“Teaching is always evolving, changing, transforming. I can’t think of any other job where you’re constantly asked to improve and learn new things. And then you still have the privilege of sharing that knowledge with young people.”
Throughout his 12-year career, Steven Kolber has embraced technology as a fundamental teaching tool to help transform his classroom into an interactive, inclusive learning environment. This led to his nomination as a top 50 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize in 2021.
As an English Language, EAL and History teacher at Brunswick Secondary College in Melbourne, Australia, Steven is also passionate about sharing his knowledge and empowering other teachers around the world.
“When used efficiently, technology can transform education by giving teachers the time they need to be more human, more present, more empathetic, more collaborative, and create a better learning environment for all.”
This idea is supported by UNICEF's State of the World's Children report, which states: "If leveraged in the right way and made universally accessible, digital technology can be a game changer for children being left behind – whether because of poverty, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, displacement or geographic isolation – connecting them to a world of opportunity and providing them with the skills they need to succeed in a digital world."
Helping teachers improve their tech skills
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Steven was more than prepared for the world of remote teaching. He had over 700 lessons on his YouTube channel, and was familiar with several tools that he could use to enrich his online lessons.
To help other teachers adapt to online teaching during the pandemic, he created an extensive catalogue of free training videos on YouTube. Steven also ran online gatherings called ‘Teach Meets’ where educators shared their innovations and adaptations for remote learning.
Recognising the need for teachers to have better access to scalable solutions for professional development, the World Bank Group and HundrED (a global education non-profit) teamed up to develop the Teachers for a Changing World Spotlight. The platform identifies and shares access to leading solutions from around the world that are helping teachers thrive in an ever-changing classroom.
Helping teachers collaborate and share innovative ideas with their peers
Contributing to peer-to-peer support, Steven co-hosts a bimonthly podcast, the Teachers' Education Review. He discusses various teaching practices, and transformational solutions with a range of education experts from diverse backgrounds.
To help teachers access quality research, and share their knowledge of teaching innovations, Steven also established an interactive online reading group for teachers called #Edureading.
“Every month, we discuss a different academic article on education. It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about building connections with fellow educators, and collaborating with them,” says Steven.
Helping teachers embrace tech to create a more inclusive environment for learners
“When teachers feel more confident in their personal tech skills, they feel more empowered to experiment with digital tools, and use them in their classrooms,” says Steven.
“Technology makes learning more accessible to our students, and it helps us do our work more quickly and effectively. It gives us more time to do the ‘fun stuff’ including interacting with learners face-to-face and getting them to interact meaningfully with each other.”
A paper commissioned for the 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report, Inclusion and education, confirms this idea. “ICT can be used to support inclusion by providing different ways of representing information, expressing knowledge and engaging in learning, including assessment.”
The paper also notes the importance of using technology to help make learning more accessible to students with learning difficulties. “ICT tools can be used to support creative and cooperative learning environments where disabled students are included in learning activities and have class or group roles or responsibilities.”
Steven uses a number of assistive technologies to strengthen the learning experience for students and teachers both in the classroom and online.
“I use a lot of assistive technology in my classroom including transcription and text-to-voice software to ensure learners with dyslexia or other disabilities are able to share their thoughts, and participate in the learning process.”
“Instructional videos are a great way for teachers to supplement their lessons. For example, when we cover Macbeth, I have face-to-face lessons in the classroom, but I also have a whole lot of video summaries of each act and scene that my learners can access on my YouTube channel.”
“Learners with hearing disabilities can access the subtitles and transcripts. And those who have attention difficulties can go back and rewatch the video as many times as they need to.”
Steven even uses video to provide feedback to his learners. He records his comments on video while reading through an essay or project that a learner has submitted. “It saves me a lot of time.”
Transforming education to keep up with the ever-changing world
“Teachers notice the small things. They can see when a learner is struggling with something beyond the classroom. As teachers who genuinely care about our learners and their overall wellbeing, COVID made us realise just how critical those face-to-face social interactions in the classroom actually are,” says Steven.
“While technology can transform the way teachers share their knowledge, it can’t replace them. There’s no substitute for a great teacher who can establish a solid relationship with their students and deliver content in a way that makes kids excited about learning. Technology, by itself, simply can’t do this.”
Steven’s top recommended resources for teachers and learners:
Videos to help teachers build their skills:
- How to Make and Publish a Video
- How to make a Lightboard video
- What is a green screen effect & how to set one up
- Using Video Feedback for Formative Assessment Online
Top sources for free audio books for learners:
- Libby App: Free ebooks & audiobooks from your library | by OverDrive
- BorrowBox – Your library in one app
- LibriVox | free public domain audiobooks
For discussions on education, and connecting with other teachers around the world:
- Teachers' Education Review | The Australian podcast for teachers the bridges the gap between research, policy and practice. (terpodcast.com)
- The Edu Salon on Apple Podcasts
- empowerED Podcast with Francis Jim Tuscano on Apple Podcasts
- Game Changers on Apple Podcasts
- Education Research Reading Room on Apple Podcasts
Steven recommends software such as ClaroRead, Dragon Speak, Pen Readers, Read-aloud settings within documents, enabling subtitles within Zoom and PowerPoint.
Learn more about the #TeachersTransform campaign as part of the Transforming Education Summit.
Photo credit: Steven Kolber