Episode 106 – Andrew Arevalo

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Meet Andrew Arevalo

ANDREW AREVALO is a 4th grade educator in the city of El Centro in southern California. He is a speaker, innovator, and game designer with passions for blended learning, design thinking, and gamification. He also has his Master’s degree in education and has been recognized as a CUE Emerging Teacher.

From Delight to Disappointment

Andrew experienced some adversity as recently as last year, when he finally worked up the courage to speak at a national education conference. He was absolutely delighted when his proposal was accepted, but that joy was quickly followed by disappointment when he learned that he would be docked pay for the missed day of school. Eventually, after encouragement and support from family and friends, he decided to sacrifice the income in order to attend the conference and speak.

The experience was absolutely worth it, igniting his passions further and connecting him with other inspiring voices in education. To other educators who face similar financial dilemmas, Andrew says “You’ve got to go for it. You just never know who you’re going to meet, who you’re going to meet, and who will inspire you.”

Like Father, Like Son

On July 7, 2019, Andrew tweeted this touching tribute to his father:

“First and foremost, I love my dad!” Andrew says. Greg Arevalo has generously served his community for decades, and he is well-known and loved by many as a result. It’s a tremendous legacy to step into, an honor that Andrew, his brother (a local high school principal), Andrew’s fiance, and his sister-in-law all carry with pride. Greg never pushed the path of education on his sons, but he quietly sold the profession by the joy that was so evident in his work and the growth he consistently witnessed in his learners.

How a Lost Pitch Event Led to a Game-Changing Opportunity

A few months ago, Andrew participated in a pitch event at the University of San Diego thanks to a connection with Lisa Dawley, Executive Director of the Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education and someone Andrew calls an amazing soul. Andrew was pitching a model for personalized professional development in front of a Shark Tank-style panel of judges, and he followed acts like Sir Ken Robinsons and Dave Burgess.

Even though his pitch wasn’t selected as the winner, something very special came from the experience – he was invited to participate in an exclusive gathering of educators and intellectuals from all levels and contexts of education across America. The purpose of the gathering, held recently in New York City, was to support important conversations around some of the most pervasive problems and challenges that we face in education today. Andrew left the event completely invigorated and inspired by the expertise and vision shared by the other attendees. What he thought was a loss became a huge win.

What’s Setting Andrew on 🔥 in Education Today

Many of Andrew’s dearest passions continue to come directly from his own teaching practice and the activities happening right there in his classroom. Lately, his fourth graders have been developing future job titles and descriptions, university courses that will support these future jobs, buildings that will house and facilitate these future courses, and city infrastructures that could support the university campus with the sustainable development goals in mind.

Students are using cardboard and LEGO to build structure prototypes, and Andrew plans to record short day-in-the-life-of video presentations for each project that will be linked to unique QR codes, connecting parents with their child’s ideas and work.

A Professional Goal: More Reflection

One of the aspects that Andrew would like to strengthen in his professional practice is the reflective process. We’re all busy, we’re all moving fast, and too often we find it hard to find the time to give our professional projects and work the thoughtful analysis they deserve. Just as reflection and metacognition is valuable for our learners, these activities can’t help but make us better educators when we actually make the time to reflect. As he collects thoughts and impressions in a journal, they continue to inform and inspire his first book, another project that he can’t wait to share.

Personal Passions Away From Education

Andrew loves playing mobile games like Clash Royale, partly because they disconnect him and help him relax. Lately, he’s also enjoyed seeing an emerging trend of educators who game with their own children — a way that games can be used to strengthen family relationships.

A Productivity Habit: How can I make it better?

A go-to mindset that works for Andrew is to finish every project with the question of “How can I make it better?” Just as we discussed in the professional space, sound processes of reflection can make sure that we are constantly growing, evolving, and improving. Of course, the flip side of this question is “When is enough enough?” We have to balance that commitment of constant innovation with the need to let things go and simply move on.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Andrew’s Thinking

Over on Twitter, Andrew says you are simply missing out on life if you are not following @AnnKozma723. Ann is the Educator Innovation Lead at Flipgrid, and she brought nonstop ideas and inspiration when her Flipgrid team visited Andrew’s district recently.

For his edtech tool pick, Andrew is pointing out the Oculus Quest, an industry-leading VR set that is changing our understanding of what is possible in education.

If a school day goes by and Andrew hasn’t read some of Amina’s Voice to his fourth graders, he hears about it! This book by Hena Khan unpacks identity, belonging, and purpose in clever and kid-friendly ways – a great addition to your classroom library.

Another education podcast that Andrew is digging is OnEducation, hosted by Mike Washburn and Glen Irvin – two educators who are passionate about changing the game and giving air time to real conversations in the education space. Follow the podcast on Twitter @OnEducationPod

For his YouTube channel recommendation, Andrew shouts out someone who he just happened to connect with at a coffee shop earlier this year. The channel is called Bernadette Teaches Music, and it’s hosted by a music teacher with international teaching experience. Follow her on Twitter @Ukuleleplazi

The last great content that Andrew watched on Netflix was The Game Changers, a documentary about vegans who have transformed their mindsets and their bodies to achieve seemingly impossible feats. As a former vegan himself, Andrew found their message interesting and inspiring.

We sign off on this fun conversation, and Andrew gives us the best ways to follow him and connect online. See below for details!

You can connect with Andrew …

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Episode 102 – Dr. Jacie Maslyk

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Meet Dr. Jacie Maslyk

DR. JACIE MASLYK is an educator, speaker, and author at ISTE, SolutionTree, and Steam-makers.com. She’s an Assistant Superintendent for the Hopewell Area School District just 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, PA, and she brings a passion for #STEM education, makerspaces, literacy, leadership, and creativity in education.

Stonewalled as a Young Administrator

Soon after Jacie became a principal at the age of 30, a veteran teacher approached her and flatly stated that there was nothing she could learn from her. It was an instant realization for Jacie that she was going to need to break down stereotypes and build trust with the teachers in her building.

Eventually, this initial antagonism softened into a mutually beneficial relationship, but it took work to get there. It required demonstrating her commitment to the school, to the staff, to the learners, and the community over the long term.

The Heart and Mission of Unlock Creativity

Unlock Creativity by Dr. Jacie MaslykIn the past, says Jacie, school systems have been focused on data and accountability, a mindset that has led to an overdependence on standardized tests and rigid structures. That mindset seems to be shifting into an era of innovation that is paving the way for creative thinking in classrooms.

It starts with teachers, she points out: when educators believe that they are creative and have the ability to do creative things, that passion and interest spills over into their classrooms and into the imagination of students. Teachers must find more ways to model creativity and vulnerability with and beside their students so that they can see active models of creativity and failure and perseverance in front of them. As a result, students will become more passionate learners and grow to become critical and creative thinkers as adults.

What is your creative outlet? Whatever it is, share it with your students, Jacie says. You never know what might connect in a powerful way with one or more of your learners. 

What’s Setting Jacie on 🔥 in Education Today: Maker Education

Jacie feels like she’s been on fire for maker education for quite some time, but lately she’s seen even more of a resurgence. Maker education is a fantastic way to build full engagement with every learner and provide equitable on-ramps for students who .

When students are given opportunities to learn with their hands, their learning can grow exponentially. On top of that, STEM learning and maker education builds the very skills and dispositions that are so critical in the 21st century economy: flexible thinking, tolerance for ambiguity, problem solving, improvisation, and so on. If you’re looking for practical makerspace ideas, check out Instructables, Maker Maven, and Demco.

Professional Goals and Growth

“I’m always looking to learn and grow from others,” says Jacie, crediting her engagement with social media for her deepened hunger for learning and exposure to new ideas. Among other projects, she’s currently working with Kristen Nan on a new book that will combine views from central office with views from the classroom. The book’s theme will be built around Las Vegas, focusing on the bets that we need to make in education today. Keep an eye out for this one!

Personal Passions and Continued Learning

Jacie’s biggest area of learning at the moment is her sons and their passions, including professional wrestling and American Ninja Warriors. She enjoys the time they’ve spent lately on their own American Ninja obstacle course in the back yard.

Her Tried and True Personal Productivity Hack

When it comes to personal productivity, Jacie says she remains a fan of the old school notebook. Whether it’s a to-do list, some reflections, a quote that resonated, or anything else that grabs her attention, she enjoys the process of physically writing things down and carrying them with her in a tangible way.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Her Work

Over on Twitter, Jacie recommends following @FroehlichM, guest on episode 51 of the Teachers on Fire podcast and host of the Teachers Aid podcast. Mandy is currently offering a free course based on teachers wellness and self-care.

The one edtech tool that Jacie currently considers indispensable is Voxer, her daily source for real-time professional development. 

One Drop of KindnessWith two young boys in tow, a lot of Jacie’s current reading is in children’s books. Two of her favorites in that category are One Drop of Kindness by Jeff Kubiak and EngiNerds (MAX) by Jarrett Lerner.

Jacie’s got two favorite podcasts, and both are hosted by former guests and friends of the Teachers on Fire podcast: Teach Better Talk, hosted by Jeff Gargas and Rae Hughart, and STEM Everyday Podcast, hosted by Chris Woods.

We sign off on this inspiring conversation, and Jacie gives us the best ways to connect with her. See below for details!

You can connect with Dr. Jacie …

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Episode 70 – AJ Juliani

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Meet Our Guest

AJ JULIANI is a dad, a sought-after speaker, and prolific author of several education books, including The PBL Playbook, Empower and Launch. He is a recognized authority on design thinking, genius hour, growth mindset, IBL, PBL, and all things innovation in education. Read more from AJ at http://ajjuliani.com/ and follow him on Twitter @AJJuliani.

AJ is currently the Director of Learning and Innovation for Centennial School District, located near Philadelphia. He and his team serve about 6,000 learners. In addition to his work there, AJ writes frequently on education and speaks at schools and districts across the country.

Frustrated by the Game of School

Teaching in 2011, AJ was starting to get discouraged by the climate of his classes. His students were intent on playing the game of school, navigating their way through assignments in ways that they thought would earn them the best grades for the least work. Frustrated by what he saw, AJ started reading more widely and searching for better solutions in his practice.

He eventually found Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, and it led him down the rabbit hole of intrinsic motivation, inquiry and passion-based learning, genius hour, and much more. It was the beginning of a huge paradigm shift, and he’s never been the same. He now sees student choice as a sort of secret sauce when it comes to inspiring student engagement and empowerment.

Thoughts on How to Approach Project-Based Learning

AJ’s practical advice about project-based learning is to start small. Try to avoid massive projects that simply follow exhaustive requirement checklists, which really amount to recipe-based learning. Instead, start with small class activities that help students embrace greater amounts of control and direction in the classroom.

Secondly, treat the project itself as a source of continual formative assessment instead of simply using it as a piece of summative assessment at the end. It’s the main course, not the dessert. Students should be able to demonstrate their evolving understanding of concepts throughout.

The Professional Benefits of Blogging

In many other professions and industries, it’s normal and expected for practitioners to write about their work and share it broadly. In K-12 education, this work is often left to researchers, when in fact the teachers in the trenches have important and valuable perspectives worth sharing as well.

AJ sees three primary benefits in blogging about educational practice:

  1. It helps us reflect on and learn from our own practice.
  2. We’re sharing the highs and lows of our practice in a way that others can learn and benefit from.
  3. As we reflect and write, you start to see your profession differently. You start to see the growth that is possible as you track your evolution as a professional, engaging with other educators, and sharing other perspectives. Blogs and PLN activities can inspire us and give us the encourage.

Be More Chef

Most students – and many educators – approach education as cooks. We want to follow a given recipe, and follow it well, hoping to find the success and learning that the formulas promise.

The chef’s approach is different. She takes a look at available resources and asks “What can I make with this?” And that’s AJ’s call to educators.

As you think about your practice and even your life, ask yourself “Am I just following recipes?” AJ’s late brother was a fine example of someone committed to leaving the beaten path and writing his own recipes. Yes, there will always be economic opportunities for people who prefer to follow and be compliant. But there are far more opportunities in today’s economy for people who are go-getters, strong self-starters, creators, makers, designers, and dreamers.

Building Empathy Through Design Thinking and Story

Design thinking always starts with awareness of one’s surroundings. It helps learners learn to take note of the needs of others. It helps young learners to ask critical questions to better understand their context and the needs of others. These are important skills.

Another way we can build empathy is through stories. Brain researchers tell us that the brain processes stories in a different way than it does other information – it activates more resources in order to gain a deeper appreciation for the needs of others. Telling and sharing stories is by far the best way to build empathy.

One recent example of a design product that came from AJ’s district was the creation of reflector socks for cyclists from MIT. The students didn’t enter the design process thinking they were going to engineer a new sock design, but after getting a clearer understanding of the needs of the cyclists, that’s where they ended up. The socks continue to sell today! In another case, some elementary students designed an artificial insect that could evade exterminators effectively. These second graders had to pitch their product design to some actual exterminators – another authentic learning experience.

Goals, Interests, and Passions

At the moment, AJ is working with a company called Next Lesson to develop PBL lessons and units for elementary classes. These are resources that will help educators take their first steps into PBL without jumping straight into Genius Hour.

From a larger perspective, though, the thing that is really exciting AJ about education is how many people are doing things differently. Most educators have moved past the initial stages of integrating technology in their practices, and now so many educators are thinking more deeply and differently about the learning process itself.

AJ derives tremendous joy and fulfillment from sports, but the thing that he’s really been diving deep into lately is AI. He’s reading and watching as much as he can, and he feels like today we’re boiling the frog – things are already drastically changing around us, often in ways we don’t notice or are not aware of. For him, AI isn’t something to fear but instead something to be cognizant of and recognize.

Voices & Resources That Inspire AJ’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, AJ recommends following @CultofPedagogy. He learns a lot from Jennifer Gonzales and describes her as his pedagogical North Star.

AJ just finished reading 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, and considers it a fascinating read. Follow the author on Twitter @Harari_Yuval.

AJ’s podcast pick right now is The Knowledge Project Podcast with Shane Parrish. Follow the host on Twitter @FarnamStreet.

Over on YouTube, AJ suggests subscribing to his co-author, John Spencer. Follow John on Twitter @SpencerIdeas.

In terms of non-educational viewing, AJ and his wife are enjoying The Americans on Amazon Prime right now. It’s making him suspect everyone around him of being a spy!

We sign off on the conversation, and AJ gives us the very best place to connect with him and receive more of his thoughts on education: AJJuliani.com. Visit him there and subscribe!

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Song Track Credits

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Episode 42 – Jamie Osborne

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JAMIE OSBORNE is a middle school teacher-librarian in Richmond, BC, Canada. She writes at https://thebiblioz.wordpress.com/ and recently published her first episode of The Biblioz podcast for teacher librarians.

In our conversation, Jamie addresses the challenges of moving students from an unhealthy focus on grades to the uninhibited freedom of failure-free learning. She explains why she enjoys her new role in the library so much and describes her personal transformation from Twitter lurker to contributor, blogger, and now podcaster. Jamie also shares some of her personal habits and passions and offers some solid recommendations for books to read, Twitter accounts to follow, and more.

Follow Jamie!
TW: @TheBiblioz
IG: @TheBiblioz
Blog: https://thebiblioz.wordpress.com/
Podcast: https://apple.co/2MTMBXL

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:56 – Jamie describes her current role in education as a new teacher-librarian at a middle school in Richmond, BC, Canada.
  • 1:39 – One challenge she recalls from earlier in her career was when some of her high school students and parents seemed more focused on marks than their learning, and students seemed unable or unwilling to take risks. Since that time, it’s been a pleasure to move to the library where she enjoys designing learning experiences that take place without the involvement of marks. This fall, she’s excited to introduce a multidisciplinary course for 8th Graders called STEAM 8. Students will be free to pursue learning and creativity in all sorts of directions, much of their work modeled closely on the design process and all of it without traditional marks attached.
  • 4:46 Jamie discusses the things that currently ignite her passion in education: empowering students to become more confident and creative, take risks, think outside of the box, and adapt to new challenges.
  • 7:42 – Jamie explains how and why she went from being a Twitter lurker to a Twitter contributor, blogger, and now podcaster. A highlight from June 2018 included a visit to the ISTE conference in Chicago, where she interviewed some of the biggest names in the librarian niche and published their thoughts on her Biblioz podcast.
  • 11:13 – Areas of personal passion and learning include painting, calligraphy, photography … anything visually creative. She enjoys pushing herself and growing beyond her creative comfort zone.
  • 11:50 – Personal habits that contribute to Jamie’s creative success relate to self-care: exercising, taking times to shut off mentally, and setting clear personal boundaries.
  • 14:08 – On Twitter, Jamie recommends @ExLibrisMrHunt, @ErinKCald, and  @Esther_Memmott.
  • 15:14 – For edtech tools, Jamie looks forward to unlocking new learning experiences for her students through Google Expeditions.
  • 15:37 – As a librarian, you know Jamie’s got a great book pick for us. It’s Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and AJ Juliani.
  • 16:36 – If you’re looking for another quality podcast to add to your daily commute this year, check out Educated by Design with Michael Cohen (@TheTechRabbi).
  • 17:23 – Finally, when she’s got no brainpower left for anything productive, Jamie’s watching Hinterland on Netflix.
  • 18:48 – We sign off on the interview, and Jamie reminds us how we can follow her content online. See above for details!

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Song Track Credits

  • Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
  • Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

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Episode 36: Andi McNair

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Andi McNair is a keynote speaker and blogger specializing in edtech, genius hour, and innovation in education. She is also the co-founder of #makeithappenEDU and the author of Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry. See more of her content at http://www.andimcnair.com.

In this conversation, Andi describes the low moment in her classroom that changed it all for her – when she realized her learners were completely disengaged and she knew she needed to reimagine her practice. Thanks to some inspiring education leaders, she began a journey of passion-based learning and has never looked back. Andi also tells us why it’s a great time to be an educator and shares some great recommendations for books to read, Twitter accounts to follow, and more.

Check out Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry on Amazon!

Follow Andi on the web at http://www.andimcnair.com/ and on Twitter @McNairan3.

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 1:00 – Andi describes her past and current roles in education.
  • 1:52 – Reality check: when Andi noticed her students had become completely disengaged, she knew she had to either leave the profession or completely reinvent herself and redefine her practice. She chose the latter.
  • 3:53 – We discuss the heart of Andi’s book, Genius Hour: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry. She describes how Genius Hour advocates like Don Wettrick, Gallit Zvi, Denise Krebs, Joy Kirr, and introduced her to the idea of passion-based learning. In the book, Andi maps out the 6 Ps of Genius Hour, a process that has worked well in her context give teachers and learners a clear path to the finish line: passion, pitch, plan, project, product, and presentation.
  • 7:52 – Andi tells us why it’s such a great time to be in education: because of the power to connect our learners with each other, with other classes, with outside experts, etc. and help students understand the WHY behind their learning through authentic products.
  • 10:07 – One of Andi’s personal passions is one that she enjoys with her family: watching and learning more about the great game of baseball.
  • 11:33 – A personal habit that contributes to her success: journaling every single day – not just remembering (what I did and how) but reflecting (what I learned and why). Some of her reflections happen collaboratively on Voxer!
  • 13:55 – Her Twitter account suggestion is @DonWettrick, international speaker and presenter, host of the StartEdUp podcast, and author of Pure Genius: Building a Culture of Innovation.
  • 14:26 – Andi gives us two edtech recommendations. The first is Nepris, which connects industry professionals with classrooms (@NeprisApp on Twitter). The second is Thrively, which helps learners discover their strengths, interests, and aspirations (@Thrively on Twitter).
  • 15:25 – Her book recommendations start with a classic for any teacher looking for more passion, motivation, or imagination: Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (@BurgessDave on Twitter). She also recommends a book we’ve recommended here recently: Shift This by Joy Kirr (@JoyKirr on Twitter).
  • 16:42 – On Netflix, Andi’s enjoying When Calls the Heart, a show built around a woman who teaches in a small Canadian mining town in the early 1900s. Add it to your list!
  • 17:02 – Andi signs off and gives us the best ways to follow her content online: and at her website (http://www.andimcnair.com/) on Twitter @McNairan3, and on http://voxer.com/ @AndiMcNair.

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Song Track Credits

Intro: Relax (by Simon More)
Outtro: Starley – Call on Me Remix (by DJ Zhorik)

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