93 - Jorge Valenzuela

Meet Jorge Valenzuela

JORGE VALENZUELA is a graduate teaching assistant and doctoral student at Old Dominion University and the lead coach at Lifelong Learning Defined. He is a national faculty member of PBL Works and a national teacher effectiveness coach for the Engineering by Design curriculum. His work is aimed at helping educators understand and implement computational thinking, computer science, STEM/STEAM, and project-based learning.

Jorge is also a national presenter, ISTE author, and frequent contributor to books, academic journals, how-to blogs, and webinars. He is the 2018 awardee of ISTE’s Computer Science Excellence Award and recipient of the Lynn Barrier Engineering Leadership Award for his contributions to STEM education in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

These days, Jorge balances a number of active roles in education. Besides teaching at Old Dominion University, he also teaches a computer science course for middle school students in Richmond, VA on the weekends. He’s working on his doctorate, he’s a coach, he speaks at institutions across the country, and he’s an author. Jorge is an active blogger and is currently working on his first book.

Learning to Let Educators Know, Like, and Trust His Work

Jorge recalls a period about eight or nine years ago when he worked as a curriculum specialist for a school division. At the time, he oversaw the area of STEM education, but although he had a lot of passions and ideas, he felt tentative about sharing those ideas with other professionals.

It was then that Chad Ratliff passed on a very important piece of advice: “No one cares how smart you are or if you have smart ideas. What they want to see is results. You should go on Twitter and social media and showcase what your students are actually doing.”

Jorge was slow to get started, but since receiving that advice he’s become adept at sharing the learning from his professional practice. As he’s shared bits of learning from his own practice, it’s made it easier for him to build credibility and help other educators understand what he’s all about.

PBL Advice

When it comes to project-based learning, Jorge calls us to remember first and foremost that PBL is simply an instructional approach. It’s another way to teach.

To get started, he advises looking at learning activities that are already happening in our classrooms – particularly experiential, hands-on, minds-on learning. By starting with the  knowledge and experience in a familiar content area, we’ll feel better positioned to gradually move towards a multi-disciplinary, PBL approach.

From there, look at resources like PBL Works or other stories that are being shared by successful PBL educators by way of blogs, articles, and videos to gain some tried and true inspiration. The resources at PBL Works are based on two frameworks: the project design elements and the project-based teaching practices (the what and the how). Both are helpful.

He quotes Tony Robbins as saying that “repetition is the mother of skill.” We have to get started to get better. 

What’s Setting Jorge on 🔥 in Education Today

Fred Rogers said that “The most important people in the lives of students are parents and teachers. Therefore, the most important people in the world are parents and teachers.”

Today, with modern families looking different and certainly busier than they were twenty years ago, the role of the teacher is more critical than ever. That being the case, let’s strive to make our classrooms as enjoyable, meaningful, and relevant as possible. 

The Place of Computer Science in Education

Jorge’s undergraduate education focused on computer studies, and in the decades since that schooling, he says that the core principles haven’t changed much. What has changed, however, is where computer science lives in the curriculum.

Today, CS can be integrated into Math, English, Social Studies, and other subjects. It’s more than coding – it’s a way of thinking and solving problems.

A Professional Goal

Jorge is currently working on a book called Rev Up Robotics with Computational Thinking and Programming. “I’ve found a lot of strength in numbers, and ISTE has helped me find my professional network, my tribe, and my home in a STEM PLN,” Jorge says.

Every educator should find a professional learning network that he or she can subscribe to and learn from – both in and out of the classroom, because working with others is key.

Productivity Habits

Jorge is motivated by self-growth of all kinds, and right now he’s especially fascinated by learning about relationships. He recently discovered Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, and it’s been incredibly insightful. Emotional awareness and social skills are helpful in every context, professional and personal. They’re especially useful when it comes to dealing with two teenagers!

Jorge also spends 10-20 hours a week honing his craft and developing his skills as an educator – not just for his students but also for the teachers he coaches. That amount of time isn’t for everyone, he admits, but for him it’s grown from a place of passion to one of intense purpose and fulfillment.

Jorge recommends waking up early each morning. He likes to start his day at 5:00, start with some meditation, and spend time reflecting on failures. In the past, he was embarrassed by mistakes, but now he welcomes them.

In the big picture, we actually experience more failures than we do successes. By having the courage and humility to reflect on and learn from each failure, we only accelerate our own growth and position ourselves better for our next successful moment.

Voices That Shape Jorge’s Thinking & Inspire His Practice

Over on Twitter, Jorge recommends following @ElonMusk, the ultimate STEM student, and @AyahBdeir, founder of LittleBits.

The edtech tool that is getting Jorge most excited for learners right now is the Code Kit by LittleBits

Jorge’s book pick is Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim Grover. Grover has an incredible story of coaching some of the NBA’s all-time greats, and he has a lot of insights to share that can be applied off the hard court as well.

As far as podcasts go, Jorge is tuning into a couple: Your EdTech Questions by ISTE and Coach Corey Wayne, a life and peak performance coach.

Though he doesn’t really get much time to watch Netflix, Jorge enjoyed When They See Us, the story of five African-American boys who were wrongfully convicted of a serious crime in the late 80s. It’s a tear-jerker, Jorge warns.

We sign off on this conversation, and Jorge gives us the best ways to connect with him online. See below for details.

Connect with Jorge:

Song Track Credits

Listen on YouTube and subscribe to the Teachers on Fire channel.

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