Leigh Zeitz (Dr. Z) is an Associate Professor, Instructional Technology & Coordinator for the Instructional Technology division at the University of Northern Iowa College of Education, Iowa. He has had the opportunity to teach all grade levels from 1st through 12th in Public, Private, and Prison schools.
Over Leigh’s 43 years of teaching, he has developed a vision of education that involves challenging and empowering learners by providing a learning environment that is teacher-guided and student-driven. Dr. Z has been an active member of ISTE for over 30 years and in 2018, he was awarded the U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Award for his work.
I actually grew up in Southern California in Burbank right across the street from Walt Disney Studios, then we moved to La Canada which is west of Pasadena. I went through kindergarten through 12th grade there. I had a great family life with a brother and sister. I must admit I lived in a tree for a lot of my time. When I was about 5 years old, I looked at this tree and really wanted to live on the top of that tree so what I needed was a ladder. So I built a ladder with some pieces of wood, hammer, and nails until I got to the top of the tree. Then I built a treehouse with a 3×3 floor and sat up there with my transistor radio. Eventually, I built an 8 story split-level treehouse with a pole and slide. That was when I was 8-13 and where I really enjoyed exploring, trying new things. It was great for me to have a place where I could be by myself or with my friends. I was given two rules.
- I couldn’t use new wood.
- You can’t have any adults help you.
Here is a picture of a newspaper article that I found when I was a young boy. Here’s what the article wrote:
Double, double toil and trouble…
… fire burn and cauldron bubble (shades of Macbeth). Halloween fun is brewing as the La Canada School PTA awaits the annual carnival this Saturday. A nice PTA “witch” (Mrs. Hyatt) stirs the cauldron as Patty and Leigh Zeitz and Robert and John Morgan view with alarm.
What it was like when you were a student
I was 100 pounds in first grade. I was relatively intelligent and did well in school. In 5th grade, I thought, “enough of this, so I’m just going to work on social stuff now.” My grades dropped a little bit, but things went well in elementary school. In middle school, I did relatively well and was in speech, choir, and an operetta where I was the father in Hansel and Gretel. In high school, I was in football because I was large and was in the Latin Club and Speech Club. In my senior year, I discovered drama, loved it, and was in a couple of school plays. One of the things I realized is that I liked working with and helping other people.
I’ve been married to my wonderful wife, Kathy, for 38 years. We met in a Marine Biology class many years ago. We have 3 sons: Wes 37, Jeff 35, and Chris 33 who blessed us with 2 wonderful grandsons: James 8 and Tyler 6. If I knew how cool grandkids are, I would have had them first.
Becoming an educator
I can never remember I time that I didn’t want to be a teacher. When I was in high school, I tutored younger students in reading. I taught magic classes at a local youth organization. It’s always been something I wanted to do. Befoe I went to college in Santa Barbara, my dad suggested that I become a lawyer and major in economics which was a big mistake. I flunked out of my first class but I did learn about a professor who was working with talking chimps. I volunteered to work with him and learned about the written language they were teaching the chimps that were plastic pieces on a magnetic board. This was incredible, and I loved it. I actually worked with a baby Orangutan to create an environment where they could learn.
Article: Teaching Language to an Ape
I decided I needed help in finding what I really want to do and took an interesting test from the employment center. In turned out that there are 3 things I was meant to be:
- Elementary school teacher.
- Jazz Player.
- Podiatrist (which I didn’t know what that was at the time).
So I transferred over to Developmental Psychology, got As, and ended up with a teaching credential.
Journey as an Educator
I started out teaching first grade, then taught 5th grade, and then a number of grades in between. When I was working in a 4th-grade room, I had visited a couple of times without wearing a tie and the kids didn’t like that. One day, I walked in with 6 ties to make up for my missed days.
When I worked at the prison school in the early 80s at the Miller/Kilpatrick Probation Camp in Malibu, that was a really unique situation. When you look at a portable classroom cut in half with 17 boys (13-17) probably all from different gangs, they would probably kill each other on the outside. I needed to build a learning environment that was reinforcing and rewarding.
Before we had computers, I had students with a broad range of academic skills so I created an individual learning system that could test them at their level. I was actually able to take them to the Griffith Park Observatory to see the planetarium show. Some lived close and never heard of it. It was about providing new learning opportunities for them. After taking a detour as a book publisher, I came back to teach dropout recovery. The kids were actually too smart but they had other things going on in their lives: childcare issues, gang problems, etc. They came to me for one hour a week with 20 hours of homework. One project I did in 1984 with Al Rogers and Yvonne Andres was where we looked at the length of shadows at the same time in different places inputting the measurements and connecting with people all over the world. That was the beginning of many more global projects.
In the early 90s, I was using CompuServe to connect with other people. I found a high school teacher in Japan who wanted to connect with a teacher here because one of their students came to the U.S. and was shot and killed. They wanted to know why there were so many guns here. They wanted to ask students here why we have guns? Our students replied in the exchange that it was because of our rights. Communication was by sending letters back and forth on a really interesting discussion learning about the whole culture and perceptions of different countries. That was the beginning of many more global collaboration projects.
Global Collaboration presentation
Pedagogically, I want to give my students (pre-service and in-service teacher) the experience of connecting with student groups in other counties, states, and countries – other cultures and other experiences. This is to provide them with a positive experience that they will be able to use with their own students to help develop Global Citizens.
Content-wise, I have been involved in an extensive variety of Global Collaborative experiences. Presently, I want to promote projects that enable learners to engage in the Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals). This provides a deeper sense of authenticity for their learning and educates them on what can be done to save our global society.
Quote from ISTE 2019: Our responsibility as teachers is to open up the world to our students.
Research and Interests
I am on the Board of Write Our World programs in schools that provide students the opportunity to create multi-lingual, multi-media ebooks about important things in their lives.
I’m also interested in developing Innovation through Invention. Here is a video using Rube Goldberg that I want to share with you.
Team Flamingo https://teamflamingo.blogspot.com/
I ride RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) every year (past 18 years.) 20,000 riders ride our bikes across Iowa in 7 days. Z-Bird serves as the Webmaster and Team Media Hound. He can always be found within a stone’s throw of a camera or reporter. Better known as Big Bird’s “Evil Twin,” whom he often gets into trouble with his high jinx on the route.
I am also an active member of the Cedar Falls Kiwanis Rough Risers r for over 25 years. Past-president. Webmaster for 10 years
I started as a magician when I was 11 years old. My first show as a final celebration of my city library’s summer reading program. Most of my magic has been for kids, but I have done adult shows as well. I auditioned to become a performing member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood when I was 21 (1974) and have been a member ever since. Unfortunately, magic has been on a “back burner” for a long time, but I am working to rebirth Zeon the Magician in my life.
[This is Barbara. There is so much more we talked about and I paraphrased some of the conversations. Make sure you take some time to listen to the podcast with Dr. Z]
Leigh Zeitz, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Instructional Technology & Coordinator for the Instructional Technology division in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Northern Iowa College of Education, Cedar Falls, Iowa. Leigh is a sought after Lecturer, Writer, Educator, Consultant, and Blogger. His vision of education involves challenging and empowering learners by providing a learning environment that is teacher-guided and student-driven. He has written seven books and more than sixty articles on technology. He has given over 200 presentations on three continents.
Learning is my life. Using technology to support unique and meaningful learning opportunities in my direction. I have had the opportunity to teach all grade levels from 1st through college in public, private and prison schools. I am the coordinator of the Instructional Technology division in Curriculum and Instruction. I have spent the past 27 years preparing future and present educators to use technology to support learning. We are working to make a difference.
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPwJ4mvhXEb2A4mgrKDD5EA
As a Student
- B.A. – Developmental Psychology at University of California – Santa Barbara
- Master of Arts – Educational Administration and Leadership at California State University, Los Angeles
- Ph.D. – Instructional Design & Technology at the University of Oregon
As a Teacher
- Former First-grade teacher at a private school in Pasadena, California
- Former Fifth-grade teacher in a 5th/6th-grade school in Littlerock, California
- Former 3rd – 6th-grade summer school teacher – Puppetry – Goleta, California
- Former 8th grade – 12th grade Math/Science teacher at Miller/Kilpatrick Probation Camp in Malibu, California
- Former Dropout Recovery Teacher – 8th – 12th grade at Montebello Unified School District – Specifically East LA
As a Professor
- Adjunct professor for Pepperdine, Cal State University Los Angeles, and Cal Poly Pomona.
- Instructional Technology Coordinator at Malcolm Price Laboratory School at the University of Northern Iowa.
- Visiting Professor at Purdue University/Malaysian Ministry of Education – University of Technology Malaysia (Batu Pahat, Malaysia)
- Associate Professor of Instructional Technology in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Northern Iowa
- Coordinator of the Instructional Technology in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Northern Iowa
For all of the Conversations on Learning podcasts with Barbara Bray, click on the podcast tab at the top, the logo below or go to https://barbarabray.net/podcasts/