Jake Miller is an authorized Google Apps for Education Trainer and is currently the Technology Integration Specialist for Brady Middle School in the Orange City School District. At Brady, Jake helps manage the implementation of Google Apps, 1:1 Chromebooks and Schoology, while working with a team to envision the building’s future integration of STEM, Fab Labs and MakerSpaces. He is a member of the Lead to Learn Project Core Team, which was recently awarded a $750,000 ODE Straight A Grant to further the school’s efforts in 21st Century Learning through innovation, design thinking and project based learning with access to a FabLab, MakerSpace, and other design resources. He previously taught and co-created a middle school STEM Program at Kimpton Middle School in Stow-Munroe Falls, Ohio. Prior to that he taught 9 years of math and science in various grades. His Bachelor’s Degree is in middle-level education (math/science) from the University of Akron and his Master’s Degree is in Instructional Technology from Kent State University. He is the host of the Educational Duct Tape Podcast available at https://www.eduducttape.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at @JakeMillerTech and visit his website at jakemiller.net.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Welcome to the Deeper Learning With WeVideo Podcast. This is Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad and I am super pumped to have the Educational Duct Tape podcaster EduGif star Jake Miller on today. It’s about to get Jake on here. Now if you don’t know, Jake is an ed tech and learning enthusiast who hosts the Educational Duct Tape Podcast and has created more than 100 EduGifs. He works as a technology integration coach for a public middle school in Ohio and previously spent 12 years in the classroom teaching math, science and STEM at various grade levels. I love this fun fact about him, he has a dog named Kermit the dog and three kids, the youngest which calls him Daddy long legs. So it sounds like you have a lot of fun just in your professional world and your personal world as well. Hey, thanks Jake for being on today.
Jake Miller: Oh, I’m so excited to be on this show. Nathan, I’ve been enjoying your work ever since I saw you speak back last year at the WeVideo VIP event at ISTI 2019. Loved your talk, loved hearing about the bear on your porch and everything.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, he has not come back yet. It’s snowing today here in Maine and I keep looking out the window to see if we’re going to have any visitors, but I think he may be hibernating still so I’m sure when spring comes he’ll be hungry and so we’ll be ready for him.
Jake Miller: Right, maybe you can have him on the show, he can be on the podcast.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: There you go, that’d be awesome. Well hey, thanks for being on, and I’m excited to hear what you’re up to, I know you’re speaking a lot. So I guess the first question is, what is the message you’ve been spreading at the conferences that you’ve been speaking at?
Jake Miller: So I started my role in the classroom and I found after I was in there for 12 years and the further and further, the deeper and deeper I got into those 12 years, the more and more excited I got about educational technology. And so I started trying just on the side while I worked for my school district, I would at the staff meetings at the schools in our district would present about a new tech tool or something like that and then when we’d have our conference, like a district PD day or whatever, then I’d present there and then maybe over the summer I’d do a workshop for the teachers.
Jake Miller: And then started getting really, really excited about that and spreading further and further out and what I found was that what really resonated with me was helping those teachers who were a little bit intimidated by the technology, who they felt like they knew it was the right thing to do but they were scared that they were going to do it wrong or they couldn’t keep up or they couldn’t possibly do it at all. And they were expecting so much of themselves, that’s what teachers do, we went into this profession to help kids and so you want to do as much as you possibly can. And so I really found that what I wanted to do was help them feel less overwhelmed by all the options that are out there, help them develop a mindset as to how to choose what technologies to integrate into their classrooms because they can’t do it all, help them feel comfortable to take those risks to learn new things.
Jake Miller: And I was just at a three day long conference here in Ohio called OETC and the people that attended, they attend some like 15 different sessions over the course of three days, that’s a lot of technology, so I try to help them decide which ones of those do they put in practice. Maybe just one or two, how do you pick which ones are good for you and help them feel like, “Hey, if I just pick one, that’s okay. That’s good for my kids to pick something new even if I don’t pick something from all 15 of those sessions I attended.” So that’s what I’m trying to help them with.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well I think it’s really important work. I remember being in the classroom and also as a school administrator, I felt like every year we were thrown different technology apps or gadgets and it was definitely a feat to figure out, “Okay, which technology app do we want to use?” And then of course it typically happened with the coolest or the most fun or the one that had the biggest hype was the one that we’d use, but I think there’s obviously, I assume, that whenever you are working with schools you look at what are the pedagogical implications, if you will. What technology tool is really going to integrate best inside of teaching and learning? So I guess how have you helped teachers to really evaluate if a technology is going to help increase learning outcomes and help kids think at higher levels and also have fun while doing it?
Jake Miller: Right. So the priority I’ve made for teachers and what we talk about on my podcast, the Educational Duct Tape Podcast, is looking at the technology as a tool, and that’s where the duct tape and the name comes from is duct tape is not something where we’re like, “Today I’m going to use duct tape”, duct tape is something where when you have some kind of problem, duct tape becomes the tool that you use. And we often look at technology the other way around, like you were talking about when your school or whatever is deciding on what tool should we all integrate, you’re not all trying to solve the same problem with the same kids with the same scenario so you shouldn’t all be integrating the exact same tool. If we’re thinking tool first, we’re kind of doing it backwards.
Jake Miller: So I like to try to help teachers reverse engineer the situation and not look at the technology as the goal but look at the technology as the tool that we’re using to solve a problem or meet a need or address a learning standard. So we really try to think about like, “What is it that I need to kick up a notch in my classroom?”, or, “What is problem that I’m having in my classroom?” And then those tools that you hear about in those 15 different sessions you attend, then you can eliminate 95% of them because they don’t relate to your major goals that you have right then. Maybe there are some that are like, “Yeah, I’d like to work on that but I really need to work on my formative assessment practices so I’m going to look at these three tools.” So it’s trying to think about what it is that you need in your classroom based on your style as a teacher, based on your content, based on what your students are like, and it’s different from classroom to classroom. Even if you teach next to somebody who also teaches the same grade and the same content, they might have a different style and a different group of kids that they should pick a tool that meets their needs in their classroom, and that’s what I try to help them with.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: That really hits home for me because a lot of my work today is looking at video creation and specifically WeVideo and looking at, okay, want to help and support students with their communication, we want them to be effective communicators, we want them to be their most creative selves. And so that is our vision, and then we look at the classroom and all the traditional and antiquated structures that are still in place in the classroom and I know we’re making great strides to change those things. And so I look at, how can I use a tool like video creation to help students think at a higher level? And there are wonderful projects out there where students are creating hysterical documentaries and they’re doing PSA’s which are fantastic. But I’m also seeing even a deeper level of implementation where teachers, instead of asking students to do an exit ticket in pencil and paper, they’re asking them to do a video reflection. So I’m curious to see if you’ve seen video creation transform thinking and learning in the classroom.
Jake Miller: Oh yeah, absolutely. And it’s kind of what you eluded to at the end there with the exit ticket thing is, you could use it for whatever your possible goal is. And that’s what’s important is to think about what is it you’re trying to achieve. So I’ve had teachers come up to me at conferences or at workshops or at training sessions or things like that and they say, “How can I use tool x in content area y with students of a to z?” And there’s not one answer. I say, “Well what is it that you’re trying to get those kids to do? What is it that they need to work on?” And if they said, “I need to work on my formative assessment”, I say, “Well okay, well then you could use WeVideo or whatever video tool you’re using to have them record those exit tickets.” Or if they say, “I’m really good on that formative assessment piece but my students, they’re just consumers, they’re not creators.” And I’m like, “Well okay, so let’s create some things to get those kids involved in a creation thing and a video is a great tool for doing that.”
Jake Miller: So it’s about trying to find out what it is you’re trying to achieve in that classroom, and there’s just so much power in creating video, whether it’s the teacher creating the video or the student creating the video. But it’s got to meet some kind of need you have in that classroom so that you’re going to see some impacts on those kids. It’s great to have them just making videos, but there should be a win-win situation where it’s benefiting the education in some way as well.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. I think as well, as you were talking about students being able to share their voice through formative assessments, we talk in education about student centered learning and students owning the learning, and I think when we ask them to create, and you mentioned being creators instead of consumers, we go into this new realm of learning is now not something that the teacher is asking me to do but it is now in a place where students truly have a voice in what they are going to share with their classroom or with the community or with the world, it depends on how viral their video goes. But I love this concept of making learning meaningful and I feel that asking students to create allows them to do that and they start to make sense of school. Because I think so many times school becomes just a set of tasks and to-do and I hear kids still have quizzes and tests and homework which is things that we had, Jake, when you and I were in school. And so I think that asking students to continually create, I think that’s definitely the future of making learning more meaningful. What do you think about that?
Jake Miller: Oh yeah, certainly. We think about there’s that quote that goes around that I hear sometimes, how’s it go, “teaching is something that is done to you, learning is something that you do for yourself.” And I think that might be an overgeneralization, but that’s true, if we want the students to be learners they need to be doing things for themselves, they need to be empowered, they need to be steering the ship so to speak and giving them opportunities to create is a great way to do that.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been following all of the greatness you put out in Twitter and I’m fascinated by your EduGifs, and I heard that it’s actually called a gif and not gif, is that correct pronunciation?
Jake Miller: It stands for graphics interchange format, and graphics has a hard G, so I think gif ought to have a hard G. Now people will tell me that the creator calls it a gif and I say, “Who cares? It sounds weird.” I’m friends with people on both sides of the gif and gif aisle.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Okay, got it, got it. Well I think I’m firmly in the gif aisle, so I’m going to stick with the gif camp. But I appreciate that you have this vision of making professional teaching and learning fun. Where did that come from? Is that something that you have developed over time or is it something that has always been a part of your personality?
Jake Miller: I think it’s part of my personality. I believe that if we’ve got to do this work, we might as well have fun while we’re doing it. But I also know from being a classroom teacher that the kids learn more from a teacher that they like and that they know that likes them and they learn more if they believe the teacher is fully with them, like is enjoying what they’re doing. Like if they can see that the teacher is happy and happy to be there and excited, then they’re going to learn more from them. And so the same goes for a tech coach or somebody doing professional development, if you’re up there trudging through a series of slides with a bunch of bullet points on it and you’re talking in a monotone voice and all your stuff is super formal, they’re not as likely to get as much out of that. So if they feel a connection and if they feel like they’re having fun and if they feel like, “Wow, Jake’s really enjoying doing this”, which I am, then they’re going to be more likely to get something out of it. Like I said, we might as well have fun while we’re doing it, right?
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. Yeah, I appreciate that your walk matches your talk there, because we say in education all the time that learning has to be meaningful, has to be fun, but then we go to a training or a professional development and it’s everything but that. A teacher may have been forced to go to something, and then when they get there it’s the same thing that they’ve been used to, so I appreciate that you believe in that and it’s evident in your speaking and your professional development, so thank you for that.
Jake Miller: Yeah, thanks.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, so speaking of your support, your PD, your speaking, what if we want to see more of Kermit the Dog? I don’t know how often you post about Kermit on your social media, but how can we stay connected with you?
Jake Miller: So I am on all the major social medias @jakemillertech, and occasionally Kermit does make it on the Instagram with me. And then my website is jakemiller.net or the podcast is at edu.ducttape.com. And I just love connecting with people on all those platforms, that’s my favorite thing about this work. Somebody asked me the other day like, “Twitter’s so awesome, why are you on Instagram and Facebook?” And I’m like, “Because there’s other people there and I want to connect with more of them.” That’s one of my favorite parts about this era that we’re at in education is that we get to connect with so many people and learn together and grow together.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Agreed, agreed. And this has been such a short but fun conversation that I’ve had with you. So Jake, again, thanks for your time. And I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of the great content that you put out. So thanks again for being on the show, Jake.
Jake Miller: Yeah, thanks for having me, it’s an honor.