Jeff Glade, digital learning consultant at Heartland AEA, was recently awarded a “20 to Watch” award from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), a nonprofit focused on accelerating innovation in education. This year’s recipients were recognized during the summer 2024 ISTELive Conference.

The “20 to Watch” award recognizes individuals who are up and coming and are already making a difference through their work. Winners have exemplified excellence through projects or artifacts that others can replicate.

ISTE 20 to Watch Award Recipients

“Jeff’s creative approach has significantly impacted our educational programs,” Amy Wichman, Director of Media, Technology & Digital Learning, says. “Over the last three years, the “Heart of Innovation Summit,” mental health/digital awareness curriculum and the “Happiness Advantage” professional development have impacted over 5,000 Iowa educators. The programs are now integral components of our agency, showcasing his visionary leadership and commitment to fostering technology integration and positive learning environments. In addition, Jeff has been an expert in learning, implementing and sharing cutting-edge strategies that have enhanced the overall educational experience. His seamless integration of tools such as Adobe, Pear Deck and Canvas makes him a coveted role model to others.”

We asked Jeff a few questions about his work and role as a digital learning consultant.

Winners have exemplified excellence through projects or artifacts that others can replicate. What were a few of those projects?
Some of the artifacts and reflection pieces that were submitted included my work with the intersection of technology and social emotional learning. I have a session/workshop that I do frequently called, “Making Happiness a Priority” which has garnered much positive feedback. Additionally, my materials talked about my work supporting creativity in the classroom as well as consuming podcasts to support background knowledge, vocabulary acquisition and representation. Finally, the nomination (and therefore my application) included language around my presence as a trusted resource and community builder focused on empowering teachers.

What is your favorite part about assisting schools and teachers with technology?

My favorite part about assisting schools and teachers with technology is witnessing the transformative impact it can have on education. I love seeing educators become more engaged and effective through programs we are able to offer at Heartland AEA like “Heart of Innovation,” which provides access to high-quality professional development and a collaborative community. Technology helps to make learning authentic and engaging for students, allowing for global collaboration and extending learning beyond traditional classroom walls. It also helps ensure that every student sees themselves represented in their content, inspiring belief in their success and future possibilities.
The ability to bridge gaps in access and equity is particularly rewarding. Many educators face challenges in accessing resources and professional development opportunities. By leveraging technology, we can offer remote and asynchronous learning options, making it possible for educators to participate in high-quality training regardless of their location or schedule constraints. This not only enhances their professional growth but also ensures that their students benefit from innovative teaching practices.
What keeps you looking for new ways to be innovative in your work?
What keeps me looking for new ways to be innovative in my work is the desire to continually improve the educational experience for both teachers and students. The rapidly changing landscape of technology and education presents endless opportunities to explore new tools and methods. I’m driven by the impact that innovation can have, from making learning more engaging and relevant, to ensuring that every student has access to the resources they need to succeed.
The ultimate goal is to foster an environment where both teachers and students can thrive, making education more dynamic, inclusive and impactful. The constant evolution in the field of education keeps me excited about discovering and implementing innovative strategies that make a difference.


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