Leading and Thriving through the Evolutionary Changes in the AC-Stage of Education

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Jed Stefanowicz leads strategic transformation of teaching and learning through the use of digital tools and innovative practices. As Director of Digital Learning and Innovation for the Nashoba Regional School District in Massachusetts, Jed aims to engage and build staff/student digital learning capacity, keeping the focus on practice over product. Jed shares his passion for effective tech integration to transform teaching and learning, creating engaging and equitable digital learning environments and experiences that activate, innovate, and motivate digital learning.

Dr. Michael Conner

Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening from wherever you are. I am your host, Dr. Michael Conner, for Voices for Excellence, and also the CEO and Founder of Agile Evolutionary Group. And welcome again to season two. This has just been an absolute joy and a very, very intriguing journey speaking with a plethora of educators. But for this guest, I want to add in rule breaker and change maker. Right? My guest today is a personal friend. I tell you, we met at the Tech and Learning summit up in Massachusetts, and we just clicked. And you know how much of a geek I am? I just started the geek out, and Jed was absolutely there geeking out with me to the point where we were actually doing an activity and we completely forgot to do the activity. And we were just, I don’t know if we forgot. I think we bailed. Come on, you. I’m going to say this right. We forgot. All right. I’ll put them there. We forgot. But the conversations that we were having in, Boston, just led to this personal friendship where now, you know, he’s an author, he’s a blogger, he has done immense, immense work around innovation and digital technology most recently. Congratulations. Jed is the Director of Digital Learning and Innovation for Nashoba Regional School District in the Boston area, three, consisting of three different districts. But more importantly, Jed’s book, which I was featured in. I don’t know why he would do that but this book right here – Impact to Influence. I can’t put down. Right. Because when I read it, when I first read it initially, the the people that he highlighted different from, I would say different, verticals within the ecosystem. But all the same story around this need for where we have to have, I like to say, a level of impact to influence change in education. So without further ado, it is my honor, my guest, that had to have Jed Stefanowicz. You got it, you got it, perfect., I got it. Yes. Yeah, everybody knows I always chop up everybody’s last name Jed. But Jed. Welcome to Voices for Excellence, my friend. How are you? First, congratulations, my friend.

Jed Stefanowicz

Yeah. Thank you very much. And you did a perfect job rhyming it with banana-witz, so that’s it, that’s that’s it. It’s super exciting to be here. Super excited just to talk to you. I mean, we’re as close to in-person as we’re going to get for a while that this is, It’s great to see you. It’s great to connect. It’s also been a really cool, you know, we both kind of we’re working on projects, and they both came out at similar times. And it’s been really fun just to see how that project goes. And it’s you reminded me of, of us, forgetting the, the activity we were doing at that at that summit. it was it was a goofy activity. And we got into like an instant, really cool conversation. And we both were like, this is too good of a conversation to do this scavenger hunt that we we directed ourselves. Rick Rubin would tell you, distraction is not procrastination. So that’s a book I’m reading right now. But it was it was so cool to just you know, can I can start talking and realizing. And it was just really cool. And I had the pleasure to immediately know that I wanted to latch on. I want to be in business with Dr. Michael Conner. I mean, that’s really anyone who listens to this knows that when you talk to you, you learn something, but you also feel this like motivation. Your energy is infectious, and contagious. And I was like, oh my God, I it was funny because I started describing to you this book project, and first you gave me that look like, oh, that’s a good idea. And then there was this pause where I was like, oh, I is it took too soon to ask him to be in the book. And, you know, like I’m waiting for you to ask me about it, but it was but it was, you know, the perfect addition to this book because that book impact influence and say, look, I’ve got the same one, two absolutely brought, you’re right. It’s people who may not be some of the traditional keynotes may not be some of the traditional loudmouths or, you know, spotlight because they’re people who some of whom are still in the classroom, some have. So taking nontraditional routes toward leadership. And really, in all the stories, though, part of what I really was looking to find was what are those true lines where we’ve all gone from impacting 20 kids at a time in our classrooms to now influencing whether it’s, you know, local, state, national policy, whether it’s becoming an author or a podcaster, there’s teachers of the year and there and then the I think the thing that caught you was the structure of the book. it’s a profile of each person and then there is a 20 30 minute zoom interview just like this between the two of us. And it’s there’s a QR code that goes to that recording in the book, and there are so many podcasts out there, yourself included, doing it way better than I ever could. So I didn’t want to do a podcast. But what I did want to do was capture these stories in people’s own voice. And because nothing replaces that and, it was really interesting to get people talking about their stories. Sometimes they would lapse into their stage stories and lapse into their familiar whatever and not powder. But, you know, you talk about the same thing a lot, and I would gladly interrupt them and say, I know that about you. Want to read it? I want to know. Back it up. How did you who was it along the way? Who tapped it? Who was it along the way when you were discouraged? What are those situations and what is it about you? Not about your accomplishments that wanted to, you know, frame yourself as a risk taker, a rule breaker, a change maker? And how do you do it? Because what I realized by the end of the book, honestly, is we haven’t talked about this was for me, it was really a selfish, collection and connection of all these people whom I admire and I respect and I’ve learned from and I kind of wanted to get them together and we’re putting together an event. It probably won’t be till the spring. It’s, you know, a two year late book launch. But I want to get a way to get all these people together because I feel like they got to know each other a little bit in the book. Yeah. I want you to talk to them. I want them to talk to you. I mean, that’s it’s a cool collection and connection of people, and that’s what that project was all about. So thank you officially, formally for for being in the book. It was my, my honor to have you in it.

Dr. Michael Conner

Oh, man. No, no, jet, I’ll tell you this. And to my audience. Right here. Right. Page 41. You know that when you look at me right here. Right. Just pointed to the man, Jed. Because when Jed. was, highlighting and explaining his project, his book project, I said, man, yeah, I was like, that is the coolest thing I’ve heard. And I was like, you really going to put this together? He’s like, yeah, we’re going to start a 20 minute interview, but interview you. And this was the outcome of all those rule breakers and change makers alike. So Jed is absolutely an honor. Thank you for the kind words, my friend. It’s just good to see you. So now getting into this, right. Because what people don’t know about you is how you are, in my opinion, one of the experts when it comes to digital learning, when it comes to technology, when it comes to artificial intelligence, when it comes to innovation or reimagination of the model. So, you know, for us this is just a normal conversation. But I want my audience to be able to depict and unwrap the specific strategies and the techniques and the tactics with regards to, I think that this is going to be an arduous labor, this theory around integrating digital learning or what digital learning looks like in the A stage of education. But before we actually go into depth with your book or go and the depth and breadth in the context of what that looks like from the education, ecosystem, I want to ask you this one question. Right. And Jed, you are one you are one individual. But when education leaders, advocates, technology experts, digital transformers, district stakeholders, and even the teachers that you work with when they first encounter with you, Jed, what song comes to mind that describes your equity and innovation stance in the back stage of education?

Jed Stefanowicz

That is a really fun question. And you know, I like a fun question because my last question to you was, was one of those kind of challenging questions, too. so so here we are. It’s it’s mid August, we’re getting ready for the school year. And we all know what that’s like. So my first instinct is going to be wake me up when September ends. Because as I said we know what September brings and it’s not the good stuff. It’s all, can you help connect my document camera? you know, all the subscriptions and all the sign ons? but that’s important because you need it. You need all of it. And, you know, I’m not going to be able to give you a lot of the answers to those biggest questions for 2023 or 2030, because we don’t know, you know, we don’t know the question that we have yet to answer. Right. But what we do know is what’s who’s in those classrooms right now? The grown ups and the short people to who are that? Who are the people who are going to be impacted by the change? Who are people going to be delivering the change? So my other song is going to be Bill Withers Use Me not just because it’s a cool group, but I mean, we all groove on one, right? Absolutely. So use me. because, so I taught third grade for 22 years. I’ve been a digital learning coach six years after that, and now I’m just stepping into my first admin role and you’ve sat in every seat, so you’re gonna have to give me some advice now. But the, it’s it’s really an interesting one, but I, I view my role as a director of digital learning and innovation as kind of a, district level digital learning coach. Truly, at the same time, because that’s working with teachers who have been there for 30 years, and it’s working with teachers who are landing in those classrooms for the first time. And it’s yes, it is the person who says, I don’t remember where to plug in my document camera, but it’s also the person who says, I want to use ChatGPT. And a person says, I want to rethink the way we’re publishing and I want to get a blog going. I want to get a podcast going. So it’s really hearing all those things, and it’s not about my initiatives, it’s about enabling more initiatives to come to life. So combination of those two songs, I think hopefully people will, I’ll be there to help them wake up on September ends, but I want them use me. I want them to come to me because truly, you know, the administrator role is in service of everyone around all you, Jed.

Dr. Michael Conner

Okay. And I want to I want to be technical with this to be funny. well, you can create a causality alignment between. Wake me up when September ends. Excuse me, by Bill. Bill Withers, but yes, yes, that is awesome. Because it is so funny because when September rolls around, right, wake me up with September ends. That’s when or of the new transitions. And teachers, especially now with new teachers, leaders coming in to be able to support, implement at that basic foundation level of technology, you are going to have the what I say, the continuum of questions, whether it be from the basic levels of what you said, initial setup to how do I create blogs and podcast, so that we can use this as an asynchronous platform for students to learn. Right. So you are going to have that wide spectrum of the learning model, a delta learning model, I say for our teachers and our leaders, but more importantly, use me. I love how you put that in context where, yes, you are an expert. Yes, you have the foundational core knowledge of making that transition. But more importantly, what you said, is so critical, right? You’re here to help the teachers. You’re here to help leaders, as they embark upon this implementation is holistic implementation of technology in their classrooms and the schools. And, Jed, I tell you this, I wish you were around when I was a superintendent, man, to have a director, digital learning and innovation, because now we’re going to get into that point. it’s so critical now in the AC stage of education. We were talking about this, you know, before the BC stage of education. Right? Yeah. But now I and I want to highlight one of your books. Right. Not in that not impact. Influence. We’re going to get there. Okay. But one of your books, I think it’s a top 100 seller, if I’m correct, is taking aim at digital learning. There it is right there. Let’s clear it up. Take aim at digital learning. I like to tell people it’s a million seller. That’s only because I got a million seller here. But, Jed, here’s the thing. When you wrote the book. Jay. Right. I’m going to call you. Not sure Dom is because you were predicting the future. When did you release that book, Jed?

Jed Stefanowicz

I released that book, the beginning of the same year. I released the other book. When I know, 2022. Yeah. Before it’s time. Right? Yeah, right. I like the way you put that.

Dr. Michael Conner

Before it’s time. Because, Jed, everything that we’re trying to incorporate and implement now, right, to make this strategic or intentional ship within the education model, the core tenets and the subsystems within the model, you have found ways to be able to integrate strategies as well as methodologies to be able to support this shit. Right? So just really fast, if you can just give a high level overview of take aim at digital learning and some of the core underpinning that, lets hypothetically say all my, listeners and all my, viewers, they purchased this book. What what are the key points that they’re going to take out of that?

Jed Stefanowicz

Sure. Well, I hope they do because it’s on Amazon. It’s through. It’s X factor online and your grocer’s freezer I’m sure. Okay. But you know it’s interesting that you say it’s ahead of its time because I felt like it’s to some degree yeah, I’m hoping it’s ahead of its time. But it also feels way behind its time. And for some people it’s right on time because we we have been points right have been poised for this revolution. And where’s it been if if it was really going to happen, it would have happened at the stroke of Covid and that technology integration would have been seamless. And in fact, we saw the opposite. But the book is called Take Aim at Digital Learning, and the Aim stands for Actively Innovate, motivate. And it’s really meant to be a handbook for teachers, for coaches, for administrators, for leaders. It’s written in a very comfortable language, almost like a collection of blog posts in short installments. but really it’s activating content, innovating instruction, motivating learners. Those ideas are not ahead of their time. Those you can maybe the strategies, methodologies, methodologies, and the tools might be ahead of their time. But the tool, they’re always changing. And you know, it’s interesting you were talking about my new role, the director of digital learning. And I have to say, there’s, you know, I’m coming in at this directorship level, which is new for me. Right. and moving into a district where there are tools I’m not familiar with. And it’s a really interesting, vulnerable place for me. But I really want to model that adult learning model, really model that lead learner. It’s because it’s not about the tool. It’s never about the tool. Right? But there there is an uncomfortable feeling about being unfamiliar with, oh, I didn’t know this. unless I don’t know that. And I know that. I don’t know that one. so that’s a really interesting thing to come in and comfortably and confidently say, I don’t know, you know, it’s not about expertise in those tools in the operation. It’s really about what are we trying to do and how are we trying to lift that learning. So that’s what that book take aim at. Digital learning is all about. And it’s my work is really again, it’s activating the content. And how do you do that through engagement. How do you and is technology a powerful level lever? Sure it is, but it’s meaningless if there isn’t student buying up. There isn’t student agency. More importantly, if there isn’t teacher agency, then it’s just another product in Covid, you know, I love you’re the only person who I really feel has studied and then really cohesively talked about it before, during and after. Because man, have we seen the impact. And I don’t call a learning loss right. Learning loss is what the vendors at the conferences talk about. The loss that we’re seeing is that the agency allows agency of students who, you know, so some of us are blaming them for not knowing how to do school, not knowing how to wait in line, not knowing. And that’s not fair. But there’s also the teacher agency lost to where people have fallen out of love with their job, and they came back and they were exhausted. And but we also fell into what we knew how to do well. And all those innovative pockets that we always talk about, they seem to vaporize. Right? And sure, people had to get back to those comfort zones, but my role as a coach, and I’m always going to call myself an educator and a coach before a director or an admin. My role, if I want to stretch people outside of their comfort zones, I need to understand that they haven’t been in their comfort zones for years now. Yeah, and that’s a hard truth. And you can’t begin to talk about ChatGPT AI, machine learning that’s going to radically transform education out from under people’s feet. If they haven’t regained a sound footing after having the rug pulled out of them from Covid. So when I look at, you know, when I the purpose of writing that book was really meant to be for teachers, just, you know, and it actually aligns. It sets up my next project. What what I really wanted to do was give tools for how do you activate learning? How is it capturing? So let’s talk about student publishing for example. It’s capturing and modeling process. Why do we publish? And one of the things I’m working on it’s called beyond the bulletin board. And there’s a section in there on that. And it’s getting out of the routine of decorating our halls and walls, you know, for hope, for our colleagues in the building, for other kids in the school to look at. It’s a total we have to reimagine the way, the way we’ve always I know it’s a cliche to say, but the way we’ve always been doing it, but it’s really about redesigning the structure of our instruction and then reimagining what learning looks like in the classroom. It’s not about the tool we’re using, it’s about the types of questions we’re asking. And man, I really, more effectively than anything else, got us to rethink the questions we’re asking. But then more importantly, are we sharing the answers? We don’t talk about that part. You know, we’ve we’re trying to work out how are kids cheating with AI or whatever, but we’re then still not answering the question of how are you accurately assessing those the competencies. And, you know, I think that’s really the important thing. There’s ideas in that book about how are you creating sparks and moments, right, to really engage. How are you always keeping our focus on practice over products? And that’s even that’s the stuff that I’m passionate about. That’s the stuff that’s made me love my job and not fall out of love, and then hopefully have something to offer other teachers and the probably the nicest compliment I got was from, a tech integration digital learning coach who kind of said, you just write a manual. So I had to do our job. And that was a compliment for me because that’s what I wanted it to be. I didn’t want it to be full of jargon. I wanted, you know, if there’s a teacher who wants to get a 101 Tips to Try on Monday, it’s in there. If there’s a teacher who wants philosophical, you know the difference between a two pack and Samr and really of evaluating the instruction as well as the tool that’s in there, too. There’s the heady, but there’s really the practical and pragmatic in there as well.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And, you know, before we get into impact, to influence to my audience, there was a lot of, concepts, a lot of strategies that Jed just provided us. And again, using this as an asynchronous platform, for direct instruction where you can be able to stop, go different parts, play Jed’s answer back as he unwrapped, specific components of take aim at digital learning because just like he received that compliment that, you know, he provided a manual, for education stakeholders to unwrap. Jed just provide it classroom as well as district level strategies that can be employed. Right away. within his answer. And Jed. Absolutely correct. Right. Activate, innovate and motivate. But that core theme around engagement we always talk about student agency. Right. But teacher and student agency working in this level parallelization interface as well as so, so important. And when we talk about this whole redesign of reimagination, you can take that from a classroom level all the way up to the district level as well. amazing answer. Right. Because, you’re absolutely correct, is that we have this deficit mindset, right? Or this negative connotation around what students loss during Covid or cause of or because of Covid, right? The cause and effect of it. I’m glad that you brought up the DC stage of education, right? Because, Jed, when we look at it right, we had to innovate during that time, find new ways to, continue this service delivery model, with this egregious interruption of the pandemic and then the novelty within the pandemic where we had to be able to use science in order to make decisions with regards to business model and the preferred method of pedagogy. Ray of what we saw now, we went back like when we saw the eight. We’re now that we’re in the second year back stage of education, we kind of reverted back to the old practices, that is that were embedded or is still embedded in the back stage of education. But we’re educating generation Z and Generation Alpha. We’re going to get into that much more deeper, at a different segment of the podcast.

Jed Stefanowicz

Yeah. Go ahead Jed, please. Well, speaking of egregious interruptions, I’m going to give you one right now because part of what you just said, yeah, the DC, you know, it it was awful. We all want to no one wants to talk about it. But you know what? It really did their teaching through hybrid and being in schools and classrooms during Covid. Think of who was able to pivot, think of who was able to rely and you know, I’m not going to say they relied on the science of data, but what they relied on was 30 years of experience. It was veteran teachers. And it’s not quantifiable in terms of something you can bottle up easily. But I do think you can draw the distinction between an unfair assumption that digital natives, younger and newer teachers, would somehow be able to pivot better, when in fact you’ve got 15, 20, 30 year teachers who know that content so well that they were able to pivot and they knew what their what those students needed. They just had to find the mechanisms to do it. And in that you also had veteran teachers who were going out and finding their own PD. I mean, flipping a 3D model on its head completely to that, providers who aren’t, you know, solution providers is a polite word for vendors, but those providers who haven’t pivoted also, they’re going to be up a creek, too, because, you know, I think educators got wise to really personalizing the experience for themselves. And I think leaders need to respond to that. I think vendors and solution providers need to reply to that, too. We’ve been touting the need for personalization and individualization so long and machine learning can help that process, but no one knows it better than the teacher. What they need and what they’re students need, whether they’re five year olds or 15 year olds or 25 year olds. Honestly. I mean, we’re both parents and we know we made it through, but there are some there’s a couple dark days in there.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And I can tell you this just from personal experience, right. Having a son that’s a part of Gen Z, his teacher, his kindergarten teacher, I remember that she, she did a phenomenal, phenomenal job. And I always used to tell her, listen, you have 23, I believe. No, it was 22, kindergartners. especially my son, who has ants in the pants, can’t stay still and was able to, show progress, show growth during that time frame. Hats off to her, because I tell you, you know, that experience I grew out experience that she had, and providing the tools for her to be success full was the priority. let’s move on to impact, to influence. Right. And we’re talking about rule breakers and risk takers. High level overview, very, very abstract. But get to the level of concrete. So again, my audience could be able to purchase this. But this was a phenomenal collection Jen that she did. Jed. look I love take aim at digital learning, but the innovation. Right. And authors know about this. The innovation that you incorporating the within that to influence was just phenomenal. I mean, the variety, the diversity of individuals, the expertise. it was just incredible how you were able to put that together again at a high level. What is what is that book about?

Jed Stefanowicz

Sure. Well, like you said, my job was to put it together. My job wasn’t to tell their stories, but I wanted to hear their stories. And there’s really interesting people. Like I said, it’s very selfish for me. But people who I’d met along the way, who I really found and I drew inspiration from, but also knew that other people could learn from them. And it was an interesting challenge to find all these different lanes. But it was important to me to show how many different ways there, you know, you can become Cambridge City Counselor, you can become a publisher, you can become a teacher of the year. You can stay in the classroom. And I mean, there’s a national teacher of the year, and there’s Sidney Schaefer, who is still still teaching, and there’s, Kristin Rhodes Balan, who just testified in Washington and she’s still teaching. And what we’re doing is paying attention to the important things that are happening right now in classrooms. part of my so three years ago, I became a, teach plus Massachusetts policy fellow. That was illuminating to find out, really how policy works, because classroom teachers really don’t. We’re not taught that we don’t kind of need to know it, but to learn how, whether it’s funding or policy, what happens at the state level, local level, and then at the national level. It’s really that was illuminating. But the the people I met through there were just amazing. And what I really wanted to do was have them tell their stories. And part of the idea of recording them all. Now, I and I really liked that I didn’t do it high tech. I mean, I just pressed record on the zoom and that’s what that’s what you’ll get to in the book. it’ll push you through my site to get there. But they’re really just recordings because I didn’t want to take away. I didn’t want to tell people stories. I wanted to ask the questions. Like I said earlier, that really got to the heart of what makes them. And most people are too polite to call themselves a change maker. Probably, yourself included. But that’s why they’re in the book. They know they’re risk takers. They may say that they’re rule breakers, but there’s a pride in saying that. And then it’s my job to say, well, you are a change maker and that’s why you’re in that book. That’s why you wrote your book. By the way, I was really honored to be one of the early readers and reviewers for your book, because it was it’s a powerhouse. I know I use that word, and I, I stand by it. first, Chris Jones, doctor Chris Jones, who is a principal here in Massachusetts, he, his podcast was the first I was ever a guest on. And I was like, this is great. You get to sit and talk to someone for 30, 40 minutes or an hour, about yourself. Who doesn’t like that? Of course. But it was like, oh, do you really? When you sit and you have those conversations and it’s the same conversations we have in school, sometimes passing in the halls. But when you can really talk about it and, and then follow up on questions, that was like, that’s what I wanted to do. And I didn’t want to do a podcast like I said, but I wanted to capture those in the book. So finding people who understand student agency, understand teacher agency, understand what empowerment really looks like, but also understand the struggle of the pull between those steps in our careers. And then you’ve taken those steps and you’ve taken those steps in and out of leadership. And now you’re getting to talk about your book all over the place. I’m so jealous. I couldn’t believe when I saw your poster in Times Square. That was really congratulations to you.

Dr. Michael Conner

But no, but I every time we get together, you make me cry. Laugh, and I tell you, this book right here, impact and flow. It’s just esthetically, put together just it seems like it was just seamlessly tied in, where building that level, what I call construction is, right where each story was just building off of one another. I appreciate it that, you know, that you call me a changemaker. You’re right. It’s hard to individually call yourself a changemaker. But, in order to take, I like to say intentional risk. Right. There’s that, you know, risk, risk management component of it. You always weigh, you know, the, going to the, the positive or the negative side of, you know, the pros and cons when you’re thinking about these adoptions are big, grandiose or ideas for change. But we have to do it now, right?

Jed Stefanowicz

That step has to do it now. Right? I found this quote, and it’s such a good one as to the why Roberto loved Rodrigo. So the assistant secretary, planning, evaluation, policy development. This is so perfect. It says access to educational technology is not a nice to have for some students and some classes for some teachers. might think it’s important. It’s critical for student participation, critical right innovation economy to fully participate in our democracy and to engage in a global society. I mean, we it is critical. We are so far past the point of those teachers who are just opting out or choosing not to. And part of my job is to give that guilt trip to teachers to is to say, when your kids get to next year’s classes, everyone knows that when they come from your room, everyone knows who came from which rooms because of the skills they’re bringing with them. And I think it’s, you know, George Carlos said it, too. It’s, never hold students back based on what you don’t know. And we’re past the point of, you know, that self-learning is really a priority and it’s it’s critical. One it’s a it’s a really different model. Right? We are not the experts in the classroom. And that’s a really nothing shows up more than AI machine learning and, and ChatGPT where we’ve just really had to rethink what is the teacher’s role in the classroom. but that goes that goes for a second grade teacher just as easily who is doing an hour of code and bails on it, because in ten minutes they can help the students, they can answer the questions that the kids have. You know, they’re are teachers who are just so uncomfortable saying, I don’t know, I don’t know the answer. So then they’ll, they’ll, they’ll, they won’t do it. Or if they do, it might just be that one hour of code for the year. And that’s the stuff. Those are the habits I want to break. That’s why I don’t do Hour of Code week of code, because in so many cases, it becomes a week of code. And what happens the rest of the year? Yeah, yeah, we get locked into that. Thinking of technology is going to be just coding, just robots. And don’t get me wrong, I love coding and robots. That’s that’s my passion area. Computational thinking different from coding. But that sort of thinking and that sort of elevation. But what it brings me to is this idea of how do we lift digital literacy. And that’s that’s a project I’m really focusing on. And I what I say is. The lifting of digital literacy happens across five domains. Yeah. Because if you’re a principal and your district is like, all right, we have funding or this year our strategic plan, we’re going to improve technology. It’s it’s just too big and it’s too vague and it’s too unfocused. So I would say within those five domains. So that’s instructional operational computational creativity and wellness. Everything we’re talking about with learning with technology and digital literacy specifically for me falls within those five domains. And I say wellness different from digital citizenship because digital citizenship for so long has really been about protecting your laptop and hiding your passwords. And it’s not dealing with the reality of, you know, or it’s not helping parents answer the question, what age should I get a cell phone? And, well, you gave us this Chromebook. So what’s your problem? That my kids on YouTube at 1030 at night, or they’re not unplugging at midnight and they’re not sleeping. So the wellness piece is that the cognitive the social, emotional and behavioral impact, that’s the part that we need to think about as wellness. And what’s interesting when it’s digital citizenship, everyone wonders who else is teaching it, who’s deploying the common sense lessons, who’s teaching that content? When it’s wellness, everyone’s invested parents, teachers, counselors, admin, everyone. It’s it’s obvious. And again, it’s a little bit of that guilt trip. But going back to those five domains, it’s too big to do all five. So let’s look at the instructional. Let’s look at the operational. And then I think it’s a good practice for a teacher to pick it up and say, which of these is my wheelhouse, which of these is my blind spot? I think it’s good for an administrator to say in our building creativity. That’s our blind spot. We’ve got the operation, we’ve got the infrastructure we’ve got, and, you know, the pedagogy is there, but our kids aren’t generating unique content. We’re still, you know, yeah, we’re not doing cardboard drive folds anymore. But everyone’s making the same Google Slides. Well guess what. You’re still doing that. Still doing the trifold. You’re doing it. You know I’m Google Slides. So how can we think about empowering students to use that? Because you’re not capturing voice that way. Yeah. And that’s the answer of the voice and choice is how are we empowering. Students to publish differently, students to be engaged with school content differently. And our role as teachers, educators, as leaders is how are we sharing those voices? Are we shining the voice? Is it through the blogs and podcasts? Is video? Is it? And I love Google Slides, don’t get me wrong. But if someone’s just transfer in the project and done for 20 years into a slide, that’s only a starting point. Yeah, good starting point, but it’s only a starting point until you’re leveraging the audio, the video or the creativity and really then scratched the surface of, well, where’s that content coming from? Is it totally student generated? Then we can start to think about some of the AI impact.

Dr. Michael Conner

Now it’s, wonderfully stated, right. also how you highlight wellness, that’s so critical, right. The five domains to my, audience, that are listening out there, so, so critical and foundational. But really, I loved how Jed, you unwrapped the, domain of wellness, which is so important now in the education space and how you’re able to tie that wellness into this, digital literacy. aspect of it. Great interface of it, cognitively, looking at it from a social, emotional dynamic empowerment, or critical. But I think, Jed and this is a sub question. Right. we’re at this, I like to say Precipice Point, where we have these leveled, superficial conversations around the five domains. and I’m not saying any of them are of importance with one another, but they’re all important. But, you know, like you said, you know, you know, we might be great in a hypothetical situation. We might be great in the operational in a pedagogical sense. Right. infrastructure could be there, computational is there. Wellness is something that we need to work on. And usually in education, I kind of see this as, and again, this is not, quantified, but just more from this anecdotal standpoint is that if we’re not, if we’re not strong in an area or if this area that we need development or continuous growth, we kind of just leave it alone, right? Because. Right. How do we now within those five domains, Jed, strategically address it, even if let’s hypothetically say that we’re great in the operational sense, but from the pedagogical sense we’re not there yet, how are we able to address those five domains with the same intensity and vitality, so that we’re really meeting the ground? It means, or the grounded modes of learning for all?

Jed Stefanowicz

Well, part of my role and I think part of my excitement to move to an admin point of view is to point out the ways I’ve seen it done. I wouldn’t say poorly, but I’ve seen it done to me, to other staff, and I’ve seen it done ineffectively. I’d say, which is going out and and hiring outside PD to come and tell you a district where your week is, your district knows it’s week. They need to find. I think those pockets within who are doing it well, it’s instructing on those leaders. just like the Impact Influence project, you have the strong instructional leaders, you have the the folks who are experts in wellness. And and that’s one of the through lines in that book, was leaders tapped those individuals who had that special something, whether it was something with their students, something with their structures or something with their systems. But they tapped them and said, would you share this? And it doesn’t mean you have to leave your classroom. It could be, would you just share the set of staff meeting? You know, and there’s probably not the operational the instructional piece that’s more than big USP. That’s more of the the competency based stuff. And it’s that’s the stuff that’s hard because it’s not going to show up on standardized test. But I think what districts need to do is to support their teachers better because everyone we’re still, you know, it’s that recovery piece. No one’s keeping enough time and attention to it, but nothing will help that teacher reclaim that agency and really reclaim their classroom more than being validated from the expertise they bring. And then saying, would you share that with your team, with your grade level, with your school? What’s a district? Come speak at a state conference. Come, you know, come to my school here in Massachusetts or just come to a a local conference, share that expertise or have them partner. If you’ve got the money and you want to bring their vendor in, great. But don’t give that superficial address to the whole staff without partnering up the teachers who are going to also be able to deliver and help move those levers once that expert leaves the building. Right? So that’s Kingdom and really motivate your staff. Bring them to tears. But when they leave, are you poised to then pick up that work? So I think finding the leaders within the district and the leaders don’t have to be the ones with the fancy desks. The leaders can be the ones who are in the classrooms. The leaders can be the ones we know who they are. And I think, inviting them, giving that validation, I think that’s all critical.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. Perfectly stated. just like, how a practitioner would put it, just like how I would put it as well. The pockets of excellence do exist, right? They exist in all of our districts, even our leaders. I consider it everybody or consider everybody a leader in their own right, because they’re bringing their individual, value to make this a shared collective, value so that now we could continue this trajectory and pathology of all. But want to ask this question, Jed. And innovation and creativity. Graham. Want to focus on that. Innovation and creativity are considered metal ruptures and the AC stage of education. I know my vocabulary meter up. It’s a it’s a new playground. My eyebrow lifted off my board on that. It is a matter of rupture, right? Better than punctuated, even Olivia. But, that’s another one. But, you know, innovation and creativity are considered matter ruptures in the AC stage of education. Right? So in the space that we’re in now, the Vuca world, I a book that I’m reading, Roger Spitz and Linda Xu and they exploit book volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Where now is they’re saying vice uncertain, volatile. There’s that level of intersectionality complexity and exponential now in this new demand of the AC stage of education, right. Based on, you know, the work that you’ve been doing and now the the work that you’re going to be leading. as you know, the director of digital learning at Innovate Shift, how should leaders and change agents and classroom practitioners create this interpersonal dynamic of disruption with intersectionality and exponentially right with now these traditional principles of Vuca? Because when we see Vuca, we didn’t hear of this intersect tonality and the, exponential rates of the celebration of this level of disruption because of the rapid tivity of technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Right. So just for my audience in this, limited, jargon related, simplistic form of what does intersectionality and exponential threads of disruption, what does that mean in the stage of education?

Jed Stefanowicz

I, I almost get this answer. You’re asking me because you can’t put your finger on it, either. Admit it, and it’s because it’s so hard. But that’s what makes it powerful, is that it has to be, I think, tailored. And it helps districts, leaders tailor it to their circumstance. Right. I think what going back to your previous question, too, about what leaders should do, I think they should name they should name it. Yes. One of those domains is their weak area. First of all, they should name it. They shouldn’t leave it alone. Yeah, you should name it. And then then tap those leaders within. What part of naming it is when it floats to the surface. And yes, Vuca for me is Vuca helps name it because it brings it out, shines a spotlight. And when you think about, you know, the the volatility, the uncertainty, the complexity, the ambiguity, those are all pretty rotten words. I mean, when you think about it’s all of that black cloud hanging over and and you’re really talking about all those impact, right? Yeah. And then what the intersectionality and then what the exponential reality. Those to me are the gateways to, to rebuild, gateways to reclaim. And I don’t see those in terms of just Covid. I see those in terms of gateways forward and ladders forward. Yeah. I think Vuca, you know, whatever field that term is really based and limitations and boundaries, it identifies boundaries. And it it kind of shows you okay, these are the obstacles. These are hurdles. And I think if you use it as a framework that way it begins to lay the the roadmap for whether it’s strategic planning, whether it’s setting your own personal professional goals. it, it helps bring some of the complexity and turn it actionable. And I think for me, it’s the more you can get distracted, you can get misdirected by by identifying all too many roadmaps. I’m sorry, too many roadblocks and too many obstacles. But the intersectionality, that’s where you’re going to be able to personalize it for your own district, more importantly for your own students. And that’s the personal personalization piece for me, that intersectionality that brings in culture, that brings in equity, that brings in bias, that brings in. And you better believe that, yeah, we can have technology automate those human tasks, but that’s only as good as the person who’s taking that data and making decisions with it. So you’re not going to break out the the bias, and you’re not going to bake out the equity based or the inequities that might already be there latent, because we’re still the human on the other end. So that intersectionality for me, it’s all about relationships, connections. You know, it’s interesting. I just saw this morning 25 years ago today was when the Imax came out. You know, the colorful ones. Like, what about the color of blueberry, strawberry. Yep, yep. Those were game changers. I’ll teach in third grade. And those were like, but the reason and that was that was the a punctuated equilibrium that that was a moment. It was a moment in culture. It was a moment in schools because this product came along and you didn’t have to decide, I need this monitor, this keyboard, this body, this this modem, this router. It was all in one. And that was a tagline. But it was about the relationship, you know, the relationship of a human and a machine. And we’re all suckers for Apple. Because how many products do we have in our homes? In our pockets? Right. But it’s there is something in that that should be a study of its own. But that relationship in connection to technology, that’s where we’re at now. It’s what exactly 25 years later, thinking about we we can see what’s come out in the pipeline. We know the the impact and the influence of machine learning and AI. And we know how transformative, transformational it will be. Not that it can be, because you can’t be that teacher who just closes your doors. And so I’m, you know, because kids are using kids are the experts. So this is our next punctuation point, I think, where there is this transformational piece now the so the intersectionality for me is the personalization. And that that is the really key piece. I’m going to turn my page because I wrote my thoughts on this a couple of hours ago. That’s a that’s a loaded question. You know, if we’re striving toward the, the inclusivity. Yeah. the equity. Right. Taking Voca and then putting it through the insert in intersectionality lens, I think helps answer those questions. But the exponential reality that’s the cool. That’s the rapid growth. That’s the sprint. And you know, it’s it’s the it’s the model of impact to influence. Yeah. You know the intersectionality is the impact. How are we doing in the classroom right now. These kids that are in front of us. And then the exponential rate is okay. One year from now, five years from now 12 to 2030. How are we bringing these changes that are happening now? What are what are the benefits we’re going to reap? What’s the damage we’re going to cause? And if you’re not prepared to answer both of those questions, then I think you’re not doing students or our or our business the proper respect that deserves. So adapting to the current needs and then staying ahead of the curve, at least modeling that that lead learning and being a district that’s forward thinking, forward facing and not just throwing up more and more roadblocks because you’re going to be the ones picking up the pieces after.

Dr. Michael Conner

Yeah. And yet, wonderfully stated. I can tell you this because I love you to death. That sounded like an interview where I’m saying you’re hired. all right. Because, I mean, if you think about it, Jed, I took a course, right? And this was, I believe it was a ten, a ten week, 12 week course that I took it MRR and within the course, and I believe I was trying to recite off a rote memorization Moore’s Law and how you contextualize Moore’s Law, which is kind of mining the gap between humans and machines. Right. And now we’re at this point, you know, I like to say our students, they work in blockbuster, you know, for school, and then they come out and operationalize Netflix. with a high degree of competency. Right. So how we’re truly mining that gap and what we think about intersectionality. Right. And when we think about, you know, this exponential rate or exponential city, what does that look like? judger. Right. Nano learning. Micro micro learning. You know, these are the things that are going to dominate education before Delta 2030 gets here. I mean, you, Jed, you and I, we’re talking about ASI, artificial superintelligence. We’re just at the education, talking about the entry point of artificial intelligence when our economy and the demand of our economy is changing to ASI, where we’re going to have, essentially virtual twins that are going to emulate us by 85%. So now intersectionality and this expert bench, all type of, exponential type of transformation needs to be undergirded. When we look at I machine learning, we haven’t even touched and I’ve only touched upon it a little bit. Right. And then we didn’t even hit on this third one. And this is for another episode. neural networks, right? When we talk about that as well, that is going to be a huge factor in education. But last question, Jed. You made it through, brother. You made it through. I don’t know what. Yeah. I love you, brother. All right, dad. And I don’t know if I hold you to this. Right. Because you and I, we get together is. It’s three hours later. We’re still talking about. Oh, we didn’t get through one agenda item. We’re still up this agenda item. But giving me all these limits. what? In three words? I knew I was going to get a reaction from you with this dad in three words. Right? What do you want our audience today to leave this episode with regarding AI leadership for Delta 2030, what three words will signify the necessary leadership signature to a Vista transformative work in the back stage of education?

Jed Stefanowicz

that’s two questions. So I get six words. And one of them is going to be hyphenated. So, I think some of the words we can’t think that 2030 yet we got to because you can’t take the eyes off the prize that are the students in our classrooms right now. Absolutely. And we can’t get so wrapped up in the potential down the road without figuring how that’s going to impact our students right now who are already using these tools good, bad or whatever, right? That’s the battle we’re fighting in our classrooms. So my first word is capacity. Absolutely. And whether you run an instructional coach, whether you’re a leader, whether you’re a classroom teacher, we got to stick to that. ABCs always build capacity. And that’s that’s the key. So capacity there competency is the other you know and it’s it’s yes competency based tasks. Performance tasks across all every adult in their in the building not just classroom teachers art, PE wellness counselors, everyone. What are the performance tasks we’re asking students to share? How are we capturing showing those so competencies. The other one that’s why I love when I see portrait of a graduate work being done. But that can’t just be a receipt at the end. That’s this is the collection of everything you’ve done, right? You know, it’s got to be that should be your license moving forward. Third word I’m going to say is your favorite punctuated equilibrium, because that’s I don’t even think it is isolated, but it’s too good. It takes a whole spot. But we really are at a point, just like 25 years ago when the iMacs came and we all wanted them and didn’t know why we wanted them to 25 years to be able to say why we wanted them, maybe 25 years from now, we’ll be able to look at this point and say, wow, look at, look at what we didn’t know, look at the tools we didn’t use. And it’s not going to be 25, 35 years. Just like right now. We look back five years and say, how the hell did we get through Covid? How did we how did everyone buy into this? And we didn’t do it well, right? We were not all in the same boat. We were all in the same storm with a lot of different boats based on different needs, interests, ability, funds, all of it. So that I think when I think about leadership, those are the words when I think about advancing transformative work, advancing is is word number one because it’s always moving forward, advancing, doing the lifting. I think learning, always modeling, learning. And that’s that is a really different model for a a classroom teacher who doesn’t have to be the expert, but also the administrators in the building, you know that. And there have to be polite people and polite ways of telling some of these people to get over themselves and rebuild their learning and remap, you know, the process of of leading a staff because it’s a different staff, it’s a different business. It’s a different job. And I’ve I always said I’ve never found a principal that was convince me why on earth I’d ever want that job. And it’s and I know I wouldn’t, but what I do know is that job and so hard and that burnout so real that I feel for principals because they can’t get to do the job they want to do, and in so many cases, they can’t get to do the job that’s on it was or the job it used to be. So I think they need to distribute some of that leadership in that book. Again, there’s a section called drop the D. And this is kind of a call how you would like it, because it’s if you want to talk about distributed leadership that’s now activated, just drop the D, distribute the leadership. If you want to talk about differentiated learning, drop the D do it. Actually differentiate the learning. And that’s the thing. It’s like it has to become actionable. And whether it’s a I work we can’t just keep reading about it and philosophizing about it. It’s gotta make it actionable. And then the third word is always going to be agency. And it’s student agency. It’s teacher agency. And that’s leadership too. And that’s the part that in it for me has always been behind the curtain. And I’m just beginning to peek in and it’s reassuring. When admin teams have been classroom teachers have been you know, I went on, I want to say in the trenches, but you know exactly what I mean, because you can have the same conversations we’re having and you can keep it about keep the important work, about the important work. And it can’t be about, you know, that individual advancement. And we can’t just be about appeasing the parent population or getting the strategic goals in on time, because then you’re taking your eyes off those students in the building, and before you know it, they’re going to come and go. And if you’re lucky, you know, they’ll get their portrait of a graduate about your five year old, right? When he was in kindergarten. Think of and now he’s probably in second or third grade. If he’s lucky, his work is making it home in the backpack. If he’s lucky or it makes it to the fringe if he’s lucky, yes, you can get it on your phone. You can hear it. His voice on seaside. You can listen to a podcast, you can hear his involvement in the classroom, and you have a connection to the classroom where you get to see photo videos. You get to see the contextual learning going on in ways that we’ve never had the tools to be able to do before. That’s the work that that I love, and that’s what gets me super excited, is bringing that work into schools and classrooms. And it doesn’t have to be technology. It doesn’t have to be robots and AI, but it can help make it happen faster and better.

Dr. Michael Conner

I’ll tell you, Jed, Nashoba Regional School District is lucky to have you. And, you know, you are going to undoubtably, help Nashoba reach, that level of where we want to go in the AC stage of education. Right? capacity, competency, punctuated equilibrium. Got to have a discussion. I learned it from you and learned it by watching you. We got we we got to have a discussion on that again. But advancing learning and agency from the to teacher and student standpoint, boy, I tell you and I’m going to say it again, your district is lucky to have you. Jed, thank you for being on Voices for Excellence good brother. Now, just for my audience. Today, obviously there’s going to be a ton, right? Because, you know, we’re getting a lot of questions regarding AI, regarding technology, regarding defining what innovation is, innovation and replication. Right. That’s another, you know, misnomer of innovation that we’re seeing. How would my audience be able to get in touch with you?

Jed Stefanowicz

Sure. I do have a website, www.JedPD.com, like Jed professional development.com. I’d love to talk to you. Your school, your district, your teams, anyone just about doing some of this work, like I said, making it actionable at everything from, you know, which robots you want to bring in your classroom to really more philosophical. Where do we get started and how do we build roadmaps? You can find me on Twitter @Stefanowicz135. You find me there. Yeah. Those are the easiest ways to find me. All the links are there, my email is there as well. but yeah. And then and either of those books you can find on Amazon, if you just search for titles, Take Aim at Digital Learning or Impact to Influence with my name, Stefanowicz. I think they’ll get you there. And, but I, I’m really proud of you and your work. it’s important to me to tell you that because when we met, you know, we didn’t know each other. And within five minutes, we’re like, this is a cool customer. And look at you’ve got this book, you’ve got this podcast, but more importantly, you’ve got this mission. And your mission is about also elevating, lifting voices of individuals like myself. And I’m happy to have returned the favor. But it’s a really cool journey and it’s, I can’t wait to see where you’re going. And when I see the districts that are lucky enough to bring, to do some of this heavy lifting, and it is heavy lifting and bring you in to ask some of those hard questions with a smile on your face, because that’s disarming. That’s a good trick, but you know what? That’s our job sometimes as outsiders. And that’s easier for me, like at my new job, to come in as an outsider and just ask those questions. So, yeah, the that’s the work I love to do, and that’s the work I’ve been able to do for… this is year 29. And, and I still, I hope to keep doing it for the next 29. But I really appreciate this, it’s a great conversation. I know we could talk about three more hours.

Dr. Michael Conner

We could talk for three hours. Listen, Jed, you make sure you call me. I’m coming to see you either way. We got to connect, and we got to do it early. Because if we start at two, we could end at ten. All right. Jed, thank you for coming on. And to my audience, thank you for tuning in. And on that note, onward and upward everybody. Have a great evening.