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How the Education Community brings the Heart and Hustle with Adam Parker Goldberg (Ep 43)

/ Jason Sholl

At the heart of Flipgrid - Microsoft’s video discussion experience - is a shared mission to empower every voice. Adam Parker Goldberg works on creative brand and storytelling with the incredible global community who foster fun, empowering, and inclusive social learning. Adam focuses on amplifying your story in both influencing the evolution of Flipgrid and inspiring fellow creators, innovators, and revolutionaries around the world! You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamShortShorts and learn more about Flipgrid at https://info.flipgrid.com/.

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Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Welcome to the Deeper Learning with WeVideo Podcast. I am Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad. On the show today I have Adam Parker Goldberg with Flipgrid. And in this episode, he talks about the magic of using EdTech tools to really enrich and make learning experiences meaningful for students. Now, Adam Parker Goldberg works on created brand and storytelling with the incredible global community who foster fun, empowering and inclusive social learning. Adam focuses on amplifying your story and both influencing the evolution of Flipgrid and inspiring fellow creators, innovators, and revolutionaries around the world. I hope you enjoy the show.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Hello everyone. I have the infamous Adam Parker Goldberg on today. Hey, Adam. Thanks for being on the show.

Adam Parker Goldberg: Hey, Nathan. Thank you for that glowing introduction. I'm excited to join you today.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Well, with your name like Adam Parker Goldberg, I felt that it was appropriate. And I've met you and I've seen your energy and your style. And I so appreciate everything that you bring to the world of education and to EdTech. And so, I'm super excited to finally have you on.

Adam Parker Goldberg: Thank you. I'm honored to be here, and I echo all of that. I'm so grateful. This community is incredible and I'm thrilled to be a part of this.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, it really is. And thinking about this community and the unprecedented time that we're in right now. I know with you being at Flipgrid, you all are working on some cool, new, kind of looking at where you are, how you intersect with the EdTech world, how you intersect with educators. What's up with you and your latest projects you've been working on?

Adam Parker Goldberg: Yeah. Well, absolutely echoing what you said. Everything we do at Flipgrid is with our community, is because of our community. Our community is our why. And I'm in this very fortunate position to be able to work alongside the Flipgrid team, the designers, the developers, the researchers, and serve as almost like a catalyst among the community and hear from educators and learners and families around the world, what's going on? What's the day to day? What is education in this unprecedented year? And what does that mean? What does it mean going forward? Where do we go from here? And so, that's really been top of mind for me these days in figuring out just the incredible things we're hearing and what that means, and how Flipgrid as a product, as a brand, as a community, can be there to support you, to listen and to take your ideas and share those among our team, among fellow educators and beyond.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I want to back up for a second because I know that our audience will be looking you up if they haven't already connected with you. And they're going to find you on Twitter and the handle is @adamshortshorts. So I feel like I need to ask that question, because I know that reference and I've seen you on stage before. But for those people who may not know about what that's about, can you share about how that name came about?

Adam Parker Goldberg: Yeah, kind of a happy accident. So here's the deal. At university I loved wearing shorts. I thought wearing shorts as a shtick was kind of funny because I went to school in Iowa. And as we were talking about earlier, Nathan, Iowa is similar to Minneapolis now, recognizes all the seasons. And so even in the winter, I just thought it was witty and funny and a funny thing to do to continue to wear shorts. And you know I'm not alone in this venture. But fast forward to joining the Flipgrid team. My boss, Joey, at the time. First day nerves, I said to him, "What's the dress code? What are we supposed to be wearing?" And he said, "Dude, wear whatever you want. Whatever. Make sure you're wearing clothes, but we don't care." And I was like, "Okay. I just want to make sure you genuinely don't care?" And he's like, "Yeah, whatever you want."

Adam Parker Goldberg: So I came in wearing shorts and they were like, yeah, that's great. And time goes on and I'm wearing shorts all the time. Shorts are comfortable. They let your legs breathe. They're fun to wear. You can get some fun patterns. And one day, one of our investors came in. He looked at me, and he's very well dressed, very nice professional man, and just looks at me and says, "Wow, those are some short shorts," and nothing beyond that. No additional comments. It was not necessarily a compliment nor a reprimand. He just was acknowledging those were some short shorts, and we just moved on from there.

Adam Parker Goldberg: And Joey then, when he said, "Hey. Here's the deal, Adam. You've got to get on Twitter. The educator communities are on Twitter. You've got to create your Twitter account. If you don't already, make a Twitter account." And I'm like, the handle is a cherished thing. You've got to think of how you want to brand yourself on Twitter. And I thought, well, Phil was the investor at the time. Phil acknowledged my short shorts. We'll do adamshortshorts. That'll be the handle. And again, this was early in career. I did that as a joke. And then the name just stuck. And now I feel like whenever I'm wearing pants, I'm letting down the handle.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Right. And I've seen you onstage. I think it was the ISTE in Philadelphia. I think I remember there were gold sequins, and then there were shorts. There was a whole like outfit thing and I think people were all about it.

Adam Parker Goldberg: Yeah. I've been shocked by the creativity you can bring, obviously to the apparel game in general, but to especially shorts. When ISTE came around, I have a friend with a sewing machine and I said, "Here's the deal. I have this pair of shorts. The theme we're going, it's loud." I forgot. I think loud actually was exactly what we had boasted would be the theme. And me and my teammates, we're talking sequins. We're thinking it's got to be shiny. It's got to be gold. "Can you help me?" We literally went to the fabric store, bought those sequins. And I don't have much experience. I've sewn a little bit, but not much.

Adam Parker Goldberg: I'm like, "Can you help me just sew the sequins onto this shorts pattern-ish?" It was an existing pair of shorts that we cut up and restructured and we made them work. But if you saw me throughout the night, they slowly were falling apart. So they held through for their purpose. They lived their mission, and then they retired.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Oh, yes, I'm sure they did. Well, I want to set the stage. I think it's so needed, especially we're getting close to the holidays and this has been such a challenging year. It definitely is nice to find the moments of laughter and the moments of fun and joy, especially as it's a challenging school year for so many. And I know you and I both have been working in this EdTech world, trying to do all the weekend to support teachers.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And I'm curious, as you've been working with Flipgrid and been supporting teachers in helping their students to really share their voice. And for those who aren't familiar with Flipgrid, and a lot of educators are, it's a platform that allows students to share their voice. And that could be as simple as answering a prompt for a teacher, or it could be student initiated. But I'm curious we're a semester in to the 2020 school year, for fall. And what are some of the highlights you've seen throughout this year? Because unfortunately, we've been having to do remote learning and messing with this pandemic has been extremely challenging.

Adam Parker Goldberg: Yeah, absolutely. I think that the educator community is such a tirelessly supportive, passionate, innovative community. And one that as we're talking about, likes to have fun. And to say this has been a challenging year is such an understatement. But I think that what we have loved seeing is the passion shine through, the community continue in distance learning, in political stress and social justice situations and implications. Educators are just give, give, giving to their scholars. And on this note, we were doing this series with Yaritza Villalba, incredible educator out in New York, called Ask Yaritza, a culture responsive teaching series. And last night she had on the show, Dr. Basil Marin, I think. Excuse me if I'm pronouncing the name wrong.

Adam Parker Goldberg: But he said, "Here's the deal, teachers, educators. Our job is just love on kids. If you're loving on your students, you're doing this right." And I just think that we see time and time again, every single day, just beautiful examples of how educators are just making this happen. And Cosmo, my colleague, always says, "Educators bring the heart and hustle every single day." And so Flipgrid prompts, we're seeing all sorts of EdTech ways that the educators are leveraging technology in distance learning, in hybrid learning, in in-person learning if they're fortunate enough to be able to gather in person, to just make sure that every individual scholar is heard, has an opportunity to express their feelings. I think that this has been a great year to reflect on social-emotional learning practices.

Adam Parker Goldberg: And in addition, culturally responsive teaching with the SEL mindfulness, talking with students about your curriculum, but also beyond the curriculum. We've loved seeing the witty, especially with the initial impact of the pandemic globally, just fun topics. Like let's do a social hour Flipgrid discussion prompt, and everyone come on and just talk about what you did today. How are you filling your time? Are you doing puzzles? Are you throwing around the Frisbee in the backyard? Things like a pet parade and showing off your pets. If you don't have a pet, showing off your pet rock, whatever that might be.

Adam Parker Goldberg: We've lost the kind of topics that are not only aligned with curriculum and innovative spins on math, using stuffed animals in your basement, things like that. But also the let's just gather and have a conversation from the safety of our home so that we can ensure the health and safety of everyone, but also ensure that the mental wellbeing and work too, and so we're all still feeling part of this community. And I think that's something that has been a silver lining from this year with all the challenges and hardships, the idea that even though we are apart... It's cliche, and I know I'm not the only one in saying this. But though we are apart, we have so much as a society come together globally to support one another through through what's going on.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. As you were talking through the great work that you're doing, especially around social-emotional learning. It reminds me of where we are in education, where our focus around the human aspects of learning has been renewed. It's almost silly to say that. Learning is inherently human. But I think sometimes as the education world is so focused on standardized testing and assessments, and learning instructional strategies. These are all things that we definitely want to help prepare students to be successful in life. But one thing I have found and you reminded me of just now, is that through these past few months, we've really been able to focus on this human aspect again. Just checking in with students, how are you feeling? You're allowed to feel all of your emotions. Making connections to home, making connections to the world around you.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I feel like this is an opportunity that we have to continue once this pandemic is over, and once we're back in in-person instruction full time. I don't think we can let go of, you've mentioned making connection to toys for the young learners, and even for older ones too. It's being able to, because we know that's what motivates students, is making those connections to their personal lives and to home life. And so, that was something I realized just listening to you. I'm like, I think education had gotten away from this for so long, and now we are reminded of how important that home-school connection is.

Adam Parker Goldberg: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I know everyone listening knows this. Learning happens all the time, everywhere. It's a subtle hint for maybe what is to come with Flipgrid, right. But the idea that learning doesn't, especially now with respect to quarantine, doesn't just happen within the walls of the classroom. But even before and I know will be true after, educators inspire students to go off on learning adventures during recess even, or through any of their subjects. When they're on vacation, there's opportunities to learn about culture and maybe different ways of counting things and different historical happenings. When you go on a vacation, it's not just about the sightseeing obviously, and entertainment obviously. But there's also elements of learning about the history of where you are, the language, or the food.

Adam Parker Goldberg: And I think that what we're saying is we've been presented with this challenge of, hey, you can't do things the way we've been doing them, and and you have to try something new because you have to do something. Because we're in this situation where we're stuck in our homes if we're quarantining, or navigating with wearing a mask and making sure everyone's safe. And while we're doing this, this present some challenges that you couldn't just go with the flow that we had in a way become comfortable with. But I know that this challenge, while frustrating has also allowed educators who have been so longing for an opportunity to innovate, an opportunity to change, to embrace that opportunity and really try new things, take risks.

Adam Parker Goldberg: I think that if anything, the situation has been such a relief on the stress of something might go wrong. And we always pride ourselves on taking risks. We charge each other with taking risks and embracing challenges and celebrating failure, which is easier said than done. And so I think that the fact that this pandemic has been just so hard that failure, almost pessimistically feels inevitable with some of the things we try. But because of that, we're much more open to try new things because we're like, I don't expect this to work. You go in with a positive mindset, you hope it's going to work. But you just know, given all the thanks 2020, you're like, this might fail. So let me just try it.

Adam Parker Goldberg: And then in that, you're finding these things that you had your doubts. You obviously had some faith in the idea you wanted to try, but you're willing to try and do things. We're finding new things, and you're discovering new ways. And as you said, we'll take into, I keep referring to them as the after times when we have the vaccine and we've overcome this virus. In the after times, we will continue these brilliant insights we've discovered in this during times.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. I agree. And already, we're seeing it. Teachers, you've mentioned earlier how they're just tirelessly working so hard to meet the needs of their students. And I've seen teachers think about, here are the tools that I have in my disposal. Here are the tools that I need to reach my students. Here's what I'm going to do to integrate. Before we started recording, you and I were talking about teachers using WeVideo and Flipgrid, for example. We call that app smashing in the EdTech world, where they're able to, hey, we want students to be creative and make these videos. And we want them to be housed in a convenient place. So let's use WeVideo and Flipgrid together.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And so I'm seeing this pattern of educators really showing off their innovative prowess and integrating and app smashing, and finding ways to really make learning accessible to all of their students. And I'm also thinking about when we do get back to everyone back to in person, I'm wondering, as you're working on next future footprint kind, branding things, I'm curious what your thoughts are on what, what things will we never go back to, or maybe the better question is what are we looking forward to when we do come back? Have we learned some things during the pandemic that we feel that we want to make sure that we focus on when we all get back together? What do you think about that?

Adam Parker Goldberg: Yeah, absolutely. And I love that you touched on this element of... I'm trying to avoid the buzzwords. But the things that we know is project-based learning and personalized learning, I think are elements that we're seeing be quite effective while quarantining, while distance learning, hybrid learning and giving students a foundation to then be their own educator. And where an educator really becomes the lead learner and presents this opportunity where it's like, hey, we're going to talk about Mesopotamia. And I know a little bit about Mesopotamia, but it's going to be on all of you, all of my students to go off and learn yourself and teach me something, teach each other something and do so in a way that's compelling to you, that's meaningful to you, that draws connections to your personal life. That we're loving now, and I'm looking forward to that continuing is these personal connections that make learning tangible and accessible and equitable, where it's not just about you have to have equity in tech, equity in not just access, but also enabling students to be successful.

Adam Parker Goldberg: And that, what is it? We're not the opportunity gap, but the access gap, and giving them the tools to be successful. But once that's accomplished, then going further and letting them explore in a way that's meaningful to them, in a way that resonates with what they're doing. So for example, if you have a student who, I played saxophone in middle school, loves playing saxophone. Is there a way I can write a song on the saxophone that tells you about Mesopotamia in a way that makes sense to me, and maybe it's set to lyrics or something. I don't know what it would be. But enabling students to come up with, okay, here are my objectives on what I want to learn, but let me figure out what is that path to achieving that knowledge, that wisdom.

Adam Parker Goldberg: And once I'm done with this project, because I'm so invested in that, what inspires me to then go on and learn more? Or now I've done a song about Mesopotamia, let me do a song about the World War II or something, on and on and on, where you inspire as the educator. As you said, we're human. We're people, and we're people who are social beings and love interacting with one another and learning, not just with, but from one another at all ages. And so, how can we inspire one another to go off on our own learning adventures? And then even when the project comes to a close or semester comes to a close, year comes to an end, what have we inspired one another to do to then go on and continue that learning or find an adjacent path. That we're seeing. That, I think we'll continue to see and that's just absolutely brilliant.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. I agree. Our students are so socially connected, and they're inquisitive and they're curious. And those things haven't changed. And so I think we have to ensure that going forward, and those things you just discussed, you're exactly right. We've been saying that project based learning and personalized learning and using tech tools to advance learning, these are all really, really good things. And I think especially whenever things next year, we look towards the future, there's going to be some learning gaps. And there's going to be some, you know what they're saying. There's a report today that just came out saying that learning loss is huge and there's going to be months of learning loss and kids have to catch up.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And I think my fear is that because there is this gap, that there's going to be this push to push more content in, and do lots of these drilling of practice problems and all these things that make learning not fun. And I think we have to make sure that's not the case. That's never been the answer, and it's not going to be the answer we can get back. It's not going to be to cram more content in, but truly be about creating these intrinsically motivating experiences where each student can be their own learning trajectory. And being able to bridge those gaps that may have been created, but not in the way that we're forcing content and then trying to put them through extra, increase the school day. These are all things that don't contribute to high levels of [crosstalk 00:23:00].

Adam Parker Goldberg: Right.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And I think that's a fear. So I'm hoping that's not the direction that we go. And I think that educators recognize that, but we have to change the school structures to ensure that doesn't happen.

Adam Parker Goldberg: Absolutely. Absolutely. Here's the deal. I have so much faith in educators because I think in so many ways, again, silver lining that this pandemic has put us in a situation where families are truly appreciating the work of educators. And in tandem, I think that educators are finding as we talked about all these innovative ways, and I know that this pandemic has been a point of inspiration for educators to push back and emphasize what they know is best for their learners. But you're absolutely right. We need district support. We need government support in order to meet the needs of a lot learners. And who knows our learners better than the people teaching them, than the educators.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that's where we have to ensure that teachers have the microphone. We have to listen to them. We have to be attentive to their needs. We have to give them time in professional development, and not just professional development, but authentic professional development. That's why I love tools like WeVideo and Flipgrid and others too, because it's a space for not only students to be creative, but teachers to also be creative.

Adam Parker Goldberg: Totally.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: It's a space for teachers to create instructional opportunities, and in ways that it can meet the needs of students. So I think that the key is to empower and support teachers. And teachers are super smart. They are equipped, they have the experience. But next is the leadership must allow them to the time to plan together.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I remember asking a retiring educator, I'm like, "What's the best PD you've ever received?" And they said, "The time that our principal gives us to plan together." There wasn't like a powerful speaker or some week long retreat they went on. It was literally just collaborative time. And I think that was so transformative and such a eye-opening response for me. And yeah, they're exactly right. It's giving them not only the time, but the support and the encouragement to be able to do these things that are going to help transform learning. And especially now when there's so many unprecedented challenges that stand in the way.

Adam Parker Goldberg: Totally. Absolutely. And it's funny. Funny is not the right word. It's interesting. We see this from a Flipgrid perspective, from an education technology perspective, when we go to conferences and in a way in the digital sense now with this transformation to more virtual conferences, but especially when we all come together at events, like when we saw each other at ISTE. Magic happens with educators in the same room, exchanging ideas across subjects, across backgrounds, across locations of what they're doing and trying new things. And it's truly as you say, when educators come together, just an ignition of magic and coming up with ideas. And so the collaborative time is key and the supporting is key, and trust, trust, trust that absolutely educators know what they're doing. And when they're after help, give them help. Give them the resources they need. Pay for their supplies. But let them do their thing. They know what's going on.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. They sure do. They really do. I'm already seeing some amazing things that are coming out of some crazy times. But I'm seeing teachers already just using tech tools in a new way to create authentic learning experiences. Not just to do the new cool thing, but to actually create these amazing learning experiences. And that's what they were supposed to be to begin with. So it's great to actually see that happen. So Adam, we are towards the end of our time together. And I guess my final question was, was there anything that you were hoping that I would ask you or anything that you wanted to share as we close up today?

Adam Parker Goldberg: Oh, gosh. Nathan, I could talk to you for hours. So I'll end with that. Keep in touch everyone. Reach out on Twitter. I would love to connect. Let us know what's going on. Let us know how we can support you. I have the great fortune of working with four incredible educator innovation leads at Flipgrid, Jornea, Jess, Ann and [inaudible 00:28:12] who are former educators themselves, now work on our team as internal advocates, but also as resources among the community for professional development, for ideas, throwing around ideas. But we're here to help. Let us know in terms of product ideas, how we can make Flipgrid better, in terms of brand adjacent opportunities, what resources events. Curriculum, we can help with from a Flipgrid perspective. Keep in touch. That's the message, keep in touch.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And I think we definitely will. And we mentioned earlier, adamshortshorts is your Twitter handle, correct?

Adam Parker Goldberg: Yes, yes.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And then any other platform or website you want to share?

Adam Parker Goldberg: And this is what I was going to get into when you were talking, so I'll say so briefly. You can cut in post if you want. When you were talking about using these creative tech tools to create meaningful and compelling curriculum for your students, like we were talking about... I think one that works so brilliantly together, and we talked about this earlier, of creating a compelling WeVideo and then sharing that video with your students on Flipgrid to then inspire them to do the same. And what that enables is not only creative storytelling with the video they're putting together, but also time on their half with respect to internet bandwidth, what their day-to-day schedule looks like in this criteria of 2020, and equity then to figure out how they're going to patch their story, what WeVideo creation they're going to share back with colleagues.

Adam Parker Goldberg: And then just simply uploaded it onto Flipgrid. And I think that our tools work so well together. There's so many great tools out there, right? You asked about tools. There's so many great tools, but really it is the educators, the learners, the families that bring the magic to these tools, and breathe life and learning into what can be done with the tech.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Such a great phrase and note to end this on today, so that's perfect. Hey Adam, thank you so much for being on the show. It was so great to connect with you again, my friend.

Adam Parker Goldberg: You as well. Thank you so much.