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Sustainable Ed Tech with Samantha Fecich

Oct 05, 2021

Well hey there and welcome back. I am so excited to have Samantha Fecich of EduMagic on the podcast today, and I’ll share a couple of reasons why.  First, I’ve recently  stepped into the higher ed  space, and she’s been there for a while, so it was nice to have a conversation within that context.  Secondly, as a special education teacher turned educational tech expert, she gives a refreshing perspective on ed tech in ways that reinvigorate my passion for the field and I think this conversation will do the same for you.

In this episode you will hear us chat about various topics including student-life balance for preservice teachers, tech tool (and non-tech tool) recommendations for preservice teachers, as well as the purpose and possibilities of educational technology for students today.  So no matter what you teach, this episode will be valuable for you, but will be especially valuable for pre-service teachers out there.

Without further ado, let’s bring on Dr. Samantha Fecich.

M: Welcome Samantha, thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to have you on the podcast this morning. And so let’s just get started. And you tell us all about you. Who is Samantha?

S: Wow! That’s a great question Mandy. So thanks so much for letting me be on the show. I have my pumpkin spice latte right over there and I am ready to share all about a little bit of who I am and some ed-tech for future teachers. And also like I’ve said before, It’s so fun to talk to another  higher ed person. So, yay! 

M: The freshly higher ed person. It’s so funny. I just started.

S: I know right?

M: I just started so 

S: Yay! This is so exciting. I love this. Okay, a little bit about me. My name is Dr. Sam Fecich and I get to teach future teachers everyday about ed-tech and special ed. 

It truly is an honor to be able to do this and help support our future teachers and just be a stop along their journey to becoming educators of excellence. 

I teach them all that educational technology from the Danielson framework for teaching models. And then work with a couple of our students who are student teachers and special education fields which is so much fun. 

Before that I was a former special ed teacher. Going touch with students with multiple disabilities and I was able to like bring ed-tech into that classroom and I kinda started that passion to see how ed-tech can help support our students with disabilities and make the impossible possible for them. Their accessibility, excessive tech, and environment of control. It was amazing and then got the opportunity to just keep learning cause that’s what we do as teachers, we get to keep learning and growing. 

M: Yes

S: Yes. I did a couple of master’s degrees and you know through our PHD because why not? 

Because that’s fun. 

M: You know, you can do it in your spare time

S: Spare time right. Now I’m teaching future educators and when I first started college, I was an undergrad. I never thought that this would be where I would be 20 years from you know as an undergrad. So you’ll never know what the future has in your teaching journey. It takes so many twists and turns and it’s so much fun so just enjoy the ride. 

M: Yeah. That’s something that I kind of come along recently. It’s realizing wow there really are possibilities. Really just in the past 10 to 15 years for a teacher when you know you become a teacher. You think well I wanna be a teacher, this is what I've been doing for 35 years and that’s it. And I don’t know if you have done things like I want to do the same thing everyday for 35 years. The possibilities really are there. That’s kind of a team garner or a side garner but yeah, I absolutely agree that there are so many different things that teachers can be doing now that enhance their practice and feel their passion for what they’re doing and kinda open up some  opportunities for them so that’s awesome. So what can you… I’m sorry, go on.

S: That’s okay. It kinda goes back to your why. You know focusing on why you started to be an educator in the first place and I don't know about you Mandy but why has changed from whenever I first started college, I wanted  to be like a first grade teacher, that's the best first grade teacher ever. And I never, never was, never don’t plan to be a first grade teacher but you know as long as your why is focus on helping students and serving and supporting those students are funny whether they are little learners or adult learners I think your why is going to go so keeping your why you know first and foremost in your mind can help structure that learning journey that you take as an educator.

M: Yes absolutely. That’s something we focus on in our Sustainable Teacher Challenge that we have. It's meant to challenge your sustainability, not challenging your calendar is what I tell everyone. And that’s really where we start is like thinking what you're why is because when things get tough as an educator, it can ease your  wish it can easily be and you don’t remember  what it is and the impact that you want to have so that’s fantastic. Something that you’ve said there in your intro and this is something I’ve been thinking about as I’m now teaching an internal ed-tech class.

S: It was the pumpkin spice latte wasn’t it? 

M: No. I actually have an unpopular opinion about that. I’m actually not a coffee drinker so unfortunately I can’t. I can't drink coffee there with you. It was what you said about the kind of your unique path and ed-tech and special ed-tech. I was wanting those worlds together and something that you know as much as I love ed-tech and love all of the cool factors to it. Sometimes there’s a little part of my brain that’s like is this why we’re doing this? Is it just to be cool? You know and it’s so easy to go down that path of let’s do this because this is really cool and what I love that  I’m thinking you’re gonna be sharing and probably what you share with your students on a daily basis is they’re meeting needs with tech. Right there are great possibilities and it is cool but it’s cooler to meet kids' needs with tech. And what an opportunity we have as you know technology is exploding literally.

S: I know right.

M: Yeah. That’s why I'm excited because we'll have our conversation there. That’s exciting. So tell us about all your expertise in preparing future teachers to work with ed-tech in the classroom. 

S: Yeah. Nice segway there right? 

Yeah so first and foremost, so I work a lot like we’ve mentioned before we start a recording we both go up with freshmen. And I’m usually the first face that they see at 8AM Monday morning welcoming them to class. As they walk in I usually have music playing and prior to closing  it we have a query gap you know grab their coffee and things like that. And you know having them be part of a community from day 1 as learners and building those relationships. We don’t even to getting to ed-tech till the third day of class, we start with relationships and you know getting to know each other and then for the second day we go through the syllabus but instead of just me having the syllabus up on the screen and blah blah blah reading it and kind of like be alert, be alert. 

We do a goose chase, scavenger hunt so that’s a lot of fun there. And they kinda get to them to get to each other a little bit more. And then Friday we started to check with ed-tech. 

Yes, whenever we begin, starting to chat about ed-tech, we talk about it thinking about it in terms of is meaningful for my students? And is this gonna be a meaningful  experience to help engage my  students in learning? 

Is this gonna help me save some teacher time cause we know that date collection is abuse to us so using some technology to help support that and help alleviate some of that saving us some teacher time. Is this gonna help just over all thinking about the technology as a meaningful impactful experience not as one more thing that I have to pat on to my lesson or something when I use can we get it when I get observe or not is it not gonna use because it’s glittery and shiny and oh my gosh you learned about it last night on Pinterest and Instagram so it’s something that I think about with purpose. That is what purpose of using this tool because sometimes pen and paper are just as good as a quick exit ticket or if you wanted to track that using something like Nearpod that could be great as well so depending on what the purpose with the meaning but the why is behind that tech is so important and that what we start off with our lesson and talk about educational technology

M: Absolutely. Absolutely. I feel like there’s kinda three paths in ed-tech. One being there is a student facing you know where you like, it kinda like the 3D printer, the cool part of stuff, right? Like that’s got tech and kids hand, but also likes in your pod and Paradox can Flipgrid and those sorts of things kind of fall there to like students Tech tools and what they are using. Then there is a side that I kind of focus more on which is teacher tech like how can teachers be using tech like with formative assessment, data accumulations and sifting and all that kind of stuff. And then even kind of your expertise too with special and the meaning of needs of kids, not just for the cool factor or the factor of ease like sometimes it is easier to fall out of google quiz real fast, and it is for me to collect, you know, 30 post-it notes per class. As an exit ticket

S: Well exactly

M: Yeah, so yeah. That’s fantastic. Already so, talk to us about student’s life balance as future teachers and what can you recommend so you talk about how you kinda focus with your students about the purpose and the why of each of the tools but there’s, there’s more that we do as ed-tech trainers for our students right? Go for it

S: Yeah. So we think about student life or teacher life bound sight thing and here’s the things that I wish that we had a course on maybe and as undergrads which I had course on that on undergrad like what does teacher life and balance and all of that look like. I personally think teacher life balance is like a unicorn, it is mythical, it’s nice, it sounds pretty but I’m not really sure how it’s accomplish 50-50. 50 in your work 50 at home. So learning how to balance those things and understanding that from as a future teacher could be really helpful so understanding my balance is not gonna be 50% in school and course work and 50% you know hanging out with my friends and doing social things. Sometimes it might be 75-25 or vice versa so sometimes some weird combination but it’s not always gonna be a perfect balance. It’s gonna be a little bit one more depending on the day what you have to do, so some ways to work through that and just well first accept that it may not be real. So understanding that may not be a perfect balance, just pretty important some ways to start working through that such as setting up boundaries and working through your schedule. So setting up boundaries for yourself as a future teacher so if you have classes let’s say from 8 to 2 or 8 to 3 or something like that, set aside 2-3 hours okay I’m gonna work on my homework and that get on my stuff I need to get ready for the next day and then maybe from like 6-7 or 6 I’m gonna go and hang out with my friends. We’ll go grab some dinner or something that sprinkled some self-care options as well. As a future teacher whether that 's like actually going and getting your lunch so you are ready to go for your 1 o’clock class or you know making sure you fill throughout the day having little snacks throughout the day, and listening to some music that you enjoy. Know to have some little piece of self care that will help sustain you throughout the day so whenever your day is done, you don’t feel so defeated. And you know so working through some boundaries and setting those boundaries for yourself for example as a professor I’ll tell my students. I’d tell my students you know I would get back to you in 24 hours by sending me an email, please don’t send me the same email multiple times. I’ve been 24 hours working on that. Yeah like 48 on the weekend. I’ll get back to you. Yes I’m setting up these small boundaries and letting them hey don’t check my messages after 7pm. So if you have something you know you wanna share, try to do it beforehand or know that I’ll get back to you in the morning about that. So setting up those little boundaries so I can have time with my family and kind of like work aside a little bit. And I encourage our future teachers to start to try to doing the same by setting boundaries around their school work and their courses and setting boundaries around you know time with family and friends because relationships are so important .

M: It’s so funny. As you’re saying all of this, I’m thinking of my undergrad self and you just, you had said, I feel like we need an entire course on this and I would totally sign up for creating and teaching that course. 

S: Yeah, right? I would sign up for it twice.

M: Like I would absolutely love to teach that course. And that story I would share would be this. If you had told me all of those things, as an undergrad working my butt off to become a teacher. I probably would have, like, in-your-face rolled my eyes and said, okay, what else? Because I was so torn on visions and just into it, right? And you know looking back. I don’t know that I would necessarily change that because I was very like, let’s go. Let’s do this kind of Hardcore and focusing on giving teaching all that I had - I was just a young and passionate person but if I had known then what I know now, right? I very much had to learn those lessons, the hard way. And that you shouldn’t be walking while eating your lunch and moving around the room.  Doing all kinds of things while eating your lunch. Take a moment. Close the computer screen. 

S: Yeah, exactly. Flip that phone over. 

M: Yes, he has to do all those things, talk to a colleague and all of those things I use that are resonating with me because I am thinking back to myself in my undergrad and  also in my first two years of teaching, man. I needed that. I needed a mentor to tell me that in a way. That was like tough love. Not like you should probably no, no, I needed them to say. No, Mandy. Sit down. And do as I say. To find that balance, you don’t have to learn it the hard way.

S: Yeah.

M: Okay. So what tools would you recommend for future teachers to explore and - we kinda explore lots of different topics

S: Yes, we did.

M: ..and ways to be using at temporary areas but in any of those areas, what tools would you recommend that they kind of explore and check out?

S: Sure. So for some scheduling tools and to help them kind of get that calendar together for us. It’s the first week of classes so we are very much in that mood right now.

I recommend Outlook or Google calendar. Get those ready to go put in your actual classes, what time they are and buffer in time for what time you gotta leave to get there and time to transition to the next class.  And then color code that schedule so you can put in when your homework assignments are. So if you have something to do on Friday. Don't wait till Thursday night to do it.

M: Imagine that.

S: Put in time. I know, right? Younger selves! Listen to this.

So scheduling time throughout the week to do it, to blackout your calendar trying to pay if I have a paper of five paragraph essay on Friday. What's something I need from you on Monday? I can start research. Tuesday, I got an outline. Wednesday, to get that intro done. Thursday and Friday, I can start to work through - or Thursday, I can start to work through the idea of the projects.

So I'm not waiting until Thursday night to research, to outline, to plan everything out. I'm ready to go with all my content and all I gotta do is fill it in Thursday. Ready to roll

M: Yup, Ready to go.

S: So color code that. Scheduling time to get your content, your assignments in on time. Another thing I would suggest is using One Note for note taking. It is like the digital trapper keeper of the 90s, right? Do you guys remember those trapper keepers

like with the loud velcro. You’re like, oh man. I made such a loud noise and the I got my folders and my pages. So One Note is that but digitally, and they have beautiful page templates that you can put in your notes, even when popping your homework assignments and there's even a spot for you to put in what questions do I still have about it?

And actually think about those - I'm sure you still have questions from that course or from that lecture from that lesson or activity right those in there, send them to the professor. We are here to help and support you. And my last advice would be, in between classes of you have a class just down the hall like say at 8:00 to 8:50 and another class from 9:00 to 9:50 in the same building just down the hall. Take that 10 minutes between class, grab a drink of water or heat up that coffee. But look through the notes from that previous class of you met on fri-- if you met on Wednesday and you're going it on Friday, look at that Wednesday notes from that 9:00 class

Just to refresh your brain -- oh yeah. We talked about that. You know, just to kinda get your brain and the thought of for that next class, so be reviewing and reflecting in using that time in between time meaningfully.

M: Yes, absolutely. I love all of the tips that you're giving, because in my mind I'm thinking, "Wow! a teacher has time in between her classes" right? And probably wants to look at you know, they’re switching the press that they’re teaching like, Oh they look at what it is that I need you doing. These really kind of apply but also are so darn basic.

S: I know, right? But we forget about them.

M: Yes, Absolutely. So foundational and it's making me also think of something I've had - kind of percolating in my mind recently around what would be like a sustainability course for teachers in college but the equivalent per student in highschool of managing all of their classes, managing their extra curriculars. What it means to study, I don't know about you but when I say, "Hey guys, watch your homework tonight." And they're like "Yeah, I need to study more." and I'm like, "Well, what does that mean? What are you gonna do?" "I don't know --.

S: Yeah. What does that look like? What does that feel like?

M: Yeah. Exactly. What are you doing when you study, right? Those sorts of soft skills, I guess is what we call them but they are really so foundational. And working those into schools, I think it's so imperative and really even at the college level.

S: I don't know, Mandy. Our conversation- I am thinking we need to take a -- create a digital course together called like, 

"Student-Teacher life balance: Tips to make you better educators". Something like awesome

M: Yeah. Actually. And humans. and humans. Yeah, better human

S: And humans. Yeah, Exactly. I'd be a better human. 

M: That's awesome. Exactly. Alright, so tell us about your work, what do you wanna share with the teachers that are listening?

S: Yeah! So I'd be happy to share some resources that I have for the listeners today, so in my intro I forgot to mention I'm the author of EduMagic, a guide for pre-service teachers and EduMagic shine on a guide for new teachers. Both books, geared toward future beginning  educators. And you know, it's just been so much fun to *20:06* . To impact other educators of excellence around the country and around the world, So that's been a lot of fun. and then I'll set up podcast, there's a little bit of theme going here, Mandy, called EduMagic. Yeah, it’s a podcast called EduMagic

M: Yeah. That's awesome. I love it!

S: Which we'll be recording episode with you very soon and that'll be on the show as well, all about flipped learning.

So go check it out where you subscribe to this podcast, subscribe It's you EduMagic as well and you can find me over on Twitter and Insta at @sfecich and you can check out my work at sfecich.com. Thank---- you so much!

M: Awesome! Yes, thank you thank you so much for your willing to chat with me. We will make sure to have all kinds of links in the show notes to where you can find Samantha and all of her - her awesomeness. So I'm so excited. 

Thank you again, I really appreciate it.

Student Voice Workshop

Today's episode is brought to you by my online workshop on getting your students to talk about the content in your classroom more than you do - imagine that impact on student mastery!

To learn more and get enrolled, click here and I'll see you there.

Sustainable Teaching and EdTech with Samantha Fecich

Well there you have it teacher-friend.  I hope  you enjoyed our conversation as much as did.  Remember that you  can find Sam on Twitter and Instagram, as well as her two on her website at www.sfecich.com/.  I’ve got those linked here as well.

Be sure to come join us in the Sustainable Teacher Facebook group where we discuss the episodes and go through the Sustainable Teacher Challenge together. I hope to see you there, but I’ll definitely see  you here, same time next week. 

Bye for now.

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