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Two Local Educators on the Digitization of Learning Environments
A portrait of Dan Ubick with his record collection. Photo by Farah Sosa/FarahStop
Topanga Life

Two Local Educators on the Digitization of Learning Environments 

A portrait of Dan Ubick with his record collection. Photo by Farah Sosa/FarahStop

For our DIGITAL ISSUE we interviewed two local educators in their respected fields, the arts and sciences, and gave them the opportunity to share insight on how the digitization of learning environments has influenced their approach towards teaching.

Dan Ubick is a music producer, runs a recording studio and teaches music. 

He has been studying music since he was 14 years old. Crystal June Storey is a math and special education science teacher. She was a professor of physics and mathematics at HBCU for 5 years, before deciding to pivot towards working with high school students.

TNT: Dan, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in music.

DU: I play the guitar, bass, drum set, piano and ukulele, am an avid record collector and love all kinds of music. My dad was a jazz bassist and my mom loved classical music, The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel so music was always around.  I moved to Topanga from the Palisades right after high school and fell in love the minute I first drove past town and up Old Topanga to visit my buddy Joe Karnes. Music has always been my life, it inspires me constantly and has taken me around the world and introduced me to so many amazing people.  

TNT: Describe the teaching transition to Face Time and Zoom? What are the pros and cons?

DU: Well, in addition to teaching lessons, I also run a recording studio and produce records so I was pretty set up already for the transition to online lessons as I’ve been dealing with working remotely with artists around the world for years. The cons are that I don’t get to see all my wonderful friends face to face every week but that will resume eventually. The pros are that all my lessons don’t have to hustle out of their houses, remember their papers and instruments and drive to me every week…I just send them a Zoom invite and we’re ready to play.

Make sure your Wi-Fi and scanner is up to par and be open minded! 

TNT: How has the Covid-19 emphasized the importance of the arts especially for younger children?

DU: Music has always provided me with something positive to focus on when things are tough so to be able to share the joy of music with kids during this challenging time is just the biggest blessing. I get to teach songs they love and watch the smile it brings to their face once they’ve practiced and learned to play it. That is the absolute best part of the job.

TNT: What is the first song you learned how to play as a musician? 

DU: I learned all kinds of things but the main ones I still play and love are “Over The Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin, ”Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles and “Manic Depression” by Jimi Hendrix.  Jimmy Page, George Harrison and Hendrix are players that I still find inspiration from.

TNT: Do you feel the digital space enhances the teacher-student experience or distracts?

DU: I only do one-on-one lessons via Zoom so my lessons have no trouble being focused.  Kids do love my crazy studio cause it’s filled with records, instruments and artwork but I find people are also happy to be comfy in their own space. They can have a cold drink next to them or run to the bathroom real quick if they need to. I’ve been a part of this community for so long, most of my lessons are friends or kids of friends I know from the Canyon so I just miss seeing everyone face to face.  

Dan teaches Monday-Friday from 9am-7pm and is always happy to try and find an open slot to help someone learn to play.  Interested musicians can e-mail him at website: 

Crystal June Storey finds respite from the heat by teaching on her laptop under the oaks. She is joined by her beloved companion Mahalo Moon, who passed since these portraits were taken, and is dearly missed. Photo by Saori Wall

TNT: Crystal tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into teaching?  

CJS: Since I was a little kid, I was in love with nature, space, and science. I wanted to understand how it all worked and how I was connected, so I climbed trees and read books. I excelled in math and science along with all subjects in school. I knew I wanted to be a teacher and a scientist. After grad school I became a physics and math professor at HBCU for 5 years. I loved what I was doing but I wanted kids to like math and science sooner. I have been teaching high school for 7 years now and received my credential to teach special education 2 years ago.

TNT: What are some of the perks of digital classrooms?

CJS: Teaching from home has definitely had its perks, spending time with my animals and my garden, being able to cook breakfast and lunch at home, and my carbon footprint is definitely much smaller being digital. I’ve learned how valued we are as teachers and how much we mean to the kids.

TNT: What advice do you have for parents coping with the digitization of classrooms and what would you like your students to take away from digital learning in these new times?

CJS: To parents: Breathe! You got this, we got this, and you’re amazing for stepping up and becoming educators yourselves!

To my students: Be grateful and thankful. Be willing to adjust and change. Take care of yourself and know that you will be stronger and more able because of this situation. Find strength in each other and remind yourself to just do your best. You are so supported by your teachers and we are all in this together. 

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