Episode # 21

Technology with Littles with Liz Curtis

October 6, 2022

About This Episode

Using tech with littles can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Liz Curtis joins us to discuss ways to use tech with younger students and how teachers can approach this sometimes overwhelming idea.


Elizabeth Curtis

Elizabeth Curtis is an Instructional Technology Consultant at the ESC of Central Ohio. She is an educational innovator with over a decade of experience as a teacher, coach, and consultant. Her mission is to help educators reach their maximum potential in everything educational technology. While she has a soft spot for the littles, she enjoys training all educators working with students in the K-12 space.


[00:00:47] Kara: Joining us today is Liz Curtis from the ESC of Central Ohio, and she is an instructional technology consultant with the esc. So, hey Liz, how are you?

[00:01:00] Liz: I am doing great. How are you all?

[00:01:02] Kara: We’re good. Thanks for joining us.

[00:01:06] Liz: I am so excited to be here.

[00:01:08] Caryn: So are we. So excited.

[00:01:12] Kara: So Liz, will you just start maybe telling us a little bit about your journey into education and what landed you in your current position as an instructional technology consultant?

[00:01:27] Liz: Absolutely. It’s so funny because I have a really long story, so it’s hard to condense it, but I’ll just say come.

[00:01:33] Caryn: Oh, don’t condense it. Don’t condense it.

[00:01:36] Liz: I feel like, I feel like I should, I feel like I should. I come from a huge family and many of them are educators. And so it’s not a big surprise that I ended up being in an educational field.

When I went to college, though, I was determined to major in advertising, which is what I did. Ah, and I attempted to minor in business, very unsuccessfully, and so, Around year three, I think my junior year I switched that minor to education. And I feel like that is what kind of turned things around for me.

I was like, Okay, so maybe I do like education a lot. And my mom was like, she told me from the beginning you needed to be in education. And so here I am in this small town, I’ve graduated and we have no advertising firms. And so I’m like, well, I’ll go ahead and just substitute and about a month into substituting, they had a teacher that decided she no longer wanted to teach in, oh, beginning of September.

And they told me that was now my class. My first year of teaching was with a group of fourth graders. We were all very nervous. . And at the time I was in a classroom that we, even though we were elementary school, they did, they would switch out for different blocks for different subjects.

And so for my reading block, I literally had second graders through fifth graders in the same reading block for 90 minutes.

[00:03:07] Caryn: Oh my gosh. No.

[00:03:11] Liz: As a first year teacher, could you imagine the horror? Oh my gosh, I’m imagining it right now. Yeah. Yeah. It sounds like a planning nightmare. I, I, What’s funny is, I don’t even remember the name of the reading program we were using, but somehow these second through fifth graders were all on the same reading level and I had to make it work. And so, . I did that through technology

I had to use technology because centers were not an option. Like I had to use them to be able to function. I taught elementary school for about nine years. But that first class kind of forced me into understanding what different educational technology tools were out there so fast forward I come up here to Ohio with my husband and I thought I was going to teach up here immediately.

but I couldn’t do that because they didn’t want to switch over my Florida professional license a to be Ohio. Oh my gosh. Yeah. And so there I was working at McGraw Hill and then linked up with WSU classroom and then kind of got stolen over to the esc and haven’t looked back since.

And so I’ve been in this role now since 2017. It’s been absolutely fabulous just trying to help teachers and be able to say, I come from a teacher’s perspective, so Yeah, I know you don’t wanna just sit and get, like, you wanna be involved and learn.

And so that’s been a lot of fun. My whole big thing is I love the elementary level. Basically because that’s like all I know as far as the time that I spent in the classroom and I know what it’s like to have those littles, remember a password or username.

90% of the time it’s just getting them onto whatever tool you want them on. . So I’ve kind of made it my mission to create those tools that are just so easy for them to hop onto and be able to show their learning without getting lost

What’s your favorite thing to teach teachers about technology with littles

So my favorite thing to teach teachers that are working with the, the younger kids is, First of all, not to go out and spend money first. There are so many free resources out there. I like to teach them how to get to their resources, how to work smarter, not harder. Stop giving yourself all that work.

And so, Even the templates that I make for teachers, a lot of them I kind of do one or two slides to show them how to do it. Mm-hmm. and it’s kind of meant for their students to go in and then make their own slides to show their learning as well. Mm-hmm. . And so cuz I kind of wanna get the kids to work and give them some ownership of what they’re doing as well.

That’s one of my favorite things to tell teachers, like, stop spending all of your money. First, mm-hmm. , like, learn how to search. I actually in preparation for this podcast, I was able to update my blog that I hadn’t touch for almost like a year because of everything I had been going through.

And that was like one of my first tips, like, if you’re looking for Google Slides, here’s what you need to type in to the search. Like, and so it’s, it’s in my blog on Twitter, that’s my little shameless. Plug.

[00:06:43] Kara: But we will link that in the show notes for sure.

[00:06:46] Caryn: What’s your Twitter handle?

[00:06:48] Liz: Oh, Liz on Tech

my second favorite thing that I always tell educators now is the importance of social media. Mm-hmm. , like we have a lot of teachers who are kind of afraid to mm-hmm.

kind of step out there and get on social media. And so I always challenge the teachers to find at least one platform, and even if they’re joining as like, Pretend person, like it is worth getting on there and just doing some searches for whatever it is you’re teaching. Yeah. And looking at all the resources that are out there from teachers, like literally Facebook has groups.

Yes. Twitter, oh my gosh. Has a huge educational group of people and even TikTok my nephew . He was like, You need to join TikTok . And I was like, Okay, well if you, if you download the app and set it up for me, I’ll join.

And then I’ve been like hooked ever since. Yes. And so the educators that are on there, they’re super clever and they’re just doing some really smart and fun things.

A lot of the teachers that I’m seeing now on TikTok, they’re leaving their kids completely out of it and there’s literally like a device of some type that’s just in front of them, and you literally only see the teacher and you hear the students. And so you don’t necessarily have to be on the TikTok platform to be able to do TikTok.

Things, you know, So there is flip, there’s yeah, just regular old recording on a device, your cell phone. I’ve gone into schools and used my cell phones or just an iPad. Teaching someone how to do like their favorite thing or you can apply educational things to. Any of those trends? Well, a lot of those trends,

I like to create templates. So if a teacher was like, Hey, I want them to do like these TikTok like videos for blank, then that’s where I would come in and say, Okay, let’s make a template.

We can have them do a little bit of planning like before they even see a recorder, they can have it all mapped. What they wanna do, what they wanna show, what learning they want to display. And then we can hit record. And like I said, the, the end platform does not have to be TikTok, as a matter of fact for, if we’re talking about little kids, especially.

Definitely not putting them all in that platform at all. but if you tell them we’re gonna create our own TikTok, and they think that it’s like a real TikTok.

Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Yeah.

[00:09:27] Caryn: That’s like the other great thing about littles is they still have an imagination.

[00:09:33] Liz: Absolutely. And it’s amazing what you can do. And like you all know, you can do a ton of stuff in Google Slides, so you can upload those videos onto Google Slides and make it seem like it really is TikTok.

[00:09:46] Kara: That’s fun.

[00:09:47] Caryn: That’s cool.

So how do you find a balance between using technology because it does have value. while still honoring the needs of those littles

[00:09:57] Liz: I am a big fan of having balance, but I think that it’s always going to depend on your students in your class. if you’re doing technology in your classroom and it becomes frustrating for students at any given point, Just leave it alone. It’s not a 100%. Requirement that you have to have technology for every single lesson, however. Mm-hmm. , one thing that you have to keep in mind is that, especially our littles now, we are basically prepping them for jobs that may not even exist right now.

Mm-hmm. . So for us to not touch technology at all, it’s kind of a disservice to them. I don’t think that there’s like a magic formula, like, you know, 20% technology, 80% hands on. I don’t think there’s a, a magic formula. I do think that you just have to look at what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

And if you’re trying to accomplish something that can be used with technology, I’m gonna always say, go for it. Mm-hmm. . Because even if you aren’t successful, it’s worth going for it. I look at some of the templates that I’ve made.

I use base 10 blocks a lot in different templates that I’ve done on Google Slides. Mm-hmm. , but I. By no means want those base 10 blocks on that screen to replace the kids literally holding base 10 blocks right in their hands. There’s plenty of things that frighten elementary school teachers when it comes to technology. So I think the biggest thing is you don’t necessarily have to have like this perfect balance, this perfect mix or this perfect formula of technology versus hands on.

Teacher lessons embrace hands on, but also don’t be afraid to touch technology.

Know your kids know their limits and there are actually, so I came from Florida. I told you all our kids start in kindergarten, having to have to take tests on computers.

In Florida. Yeah. And so by third grade, part of their state tests are on computers and so. I would hate for teachers to literally put kids on the computers for the first time to take an assessment. Mm-hmm. , Right? , if you can throw in, you know, in center time, anytime throughout the day, 20, 30 minutes, it’s just gonna help the kids realize that technology and computers and iPads and things, they aren’t just for testing.

They can also be used for. Right.

[00:12:33] Caryn: And so, and building those skills, they’re gonna need to navigate through those tests and making it fun. Yeah. Like using a mouse, clicking, dragging all of those skills that. They’re gonna need. Right.

[00:12:47] Liz: And it’s so crazy because there are a lot of different educational tools that are out there that are meant to be fun for kids.

Like, you know, there’s Minecraft and you know, just all of those different things. But there are a lot of programs out there that really are just kind of boring for the kids. ? Yeah. Mm-hmm. . And they are motivated to, to complete those. That’s why I think that, you know, as a teacher, kind of know the things that get your kids excited and see how you can put that on some technology.

[00:13:21] Caryn: Yeah. Yeah. Just because something’s fun doesn’t mean it doesn’t have educational value. Cause you mentioned Minecraft and I know. . There’s some teachers that are gonna be like, Oh, the kids are talking about that. That’s just some game. , it does have educational value to it and I think it’s okay to use it.

And I also liked what you said about like, sometimes you just have to like let go and walk away. I think it’s important that teachers feel like they have permission if something’s not working to make that pivot and make a change.

It’s okay. Right. To walk away from something.

[00:13:57] Liz: With our littles, you literally have to take baby steps. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Like you don’t start day one with, Oh, we wanna do some TikTok videos. Well, I’ll try iPads. Let’s go . Right. like, you literally have to take it one step at a time. And so Yeah.

Even if it’s just 10 minutes, like break it. Put it on their level where they can grab it in pieces and by the time that technology is put in front of them, they’re ready to go. Yeah. Yes. I like that. Like that. Yeah. So I guess that’s where you can get that balance. Just making sure you aren’t being overwhelming, because sometimes teachers don’t really like to try things that they aren’t comfortable with themselves.

Mm-hmm. . But I think it kind of makes them more human when they’re able to stand in front of their class and say, Hey, , We’re all gonna learn this together. We’re gonna try something new. You know, this may happen, but you know, something else may happen as well. That may not be as good, but we’re just gonna work through it.

We’re gonna get through it

My space is elementary ed. Mm-hmm. . And so any type of way that I can make that fun. So like, one of the things I really like that I haven’t fully embraced yet is EDU protocols.

Have you all heard of those?

[00:15:12] Caryn: Yes

[00:15:13] Liz: so I like those because they are templates that you can use over and over and over. Which is essentially what I like to create. So I feel like I’ve been doing edgy protocols and I just didn’t have that wonderful name to go along with it, . So I haven’t read the books or anything.

I plan to do that soon, but I recommend that to teachers. I like to get teachers working efficiently. I like to be able to hand. Templates and then they, whatever lesson they were doing that day, they can just plug that in to be able to get some reflection of learning that has taken place in their class.

[00:15:51] Kara: Do you have any other tips or tricks you’d like to share with educators when it comes to technology and the incorporation of it?

[00:15:58] Liz: Yeah, sure. So For anyone that that’s afraid to just step out there, just know that you can incorporate technology literally into any activity you’re doing.

So even our kindergarten teachers, if you are working on writing with your students, you literally can have your students write out their letters take a picture of their letters and then upload that picture into Google Keep. And what Google Keep does is it knows how to grab. Text from images, and that’s even handwritten texts.

And so have Google Keep, grab that text and you can tell your students, Hey, if Google Keep can grab your text, that means you wrote your letters correctly and neatly. I love that. So that they can so that they can read it and then boom, you have incorporated technology into your. And so everything doesn’t have to be grandiose.

Just take what you’re already doing, throw a camera on it, and see what’s out there that you can use. I like that.

I actually do have a template for that, if anyone is interested, . Okay. We can link it. I have a template for writing letters and the class that I did it with some kids had made it through the entire alphabet and they wanted to start writing sentences.

[00:17:17] Caryn: Oh, cool.

[00:17:17] Liz: And so it was just, it was a little station that this kindergarten class let me experiment with and yeah, the, the kids love that station.

[00:17:27] Kara: That’s so cool. That’s fun. I know. Now I wanna try it .

[00:17:31] Caryn: Yeah. You’re like, how good is my handwriting?

[00:17:33] Liz: Yeah, I know. I’m like, depending on how fast I’m writing, it may not be as legible as as it should be.

[00:17:43] Kara: All right. Well thank you so much, Liz, for joining us.

You’re welcome. It’s always great to talk to you. I had a ball.