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Q&A: Previewing a Free Educator Summit on Student Empowerment

Matt Miller, creator of Ditch That Textbook, explains what educators can expect to learn at the Soundtrap EDU Summit, September 28 - October 7

The first-ever Soundtrap EDU Summit, beginning on September 28, is a free online experience dedicated to helping educators learn how to empower their students. Presenters for the event will include music and STEAM educators, student storytellers and digital media creators, discussing topics from creativity to music, podcasting and storytelling ― among many others. Educators who register will have access to a new session each day of the event. 

Blogger, author, speaker and educator Matt Miller has partnered with Soundtrap to present the Summit. The author of four books ― including Ditch That Textbook and Don’t Ditch That Tech ― co-host of the Google Teacher podcast and a two-time Bammy! Award nominee, Miller is known for encouraging educators to use technology and creative ideas in teaching. His expertise in these areas is perfectly aligned with the aims of the Summit, an event that comes at a perfect time during the COVID-19 pandemic when educators are feeling burnt out, but also are in need of easy-to-access online PD.

In this Q&A, Miller shared a preview of the Summit, including the practical skills educators can expect to learn and the reasons why this content is so timely:

 

When thinking about all the presenters and sessions that will be part of the Soundtrap EDU Summit, what are a few of the practical skills educators can expect to develop by participating? 

Matt Miller: All of the presenters in the summit have their own experience and skill sets, but they all come back to a handful of things that educators can expect in the summit. 

First, educators can expect to take away practical “use in class tomorrow” teaching ideas by watching the sessions. Each presenter was asked for concrete ways to teach creatively, and they responded in a big way. In some sessions, they shared more than a dozen ideas you can try. 

Second, educators can expect to find ways to help their students develop and amplify their voices. This comes in a variety of forms, from improving their spoken voice to using their voices to push for social change. 

Third, educators can expect to find new and creative ways to bring music into the classroom. There’s a lot for music educators, but it’s not just for music educators. Whether you teach Spanish or science or second grade, you’ll find ways to incorporate a medium that students love ― music ― into what you do.

 

What are a couple key things educators will gain from participating in the Soundtrap EDU Summit that are different from what’s currently available through other online PD?

MM: First, in a lot of online professional development, there’s one presenter sharing ideas with viewers. Communication is very unidirectional ― presenter to viewer. What’s lacking, sadly, is conversation. The natural back-and-forth between people interested in conversing with each other is engaging. It helps us feel like we’re there ― especially when someone follows up with a question or statement that we would have said. In each of the presentations in the Soundtrap EDU Summit, true conversation is the focus. We excitedly riff off each other’s ideas and ask follow-up questions that make sense. 

Second, there’s choice. Many times, educators participating in professional development go through the same experience no matter their interests. In the Soundtrap EDU Summit, we offer a variety of sessions. Some are more music-centric. Others are more centered on spoken word mediums like podcasting. All include practical ideas for class implementation as well as inspiration for educators. Everyone can get something from the summit.

 

After several months of remote instruction already, and with many teachers still facing the challenges of remote teaching, or some form of hybrid instruction, for the foreseeable future, what makes the Soundtrap EDU Summit timely according to teachers’ needs?

MM: So many of the presenters in the summit have noticed the challenges that have come from pandemic-era teaching. It’s a topic that is near and dear to their hearts, and they want to help. Many of the suggestions and classroom ideas shared by presenters in the summit can be used in face-to-face, remote or hybrid learning environments. Many of the ideas can be done in synchronous situations where everyone is present (face-to-face or via video conferencing), and many work in asynchronous situations (working on them on your own time). Many presenters mentioned that joy and excitement should be an important part of the classroom environment, and that’s especially true right now. When teachers struggle to adapt their classes, often one of the first things to go is joy ― whether they mean it or not. The ideas shared in the summit will help educators bring joy back to learning no matter what their current situation.

 

What advice would you give to teachers who are evaluating the available content and making decisions about what to tackle first, and what will be most valuable to their individual needs?

MM: I would suggest going with your heart! 

If a session in the summit sounds like a winner to you, go watch it. Because everything is free in the summit, if it doesn’t end up being a great fit, you can always stop watching and try another one later. Sessions will be released one presentation per day. This is a slow pace that lets educators keep up with new videos so they don’t get too far behind. Plus, the videos will be available for a full week after the last one is released, so even if you do get behind, there’s still time to catch up. 

If you can’t find time to watch a session ― or if you want a preview of what’s to come ― check out the PDF notes. Each session has downloadable notes that summarize the entire presentation. Download the ones that interest you ― or all of them! ― to refer to later. Most importantly, don’t wait around too long. The summit closes on October 14, and once it’s closed, everything becomes unavailable. It’s like a real in-person conference. When the lights go off, everyone goes home!

Register for the free Soundtrap EDU Summit at http://soundtrapedusummit.com 

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