Episode 106 – Andrew Arevalo

106 - Andrew Arevalo.png

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.

Amina's Voice by Hena KhanIf 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 …

Connect with the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media:

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 103 – Lisa Johnson

103 - Lisa Johnson

Meet Lisa Johnson

LISA JOHNSON is an educator by day, blogger by night, and the author of Creatively Productive: Essential Skills for Tackling Time Wasters, Clearing the Clutter, and Succeeding in School—and Life.

She loves everything in Austin, Texas – except the heat! You’ll find her at Westlake High School, which serves almost 3,000 students with 220 teachers on staff. Her role has evolved from an educational technologist to a merged position that now includes curriculum specialist. Today, she works with a partner to support English and science instruction, and she also offers a range of services and seminars to students and parents related to all things digital.

When Content Creation is Seen as a Threat

Earlier in her career, Lisa was working for a different district and wanted to have a way to share and archive her thoughts, ideas, and lessons that she was developing for other educators. She was also concerned that if she ever left the district, everything she was creating and sharing would not only be gone for her but for everyone else that had enjoyed her resources outside of the school.

She eventually started her own blog, TechChef4U, and launched a podcast to support commuting teachers. In addition, she began to seriously build her professional learning network by connecting with like-minded educators on Twitter and on other platforms.

Eventually, Lisa was called in to visit the district office and was questioned about her blog and her loyalty to the district. She remembers being taken aback by the questions because all she wanted to do was support innovation and push boundaries in education.

Unfortunately, her blog activities didn’t sit well with this district, and she started looking for another job that summer. It wasn’t her intention to leave the district and uproot her family, but at some point, she says, you have to find your tribe – educators who share your goals, values, and vision for learning.

When she found her current district, she found people like her – people that wanted to innovate, push boundaries, ask questions and thrive. She’s thankful for an amazing team at her high school and an awesome principal that really values the work she does and lets teachers have the autonomy they need to lead and help others grow.

The Heart and Mission of Creatively Productive

Creatively Productive by Lisa Johnson

Lisa’s heart and mission has always been to create thoughtful and practical content for teachers that they can use immediately with their students. She loves working with secondary students and staff, and believes it is really important to focus on college and career readiness skills. Lisa has also been a keen observer of secondary school life has noticed some trends and needs over the past 7-8 years. Many of these trends and needs are addressed in this book.

Lisa is often asked to create, share, and teach content that relates to self-management and executive functioning skills, including note-taking, digital organization, goal-setting, habit tracking, and time management – twenty-first century skills that students need to thrive in high school and throughout their lives. She has also been working with librarians and the campuses across her school to do lunch-and-learns for students in order to support them regarding these topics and tools.

Instead of hoarding resources, Lisa has always wanted to curate and share with the greater edusphere. Rather than dump a bunch of one-size-fits-all formulas, her goal for Creatively Productive was to put together a selection of recipes that might inspire learners and educators from all contexts to adopt and adjust for their own purposes. This book represents more than just “Lisa’s thoughts on productivity” – it’s a practical playbook of suggested solutions and resources that come from the practical challenges and experiences that she has encountered in contexts of learning.

What Else Sets Lisa on 🔥 in Education

When her head isn’t in spaces of creativity, productivity, and time management, Lisa is thinking about digital literacy. Lately, she’s been reminded of the importance of thoughtful sharing and posting.

As educators, we’ve been saying it for what seems like forever, but our students need frequent reminders that the internet never forgets. We do our learners a huge service when we impress on them the need for awareness and sensitivity to the perceptions of others. The goal here is not to hide core identities and values as much as it is to consider the long-term implications of our content. How could this post affect my options in the future?

A Personal Passion with Application in Education

Lisa loves her reader’s notebook and credits it with helping her grow as a professional. She finds it cathartic to reflect on what she’s been reading and feels like she retains more ideas and information by adding to it frequently. Most importantly, her reader’s notebook also enables her to apply resonating content directly into her practice. She used to just shelve books without sharing what she was reading, but the reader’s notebook has forced her to slow down, process, apply, and share with others.

Her reader’s notebook routine includes trying to reproduce a version of the cover of the book she’s reading, collecting ephemera related to the book, writing a lexicon library of words and phrases, highlighting great quotes, and collecting points to consider or investigate further.

Lisa’s Favorite Productivity Tool: Passion Planners

Passion Planner“If I didn’t have my passion planner, I might as well not get out of bed,” Lisa laughs. Her Passion Planner is home to all her lists, priorities, ideas, and creative thinking throughout the day. She recently shared a video walkthrough of her Passion Planner that highlighted the tools she uses, including macro and micro lists (check it out on Instagram). She also loves her Polaroid Zip printer which prints photos on sticky backs, allowing her to savor the highlights from each week in scrapbook fashion.

Voices & Resources That Influence Lisa’s Thinking

Over on Twitter, Lisa recommends following Julie Smith @JGTechieTeacher, a reliable source of great edtech ideas and solutions for the classroom.

One handy edtech tool that supports student voice in the classroom is an iOS app called Equity Maps. The app helps teachers track who speaks in a discussion, for how long, who doesn’t speak, who interrupts, and so on. Follow the app’s maker, Dave Nelson, on Twitter @EquityMaps.

Lisa is all about mixing in some juicy fiction with her education and technology reading, and she’s got a couple of strong recommendations to share here. The first is Verity, written by Colleen Hoover, and the second is After: The After Series, Book 1 by Anna Todd. Both writers have shot into stardom fairly quickly, and Lisa was privileged to meet both of them in person at a recent Book Bonanza event in Dallas.

As for podcasts, Lisa shares two picks: Change the Narrative by Michael Hernandez, and The Shake Up Learning Show with the legendary Kasey Bell

Sticking with the Passion Planner theme, when Lisa is on YouTube she is checking in with the Passion Planner channel

And finally, just for fun: when Lisa finds time for Netflix, she’s tuning into shows about women who do things differently! Her first shoutout goes to GLOW and the second to Working Moms.

We sign off on this fun conversation, and Lisa gives us the best ways to reach out to her. See below for details!

You can connect with Lisa …

Connect with the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media:

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 93 – Jorge Valenzuela

93 - Jorge Valenzuela

Meet Jorge Valenzuela

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PBL Advice

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

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

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

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

What’s Setting Jorge on 🔥 in Education Today

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

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

The Place of Computer Science in Education

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

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

A Professional Goal

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

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

Productivity Habits

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

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

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

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

Voices That Shape Jorge’s Thinking & Inspire His Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Jorge:

Song Track Credits

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

7 Ways to Use YouTube Better

Leverage these simple strategies to optimize this platform in your professional practice.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Even as the quality of content and variety of resources on YouTube continues to grow, many educators continue to under-utilize this platform. Here are seven strategies that just may rock your YouTube experience and help you receive more value there than ever before.

1. Sign in.

Signing into your Google account allows you to subscribe to channels, comment, share videos with friends within the platform, upload, track your viewing history (this can be super helpful), get better video recommendations, and basically do anything else that matters on the platform. Not signing in removes all of those options, and you’ll be stuck with trending video nonsense in your feed. Not helpful.

2. Subscribe.

Whenever I find a valuable video, I subscribe to the channel. It’s just a quick click, and it’s an easy way to follow the creator. As I continue to subscribe to channels over time, my feed gets smarter and the videos recommended to me are better tailored to my needs and interests. If you’re looking for some great education channels to subscribe to, check out this list, compiled by guests of the Teachers on Fire podcast.

3. Add to playlists.

No matter what your professional practice looks like, this is a valuable habit to get into. Whenever you find a video that’s helpful, add it to a playlist. Whether you choose to make each playlist public or private, creating a playlist is a great way to save and curate helpful content. Playlists also become a great way to share a series of videos with students or colleagues. If it’s the kind of video you might want to use again, add it to a playlist.

4. Add to the Watch Later list.

Watch Later is a built-in playlist that everyone has in their account. Any time you notice a video suggested in your main feed or sidebar and you think “I’d like to watch that at some point — but I have no time right now,” don’t let it get away. Select ‘Watch Later’ by clicking the clock icon that pops up in the top right corner of the video. There’s also a +Save button right below every playing video that allows you to save to the same list.

5. Like, comment, and engage with creators.

There are so many brave creators and educators out there who are working so hard to share their ideas and make inspiring content. Likes and comments are their oxygen, so if you have ten seconds to encourage a creator whose work you really enjoyed, do it. It’s also a great way to build new relationships with industry leaders and expand your PLN.

6. Use picture-in-picture.

Right-clicking any YouTube video opens up some snazzy options, including the ability to screencast to a projector or TV, loop, and shift to picture-in-picture. This lets you work away in Gmail, Docs, Classroom and the like while still keeping an eye on your content via a small window in the corner of your screen.

7. Sign in on your TV’s YouTube app.

This will give you access to all the same history, subscriptions, and playlists that you’ve carefully curated over time on your laptop, tablet, and phone. This is one more reason why my family recently ditched our cable subscription. YouTube (and Netflix, of course) have become our go-to sources for learning and entertainment. If the feed on your YouTube app is filled with trending nonsense, it isn’t YouTube’s fault. Once you sign in with your Google account, your curated subscriptions and playlists will show up right away.

It’s Time to Rock Your YouTube

YouTube is an awesome platform, and there’s no limit to the varieties and quality of content being added to the platform daily. Do yourself the favor of taking full advantage.
By leveraging these seven strategies, you’ll get more value from YouTube than you ever thought possible.

Episode 90 – Scott Nunes

90 - Scott Nunes

Meet Scott Nunes

SCOTT NUNES (rhymes with dunes) is a dad, teacher, coach, Schoology ambassador, and CCCUE board member. He’s Nearpod certified, MIE certified, a rapper, and co-host of the TNT EdTech podcast. In his day job, Scott teaches 9th and 10th grade ELA at James C. Enochs High School in Modesto, CA, where he’s also a site leader for digital curriculum and coaches swimming.

In Education by Design

Scott’s story of adversity actually began before his teaching career. He had started freelancing in graphic design – a personal passion – but the combination of cheaper foreign designers and a stiff downturn in the economy forced him to reconsider his direction.

After wavering between nursing and education, he eventually recognized that teaching was the path for him, and he’s so thankful he made that decision. Even in his current capacity today, Scott is able to do design work for CUE, his podcast, and other opportunities that come along.

On Dancing and Celebration

Scott’s dancing skills took center stage on edu-Twitter after he shared a clip of his fancy footwork from the Schoology conference in 2018. It was there, he says, that he first got into Twitter and began his relationship with Schoology as an ambassador for their platform.

“I like to have fun in the classroom,” Scott says. “It’s a way to engage students.” He enjoys the feel of the room when students engage in freestyle rap competitions or try to trip him up on a rhyme. It keeps the classroom fun, fresh, and lively. 

The TNT EdTech Podcast

Scott co-hosts the TNT EdTech Podcast with Matthew Ketchum, and he says the podcast really traces its roots back to the Fall CUE Conference in northern California. He and Matthew were attending a session on podcasting hosted by Tom and Mike from TOSAs Talking Tech (@TosasTalkinTech on Twitter), who convinced Scott and Matthew that the podcasting gig was easy and inexpensive to get into. Scott and Matthew already had access to Camtasia, Adobe Audition, Google Hangouts, and other apps and equipment they needed to launch their own show, so they went for it!

Today, their podcast talks about edtech, offers tools and tips, and features educators in the field who are doing cool things with technology in their classrooms. Scott brings the classroom experience, and Matthew is the tech coach for their 30,000-student district. Scott agrees that the podcasting business is a tremendous privilege, and he learns a lot from every guest they speak to.

What’s Setting Scott on 🔥 in Education Today

Scott’s biggest interest in education at the moment is the magic of connecting with other educators. He’s also passionate about the opportunities for student podcasting that lie ahead. Although they may not have permission to publish out to the web, just the chance to publish audio content and share out learning within the district is exciting.

Scott is a fan of the Anchor app for publishing content, and he offers a pro tip about how to line paper boxes with audio-muffling foam to create some really clean sound – even in busy classrooms.

A Professional Goal: More Blogging

Something Scott plans to invest more time in is blogging. As part of CUE’s sponsorship of his podcast, he is required to do some regular writing and publishing. Once the partnership with CUE ends, he’s hoping he’ll have a regular blogging habit in place that he can then transfer to a blog of his own.

A Personal Passion Away From Education

Few things bring Scott alive and allow him to decompress quite like building sandcastles at the beach. It’s a passion that he will devote several hours to, and his three kids are big fans of his work (although they specialize more in the deconstruction). 

Scott’s Productivity Hack: Strong Starts

Scott sets aside the first 90 minutes of each day as highly productive time. It’s here that he focuses narrowly on 1-3 major tasks that he’d like to complete very well. With this routine successfully completed, the day is already a win from there!

Voices and Resources That Inspire

Over on Twitter, Scott recommends following @JMattMiller. Despite his high profile and numerous accolades, Matt remains the real deal, Scott says.

An edtech tool that has got Scott excited right now is Gimkit, a smart quiz and formative assessment application that was developed for the classroom by a high school student. Follow @Gimkit on Twitter to learn more!

Scott’s pick in books is Welcome To The Grind: How Educators Achieve Exponential Results, edited by Randall Sampson. Follow Randall on Twitter @RandallSampson

Aside from our two awesome podcasts, Scott recommends subscribing to Between the Johns, a podcast produced by two administrators who bring interesting perspectives to education topics. Follow the pod on Twitter @BetweentheJohns

If you’re a creator, designer, or maker, it might be worth your while to subscribe to the 3D Printing Nerd channel on Youtube. The host never fails to amaze with his creativity and ingenuity. Follow @3DPrintingNerd on Twitter to see what he’s up to.

Scott’s got two well-known picks from the Netflix roster: Spiderman Homecoming and Breaking Bad

We wrap up our conversation, and Scott shares the best ways to connect with him and follow him online. See below for more links.

Connect with Scott:

Song Track Credits

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