"The technology that was being provided for schools to use to help kids learn was disastrous. We were limited to word processing or 'Oregon Trail,' " he said of his early years in education. "The tools available for teachers now are what I wish I would have had my first year teaching."
Now, he's got BYOD (bring your own device) classrooms where students can use cell phones, iPods, tablets or laptops from home, as long as they've passed a course on how to use them appropriately. They have access to a few school computers, and Bedley has raised money or landed grants for big-ticket items, such as iPads, netbooks, a webcam and a desktop computer for the classroom.
"I know (my district) would want to provide the funds, they just don't have them," he said.
Like a lot of teachers, he relies on free tools, too. He first tried using Skype in 2009, when budget reductions cut back on arts education for his students. He connected his classroom with working artists in other parts of the country, so they could still had a chance to learn. Last year, his students Skyped with docents from Fort Meigs, a War of 1812 battlefield in Ohio.
When they revealed the armory, "the kids just gasped," he said. "Those kinds of moments just drive me to find more learning opportunities."
He's one of nearly 78,000 teachers using Skype in the classroom, the company reports.
Sometimes, yes, there are glitches, technical failures and lessons that don't go as planned. Often, he can just hop on Twitter to ask for help, and another teacher will offer up lessons from their own experiences.
"I take little steps to integrate technology," Bedley said. "I don't consider myself a techie at all."
He sees opportunities now
Exploring, risk-taking -- it's actually easier than it used to be, Bedley said. As his school shifts from its former curriculum to the Common Core standards, there's a lot of room for creativity and experimentation in teaching, he said.
He teaches science, writing and history, and he'll make sure the material is covered, but he likes to give students options to show what they've learned. When they studied the body's organ systems, students could take a traditional test, or create an infographic using Piktochart software, or record a lesson for another student. They had to share everything they knew about, say, the nervous system. Some students spoke for 10 minutes, and sometimes recalled facts Bedley said even he couldn't remember.
"A lot of it aligns with how they best learn -- they learned way above and beyond," Bedley said. "They felt like they were experts."
He works outside his classtime, too. With his brother, he hosts an online talk show dedicated to education innovation, the Bedley Bros. #EdChat Show. A couple of years ago, he created the Technology Applied Science Fair, a souped-up science fair that asks kids to identify problems and solve them.
Since it launched, it has expanded from his school to 10. One student designed a social network for charities in India to share extra resources. Another couple of students, "great kids who always forget their glasses," created a program that would automatically adjust computer screens so they could read, no matter what.
"It's all on my own. If you look at the innovations going on, it's teacher-driven activities," Bedley said. "I love that there are some incredible educators out there, teachers and principals taking the lead rather than letting people outside of education define what we do.
"I really, honestly believe we're in a time that's going to redefine education."