Teacher to Tech

by | 01.5.16

Steve Isaacs has taught middle school technology classes, including video game design and development, for 17 years at William Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, NJ.

Steve and a student.

[Early in my career] I started to realize that I was interested in connecting with other educators who were interested in gaming and game design. I also realized there weren’t many people teaching middle school game design.

I’m always developing my own curriculum and started to connect with companies that make the product I was using whenever I could. Thanks to social media, I quickly learned that these companies are very interested in making connections and developing relationships with teachers, but a lot of teachers don’t realize they’re that accessible.

Over time, that led to a collaboration with BrainPOP. I had been working with a lot of companies such as E-Line Media (I use Gamestar Mechanic with my 7th graders). I was doing a little bit of consulting with them; I think a lot of my suggestions helped shape the product over time, and I became friendly with a few people over there. Katya Hott moved over to BrainPOP, and she and I started talking about connecting the developer side and educator side of edtech.

A student tests out Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset, during Steve’s class.

There’s a cultural divide between developers and educators and other stakeholders, so I started thinking more specifically about developers and put in a proposal to present at SXSWEdu 2014 on that topic. What Hott and I presented was a problem-solving session; it really was us starting a discussion about how we could bridge the gap [between educators and developers] and how we could start to build community through a Twitter chat.

That community [developed from that session], #EdTechBridge, has grown tremendously on Twitter and outside the hour-long chat since it started in early 2014. One of my goals for #EdTechBridge is to continue to help see those relationships [between educators and developers] come together outside of the chat. There are a lot of opportunities for educators to work with developers to help shape products, which is really important if these products are going to be used in classrooms as effective teaching tools.

Steve’s top 4 tips for making Teacher2Tech connections:

1. Join us for #EdTechBridge on Wednesday nights at 7 pm ET. #EdTechBridge was created to help form and nurture relationships among edtech stakeholders including educators, developers, students and researchers. The chat helps to build the community and provides a starting point for relationships to form based on shared interest regarding products and users.

2. Reach out directly to developers of products you use. Developers are very accessible and interested in forming relationships and receiving feedback. This can often lead to productive working relationships that are mutually beneficial. I find Twitter to be a great place to start these discussions–tweet out a comment to the edtech developer’s Twitter account. Praise is always a great way to start a conversation.

3. In addition to the #EdTechBridge weekly chat, we started a Slack community. Slack is an online community platform that allows for persistent discussion. This format allows us to continue conversations outside of the community through the channels in the Slack group. We have channels dedicated to general discussion, introductions, future chat topics and collaborations. You can also initiate small group or 1:1 discussions within the online community. Anyone interested in joining the #EdTechBridge Slack community is welcome as long as they provide me with an email address so I can invite you.

4. Get involved in #Games4Ed, a nonprofit aiming to bring more games into the classroom while looking at critical issues around the use of games in education. A #Games4Ed Twitter chat takes place every Thursday at 8 pm ET and is moderated by myself, Mallory Kessen from Gamindex and Melissa Pilakowski. Find out more about the #Games4Ed initiative by visiting http://www.games4ed.org/.

#EdTechBridge is a community and weekly Twitter chat that brings together teachers and edtech professionals to share practices, tackle problems and help build better edtech. Follow along and join the community at https://twitter.com/EdTechBridge. Steve can be reached on Twitter @mr_isaacs or via email stevei2071@gmail.com.


About the Author


Steve Isaacs
Steve Isaacs

Steve Isaacs has taught middle school technology classes, including video game design and development, for 17 years at William Annin Middle School in Basking Ridge, NJ. Steve can be reached on Twitter @mr_isaacs or via email stevei2071@gmail.com.


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