Listen to the Audio-Only Podcast Episode on Spotify
Catch the Next Teachers on Fire Roundtable LIVE
As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific/11:00 a.m. Eastern. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!
RABBI MICHAEL COHEN is a designer, educator, creativity instigator, podcaster, YouTuber, speaker, and an Apple Distinguished Educator. He’s also the Director of Innovation at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles Boys High School and the author of Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential.
⭐️ Use the timestamps below to jump to specific parts of this conversation in YouTube. ⬇️
05:09 – It’s story time! Please share with us about a low moment or an experience of adversity that you’ve faced in your teaching or education career, and describe how you overcame it.
08:54 – I can’t say enough about your book, Educated by Design: Designing the Space to Experiment, Explore, and Extract Your Creative Potential. So many good directions we could go here, and it’s been fun to hear you discuss your ideas chapter by chapter on your podcast. But let’s start with this quote:
“We want our students to believe that they have the ability to create something incredible, but for that to happen, they must experience the freedom of authentic learning. Our students must be allowed to take risks and be given the space to experiment, fail, and try again.”
Can you talk more about what you mean by authentic learning? How can school leaders and teachers move their practices and thinking in this direction?
12:15 – You also wrote that “I believe that creativity is a mindset, not an art set.” I love that quote because I hear the growth mindset there – the ideas that our identities and capacities to learn are not fixed, that we all have creative capacity.
What is your word to students and educators who have decided that they are not creative people?
16:39 – How are you looking to grow professionally and improve your practice next year? Can you share about a specific professional goal or project that you’re currently working on?
19:55 – Outside of education, what’s another area of learning for you? What is it that ignites your passions outside of the classroom and brings you alive as a human being? Tell us why this area interests you and why you enjoy it.
20:38 – Share about one personal habit or productivity hack that contributes to your success.
Voices and resources that spark Michael’s thinking and ignite his practice:
JESUS HUERTA is an elementary school teacher at Kennedy Gardens Elementary School in El Centro, California. He’s also an instructor for the Krause Center for Innovation, a 3D print enthusiast, a futurist, and a believer that technology is for everyone.
Competing During Uncertainty
About a year before our interview, Jesus was a finalist for the Leroy Finkel Fellowship, an award given annually to a teacher who presents “an innovative technology-enhanced curriculum project that is standards-aligned, replicable, relevant … and fun.”
Jesus had entered the contest and had made it to the short list, but he was laid off by his school just days before he was expected to present. Despite the professional uncertainty, Jesus gave everything he had to the presentation and won the award based on the 3D printing work his students were doing to create prosthetics (see a full description of the project with videos). As gratifying as it was to be recognized in the contest, it was equally satisfying to be given another teaching position shortly afterward.
The Evolution of 3D Printing and Learning
Jesus has been teaching for six years, and he’s been 3D printing the entire time. From classrooms to conferences, he carried his printer around with him wherever he went in his first years.
One way that 3D printing has really changed in the period since, Jesus says, is that the financial barriers to entry have come way down: printers and filament have both fallen a lot in price. Software has also improved and diversified and the 3D printing community has grown over these years as well.
It’s an exciting space, because 3D printing just keeps moving forward. Jesus shares a number of ways (other than prosthetics) that 3D printing technology is being used to provide medical solutions and improve quality of life around the world. On top of all the other competencies and skills that students build as they learn to design and print in 3D, the list of real-world applications only seems to grow.
Board Games, the Design Process, and Entrepreneurship
Another project that has really energized Jesus and his 5th graders is a board game project. The project combines the best of entrepreneurship, the design process, collaboration, and presentation skills. Working in partners or small groups, students begin by drawing a board game design, followed by a cardboard prototype. Further iterations follow.
Jesus describes a very authentic learning experience that occurred when one 5th grader forgot to bring her group’s prototype into class for her group’s pitch. Yes, there was some distress and some tears in that instance, but after thoughtful debriefing and reflection, he knows the real life lessons learned will last a lifetime. By project end, Jesus is always impressed by what his students manage to come up with, saying he would likely purchase them for his own family if they were commercially available.
Increased Access to the Joys of STEAM Learning
Something that Jesus has wanted to do outside of his classroom for some time is offer evening classes that align with his core passions: 3D printing, robotics, the design process, engineering, game design, coding, drones, and anything else related to STEAM.
In particular, he wants to create opportunities for kids who can’t access this kind of learning in their schools, districts, or towns. He’s built a partnership with an LGBTQ center to share space, and he’s proud to support diversity and equity for all learners by doing so.
“Learning is for everyone,” Jesus says. A kid’s gender, culture, language, religion, or orientation shouldn’t be limiting factors – and that’s something that Jesus has always been passionate about. Historically speaking, STEAM learning has tended to include more boys than girls, and evening that playing field is another part of his mission. He’s also looking at ways to include adults and mature learners, too.
Personal Passions: Creating with Wood and Playing the Violin
One of the areas of learning that Jesus recalls fondly from his childhood is drawing. In recent years, he’s revisited this passion through woodburning and carving. He’s also passionate about the sounds of the violin, and it’s been a joy to practice an instrument he’s always appreciated but never played. Jesus brings these passions into his classroom, too, using applications like Google Quick Draw, Google Music, and SoundTrap to helps students create a wide variety of digital art and media pieces.
A Productivity Tool: Wunderlist
Jesus loves using the Wunderlist app to track to-do items and track his progress, and the gamer in him enjoys the satisfying ding the app makes every time he checks off another task.
Voices and Resources That Spark His Thinking and Ignite His Practice
When it comes to a Twitter follow recommendation, Jesus doesn’t waste any time. “Paul Gordon does even more than I do,” Jesus says. One of Paul’s core passions is esports, but he also does 3D printing, laser cutting, design thinking, and more. He’s an advocate of risk-taking and a culture of yes, and he’s been a great education partner. Follow Paul @TeachTheTech.
One edtech tool that has really captured his imagination is the Oculus Quest, an all-in-one VR set. Users no longer need controllers – the set will now recognize user hands. His kids have played around with an Oculus app called Virtuoso that allows them to play piano in VR, and it’s blowing their minds. Other apps, like TiltBrush or Sculptor VR, allow users to paint and sculpt in VR as well.
Because his wife works in the criminal justice system, Jesus says they’re both enjoying a podcast called Crime Junkie. The series is so good that occasionally Jesus gets a few episodes ahead of her, and then he’s got some explaining to do! Follow this podcast on Twitter @CrimeJunkiePod.
Over on YouTube, Jesus points to the Uncle Jessy channel as a great source for 3D printers, techniques, and projects. Jesus appreciates how he follows up review videos with subsequent videos that clarify and update previous evaluations. Follow the creator on Twitter @UncleJessy4Real.
On Netflix, Jesus and his family are enjoying NCIS. They’ve been enjoying it so much that he’s actually a little sad that he’s been missing it for the last 15 years.
MIKE PAUL is a middle school math teacher, edtech leader, Google Certified Innovator, and the co-founder of Edcamp Kentucky. Follow Mike on Twitter @mikepaul and check out his blog at https://pikemalltech.com/.
Mike teaches at Bardstown Middle School in Bardstown, Kentucky. Bardstown has the distinction of being the bourbon capital of the world, and was also recently judged the most beautiful small town in America. Mike teaches 7th grade Mathematics and is the IT coordinator for the district, where he helps teachers integrate technology in their classrooms.
Making the Success of Learners the Top Priority
During his first year of teaching, Mike received an email from a principal that was hard to receive. A school in another district was experiencing success in a particular program area, but wasn’t willing to share ideas and resources out of a sense of competition. He realized from the email and the conversation that followed that not everyone is in education primarily for students; unfortunately, some are more concerned about their own success.
This experience only heightened Mike’s resolve to work with educators who put the learning and success of kids as the top priority and are less concerned with perceptions of success. When students win, we all win!
How Has Technology Changed the Ways We Teach and Learn Math?
Technology and tech tools have changed the way we teach and learn about mathematics. Today, it’s less about accurate calculations and more about proper processes, habits of mind, and approaches to problems. It’s about problem-solving skills that transfer across all domains.
What Gets Mike Excited About Education Today
Mike is excited by the pockets of innovation that are showing up in schools across the country that are determined to be about more than just test scores. At the Google Innovator Academy, Mike focused on developments in design thinking that empower students to solve real-world problems inside and outside of the school walls.
Mike’s OneWord, Personal Passions, and Productivity Hacks
Mike’s #OneWord2019 is SERVE. He’s challenging himself to assist more educators and more students than ever. By orienting himself this way in his professional and personal spaces, he knows his relationships will be enriched and opportunities for growth are sure to follow.
Mike is a big fan of self-improvement and personal development. Whether it means growing his mental, physical, or financial health — he loves to learn.
Mike read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, and it’s completely transformed his mornings. The key to transformative mornings are SAVERS: Silence, Affirmation, Vizualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing.
Mike has become an early morning riser, starting his days at 4:00 a.m. No, he doesn’t manage to do all six things every single day, but on the days the SAVERS don’t happen, he can feel the difference.
Voices & Resources That Inspire Mike’s Professional Practice
On Twitter, Mike suggests following @DonWettrick, the innovation leader and enigmatic host of the StartEd Up Podcast.
An edtech tool that has really caught Mike’s attention lately is Pear Deck. Find out more about how Pear Deck can amplify student voice and increase engagement by following them on Twitter @PearDeck.
ARI FLEWELLING is a staff development specialist at Riverside Unified School District in Riverside, California. A former high school English teacher, Ari holds a Master’s degree in Education Technology and is a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator. She can often be found sharing her knowledge at EdTechTeam events.
Ari’s Twitter profile says “Cool on the internet. Even cooler IRL,” which should tell you that Ari is a person who enjoys engagement and is just a fun person to be around!
In our conversation, Ari describes the time in her career when she found herself in a work environment that was “less than collaborative.” It was during this time that she really started to build her professional learning network on Twitter and elsewhere, using these platforms to reconnect with former colleagues and building relationships with new ones. To educators looking to integrate more technology in their classrooms, Ari offers this sage word of caution: always consider context and content. How does this piece of technology help move my students toward the learning objective? Ari also shares her professional goal for this year, explains what ignites her passion about education today, lets us in on some of her passions outside of education, and offers some great picks on Twitter, YouTube, and more.
Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:
1:10 – Ari’s work as a technology integration specialist allows her to focus on empowering student creation and creativity. Coding, writing, video production, collaboration, and sharing: these are the rich kinds of learning experiences that technology can provide students. She currently supports 42 school sites ranging from preschool through Adult Education. She enjoys the challenge of finding the perfect solution for the right need or the right learner.
2:01 – Early in her career, Ari found herself in a difficult work environment with colleagues who were “less than collaborative.” It was during this time that she really started to build her professional learning network on Twitter and other platforms, reconnecting with former colleagues and building relationships with new ones. Where she missed professional connections and collaboration physically, she was able to fill in those gaps digitally.
3:35 – To educators looking to integrate more technology in their classrooms, Ari offers this sage word of caution: always consider context and content. How does this piece of technology help move my students toward the learning objective?
5:06 – Students excite Ari so much! Seeing students create apps, websites, YouTube series, creative memes, and contributing to their communities in real and authentic ways is amazing and fuels Ari’s passion for education.
6:37 – In terms of a professional goal for this school year, Air wants to take stock of all the things she’s doing, figuring out where she’s getting the most value, where she’s being the most successful, and deciding where she’s not going to invest as much anymore. As educators and creatives, we often take on more than is really sustainable. Sometimes we need to simplify our focus in order to make sure the work we’re invested in offers the most value, and we’re taking care of ourselves well.
9:02 – Ari enjoys playing games of any kind, particularly board and video games that involve strategic decision making and well-crafted narratives. She’s looking forward to designing a character in Red Dead Redemption 2, a game with stunning graphics that is both a prequel and a sequel.
12:05 – For Ari, working out is an unplugged activity, so she has no access to the internet. Exercise is a great opportunity to take time away from her work and listen to her body’s needs.
12:53 – On Twitter, Ari recommends following @AnnKozma723. She credits Ann for helping her through a difficult time and describes her as a constant source of inspiration.
13:48 – When it comes to her favorite edtech tools, Ari comes back to the basic power of GSuite – Google’s suite of cloud-based apps. Follow@GSuite on Twitter!