Episode 81 – Kelly Croy

81 - Kelly Croy

Meet Kelly Croy

KELLY CROY is a committed husband, father of four girls, educator, speaker, Apple Distinguished Educator author of Along Came a Leader and the producer of The Wired Educator podcast.

Follow Kelly on Twitter @KellyCroy and @WiredEducator, and visit his blog at https://wirededucator.com/.

On Adversity and Empathy

Kelly feels a tremendous amount of empathy for those around him, and so his lowest moments tend to be the lowest moments of others. When he sees struggles and frustrations in motion, his instinct is to get involved and try to provide solutions.

He recalls a time when he was able to use technology to help a sick student stay connected with her classmates as she fought a serious illness. Although the health situation was difficult, he recognizes the way in which technology helped facilitate human relationship and connection for someone in need. He tries to approach other experiences of adversity with that same positive approach, looking for learning, growth, or other opportunities for new relationships that can come as a result.

Advice to Educators Around Social Media

Kelly’s message for educators when it comes to social media is to enjoy it (“Instagram can be a beautiful place”), leverage it for learning, but avoid falling into the comparison game.

Today’s new educators come to the profession very comfortable and familiar with social media, and it doesn’t make sense to ask them to leave it. Instead, he helps them think about (in some cases) rebranding themselves as professionals and utilizing social media in their classrooms in order to advance learning.

Authenticity on social media is critical: our job isn’t to emulate others so much as it is to share who we are and what we’re all about.

The Mission of the Wired Educator Podcast

The Wired Educator podcast is a passion project for Kelly. He considers it an art form and counts it a privilege to share, promote, and celebrate the great things that educators are doing for learners all over the world. He tries to elicit the essence and fire that makes each guest unique, and he pursues the ideas that produce the best outcomes for students.

One of Kelly’s dearest accomplishments from the Wired Educator podcast was preserving the legacy of inspirational ideas shared by one guest who died unexpectedly in the year following his appearance on the show. He also recognizes the intimate connection that podcast hosts can build with their audience members over time. It’s a powerful medium.

Along Came a Leader

It was a lifelong dream for Kelly to write and publish his own book, and Along Came a Leader represents the fulfillment of that dream. The book came out of the realization that some of the education principles and values that Kelly considered common sense weren’t as widely held or understood as he thought they were.

The book is focused on six tenets of leadership, which apply both in and out of education:

  1. attitude,
  2. wisdom,
  3. tenacity,
  4. communication,
  5. vision, and
  6. authenticity.

Done right, these six traits create great leaders and great educators. “No one is born a leader,” Kelly points out. “You can become a leader – through practice, hard work, trial and error.”

Content Creation for Educators

Kelly notes that in education, 1) we get to do work we love, and 2) we’re put in a position where our creation, improvisation, design, and communication skills are continuously tested and developed. As educators and practitioners, Kelly sees it as essential that we practice what we preach: we need to remain innovators and model our creative process in front of our learners.

As an overall philosophy of education, Kelly also observes that our highest levels of learning, rigor, relevance, depth of knowledge, and synthesis of learning are all demonstrated through creative activities. Yes, consumption of materials and information is an essential part of the learning process. But it’s in the project-based learning and creative projects that students truly demonstrate the application and transfer of knowledge and skills in meaningful ways.

As an Apple Distinguished Educator, Kelly also points out that Apple is supporting a tremendous campaign and curriculum called Everyone Can Create, which puts powerful resources in the hands of educators and students that empower the creative process.

The 1:1 Debate: Chromebooks vs. iPads

Kelly discussed an article from the Wired Educator called The Greatest Chromebook is an iPad, where he sought to help people understand that iPads contain a lot of the same features that Chromebooks do. When one considers cost, capability, convenience, and creative applications, Kelly believes the iPad may offer better value than the typical Chromebook.

That said, he’s also quick to point out that the key outcome is the learning that happens in the course of the creating – and that trumps brand or device. When collaborating and creating activities aren’t taking place in classrooms equipped with these devices, learners lose.

Things That Excite Kelly About the State of Education Today

Kelly is thrilled to see the attention and energy that districts today are focusing on building culture. Culture is the starting point for everything we do in schools, and Kelly talks about how legendary coach John Wooden would always start his training right at the basics. In the same way, Kelly is seeing districts teach their educators how to communicate with parents, how to think more strategically about homework, and how to build relationships with students more effectively. “Your best day in education is going to come from a culture moment,” Kelly says.

Another thing that is getting Kelly excited about education is the convergence of subjects and disciplines. In our classes of today, we’re seeing the arts and skilled trades integrate more than ever with the subjects that have formed the traditional core of education: English, Math, and Science. He envisions large-scale projects that combine awesomeness from every subject to produce some truly impressive and meaningful results.

Ongoing Professional Growth

Kelly points to his daily interactions on social media as a constant source of learning. Can any other industries match the intrinsic motivation of educators to engage on Twitter, read blogs, and listen to podcasts with the aims of learning and growth?

Kelly is finding that in his new role as Director of Innovation and Instruction, he’s becoming a more mindful leader. One recent observation has been the frequency that we all hear “I’m so busy … overwhelmed … tired.” We all need to give ourselves more time to reflect, practice self-affirmation, and celebrate victories.

Personal Passions and Productivity Hacks

For the past couple of years, Kelly’s been trying to learn the guitar. He’s also using Duolingo to learn Spanish and Swift Playgrounds to acquire coding languages. In the future, Kelly would love to build an online course that helps people further.

One of the most important habits in Kelly’s life is the process of journaling. He began doing it about twenty years ago, and he credits it for many of his accomplishments (including the creation of The Wired Educator podcast). Journaling also helps him track the things he is grateful for, his goals, and failures.

“Journaling is the key to all my sucess,” Kelly says. “What gets written down gets done.” He favors the Day One app because it’s accessible on any device or platform, but he also uses Things, Evernote, and Drafts.

As a podcaster, Kelly also began the habit of recording self-affirmations for five minutes of his commute each morning. Doing so helps bring him into a positive mindset and prepares him mentally and emotionally for the challenges of the day.

Voices & Influences that Inspire Kelly’s Thinking and Practice

On Twitter, Kelly recommends following @BurgessDave and @Casas_Jimmy, authors of Teach Like a Pirate and Culturize.

As the Wired Educator, you know Kelly has a few favorite edtech tools to share. Topping his list right now are Keynote, Pages, Book Creator, and FlipGrid.

Kelly’s two book picks are The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly and The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. Both are helpful in terms of clarifying mindset around life, purpose, and a positive outlook on one’s self.

Not only does Kelly produce two podcasts, but he’s an avid listener as well. His recommendations include The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes, Side Hustle School, Akimbo: A Podcast from Seth Godin, The Smart Passive Income Online Business and Blogging Podcast, his own Future Focused Podcast, and of course the extremely popular Joe Rogan Experience.

Kelly doesn’t have a channel to suggest subscribing to on YouTube, but he’s interested to see the ways in which younger learners are using the platform as a creation, communication, and learning tool.

Over on Netflix, Kelly’s picks are the new Highwaymen, a retelling of the story of Bonnie and Clyde, Arrested Development, and on Hulu, Free Solo.

We sign off on this insightful conversation, and Kelly tells us the best ways and places to connect with him and receive more of his great content.

Connect with Kelly:

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device.

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Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 72 – Tisha Richmond

72 - Tisha Richmond.png

Meet Our Guest

TISHA RICHMOND is a Technology Integration Specialist serving 19 schools in Medford, Oregon. She’s also a speaker and author of Make Learning Magical: Transform Your Teaching and Create Unforgettable Experiences in Your Classroom.

From Misery to Magic

In 2014, Tisha was at a real low point as an educator. She was frustrated, tired, and dreamed of becoming a barista. A sign in her classroom spoke as a silent reminder: “Above all, have a good time.” But the good times seemed elusive, and she found herself struggling to find joy in her work.

When the culinary teachers in her district first adopted iPads, she was skeptical at first, but after attending iPadpalooza and seeing what educators were doing with technology, her imagination was captured. She went all in on iPad integration in her classroom, utilizing Google Classroom, iMovie, app smashing, green screens, and other strategies to allow students to demonstrate understanding and elevate their learning.

Her passion for the profession was completely rekindled. The magic was back.

The Heart of Make Learning Magical

Make Learning Magical starts from the incredible transformation Tisha experienced in her own practice. She wants educators everywhere to know that no matter how long you’ve been in the classroom, magical learning experiences are still possible.

In her book, Tisha makes MAGICAL an acronym for the factors that bring the magic to your practice:

  • M – Meaningful Beginnings
  • A – Authenticity and Agency
  • G – Gamified Experiences
  • I – Innovation
  • C – Creativity and Collaboration
  • A – Authentic Audience
  • L – Legacy.

To the last point on legacy, Tisha recounts some memories from a teacher that was instrumental in her own life and urges educators to create experiences that will cause students to want to continue learning long after they leave our classrooms.

Breakout EDU

Breakout EDU, one of Tisha’s latest passions, involves games of logic and problem-solving that groups of students (or educators) can play together. Think of an escape room – but instead of trying to get out of a place, participants try to unlock special containers using provided clues. Tisha has been thoroughly impressed by the level of immersion she’s seen from students: they’re all in, enthusiastic, excited, collaborating, and relishing the productive struggle.

Education Today & Professional Goals

Tisha is thrilled by the opportunities that our learners have for authentic global collaboration today. She shares a recent joint effort between culinary and design classes who were able to team up on a project from different parts of the country.

Tisha is keen on learning more about augmented and virtual reality, but when it comes to technology in education she is just hungry to learn wherever she can. She wants to serve the educators in her district well, and that means creating professional development opportunities that are personalized and meet the needs of every educator. She will continue to speak and write – two of her passions – and she’s recently been accepted into a class that will equip her to build her own BreakoutEDU games.

Other Passions and Productivity Habits

Outside of education, one of Tisha’s chief passions is design – especially interior design. Along the same theme, she really enjoys the creative process, including calligraphy, sketchnoting, hand lettering, and graphic design. Many years ago, she wouldn’t have considered herself a “creative,” but she’s really enjoyed getting in touch with this side of herself in recent years.

Exercise and running are key in terms of clearing her head and improving her focus. These activities give her those opportunities to process, and they seem to lead to some of her best creative breakthroughs. Writing has also become a foundational habit in terms of reflecting and processing her thoughts.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Tisha’s Professional Practice

Looking to strengthen your PLN on Twitter? Tisha recommends following @TamaraLetter and @SixthIsGoal.

The edtech tools Tisha sees being put to best use in the classroom these days include Canva, Pear Deck , and FlipGrid.

Two books deserve the most credit for reviving Tisha’s practice and revolutionizing her perspectives on education. They are Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera. Follow these two awesome authors on Twitter at @BurgessDave and @MrMatera.

In  educational podcasts, Tisha’s tuned in to The Google Teacher Tribe Podcast with Kasey Bell and Matt Miller, Cult of Pedagogy with Jennifer Gonzales, and Well Played with Michael Matera.

Over on YouTube, Tisha points to sketchnoter Carrie Baughcum. Follow Carrie on Twitter @HeckAwesome to see more of what she’s all about.

Though she claims not to be able to sing herself, Tisha is digging a show called The Masked Singer in her free time.

See More From Tisha

We sign off on this magical conversation, and Tisha reminds us of the best ways to connect with her and learn together online. Get connected!

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device.

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Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 66 – Dr. Sarah Thomas

66 - Dr. Sarah Thomas

Guest Profile

DR. SARAH THOMAS is a regional technology coordinator in Maryland and serves as affiliate faculty at Loyola University. In 2014, Sarah founded the EduMatch Project, and she has spoken and presented at numerous conferences since. Find out more about Sarah on her blog and follow her on Twitter at @sarahdateechur.

The Challenge of Finding the Right Fit

Sarah’s first three years in education were the hardest of her career. She came through alternative certification after completing a bachelor’s degree in radio, television, and film. As she began her undergraduate work, Sarah’s mother became a middle school teacher, and Sarah was impressed.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in media, she enrolled in a Master’s of Education program. Early into her Master’s studies, she responded to an ad calling for teachers in her district. Once she finished her training program, she found it a challenge to find the right placement in the district. It was discouraging at first to try to figure things out and adapt to different school cultures, but the support of her family and the meaningful relationships she was building with students propelled her through.

The Vision and Mission of EduMatch

EduMatch started from a conversation Sarah had on Twitter, when she connected two educators with unique passions and interests that matched the other’s. That’s what it’s about: learning and growing together, helping others on their education journeys, and leveraging the power of stories. Through its publishing work, EduMatch amplifies the voices of students and educators who have a story to share. A series of crowd-sourced books have led to solo projects, with five solo titles published in 2018 and more on the horizon. If you’re an educator interested in contributing to the 2019 edition of EduMatch’s annual Snapshot in Education, complete this form.

Passions, Goals, and Creativity

Social media has opened incredible opportunities for educators around the world. The democratization effect created by the internet now allows every educator to find their own voice and share their own learning journey. The old paradigm of established voices and gatekeepers has shifted, and as the sharing increases, the professional learning accelerates. This democratization also opens up new possibilities for learning with and from students, which is equally exciting.

In terms of professional growth, Sarah is hoping to get back to producing more content this year. She argues that when we share what we’re doing, what we’re doing well, and what we are trying to improve, the act of publishing helps to give us the valuable feedback that we need to direct our next steps. Over the past year, Sarah was able to collaborate on Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for Teacher Prep Programs, and now that she’s got the writing bug she feels ready for more!

Outside of her work in education technology, teaching, and publishing, Sarah is most passionate about music. She’s enjoyed listening, playing, and learning musical instruments for as long as she can remember, and she’s excited by the prospects of bringing more music back into her life in 2019.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Sarah’s Professional Practice

If you’re looking for passionate educators to add to your PLN, Sarah invites you to check out the Awesome Table of EduMatch. Find educators around the world who are working in the same spaces you are.

Sarah’s edtech tool recommendation for educators is Voxer. Get in and get connected! Follow Voxer on Twitter @Voxer.

The book that is most meaningful to Sarah at the moment is one written by her father! She’s working through it on her Kindle at the moment and it’s giving her a fascinating understanding of her family’s history.

One education podcast that Sarah has been tuned into for some time is the The Dr. Will Show. The show is hosted and produced by Will Deyamport, with a focus on edupreneurship: serving other educators well while producing an income as well. Follow the host of the show on Twitter @IAmDrWill.

Sarah has two YouTube recommendations to share. The first is The Mr. Wasko, an educator who creates fun similes and metaphors from movies and pop culture. The second pick is purely for fun: Zach Morris is Trash – a serial that appears on the Funny or Die channel. Follow these channels on Twitter @FunnyorDie and @TheMrWasko.

Finishing her doctorate has allowed Sarah to enjoy a season of reduced demands, leisure, and rest. On Netflix, she’s been enjoying Wentworth.

We sign off on this conversation and Sarah shares the best ways to follow her and EduMatch online. See below for details!

Follow Sarah …

Subscribe to the Teachers on Fire podcast on your mobile device.

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Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 59 – Dr. Sam Fecich

59 - Dr. Sam Fecich.png

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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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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 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!