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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Tanner

Free stuff, AI and getting to grips with EdTech: In the Spotlight with Dr. Monica Burns

3..2..1 and we’re off! Welcome to another instalment of the Thinkio In The Spotlight blog, where we catch up with leaders of the EdTech community for tips, advice, and their take on one of the fastest evolving sectors in the world right now, all with the aim of ultimately helping teachers make their online lessons awesome!

So, this time we caught up with blogger, podcast host, author, consultant (...pause for breath) and all-round EdTech extraordinaire, Dr. Monica Burns!

If you’re a teacher who’s not sure how to make the most of technology in the classroom, feels a bit overwhelmed by the sheer range of apps and tools available and looking for a place to start, make yourself comfortable because you’re gonna love this one.

Let’s jump right in…

Tell us a little about your story, how did you get started in the EdTech sector?

I started teaching using chalk, textbooks, and a projector, just like when I was in fifth grade. Within a few years, we began using iPads . My journey began with a call from an organization asking me to teach other teachers about using technology in class. I went to an event with hundreds of educators and shared my experiences on stage. In 2012, I created my blog, Class Tech Tips, to help teachers with educational technology, and that's how it all started!

Tell us a little bit about your average day. What’s a typical “day in the life” for you at the moment?

I’m an author and EdTech consultant focused on helping make EdTech easier for teachers and educators. My day-to-day work revolves around writing for my blog Class Tech Tips, recording podcast episodes for my Easy EdTech Podcast, creating content for my membership site, the Easy EdTech Club, and providing virtual and in-person professional development for educators at conferences, workshops, and on-location at schools around the country.

For a teacher who’s new to EdTech and curious about getting to grips with their first few tools, what tips could you give them to get started?

My first suggestion would be to take a step back and focus on the tasks that need to be accomplished before diving into the world of apps. From there, it's important to find a tool that can be used for multiple projects and try it out with a low-stakes activity to get comfortable with it. Once you've become familiar with the tool, I recommend creating a collection of student project examples using that tool to help inspire creativity and provide guidance for future assignments. And finally, if your students have any questions, consider using screencast videos to provide clear and concise answers.

Between teachers who work privately online with small groups, and school teachers who primarily deliver lessons to larger groups in the classroom, do you think there are distinct groups of tools for these two different kinds of teachers?

The tools I suggest below are flexible for any size group but teachers working asynchronously might use video conferencing and screencasting tools a bit more frequently.

Video conferencing tools: Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype are great tools for conducting live online classes. These tools offer features such as screen sharing, chat, and breakout rooms, which make it easy to conduct engaging and interactive lessons.

Screencasting tools: Screencastify & Loom are digital tools for creating screencasts for students for asynchronous or independent learning as well as answering questions or making video lessons.

Learning management systems (LMS): LMS platforms such as Google Classroom and Canvas are great for organizing and delivering course content, tracking student progress, and grading assignments.

Discussion tools: Flip and Padlet are digital tools to facilitate engagement and collaboration. These video discussion platforms allow teachers to create prompts and allow students to collaborate and share ideas, resources, and feedback.

So, the EdTech world is exploding right now, what are your predictions for the future? Are there any trends in particular you have your eye on?

Right now, I'm really interested in how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used in teaching and learning. I'm all about finding ways to help teachers work smarter, not harder, with the help of AI, which can ultimately lead to student success. I'm constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ways to make teachers' lives easier and provide a personalized learning experience for students that sets them up for success. One new resource I created is this free ebook with a list of prompts for teachers, and a membership for educators looking to dive a bit deeper.

Are there any areas of friction in the education sector that you think haven’t been fully served by EdTech yet?

One area that I spend a lot of time thinking about is quality use of EdTech. There are lots of devices in classrooms across the country but simply having access to a device doesn’t mean students are having quality interactions that include experiences with creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.

You have some really helpful material available on Amazon, we particularly like your handy quick reference guides. So, what’s next for you? Are you working on any new material at the moment?

Yes, I have a new QRG that will be available in June. It’s all about using chatbots and it’s available for preorder on Amazon right now.


Well, that’s it for this edition of In The Spotlight. Thanks so much to Monica for her wondeful insights and all that's left to say is of course, if you’re looking for a tool to create awesome interactive, editable PDFs and worksheets you can share, and mark for free, sign up for Thinkio here! Woohoo.

Thanks for reading and until next time…

Happy teaching!


CEO and Co-founder at Thinkio

Make interactive worksheets for your online lessons

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