to continue to be that person, an early adopter using tools, ethically, and selecting tools ethically, learning the IFTE standards. And so I was doing edtech before edtech was like a hashtag.
I mean, honestly, when you describe that you were the leader in your building, that you were the first person who volunteered to take on this. Like, I know who those teachers were at the various schools that I taught at, because they were so important. And I always came in at odd times, but like, I loved learning from those teachers. I was never myself that edtech leader, but I really did rely on that person in the building to go to to ask those questions. I was really quick at learning technology and implementing it. But that wasn't my passion like it was yours. And so I think it's great that you got that advice to stick with your passion, and something that you were good at, that you had a track record of being successful at. And so what you did is you took that knowledge and that strength, and you transitioned to a different level, outside of education, and you went full on consulting. Now, consulting can be a very lucrative career, but it's also risky. So why did you choose to go that particular route?
Well, itwas by accident. So after I left, I had taken a position with an organization, an arts organization that was edtech and digitally based. And so when the pandemic hit, I had to pivot to do consulting to accommodate people's budgets. And you know, it was a very uncertain time. And so consulting was the route that I took, but I could do it with confidence, because I had built a support system to be able to pursue that. So I had friends and consulting, siblings, I watched my dad growing up as a contractor and saw the perks of the lifestyle. Also the ability to work on a project based environment. And so the organizations I work with, are not only edtech, but they're arts based. And you know, how passionate I am about the arts. And so those, those two things could merge with the ability of being a contractor. But I also could do it because I had a financial plan. When you are a consultant, you're not guaranteed a salary. You're guaranteed contracts for a certain amount of time. And so what that requires on my part is budgeting, planning, negotiating contracts to ensure that not only are they compensating me appropriately, but am I doing something I will enjoy doing. And the other big part was, you know, when you work for a school district, you were given really good benefits. And I was able to walk away from that because my spouse was able to provide benefits through their role. And you can get benefits from anywhere like you don't have to have benefits from your employer. There are organizations that you can just sign up for benefits. But when you have those really good benefits from a school system That was something that, you know, it's a risk to take. And I was able to do that because I had a plan.
Yeah, you had a plan. And you have to think about all of those different components to leaving a job. Like being a teacher, that's really stable. One thing that struck me when you were describing how you decided to kind of move into this field is that you said, Well, I understood, you know, projects. You love project based learning in the classroom. Right? It's so like the idea of going from like project based learning in your classroom to like working on projects professionally. That's not a coincidence.I don't think.
It's not. It's not. And you know what, like, I really haven't even had that revelation about who I am until recently. Thinking like, oh, like, this is really who I am to the core. I like having different projects. I do not like redundant work. I do like routine, though. I am full blown routine when I am in my element. And you can ask my husband, like when I am working, I am in the zone. When I get into redundancy, when it comes to work or projects, it point blank just makes me depressed. I feel depressed.
I think it's because you're creative. Like you want to have that creative expression. And when you're doing the same thing over and over again, you don't really get to keep creating.
Yeah, the other thing I wanted to say, though, was that I have determined as a contractor in the edtech world, the base salary that I need to meet the requirements and standard of living that my family wants to live. Which means, you know, paying rent, groceries, bills, and my daughter's activities. So I wanted to ensure that nothing was being compromised there. And then anything I make above and beyond that goes to like my daughter's college savings, my husband and I savings, our retirement and projects like the podcast. So yeah, it gives me an opportunity to increase my salary to many capacities to be able to work on the things that I enjoy doing like this, or writing my books, or paying for consulting for people to edit my stories and stuff like that. Whereas before, it was pretty limited. But now I feel like I have more control over the possibilities, which feels really great.
Yeah, it definitely sounds like you're more in the driver's seat when you're doing consulting work, because you can take on new contracts, you can decide how many contracts you want to have. Can you tell the listeners a little bit why consulting was a good fit for you versus getting hired by maybe an arts education organization full time or another organization full time? .
Yeah, so number one is flexibility. The ability to be able to control my day. Because one of the reasons that I left was in flexibility and not being able to fully appreciate moments with my daughter and my family. I was too overscheduled. I was too stressed. I was too depressed. You know, like, there were a lot of things that were happening that didn't let me live in the moment. And so the flexibility is, number one. I can be a mom. I can be me. I can be a wife. I can be a sister. I can be a friend, much better than I was before. If I ever went back to teaching, I know how to be that person. You know, because I've gone through this experience. The other thing is, like we just said project based, like I love a new project. I love building things from the ground up. And that's a big part of the EdTech industry. It is constantly evolving. Technology is evolving. And what our children need is evolving. So it is a chance to help solve those problems using technology. And I really love that. And the one thing that I've learned big time over probably the last two years, is consulting expands my network. I have met so many people in edtech, in nonprofit, and it's continuing to grow. And I never thought that I was a person that would network because just the way that I am built when I meet new people, I am immediately very timid. I am not someone to approach someone to start a conversation. And it is not because I don't want to it is because I am shy when it comes to that. But once you get to know me not shy at all. It made me realize that when I look at myself in a networking environment, and I focus on the thing that I shine on, it's really easy to meet people because then they say oh, we need to connect and then I learned about them like, oh, we need to connect, you know? So I really took that piece of advice to heart when it came to networking.
So tell me about your day to day as a consultant, what does it look like?
It's a lot of juggling. So I have several different clients. And each of them have their own projects. So it is a lot of task management, spreadsheets, documentation, counting hours. And I would say that even with all of that juggling, it is so manageable because I am in the driver's seat, as you said. And I'm also a planner. If you ask anybody in my family, they know I want to be prefaced with the plan. It's not on the calendar, it doesn't exist, you know. So my typical day is, I'm gonna say this is my ideal typical day, which happens, I would say, at least four days a week, okay, four to seven days a week, which is pretty good. I wake up, I work out, come home, I prepare my daughter's lunch. While I'm doing that, I might be listening to our podcast and edit or listening to a video that I may need to edit later or provide feedback to the production company or something. So sometimes I squeeze those little things in there. And then I walk my daughter to school. And then I come back, and I have about a half hour before my real workday starts. And I will walk the dog and I will do our social media stuff. So that's kind of that. And so then my real workday starts. But I mentioned that because before my real workday starts, I have a really productive morning. And it feels good to do it without pressure, to do it in a healthy way, and not feel guilty about anything. And so that's really great. And then from nine to five, I am working on various projects. So it might be me revising a curriculum, it might be me designing a interactive framework online, working with developers. I have meetings. And we're brainstorming ideas for new media content for YouTube. And it all varies. And I think why I can sustain energy through the day is because I carve out time for each of these projects. And then I zone in. I will tap out, you know, after three hours of a project and say, Okay, I'm moving on to the next one. Some days, I'm focused all day on a project, but it really helps me break up the day. I can hopefully have a walk and lunch, you know, on my own time. And some days I stopped work early. I say, hey, like, you know, my daughter has a performance at two, and I'm calling it a day today. Or it's Friday, and I'm gonna go pick her up, and I'm gonna take the kids to the pool. So all of that intense work day can be left to do the next day. I don't have to work through the night most days. I don't have to wake up extra early to do things. You know, I have crazy days for sure. But yeah, that's typically what it looks like.
I want to learn a little bit more about how you support the edtech industry. So can you go in a little bit more to the types of projects that you're working on? And what kind of content you're working on during this, this time where you're focused on your work?
Yeah, well, first, a lot of people just think the edtech industry, you have to be a coder. Like, that's just all it is. No, that's a component to it. There is design behind that, there's content creation behind that management. There are a ton of roles in the edtech industry. And so I support it first and foremost, by ensuring that whatever I am creating or developing with a company is rooted in digital citizenship. That the software we use, however we're delivering the information is a safe environment for students. I never want to put a young person at risk of accessing something that they shouldn't be accessing. You know, I wouldn't want to put anybody in that position or a teacher for that matter. The other thing is quality content. There when YouTube came about, when media became more accessible to create, we started creating things that weren't rooted in the core values of education.
Like best practices, like you just said.
Exactly. And so I want to ensure that the things that we are producing are authentic, they are reliable, that they are entertaining, and that they are actual contributions to education. That they can actually be put in a teacher's toolkit, and they can save it and use it over and over and over, because it's a reliable resource. And so that's a huge priority. And so I do that, in the arts, I have merged edtech and the arts to make sure that music, theater, visual arts are all part of the edtech industry. And that while we have this technology piece, we are still appreciating and practicing and enjoying the arts because they are so connected to the way that children learn. And the other thing is that when we're making these things, I want to make a teacher's life easier.
Like, oh, my gosh, because we talked earlier in one of our first, I don't remember which episode with Andrea, who creates teacher guides for her books. And I'm like, yes, like having a teacher's guide, making it easy for educators to use the materials. I love what you said about authentic materials, right. So I know the work you do with Preservation Hall, like all their stuff is authentic. They're talking with the artists that do the work and like it's just passing down that information in those stories, and arts education in real life. So yeah, it sounds like you've really found your specialty in arts education. And honestly, for educators, we all have something that we're good at, and something that we're passionate about. And it seems like you kind of married the to the technology part, the arts education part. And so I think if you're looking to go into this field, find what you're passionate about, find what you excel in. And then I'm going to ask JoDee this question that can hopefully help you go to the next level, how do you get a contractor or a consulting role?
Okay, so networking, for sure. But also, if you find your niche, look at the organizations that you have followed over the years. See who is hiring. And a lot of people hire contractors, because they have short term projects. And if you're a project based learning teacher, you might like project based learning career, like me. And so I would first start at LinkedIn and find the organizations that you're interested in and see if they're hiring contractors. And you can become a consultant. So I'll give you one example. When I was leaving teaching, I knew that arts would be a part of my life. And so I searched all of the arts organizations around even like museums, but I also searched media companies. And so one organization that I follow, all the time, is PBS. I think PBS Learning Media has done a phenomenal job of curating quality content for young audiences. And I follow them because they are mentors to me. And so I noticed all the time that they are hiring contractors, and they hire contractors for development, for content creation, for coding. So there are many parts of that educational institution that hire contractors for short term things because they get government grants to fund these projects. And so I think that's a really good start.
Absolutely. And I think we're going to dive deeper into the edtech industry through this series of podcast episodes that we have coming up. So if you're interested in the edyech industry, stay tuned. We have a lot more content coming your way. We're excited to share our guest speakers that we have coming on to the podcast. And JoDee was such a pleasure to talk to you about your passion and where you've gotten since you've left the classroom. If you'd like to connect with JoDee, you can find her on LinkedIn as JoDee Scissors. And if you'd like to connect with me on LinkedIn, you can find me as Alexandra Simon.
If you liked The Great Teacher Resignation, give us a five star rating and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon music and Audible. Today's episode was written and recorded by me Alexandra Simon, and my co host JoDee Scissors. Executive produced by Teacher Brain. Produced and edited by Emily Porter. Original Music: Emoji by Tubebackr. Special thanks to our sponsor, Paper Planes Ed.