Building the Bridge Podcast

Building the Bridge Podcast EdisonLearning

Students, educators, and parents have found themselves in a new learning environment as a result of the pandemic. EdisonLearning recognizes this situation and has answered this call to action by launching a podcast series called “Building the Bridge” featuring Dr. Wendy Oliver. In this series, Dr. Oliver addresses how we can create a path to successful learning in this unique era that has driven so many of us to rely on technology for education.

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Empowering Learners

Dr. Oliver, a highly qualified Tennessee teacher and administrator, has pioneered digital learning across multiple states and school districts. She has authored digital teaching standards and developed software that allows teachers to self-assess their own knowledge of digital instruction. No matter which hat she’s wearing, her goal is simple — to empower learners.

Meet Dr. Oliver

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Meet Dr. Oliver

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Dr. Wendy Oliver, a highly qualified TN teacher and administrator, has a diverse background in educational leadership and policy, to include teaching and leadership roles in both urban and suburban public schools as well as the private non-secular realm. Wendy also has executive level experience in the private sector.

Subsequent to her master’s degree, Dr. Oliver used her experience in change leadership to manage a grant funded, data-driven program that generated innovation and educational change in her school district. This foundation in change management coupled with her extensive knowledge of educational technology provided the opportunity to create and implement a district-wide virtual school. The success of this program led to creating and leading the State of Tennessee’s grant funded online learning program, e4TN, which was a statewide consortium that included over 100 school districts. Her leadership and team’s efforts at e4TN were recognized nationally with seven awards by the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) within five years.

Dr. Oliver has published numerous articles highlighting her experiences.  Early in her career Dr. Oliver demonstrated interest in data analysis and evaluation, particularly in teacher evaluation.  She was interviewed by 20/20 and published in Tennessee Educational Leadership on utilizing a framework for evaluation and professional growth, as a first-year teacher.

The natural tie of online learning and assessment led Dr. Oliver to publish work on teacher effectiveness in the online environment, such as, Investigating Whether a Value-Added Teaching Effectiveness Model Designed for Traditional Classrooms Can be Used to Measure Online Teaching Quality, and her experience in digital leadership provided the opportunity to publish in Lessons learned from virtual schools: Experiences and recommendations from the field. She also served as the guest editor of the Journal of Online Learning and Research summer of 2016, where she also published an article, “Professional Development in K-12 Online and Blended Learning: Examining Programs and Pedagogy for Effective Teacher Training.”

Oliver has also created Oliver’s Frameworks for Blended and Online Learning and subsequently a software that allows teachers to self-assess their knowledge of pedagogy in each environment.  The software has been implemented at the state and district level across the United States.

After serving as Arizona State University’s Preparatory Digital Academy’s Chief Learning Architect, Dr. Oliver released her book, Not Your Mama’s Classroom:What You Need to Know as a Parent About Your Child’s Digital Education.

Her experience in digital learning and curriculum design, paired with her expertise in assessment and evaluation, are leveraged to design an innovative, learner-centered curriculum in her role as Chief Learning Officer at EdisonLearning.

Recent Podcast Episodes

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What to Know About Digital Ethics with Dr. Kristen Mattson - Episode 27

Dr. Kristen Mattson joins us to discuss an important, evolving topic in our digital world: ethics.

She begins by defining what it means to be a digital citizen and dives into the importance of educating not only parents, but also teachers about digital ethics. Dr. Mattson has spent her career as an educator, giving a lot of attention to this topic, and has recently written a book answering some of the biggest questions.  She feels that technology is often taught in a silo, but her philosophy is that digital literacy and information media literacy skills should be embedded naturally within the content areas. When you include those higher order thinking skills, the curriculum is more engaging and relevant to the students.

The discussion continues by acknowledging that teachers need to point out to students that they are creating their digital footprints as young as age five, sometimes younger. Healthy classroom debates occur with older students surrounding the topic of privacy and security. We must decide how much data we are willing to give up to a technology company. Are we okay with it personally, and are we okay with it collectively as a society? Dr. Oliver’s interview with Kristen concludes with several helpful resources for teachers who are getting started with digital citizenship and digital ethics topics in the classroom.

Episode 26 Building the Bridge
Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week - Episode 26

Teacher Appreciation Week takes place annually the first full week of May, and this year we are especially grateful. Over the last year, teachers were asked to rapidly adapt to pandemic life while continuing to be there for their students and families. To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we invited third grade student Chloe back to the program, and she describes her transition from learning online to her return to in-person learning. Her amazing teacher, Señora Maria, made things comfortable for all students during this unusual year. Chloe is so thankful and provides her perspective and deep appreciation for her teacher.

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All You Need to Know About Kids and Social Media in 15 Minutes - Episode 25

Understanding how social media platforms are used by your children can help you make informed decisions about how to protect them when they are online.

Dr. Wendy Oliver provides an overview of popular social media apps and their uses including Discord, Instagram, TikTok and Messenger Kids. This informative podcast provides key information about social media privacy policies, their safety settings, and parental controls. It also delivers insight into the minds of teens and how social media can be used to manipulate devices for unrestricted screen time.

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The Exciting New World of Career & Technical Education - Episode 24

Technological advances over the last decade have created a new path and new opportunities for Career and Technical Education (CTE).  Crystal Guiler, the Chief Academic Officer of Pointful Education, is a leader in the CTE space, and she joined this episode to share insights with Dr. Wendy Oliver.

Traditional CTE courses like welding and construction still exist, but there is now a whole new world which includes online CTE courses that provide training for Adobe programs, augmented and virtual reality applications, commercial drone piloting, and more. Many of the course offerings are certification courses, meaning students are able to earn professional certifications while they figure out what the next steps are in their career path. There are opportunities to gain knowledge and skills in technology and learn a vocation. Crystal explains, “The new CTE world is very different than it has been in the past and it really is both a college and a career track, not a college or career track.”

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Global Leader Yong Zhao on Avoiding the “Learning Loss Trap” - Episode 23

In this extended episode of Building the Bridge, we’re delighted to share an interview with world renowned education scholar, Dr. Yong Zhao. In this conversation with Dr. Wendy Oliver, Dr. Zhao expands on some of the key points from his recent article “Build Back Better: Avoid the Learning Loss Trap.” In the article, he speaks to the risk of some wrong decisions schools might make as a reaction to Covid-19 challenges, and then shares a list of proven, research-based, global strategies to pursue instead.

Dr. Zhao will enlighten listeners with his thoughts on what has actually been lost during the pandemic (versus what was just never gained, and what we can do next), and why he advocates for children to develop a jagged profile of qualities vs. focusing on narrow subject matter such as reading and math. As a proponent of a whole child education, Dr. Zhao promotes social-emotional learning, mental health, and a variety of academic subjects as equally important components of education.

Additionally, Dr. Zhao describes how he views children as global citizens; what they need to know about their responsibilities, their goals, and their outcomes; and why online learning is here to stay as an effective piece of education access. This is an interview you don’t want to miss!

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Avoiding “CyberTraps” in Education, Part 2 – Privacy and Safet‪y‬ - Episode 22

In part two of this special crossover conversation with the CyberTraps Podcast, Dr. Wendy Oliver, Jethro Jones, and Frederick Lane continue their discussion about privacy, safety, and effective technology use in education. Listen to last week’s episode to hear the first part of the conversation.

Among the topics discussed in this episode, the participants share their observations on how parents and educators are managing the transition to a new digital learning environment, and what grace period the parties should be providing to one another as they get used to the new setup. There’s also discussion of the way schools are using funding to purchase technology, and how they can consider whether the technology used is truly furthering the mission of education. Especially with respect to privacy and safety concerns, there’s a lot to consider. One more important topic regards the downsides to conducting hidden surveillance through technology, and why an open and honest dialogue is more beneficial.

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Avoiding “CyberTraps” in Education, Part 1 – Making the Right Choice‪s - Episode 21

This special episode of Building the Bridge is a crossover episode, recorded in collaboration with the CyberTraps Podcast. CyberTraps is co-hosted by Jethro Jones, a former principal who authored the book SchoolX and has hosted more than 500 episodes of the Transformative Principal podcast for school leaders, and Frederick Lane, an attorney, educational consultant, and author of the CyberTraps book series. On their podcast, Jethro and Frederick present an entertaining and informative look at the risks of technology in education, and what parents and educators should know.

In this lively discussion, Jethro, Frederick, and Dr. Wendy Oliver tackle the following big question: In a world that’s moving toward digital learning at a rapid pace (and in which the future of learning will continue to have a significant online component), what are the actions parents and educators can take to ensure the learning environment is safe?

The conversation reflects on the past year in education, including the educational choices parents have learned about while navigating the pandemic, and how they’ve used these choices to benefit their children. The experts also talk about how we maintain standards that contribute to effective learning in a more fragmented environment; the ethical issues with remote learning, including the impact on educator and student privacy; and why critical thinking is an essential component in the modern classroom.

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Defining Learning Loss and its Contributing Factor‪s - Episode 20

The need to close the “digital divide,” a term that refers to disparities in device and broadband access, wasn’t new when the COVID-19 pandemic began. However, over the last year, the “COVID Slide” has entered the K-12 vernacular along with “learning loss,” one of the current buzz phrases in education. This refers to a perceived or actual lack of academic growth and/or lost learning time as schools have shifted to remote and hybrid models, often without the type of planning required to deliver an excellent digital education.

In this episode, Dr. Oliver explores the contributing factors that lead to “learning loss” and describes some of the things to look out for over the coming weeks and months, as educators implement strategies to begin new, positive trends in student achievement.

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A Veteran Teacher's Perspective on Remote Learning - Episode 19

Dr. Maria Carlone has embraced the challenges of teaching in a hybrid setting, in which half of her students are in the classroom while the other half are learning at home via video. Dr. Carlone teaches in an elementary school Spanish Immersion program and one of her students, Chloe, was our guest on last week’s episode.

This week we hear the teacher’s perspective from “the other side of the camera,” as Dr. Carlone describes what it’s been like to teach during the pandemic, what has been most challenging, what’s been successful, and how she has grown professionally. The conversation also touches on topics including learning loss and social-emotional health, which have been prominent in recent education discussions.

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A Third Grader's Insights on Remote Learning - Episode 18

In this episode, student voice is at the center. You’ll hear perspectives on remote learning from an elementary school student. Dr. Wendy Oliver interviews her daughter Chloe, a third grader who has been learning remotely during the pandemic, and is part of a Spanish language immersion program. Chloe shares what she likes and dislikes about remote learning, as well as some of the surprising benefits she’s encountered. As you listen, you can compare this perspective to what you’ve heard from your own children and students, and to what educators have shared on various episodes of Building the Bridge. By highlighting all the important voices that make up our education system, we can find ideas and solutions that work for all.

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AASA’s Dan Domenech on the Challenges Facing School District‪s - Episode 17

This episode gives a broad, detailed overview of what school districts nationwide are facing, as Dr. Wendy Oliver interviews Dan Domenech, Executive Director of AASA – The School Superintendents Association. Among several hot topics addressed, the episode touches on how superintendents are tackling the digital divide, food access during COVID-19, handling immunizations, learning loss and social-emotional health. Additionally, Dan looks at the future and identifies changes that he hopes to see in our country’s school systems.

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Finding the Funds: An Interview with Dr. Paula Love, Part ‪2 - Episode 16

In this episode, Dr. Wendy Oliver and Dr. Paula Love continue their timely conversation about the sources of funding currently available to U.S. school districts. If you haven’t yet heard part one, listen here to get detailed information about the ESSER Fund, established as part of the Education Stabilization Fund from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) package in March, and the funds made available through the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December. The vast majority of these funds are still available to districts, and the Department of Education has until September 2023 to obligate the funds from December.

Paula recaps the three highlighted areas, of the total 12 allowable uses for the Consolidated Appropriations Act funds―learning loss recovery, educational technology purchasing, and modifications to school facilities related to indoor air quality as areas of focus―and Wendy discusses how these areas are in alignment with district leaders’ goals nationwide, as evidence by her recent conversation with Dan Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents’ Association.

These funds allow for districts not only to address immediate needs, but to work on long-term planning in implementing instructional best practices and resilient models. Paula also reminds leaders that any uses of funding under ESSA are also allowable with these new funds, so the potential uses are broad and give leaders many options. She also discusses $2.75 billion in funds that have been designated for non-public schools, and explains how these may be accessed.

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Building the Bridge Episode 15
Finding the Funds: An Interview with Dr. Paula Love, Part ‪1 - Episode 15

On this timely episode, renowned funding expert Dr. Paula Love shares a wealth of knowledge regarding the relevant funds currently available to districts as a result of the pandemic. In fact, Paula shared so much information, we’ll have even more from her next week for part two.

The interview begins with a review of the funds designated for education from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) package in March (1:40). More than half of this funding is still available, and the allowable uses set up in March have set the pathway for the new funds that were designated in December. Paula gives important detail on several of the 12 allowable uses of these funds, which cover a broad range of needs for all districts.

The second half of the episode features discussion on the funds made available through the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December (9:25). This last round of COVID Relief designated four times as much for education, building on an already-sizable bucket of funding. Bringing more focus to the still-relevant 12 allowable uses, the new round of funds specifically highlights learning loss recovery, educational technology purchasing, and modifications to school facilities related to indoor air quality as areas of focus. The Department of Education has until September 2022 to obligate the CARES education stabilization funds and until September 2023 to obligate the funds from December.

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Closing the Opportunity Gap Through Innovation: Interview with Susan Bearden - Episode 14

Closing the opportunity gap is a tall order, especially during a pandemic when new challenges have compounded previous difficulties. In this episode, Dr. Wendy Oliver interviews Susan Bearden, Director of Digital Programs for Innovate EDU, to investigate how innovative thinking can move the education system toward some solutions. Wendy and Susan discuss how socioeconomic status contributes to the opportunity gap and the digital divide, and reflect on the ways the pandemic has exacerbated the difference between the haves and have-nots in education. They also discuss what it means to be innovative in the classroom. (Hint: It might not mean what you think.) Susan has been at the forefront of K-12 innovation throughout her career, and you won’t want to miss her thoughts. 

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The Future of School Choice with Amy Valentine - Episode 13

It's National School Choice Week in the U.S. and to help us get a more layered, in-depth picture of the present and future of choice in education, we're excited to feature an interview with Amy Valentine, CEO and Education Evangelist of Future of School. Amy shares her insights on the history of the traditional school choice discussion, and the ways in which that conversation is expanding and evolving, both as a result of the pandemic but also dating back over multiple decades of online and blended learning. Among other perspectives, Amy shares that “COVID-19 made it undeniable to everybody in our country [that] parents should have the right, and they should be empowered, to choose the best learning environment for their children.” Listen to this conversation between two innovative education leaders to gain a better understanding of the choices parents and students have over personalized educational options.

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Parent Advocacy: An Interview with Keri Rodrigues - Episode 12

In this episode of Building the Bridge, Dr. Wendy Oliver interviews Keri Rodrigues, mother and Founding President of the National Parents Union. Keri is referred to as “arguably the most successful parent organizer in education advocacy today.” Her outstanding commitment to social, economic and educational equity for children and families spans decades.

Her journey as a parent advocate started when she observed that she and other parents didn’t have a voice in their community regarding politics or policy in education. She organized with other parents and formed Massachusetts Parents United, which is now the largest parent advocacy organization, as well as discovered other pockets of parent power across the country. This ultimately led to establishing the National Parents Union.

Tune in to learn about Keri’s thoughts about online education and what parents can do to ensure their kids are getting the best education possible.  

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The Opportunity Gap and the Digital Gap - Episode 11

In this episode, Dr. Oliver discusses the opportunity gap, which refers to arbitrary circumstances in which people are born, as well as the digital gap, which refers to either a lack of knowledge about using computers and/or lack of broadband internet access. She provides definitions, examples and real-world scenarios to illustrate what these disparities look like and where they are occurring in education. Wendy also refers back to a recent interview with online educator and author Courtney Ostaff, whose experience teaching online in rural areas over the past two decades has led to many valuable insights.

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A Perspective from a Superintendent: Interview with Dr. Randy Ziegenfuss - Episode 10

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed Social Emotional Learning and ways to enhance learning for students. Our teachers and school administrators have been experiencing the same pandemic, but we haven’t heard much from their perspective. Dr. Wendy Oliver sits down with the superintendent of the Salisbury Township School District in Pennsylvania, Dr. Randy Ziegenfuss, and asks what it’s like to be an administrator during these trying times. We get a glimpse of how things have changed, how learning is approached differently, and how a good leader boosts morale among teachers. 

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EdisonLearning and Social Emotional Health – Episode 9

In this episode, we are joined by two EdisonLearning employees, Alisha Zach, an Academic Advisor, and Jodi Rogers-Carter, a Mathematics Teacher, who share with us how supporting students is intertwined with social emotional health. The relationships between advisor and student as well as advisor and teacher are invaluable. These relationships form a path to successful learning. Discover how our programs support Social Emotional Learning which leads to student engagement and academic success.

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Social Emotional Health – Episode 8

It’s no secret that the pandemic is taking a toll on us as a society. Sure, there are ways for students to engage with friends online via video games and Zoom meetings. But what do we do when our feelings become overwhelming and we start to question our overall wellbeing?

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Understanding How Kids Learn: An Interview with Patrice Bain – Episode 7

Patrice Bain is an educator, presenter and author who has spent 15 years of her teaching career working with cognitive scientists turning research into learning strategies. We are grateful that she sat down with “Building the Bridge” for an interview that gives us a snapshot regarding how students learn.

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Digital Safety – Episode 6

Now that students are spending a significant amount of time online inside and outside the classroom, the discussion of Digital Safety is a popular topic. Key points to note are software terms and conditions, privacy policies, location disclosure and other safeguards to protect yourself and your children online.

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Turning to the Experts for Online Teaching: Our Interview with Courtney Ostaff – Episode 5

Courtney Ostaff is a veteran online teacher with more than 20 years of experience and author of “The Online Teaching Handbook.” In episode 5 of our podcast “Building the Bridge,” we interview Courtney about her philosophies surrounding online learning.

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Digital Learning Communication Plan – Pt 2 – Episode 4

In the arena of online learning, our intention is to motivate and inspire students and provide them with current resources. It’s essential to communicate different pieces of information to parents and caregivers to ensure they are getting the information they need from the district level, the school level, and the classroom level. 

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Digital Learning Communication Plan – Pt 1 – Episode 3

As we enter the school year and engage in remote and digital learning, it’s critical to talk about a Digital Learning Communication Plan. The three prongs of the Digital Communication Plan include communications and policies at the district level, the school level and the classroom level.

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Educators Supporting Caregivers – Episode 2

As we navigate this new school year, it’s so important to view remote learning as a collaboration and create a bridge between teachers and parents. I’m going to talk about some tips today that teachers can share with parents and caregivers to initiate a successful school year.

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Getting Started – Episode 1

So many of us were hoping the COVID situation would magically disappear before the new school year began, but it’s now Back to School season and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and facing the challenges that accompany a pandemic. Let’s walk through some ways to be prepared for online instruction this school year. Because inevitably, whether you’re starting off online or not, your school will likely transition to remote learning at some point and it’s a good idea to be prepared.

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Press Ctrl + D to Bookmark this page and check back for new podcasts! Dr. Oliver will be sharing weekly wisdom to help parents and educators meet the challenges of today’s teaching and learning.

Questions? Email Dr. Oliver!