Episode 59: Dr. Sam Fecich

59 - Dr. Sam Fecich

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DR. SAMANTHA FECICH is a former special education teacher and now a professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. She’s also a mom, edtech innovator, and most recently, the author of EduMagic: A Guide for Pre-Service Teachers.

Follow Dr. Sam online here:

Episode Summary

Dr. Sam Fecich is a professor of education at Grove City College in Grove City PA, just north of Pittsburgh. A former special education teacher herself, she teaches about educational technology integration and special education.

Sam recalls the crushing disappointment of applying to a PhD program in special education, only to have her application rejected. After cycling through discouragement, self-doubt, questioning her future, etc., she called her parents and spent some time reconsidering her passions in education.  She eventually applied for a PhD program in Learning Design and Technology, and she was accepted. Something we can all take away from Sam’s story: when one door is closed, keep trying more doors! The one that opens may just be the best fit.

EduMagic challenges the thought that your teaching career starts when you receive your teaching diploma. In it, Dr. Sam argues that the journey actually begins in your freshman year of college, and she shares authentic stories of innovation in education that will inspire educators today. EduMagic is also an acronym that forms the structure of her book:

  • E = Educate and Engage. Learning to take something from every learning experience.
  • D = Digital Presence. Start building a positive professional presence through digital portfolios of work, on LinkedIn, and other platforms.
  • U = Unite your PLN. Reaching out and building a professional network provides mutual benefits.
  • M = Megapixels. These are the bits of magic, flavor, and excitement into learning.
  • A = Always Be. Always advocate, be grateful, be mindful, and contribute to the learning of others.
  • G = Get Out. Get out of the classroom, go to edcamps, go to workshops, volunteer to present your learning to others.
  • I = Inconceivable. Use education technology to create original learning experiences.
  • C = Cooperative Teaching Gone Virtual. Use technology to build real-time partnerships between preservice teachers and teachers in the field in different locations.

Dr. Sam is passionate about the ways that Twitter and other social media platforms can connect educators and allow them to share innovative teaching practices around the world. It’s about showing process, progress, and product — in our professional learning and in the learning of our students. She’s seen first-hand the power and ability of Twitter to build a professional resume, and she shares a story of how Twitter helped earn one preservice teacher multiple job offers by the time she graduated.

Her professional goal for this year is to do a better job of meeting students where they are. In order to embrace this goal, she plans to master and utilize Snapchat better.

In terms of other learning and personal passions outside of the classroom, Sam enjoys spending time with her daughter, Summer, and watching her grow, learn, and try new things.

She tries to live by a simple rule: “Wherever you are, be there.” Among other things, she tries to leave her work at work as much as she can.

Her recommendation on Twitter is @NanKr1120, someone who does fantastic and imaginative work and gives Sam goosebumps every time she speaks.

Sam’s pick for edtech tools is Microsoft Teams. She touts the power of Teams to improve collaboration and accessibility for all learners and stakeholders. Follow Teams on Twitter @MicrosoftTeams.

One of the books she recommends most often to her preservice teachers is Dave Burgess’s Teach Like a Pirate. Follow the author on Twitter @BurgessDave.

Dr. Sam’s educational podcast pick is House of EdTech, hosted by Chris Nesi. Follow the podcast on Twitter @HouseofEdTech.

When she’s got no time left for anything productive, Dr. Sam is enjoying House of Cards on Netflix or Manifest on Hulu.

For more from Dr. Sam Fecich, follow her online here:

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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 58: Michael Drezek

58 - Michael Drezek

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MICHAEL DREZEK is a Technology Integration Specialist for the Lake Shore Central School District in upstate New York. Michael is in his 15th year as an educator and is the host of the Quest 4 Edlightenment podcast. He is a former teacher of the year and has earned too many accolades to list here! Find out more about Michael’s innovative work with technology in education at https://michaeldrezek.com/.

Follow Michael online here:

In our conversation, Michael recalls the mistake he once made of putting content above relationships with students, and he talks about how he would do things differently today. He defines his professional goal for this school year, explains why he is so passionate about the state of education today, and shares what makes him productive in so many different domains of service. Michael gives us some great recommendations on Twitter, books, edtech, and more!

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 1:21 – Michael is the District Technology Integrator for the Lakeshore Central School District in Angola, New York, just outside of Buffalo. This is his fifth year at this position. Previously, he taught middle school math for ten years before completing his Masters in Education Technology, which led him to his current post.
  • 2:06 – In terms of a low point in his career, Michael recalls the mistake of putting content over relationships with students. Looking back, one practical area he wishes he had focused on more was student voice — offering more ways for students to express themselves through podcasts, video reflections, and other means of creative expression.
  • 4:47 – Michael enjoys the reach of influence for positive change and innovation that comes with his position. As a classroom teacher, he could influence the learning of his own students. But as a technology integrator who works with 250 teachers, he’s able to advance learning for so many more. The question he likes to ask is “How can we use technology to empower students and get them creating and sharing — not just with classmates but with classrooms around the world?”
  • 8:58 – His professional goal is to find a way to meet with every single teacher in the school district. He wants to make sure every teacher feels included and connected and doesn’t want to let any teacher slip through the cracks. Not only that, he looks at those meetings as valuable learning opportunities for him to better understand teacher needs.
  • 11:07 – Something Michael’s been thinking a lot about is the area of digital wellness, particularly as it relates to his own children. How can we teach our kids not only to manage technology well but to use it for good?
  • 13:20 – For Michael, it just comes down to work ethic — something he picked up from his days in college sports. Teachers, he says, give so much on a daily basis. The least he can do is match their effort and investment.
  • 14:28 – On Twitter, Michael recommends following @Dwight_Carter.
  • 15:19 – An edtech tool that Michael’s seeing a lot of value in is Buncee, a creation and communication tool that empowers student voice and choice. Find out more about Buncee by following them on Twitter @Buncee.
  • 17:22 – Michael’s book recommendation is Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd. Follow the author on Twitter @JCasaTodd.
  • 18:29 – His podcast recommendation is the great Matt Miller’s Ditch That Textbook podcast. Michael enjoys the episodes because they’re short, they usually give him something he can apply immediately, and Matt always leaves him with something to think about. Follow @DitchThatTxtbk on Twitter to find out more about what Matt is all about.
  • 19:54 – On YouTube, Michael finds the most value at TED Talks. Follow @TEDTalks on Twitter at @TEDTalks.
  • 20:48 – When he’s got no energy left in his day for anything productive, Michael’s watching The Walking Dead on Netflix.
  • 21:35 – We sign off on the conversation, and Michael shares the best ways to follow him online. See above for details!

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Spotify

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

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

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!

Episode 53 – Curtis Wiebe

53 - Curtis Wiebe
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CURTIS WIEBE is an elementary school teacher in Surrey, BC, Canada. He’s interested in the ways that technology augments learning, boosts creativity, and creates new opportunities for learners. Follow Curtis on Twitter @DivisionW and see his work at https://mrwiebesclass.weebly.com/.

In our conversation, Curtis identifies the key to bringing about positive changes in schools and structures in education. He describes why he’s passionate about preparing students to find creative solutions that address real-world problems, and he explains what his learners are doing with makerspaces and robotics. He tells us where he gets his best ideas, and offers us top picks on Twitter, in books, and much more.

Follow Curtis online here: 

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:53 – Curtis describes his current context in education at Crescent Park Elementary School in South Surrey, BC, Canada. Aside from his 7th grade teaching duties, Curtis is a part of the school’s tech team and the district Microsoft Inquiry team. He’s also currently pursuing his MEdL degree.
  • 1:47 – Curtis speaks to the challenges related to bringing about change in schools and structures in education. When we present a different way of doing things, it tends to create friction points and difficult conversations. One key to bringing about change in a positive way is to do so diplomatically, with research and evidence that these changes will positively influence learning – what school is really all about.
  • 4:40 – When asked what he’s most passionate about in education today, Curtis points to the ever-changing landscape of challenges that education can address around the globe. He loves preparing learners to find solutions to complex, real-world problems. He’s also enjoying an exploration of robotics (Check out https://www.vexrobotics.com/ and http://www.flowol.com/Flowol4.aspx) with his students, where he says “the excitement has gone through the stratosphere.”
  • 7:01 – Outside of the classroom, he’s energized by reading about technology, current events, and politics. He’s always interested in exploring current situations but is also intrigued by political philosophers from the past. In the same way, he enjoys looking at where technology has come and where it may be going in the future.
  • 9:43 – A personal habit that consistently energizes Curtis and supports his reflective process is engaging in professional conversations with educator – his wife! He also enjoys the analytical aspects of golf: looking back, thinking about how to improve, seeking to repeat good strokes, etc.
  • 11:05 – His recommendations on Twitter are Jeff Unruh (@Unruh_J) and Michelle Horn (@MsHornDiv10).
  • 14:55 – Curtis is all about robotics right now, so his top picks in the area of edtech are VEX IQ Robotics (@VEXRobotics on Twitter) and Microsoft Office 365 and (@MicrosoftEDU on Twitter). In particular, Microsoft Teams is working well as a point of connection and workflow for his learners.
  • 17:10 – In books, Curtis recommends Trevor MacKenzie’s Dive Into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice. Get to know Trevor on Twitter @Trev_MacKenzie. For a magazine pick, Curtis points to The Atlantic and their education section in particular. For a sampling of their top education articles, start following @TheAtlEducation on Twitter.
  • 18:09 – His top choice for education podcasts right now is MindShift: A Podcast About the Future of Learning. Follow MindShift on Twitter @MindShiftKQED.
  • 18:49 – As a self-confessed fan of all things politics, Curtis’s go-to show on Netflix right now is Homeland.
  • 19:12 – We sign off on the interview, and Curtis gives us the best ways to find and follow him online. See above for details!

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Spotify

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

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

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!

Episode 51 – Mandy Froehlich

51 - Mandy Froehlich

MANDY FROEHLICH is the Director of Innovation & Technology for the Ripon Area School District in Ripon, WI. She is a blogger, speaker, and co-host on the @bamradionetwork’s Teacher’s Aid podcast. She is also the author of The Fire Within: Lessons from Defeat That Have Inspired a Passion for Learning and the soon-to-be-released Divergent EDU.

In our conversation, Mandy recalls an experience of discouragement and burnout early in her career, and describes the formula that helped her recover and recapture her passion: avoiding negativity, reading uplifting and accessible education books, engaging on Twitter, and starting a blog. She explains the heart and message of The Fire Within: the journey to view past trauma not as a source of shame or stigma but as a potential source of strength in order to serve students better. She talks about the joys of raising teenagers, the benefits of working outdoors, and her top picks on Twitter, books, edtech tools, and more.

Follow Mandy online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 1:07 – Mandy describes her work as a Director of Innovation & Technology in Ripon, WI. She’s a former elementary teacher, middle school teacher, and technology integrator.
  • 1:58 – Mandy describes one of the lowest experiences of her education career, when at the end of five years, she felt completely disengaged and burned out. Workplace bullying and other issues made her want to leave teaching – something she never thought could happen after entering the profession with so much passion and optimism. Her path to healing and recovery included intentionally avoiding negativity, reading uplifting and accessible education books, engaging on Twitter, and starting a blog.
  • 5:46 – Mandy talks about the heart and main message of The Fire Within: Lessons from Defeat That Have Inspired a Passion for Learning. Her vision for the book started with a conversation she had with Tara Martin (author of Be Real) after ISTE in 2017. It was such a relief to chat with Tara and compare notes on personal histories, childhood experiences, and journeys with trauma. Mandy had always struggled to be fully transparent about her past for fear of what parents, colleagues, and others in the educational community might view her. The Fire Within speaks to the realities of trauma, adversity, and the ways that people overcome negative experiences not by relying on shallow cliches but by fully embracing who they really are. It’s when we can be truly authentic and learn from our experiences that we build the emotional tools to serve students who are experiencing similar challenges.
  • 13:00 – Mandy also talks about her upcoming book, Divergent EDU, which talks about educators who are willing to challenge their own assumptions, be highly reflective, and think differently than the masses. She bases the book in part on a hierarchy of needs and divergent thinking. The book will look at the supports needed to support educators who seek to think and teach in divergent ways.
  • 17:41 – She discusses a source of passion and personal learning outside of education: parenting teenagers! For her, the experience has been far better and richer than advertised. One of many lessons she’s learned along the way is the power of the apology. It’s an essential skill in parenting and in leadership. We need to take ownership of our mistakes and let our children see us doing it.
  • 20:51 – One tried-and-true habit that helps Mandy personally is the practice of studying, writing, and working outdoors whenever possible. There’s something about the sunshine and fresh air that does wonders for the spirit.
  • 22:25 – On Twitter, Mandy recommends following @EvanAbramson and @JCasaTodd. Both are great sources of innovation and divergent thinking in education.
  • 24:27 – A productivity tool that Mandy leans on heavily is Trello. Find out more about what they offer by following them on Twitter @Trello.
  • 25:21 – One book that Mandy recommends is Professionally Driven: Empower Every Educator To Redefine PD by Jarod Bormann. Follow Jarod on Twitter @JBormann3 and check out his interview on the Teachers on Fire podcast at episode 41.
  • 26:03 – Mandy’s podcast recommendation is rightfully her own, the Teachers Aid Podcast, which she co-hosts with @JonHarper70bd.
  • 27:07 – Not one to watch a lot of TV, her go-to show on Netflix right now is Suits. Since she once considered a career in law, Mandy finds this one especially interesting.
  • 27:48 – We sign off on our conversation, and Mandy gives us the best ways to follow her content online. See above for details!

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Spotify

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

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

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!

Episode 50 – Bethany Petty

50 - Bethany Petty

BETHANY PETTY is a teacher, coffee fanatic, and 2017 EdTech Digest School Leader Finalist. She writes about thoughtful uses of technology in education at http://usingeducationaltechnology.com/ and is also the author of Illuminate: Technology Enhanced Learning.

In our conversation, Bethany recalls the challenges around teaching students not much younger than her. She discusses the main message of her book, Illuminate, and the ways that her passion for history plays out in and out of the classroom. She also talks about coffee, the importance of exercise, and some of her top picks on Twitter, edtech tools, and more.

Follow Bethany online here:

Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:

  • 0:54 – Bethany describes her current context in education. It’s her 11th year teaching high school Social Studies in southeast Missouri. It’s her school’s 5th year in a 1:1 Chromebook environment, and she’s excited by the innovation she’s seen over these years. She’s also an adjunct instructional technology instructor at a local junior college.
  • 1:36 – She recalls the challenges of being an anxious rookie teacher not much older than her students. Initially, she made it her mission to control her class. Over time, she realized that authenticity, transparency, and humor can all go a long way toward building learning relationships in the classroom and creating an optimal learning environment in the process.
  • 3:44 – We talk about the heart and main message of Illuminate: helping educators at all technology levels use technology intentionally and purposefully in ways that support the learning of their students. It’s not about the technology – it’s about the learning. Why are you using it? What do you hope learners to gain from it?
  • 7:36 – Even out of the classroom, Bethany’s passion is Social Studies. A self-professed history geek, she enjoys watching history documentaries and learning opportunities wherever they present themselves.
  • 9:04 – One personal habit that Bethany relies on is exercise. It’s always been a part of her life, and when she’s in her exercise routine she feels like she has a good handle on things, she’s more alert, and more present. She also admits to a strong coffee addiction, often consuming eight or nine cups in a day!
  • 10:30 – On Twitter, Bethany recommends following legends @AliceKeeler and @HollyClarkEdu. Both of these educators tell it like it is and will keep you thinking with practical advice and provocative insights.
  • 11:07 – An edtech tool that Bethany calls indispensable for her Social Studies classroom is EdPuzzle. Follow EdPuzzle on Twitter @EdPuzzle.
  • 11:52 – A fictional book series that has really drawn Bethany’s attention lately is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Follow Diana on Twitter @Writer_DG. For a solid educational read, check out Ditch That Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom by Matt Miller. Follow Matt on Twitter @JMattMiller.
  • 12:56 – Looking for an interesting podcast to add to your commute? Check out Ladies, First with Natalie Gonnella-Platts. Follow Natalie on Twitter @YankeeBean to learn more.
  • 13:38 – On YouTube, Bethany recommends the very fun Epic Rap Battles of History. Even if you’re not teaching Social Studies, it’s a blast at any age level.
  • 14:25 – When she’s got no energy left for anything productive, Bethany is watching the Once Upon a Time series
  • 14:54 – We sign off on this conversation, and Bethany gives us the best ways to follow her online and get to know more of her great content! See above for contact links.

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device: iTunes | Google Podcasts | YouTube | Spotify

Follow the podcast on Twitter @TeachersOnFire and on Instagram @TeachersOnFire.

Song Track Credits

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

Listen to this episode on YouTube and subscribe for more episodes!