New View EDU Episode 49: The View From the Classroom

Available November 14, 2023

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In an age of educator burnout and high turnover rates, what keeps veteran teachers motivated to stay in the classroom? This episode of New View EDU explores how rapidly changing technologies have provided a constant source of inspiration and innovation for two educators. Howard Levin and Stacey Roshan have transformed their practice through exploring the opportunities technology provides to teachers and learners. They’ve used that spark as fuel for careers defined by longevity and creativity.

Stacey Roshan and Howard LevinHoward and Stacey join host Tim Fish to talk about how, after beginning as classroom teachers in the fields of social studies and mathematics, each found a new path forward in educational technology. 

Howard says that discovering the power of technology to transform teaching and learning has kept his work in schools fresh over the course of a 35-plus-year career. From rudimentary beginnings with cassette-tape interview formats to working with students to build a powerful human rights-themed oral history website, he has evolved how he weaves technology into his work with students. He prioritizes the opportunity for students to learn from “someone other than the teacher” and to have the chance to produce a meaningful product that showcases their learning.

Stacey has also embarked on a journey with integrating technology into her teaching practices. On a quest to reduce anxiety for her AP calculus students and herself, she started dabbling with flipped classroom techniques, then rapidly discovered new opportunities to use technology to create a more welcoming, inclusive, and productive classroom. Finding that applying technology in the right ways could provide a more powerful voice to introverted students, or to those who struggled to be heard in class discussions, was a game-changing moment, Stacey says. Now she consistently seeks ways to utilize technology to level the playing field, offer greater participation options to students, and provide a more engaging and student-centered format for learning and discovery.

Both Howard and Stacey emphasize that their embrace of technology has come through the realization that the entire dynamic of teaching and learning is changing rapidly. Howard points out that while a teacher’s role used to be presenting information and ensuring students retained those facts, we now live in a world where information is constantly available to everyone. In such an environment, he argues, the role of a teacher needs to shift from information-giver to becoming a content expert who guides students on their own investigative journeys. Stacey agrees, reflecting that the most important skills she can impart to students are collaboration and problem-solving, which will remain vital to their success in adulthood. 

Despite their continued enthusiasm for the opportunities technology presents to educators, both Howard and Stacey speak to the challenges that are holding schools back from fully embracing what tech has to offer. Howard points out that while technology has only grown in influence and power, the conversations around how to shift from a traditional teacher-led dynamic to a more collaborative, student-led education system have not changed materially in several years. While technology continues to advance, schools in many cases remain stuck in the pre-technological past. What stops us from moving forward? Howard theorizes that old models of hiring and training educators, as well as fear of change, may be at the roots of the struggle. Stacey adds that even when schools seem ready to move forward with new ways of doing things, parental attitudes can add a layer of complexity to the challenge. Worries about their children learning through techniques and environments that are wildly different from what they experienced in school can affect parents’ perceptions of what a “good” or “rigorous” education looks like in the 21st century.

Schools can shift those more traditional mindsets, both among parents and faculty and staff, through continuing to support the use of technology for positive outcomes: greater student voice, autonomy, and well-being; increased collaboration and problem-solving skills; amplified creativity and diversity of thought; and improved accessibility and opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through a variety of means. The goal, Howard says, should be to resist the urge to keep tech access restrained in schools, and instead to work to unleash its potential for transformation.

Key Questions

Some of the key questions Tim, Howard, and Stacey explore in this episode include:

  • What is it about technology that has kept you motivated to remain in education? How has it been a central part of your journey as teachers, and where do you see it leading in the future?
  • What are the key components of “magic” in a school environment? How do you see technology enhancing that magic?
  • How did you each harness technology as a means to help you reach specific goals in your classrooms? What have you learned along the way, and how has your practice evolved as tech has gotten more powerful?
  • What is the purpose of education at this point in time, and how does technology fit into the new roles of teacher and learner in this landscape?

Episode Highlights

  • “But to me, the preparation is really about ensuring that they have skills and confidence to navigate life with resilience and empathy, that they're critical thinkers, that they're effective communicators, and active contributors to their communities. And as a math teacher, I always say that teaching math is the easy part. My most important role is helping students learn how to learn, embrace a growth mindset, take ownership of their learning, and just encouraging a love for the process of learning, I think is so critical.” (11:04)
  • “I really believe that these are very new categories in today's world. In the world that I grew up in, the focus was, and in many places still today, the focus is on really good teaching, really good absorption, all kinds of techniques and tricks to get information to stick with students. And we're living in a completely different world right now. We're at our fingertips with a quick breath of our own speech, that information is just everywhere. And so I think it's a huge challenge for independent schools to really embrace and really look at how different the world is for our students and the future students.” (14:53)
  • “I think that's something that really sparked even that next level of excitement for me was a big question that I've always had, about how can we make every student’s ideas seen and heard? So I'm very much an introvert. And also, I need time to process and think. And so participation in the classroom was always a really challenging point for me…so I was able to really think about how, in my classroom, I could shift that up and change that. And that's where I looked at a lot of technology tools and I was like, OK, just speaking verbally, just having to raise your hand isn't the only way to contribute.” (36:42)
  • “I think the key role of schools today should be to spark students to discover passion and their incentive to drive themselves further and explore the things… and school should be designed to help students find their passion. …And that passion really can't be to get all A's or to get into Harvard. The passion has to be something that is much more personally intrinsic to contributing to the world in some way.” (46:20)

Resource List

Full Transcript

  • Read the full transcript here.

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About Our Guests

Howard Levin is the newly appointed director of technology at San Francisco University High School (CA). He has spent more than three decades working as a teacher and technology leader in independent schools. In 2011, he transitioned into the newly defined role of director of educational innovation, leading tech-related strategic initiatives at Convent & Stuart Hall Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco. Previously, he spent 12 years as director of technology at the Urban School of San Francisco.

In addition to educational technology leadership, Levin has helped lead efforts to rethink and renovate learning spaces. He is a recipient of the 2023 Association of Technology Leaders In Independent Schools (ATLIS) Pillar Award, given for “exemplifying the ATLIS mission to empower schools to thrive through technology leadership.”

Stacey Roshan is an educator, keynote speaker, and edtech and innovative teaching consultant. She is also the author of Tech with Heart: Leveraging Technology to Empower Student Voice, Ease Anxiety, & Create Compassionate Classrooms.

She aims to empower teachers with ideas and technology tools to create more equitable and empowering classrooms for every student to find their voice, build their confidence, and take ownership of their learning.