Ann Kozma is the Educator Innovation Lead at Flipgrid. Prior to that, she was a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) in CA supporting both teachers and students with the innovative and instructional use of technology and 1st Grade Teacher. In this episode, Ann shares how she celebrated her student’s learning journey through student voice, self-directed learning, and use of technology to build literacy skills. You can find Ann on Twitter @annkozma723.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Welcome to the Deeper Learning with WeVideo podcast. I am Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad, and I’m super excited to have my friend on today, Ann Kozma. And Ann is an education innovation lead at Flipgrid. And before she went to Flipgrid, she was a teacher on special assignment in California. And before that, she was a first grade teacher for 10 years. So Ann, I am super excited to have you on the podcast today, welcome.
Ann Kozma: Hey everybody, Ann Kozma here. I’m so excited to be talking with you, Nathan.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And I just love you. I know I tell you this every single time we chat. I just, I love your energy and I think it’s why so many people enjoy hanging out with you. And then I joked at… The last time I got to see you, I was at ISTE and every time I tried to talk with you, you had a line, a circle of people around you. So I sure do appreciate your energy and your positivity.
Ann Kozma: That’s so sweet of you to say. I absolutely believe that we are better together and I love having so many teacher friends, educator friends, folks in the industry. I really do believe that we’re better together. So I just love talking and sharing.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. Well, speaking of, I would love to hear more, and I know our listeners would love to hear more about your journey into where you are today. Obviously in the intro we shared that you were elementary teacher, you were a TOSA, and then now you’re at Flipgrid. And I’ve always seen you as this expert in getting technology successfully implemented in the classroom. So can you talk a little bit just about how your journey began?
Ann Kozma: Yeah, absolutely. So, as you mentioned, I was a classroom educator for a long, long time. I spent 10 years in the classroom in Southern California. And for the majority of that, I was a first grade teacher. And Nathan, a really cool thing is my school went one to one in 2010 with the very first generation of iPod touch device. And I don’t have to remember that device, but it did not-
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yes.
Ann Kozma: Yeah, it did not have a camera. So, we have these teeny tiny little plug-in microphones that we started using immediately to give our students the opportunity to share their learning through their voice, or by simply recording audio or talking about books. And way back then, everything changed for me and my why became empower authentic voice for an authentic audience. And I always wanted learning to come alive, and even as a classroom teacher and when I transitioned to become a teacher on special assignment, I always wanted students and educators to feel safe trying new things, but amplifying voice was sort of the thread that wove through everything I did. And I love playing to learn and I love pushing buttons. So I always want people to feel comfortable to take risks and try new things because the reward is a transformation, not only of teaching, but learning and what students have the opportunity to share.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I love the fact that you know your why, and you stated just a couple of times, they’re very, very powerful. And I wonder as our teacher listeners right now, they are in the midst of so many things on their plate, because I think teaching is one of the most relentless careers out there, is the most impactful and important, but there’s so much happening. And so for one, I wonder if teachers have had the opportunity to truly tap into their why, but let’s say that, yes, we know what our vision is and we truly embrace what we’re there to do. For example, with your why, how did you transform the classroom from the traditional, you had the curriculum that you had to teach and you had the standards and you had all the assessments, and of course your why had to do with student empowerment and amplifying voice. How did you practically, what steps did you take in your classroom to get your students to truly kind of live out that why?
Ann Kozma: Yeah. So the really awesome thing was our administrator immediately top-down her vision was, give the students pathways to share, celebrate and showcase their learning journey. And as a first grade teacher, things clicked for my students at different times. I had a lot of pre-readers and emerging readers. So I wanted school to be a joyful place where they could come, engage in meaningful activities, but also develop strong academic foundations. And we started simply, we started talking about books.
Ann Kozma: And literally, if students just wanted to record themselves reading so they could work on their fluency, or if they wanted to respond to literature using the strategies that we worked on, we did these things called on the surface and under the surface reading comprehension strategies where it was finding text evidence and going back to that, but it was a simple way for students to share at their level, which I then celebrated. I didn’t want my students to feel stressed out about not knowing how to do something if they weren’t yet reading fluently or whatever the expected level was. I wanted to celebrate where they were at and encourage them to keep going. So I think that that is one simple thing that educators can do in terms of… It’s almost like it was a mindset shift for me. Does that make sense? I started thinking-
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yes.
Ann Kozma: … about what pathways to learning looked like in my room and then started leveraging the technology to support that.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: That’s fantastic. I love the fact that you were able to live off this why, even through as a first grade teacher and helping support students with reading fluency. Many times, I hear that teachers have challenges, especially in the early grades with technology. Did you have any challenges with the young learners? Did you feel that they… Because there’s also this belief that, I hear this phrase a lot, that students are digital natives, and so they automatically come to you with this advanced knowledge of technology. So I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. And then if you had any challenges with young learners and technology.
Ann Kozma: So to phrase this from the beginning, I absolutely believe that even our youngest scholars can. And my good friend, Susan Stewart, talked about, she started this whole movement of #K2CanToo. And I, as a teacher of our youngest students, 100% believe because I lived it with the proper supports and the proper workflow, kind of maneuver the workflow or teach them what the buttons mean or teach them how to use the tool properly, they absolutely can hang with even upper elementary students and beyond in terms of what they can create, what they can do, how they use a tool effectively. It just came back to, I was very hyper-specific in teaching what the buttons meant on a device so that it set them up for success.
Ann Kozma: And it was almost like technology bootcamp. And I would use that with different apps, for example, or even touched, like the home button on an iPad device, I would teach them the names for the buttons. So, no, I believe that even our youngest scholars can absolutely hang. I understand completely it can be frustrating and overwhelming because there’s all kinds of special dynamics that go into working with very young students. But I think that if you structured the right way, I provided tons of visual supports, I made charts about how an app worked. And then this special thing called Apple TV came along and I was able to mirror my device and show students in a much more fluid and quick way. But I so strongly believe that if something is set up for age and developmental appropriateness, with supports, even our youngest scholars will blow your mind with the creative things that they do.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, I so agree with that. Definitely that resonates with my experience. I have always been so wonderfully surprised at how, and I don’t know why, because I mean, I see the difference our students are making today, and I feel like the more and more that we are empowering them, the more and more they are taking it upon themselves to make a difference. Many times I also hear that the teachers, they want to use technology only in the classroom, if it helps to let these students dig deeper or allows them to learn at a deeper level. And I do agree with that as well. Did you see that in the classroom when students were using technology, could you say that students were learning deeper? And if so, what specific things told you that they were learning deeper because of the technology?
Ann Kozma: So, one of the first things I noticed when we put the tech in our students’ hands, was the engagement. They were engaged in new ways and it allowed me to kind of revisit my best practices and how I provided instruction. But beyond that engagement, what we saw was a peaked interest and that peaked motivation. And when the students were not only engaged and motivated in totally different ways, it transformed the ownership and pride students put into their own work. So we saw this complete transformation, which I 100% believe directly impacts deeper learning, retention of learning, mastery of learning. And of course, we were using assessment data to track progress. And we would in PLC meetings and staff meetings, we would use assessment all the time to guide our instructions or pull skill groups or strategy groups and do response to intervention based on different needs.
Ann Kozma: The beautiful thing about a classroom, Nathan, I totally believe, this every unique individual sitting in our classrooms, sitting on cushions around the room, standing in your learning community, everyone is a unique individual. And I, as a teacher on special assignment spoke all the time with my teachers about celebrate the journey, celebrate the process, educators bring the heart and hustle every day to classrooms. And the job is stressful, the job is hard, the job is changing every single day, but teachers have the best job in the world because they are changing the future with lives and unique individuals and providing opportunities every day. So it’s this beautiful dance of all the things.
Ann Kozma: I don’t know of how best to describe it, but yeah, I 100% saw an increase in not only the engagement and motivation, but I had the data to show my students were learning. They were mastering skills and concepts, the reading or language fluency, phonemic awareness, I mean, everything. I had the numbers to show it was changing and it was changing drastically. The cool thing about this at my school, I’m so proud of the work that we did. We were in year four of Program Improvement, Nathan. And in our first three years of our tech integration, we jumped 136 points overall in our API score, became a Title I academic achievement award school, an Apple distinguished school. And I mean, our attendance rates changed, everything changed. And I think it was because students were owning their learning in totally different ways, feeling empowered to learn, feeling inspired to create and then it was celebrated. I talked all the time about brainpower, it’s their brainpower and them as unique scholars in our community. We celebrated that.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I think that last statement you made about how your students were able to achieve those accolades. And many teachers in school districts are always looking for the latest strategy or the latest process or methodology to be able to increase learning. And you said it so eloquently and so beautifully about students being able to own their own learning and be able to create something authentic and meaningful. And obviously you all and the support that you gave to students were able to make that happen. So I applaud you. That’s fantastic. And I’m so happy that now you were in a place where you’re able to share your experiences, which I would love to ask you about. So right now you’re at Flipgrid.
Ann Kozma: Yeah.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: So as we kind of conclude our conversation today, which we could talk forever, I wish we could, as we kind of conclude today, what is kind of the next big, exciting thing that you’re currently working on around student voice and empowering students to own their own learning?
Ann Kozma: So you mentioned, we didn’t have much of an opportunity to connect this summer at ISTE, but it was at ISTE during the Flipgrid live event that we revealed the completely overhauled, revamped, brand new Flipgrid camera and embedded within that Flipgrid camera, not only are there filters, the opportunity to import any photo as a custom sticker, embedded emojis, there’s a whiteboard and blackboard tool, there’s a live inking feature. It comes back to the possibilities and endless possibilities at that for creating, because when students feel… Well, let me rephrase that. Not many students are inspired or emotionally attached to worksheets, for example.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Right.
Ann Kozma: [crosstalk 00:14:54] with my own students when I gave them the opportunity to create something, they were able to synthesize that learning, share the learning and discuss it, reflect on it and grow from it. So to me, the things I’m most excited about what we’re working on, is just helping educators and students realize the new possibilities with the Flipgrid camera. My job is so awesome because I’m a teacher helping teachers. So we create content, we do professional development, we utilize social media to share. And part of the beautiful thing about being connected in those ways is, I don’t have all the answers, I can only share what I’m excited about or a skill I have, but when we go together, we can go so much farther.
Ann Kozma: So my work is to help amplify the incredible things educators are doing with Flipgrid to empower every voice in their classroom and beyond. And so it’s this, I mean, I said it earlier, it’s this, all the things. I’m excited about all the things, but I’m so excited that it’s opportunity for students to share their unique and authentic voice in creative, innovative, think outside the box ways, or, Nathan, it could be as simple as just launching that camera and going selfie style in your video. There’s no right or wrong way to Flipgrid. If you can think it, you can Flipgrid it, and that’s what makes me so excited.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, you just made me so excited just to hear about all the different possibilities that students are able to be creative. And I think as educators, that’s what we most need support with, is how can we help students be their most creative selves? And I think it’s exactly what you’re talking about, it’s providing them the tools necessary, it’s providing the environment that’s welcoming and it’s encouraging them to really create beyond their imagination. And it’s positive messages like the ones you’re spreading that really helps students achieve higher than they’ve ever thought possible. So I appreciate your work in this area. And if our listeners, they want to get in touch with you, if they want to follow you, how can they find you?
Ann Kozma: Yeah. So I am connected on all the social. You can find me at my handle @annkozma723. Of course, if you’re looking for additional supports or resources, myself, my colleagues on the engagement team at Flipgrid, you can find everything over at flipgrid.com or even blog.flipgrid.com, including ways to get connected, information to explore new realities with FlipgridAR, or even educator’s guide created by awesome teachers in our community. So reach out, get connected. And Nathan, I love to say that when conversations start, they don’t ever have to end. So what we started today, doesn’t have to end today and it can always continue on social media.
Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Excellent. I know I look forward to continuing that conversation with you. And thanks again, thanks for your time and I’m looking forward to staying connected.
Ann Kozma: You are so welcome. Thanks for having me.