Episode 116 – Caitlin Krause

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Meet Caitlin Krause

CAITLIN KRAUSE is a learning and design specialist, education leader, keynote speaker, and an authority on VR, AR, and AI. She is also the author of Mindful by Design: A Practical Guide for Cultivating Aware, Advancing, and Authentic Learning Experiences.

In addition to experience as a computer programmer, Caitlin has taught and developed curriculum at K-12 schools in the United States, Belgium, and Switzerland. Today, she owns and operates her own company which allows her to facilitate meaningful learning experiences for learners around the world.

Caitlin is fascinated by the intersection of arts, collaboration, communication, relationships, and the newest applications of XR technology. Her learning and teaching is predicated on the idea that we learn and grow as whole human beings, and she resists the disciplinary walls and binaries that we often erect between subject areas in education.

Lessons Drawn From a Novel Failure

“Isn’t it great that we are not great at everything?” Caitlin asks rhetorically. “Life is not a simulation. It’s beautiful that we’re not in control.”

Caitlin recalls introducing a novel to a British literature class for juniors. It was a novel that resonated powerfully with her, and she was sure her students would connect with it. But it required a lot of deconstruction, it lacked a compelling love story, and no matter how much she wanted it to work, it became a serious struggle to work through it with this class.

Eventually, she worked through her own resistance to the situation and embraced the failure and necessary surrender that followed. It was a reminder that what is close to our own hearts may not be close to the hearts of our learners. We need to meet them where they are, and sometimes that means letting go of our treasures.

Teacher Wellness

Caitlin has created an online course for educators on the topics of mindfulness, SEL, and teacher wellbeing. Statistics tell us that many teachers struggle with anxiety and burnout, and we see many teachers leaving the profession after only a few years in the classroom.

We need to remember that humans are reactive beings, and the effects of being constantly on and emotionally available for days on end can be damaging in the long-term. Mindfulness is a practice that offers some powerful counter-effects to these emotional demands. Even though mindfulness can actually raise stress in the short-term as practitioners recognize sources of anxiety, over the long term it has been shown to decrease anxiety as we raise awareness and address sources of stress more proactively.

Mindfulness and self-awareness are powerful measures for learners, too, as they adopt simple practices of quiet reflection, intentional breathing, gratitude exercises, and other strategies for self-regulation. As anxiety comes down, opportunities for learning increase.

Mindful By Design

In 2019, Caitlin published Mindful by Design: A Practical Guide for Cultivating Aware, Advancing, and Authentic Learning Experiences (Corwin Press). Caitlin is an authority on AR and VR and anticipates a major shift in the adoption and application of these technologies in learning spaces throughout 2020. She sees them shaking up teaching, learning, storytelling, site exploration, and other immersive learning experiences. Although the applications are powerful and improving all the time, she also points out that the deep learning actually happens before and after students utilize these technologies.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence

We see AI technologies creeping into the learning environments more and more each year, and tools like Google’s Smart Compose, Google Home, or Apple Siri are making content more accessible for all learners. Artificial intelligence often conjures notions of sci fi and Ex Machina, but AI technologies are serving learning well and informing the improvement of a lot of applications. Caitlin shouts out John Carmack’s interview on the Joe Rogan Podcast and celebrates the amazing innovations he has led at Oculus.

Voice commands and operating capacity continue to improve across all devices, and Caitlin is fascinated by the research that MIT and other authorities are pioneering regarding the recognition of human emotion through facial expression and speech. The companies and institutions leading innovation in AI technologies require richer and more diverse data sets, she observes, noting that “You’re only as good as your data set.”

Making sure that a diversity of cultures, genders, and other factors are properly represented and included remains a central challenge, complicated in some contexts by privacy issues. There are obviously some important ethical questions to be asked and answered regarding how these companies and institutions source their data sets.

Relationships with Robots

Caitlin bears no ill will toward robots – in fact, her approach is much the opposite. “I think it’s good to be considerate to our robot friends,” Caitlin chuckles. “I kind of bristle when someone yells at Alexa.” Machine life and artificial intelligence is taking us into some interesting philosophical territory, particularly as we experiment with creative impulses for robots. Yes, a robot can write a piece of poetry or create a song, but does it have a soul? These are some of the essential conversations that must continue going forward.

Saving Room for Anomalies

Additionally, Caitlin notes that AI devices and technologies must always leave room for the element of surprise and irregularity. In other words, if AI algorithms learn our profiles so effectively that they can supply us with a steady stream of content tailored exclusively for expressed interests, passions, and familiar comforts, we actually reduce or eliminate our exposure to unusual content that has the power to provoke curiosity and inspire further learning. We already see that segregation at work in social media networks and news aggregators, and to lose further ground would be a significant loss to humanity.

“They say the brain learns the best when it has the element of surprise, when expected patterns are broken,”  Caitlin says. How much can we be surprised? This is a great question to ask ourselves as educators and lifelong learners.

What Else is Setting Caitlin on Fire in Education

The metaphor of being on fire is an apt one for Caitlin, and she takes a hopeful view of how voice and creativity and storytelling will continue to strengthen and add momentum to learning. Our fire is essentially the stuff that we find meaningful, she says, and it’s up to us to spread those ideas to others.

We’re all telling stories as educators, and it’s our place to invite listeners to enter into these stories and write their own heroic odysseys as they enter into unknown spaces and then tell their own tales. “It makes me really excited to be in worlds where not only can we lift each other up but we get to stay curious, stay connected, and create love over fear,” she says.

Professional Goals for 2020

Last year was the year of her book, Mindful by Design, and 2020 will be her year to spread her message, ideas, and mentorship. The book is applicable at so many levels, including education systems, leadership, teacher wellbeing, and classroom practices, and she wants to continue to develop online supports for those who wish to integrate these values and strategies into their own unique contexts.

She also wants to continue to build SEL training through immersive VR experiences and AR applications. It’s a fascinating area that requires further development but offers tremendous promise for the future. Will we see a day when groups of educators can connect in virtual environments to practice breathing and mindfulness exercises together? Perhaps that day has already arrived.

Other Personal Passions

“I’m a very human, curious learner,” Caitlin says, “and anything involving photography really excites me.” She’s enjoyed cameras since childhood, and treasures the activity of photography as a mindfulness tool. She also comes alive during opportunities to run outside, especially trails that wind their way through picturesque settings through the woods or along the ocean. Last but not least, Caitlin loves consuming and learning about chocolate from European countries and around the world – so much that she’s even tempted to write about it some day in the future.

Productivity Hacks and Philosophy

One of Caitlin’s favorite productivity hacks is to break simple numerical goals into smaller pieces. For example, instead of aiming for 20 full push-ups, she sets a goal of 40 half push-ups, which gives her a greater sense of momentum and optimism about achieving the target.

She also avoids goals or resolutions of deprivation, choosing instead to always frame her actions in a positive light. “Being productive means realizing that we are not our worst enemy, so be kind and gentle to yourself,” she encourages.

Finding ways to gamify our goals – even simple routines or chores like cleaning – can add joy and pleasure to ordinary exercises of productivity. She shouts out Lisa Johnson’s book, Creatively Productive, as a convincing argument that productivity doesn’t have to look like grueling deprivation or robotic behaviors.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Her Practice

Over on Twitter, Caitlin recommends following Kent Bye @KentBye: historian, philosopher, and host of the Voices of VR podcast. She also shouts out the New Hampshire’s Poet Laureate, Alexandria Peary @WriteMindfully, someone who’s done some interesting work around the effective use of mindfulness to break through writer’s block.

One edtech company that Caitlin has her eye on is Engage, which is doing some innovative work to support learning experiences in VR environments. Another company called 3D Bear is pioneering some exciting AR technologies as well. Consider following both industry leaders on Twitter @3DBearOfficial and @VReducation.

Two books that have impacted Caitlin’s thinking recently are There There by Tommy Orange and Get Weird: Discover the Surprising Secret to Making a Difference by CJ Casciotta.

Caitlin does enjoy podcasts, and she’s especially a fan of the big ones: RadiolabThis American Life, and The Moth. Any content that includes a mix of storytelling and technology will tend to hold her attention.

On YouTube, Caitlin makes a shameless plug for her own channel where she plans to post more creative work in 2020.

When she’s feeling relaxed and ready for some pleasure viewing, Caitlin is streaming Mr. RobotThe Good Place, and The Watchmen on Netflix and Amazon.

Before we sign off on this conversation, Caitlin shares some beautiful poetry pieces. Make sure you’re in a relaxed setting and enjoy.

To connect with Caitlin and learn more about what she’s all about, make sure to check the links below.

Connect with Caitlin:

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Episode 114 – Julianne Ross-Kleinmann

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Meet Julianne Ross-Kleinmann

JULIANNE ROSS-KLEINMANN is passionate about the power of instructional technology to support teaching and learning, sharing what she’s learned with others, and community service — her focus for over 30 years as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc.

Julianne formally started teaching technology in the 1990s, and she became an ISTE member soon after. She’s a frequent presenter at conferences and schools on topics including technology applications, integration and troubleshooting, rubrics and assessment, STEM, makerspaces and room design. Her favorite presentations have involved co-presenting with her students on topics relating to computational thinking using the Scratch and Scratch Jr. programming languages.

Julianne is currently an Instructional Specialist for the Ulster County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in New Paltz, New York. She is an Iste Certified Educator, Apple Teacher, Certified BrainPOP Educator (CBE), Google Level I Certified Educator, ISTE Mobile Learning Network 2017 Excellence Award Winner and past chair of the ISTE STEM Professional Learning Network (PLN), and currently serves on the ISTE Board of Directors. 

“First and foremost, I’m a teacher,” Juli says. “I’m a teacher, a learner, and a service leader. I like to help others lead toward success. For me, it’s really important that the student surpasses the teacher.”

Fighting the Doubts

Juli can say she’s never been “run out of town” in a professional sense, but she’s certainly left a few contexts where she felt like it was just not the right fit. She’s worked in some isolating circumstances, including those where she has been the only female, the only female of color, or the only female who was more academically centered versus IT centered, and in some of those contexts she’s been met with stiff pushback.

Pushback and resistance can make us question ourselves, she says. We can start to feel like failures because our views are not well-received and don’t fit with the status quo. It’s in those low moments that Juli has leaned heavily on her always-supportive husband and positive professional learning network to provide the encouragement, confidence, and affirmation that she needed.

Her Path and Passion for STEM Education

She actually didn’t intend to become a teacher in the beginning, Juli laughs, and she wasn’t always interested in STEM or technology. But when Simon Helton asked Juli to support the Math and Science network at ISTE, she accepted. She began building professional relationships immediately and has served in this role with ISTE ever since. Today, the ISTE STEM Network provides collaboration, professional development, and support for STEM teachers and leaders around the world, and Juli has been a proud part of its ongoing development.

STEM education is all about computational thinking, problem-solving, project-based learning, and real-world design. There are so many applications and expressions of STEM, and the list is growing all the time. Looking at the great inventions and innovations of the past gives us vision and clarity regarding directions for the future. Even a revolutionary social figure like Harriet Tubman modeled the STEM spirit through systems thinking, empathy, and proactive problem-solving.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM Education

Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become focus points for the ISTE STEM PLN. One of the ways ISTE is working towards greater equity is to promote scholarships and programs that fund minority representation in ISTE’s speakers and conference attendees. ISTE is also piloting an Equity Action Forum that gave educators a place and space to unpack big issues in this area of equity with a focus on action. And Juli has contributed to the development of another ISTE initiative called Growing ME: Bridging the equity gap through mentorship

Other Points of Professional Passion

One of the things that has really ignited Juli’s passion for the ISTE educator certification process is the journey of becoming a blended, reflective education leader herself. She’s also passionate about SEL in education. Perhaps it’s nothing new, but she still loves the fact that social-emotional learning is such a focus in schools today.

Bringing Scratch and Robotics to the Mid-Hudson Valley

One of Juli’s professional goals in 2020 is the prospect of bringing a Scratch Day event into the mid-Hudson Valley. She’s also interested in robotics comptetitions, Vex events, AI and other blended learning opportunities. She sees educators traveling great distances to take part in these sorts of events and would love to host some closer to home.

Other Personal Passions That Bring Juli Alive 

Ever since she was a child, Juli has enjoyed baking cakes with her mother and legendary aunt. She’s taken some baking courses and loves to watch baking shows. She’s also a big fan of motorcycle riding and looks forward to getting back on the iron horse and riding through the Hudson Valley in 2020.

Productivity from the Professional Learning Network 

Juli’s productivity hack is her professional colleagues and support network. “I need to surround myself with people who have gone through what I’ve gone through, people who are kind and can sympathize, and also people who have nothing to do with education and bring a fresh set of eyes to situations.” These people are like family, she says.

Voices and Resources That Inspire Her Practice 

Over on Twitter, Juli recommends following @ISTESTEM to connect with an uplifting group of educators passionate about STEM education.

Asked to point to an edtech tool, Juli enthusiastically boosts Scratch and Scratch Junior, the simple but powerful coding languages developed at MIT to help younger learners build computational thinking skills.

learning-first-technology-second.jpgJuli’s book pick is Learning First, Technology Second: The Educator’s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons by Liz Kolb, a profound look and essential starting point for educators looking to do more with technology in their classrooms.

Based on encouragement from Jorges Valenzuela, Juli has tuned in to the STEM Everyday Podcast hosted by Chris Woods, another former guest of the show. Follow Chris and get to know his show @DailySTEM

When she finds the time to put up her feet, Juli’s latest picks on Netflix have included Vantage Point and a modern classic, Stranger Things

We sign off on this inspiring conversation, and Juli reminds us to connect with her on Twitter @JBR_Kleinmann.

Connect with the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media:

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Episode 98 – Chris Woods

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Meet Chris Woods

CHRIS WOODS is a high school math teacher, STEM presenter, and host of the STEM Everyday podcast. Chris likes to remind his students and followers that STEM is everywhere around us … we just have to learn to recognize it. 

Chris is also a high school math teacher at Calumet High School, Calumet, MI. It’s a relatively small school, located two hours from the closest freeway and situated in the northern part of Michigan.

Challenging Connections

This past year for Chris was a challenging one. He found it difficult to connect with some of his students, and although there were some days when he felt like he made some progress, other days felt like setbacks. Sometimes, relationships just don’t get to the place that we want them to get to, and we can’t fault ourselves after doing our best.

Thankfully, Chris sees his ninth graders in the halls for years after they go through his classroom, and for those few that he finds it challenging to reach, he enjoys the subsequent opportunities he gets to connect when he’s no longer relating to them as their teacher.

On 🔥 for STEM Education

When asked what fuels his passion for STEM education, Chris points to the curiosity that underlines his work. We know that students begin their school careers with excitement and curiosity, but sadly the years that follow often drive that curiosity out of them. Chris lives to help students see that learning is relevant and connected to the world around them, not the static body of knowledge that is sometimes reduced to endless worksheets.

STEM and the Creative Arts: Complementary Partners

To educators who want to see more A in STEM, Chris welcomes STEAM wholeheartedly. Although he happens to adopt STEM in a lot of his work, he sees great compatibility between STEM education and the arts. For Chris, it shouldn’t be a case of STEM vs the creative arts, right brain vs left brain; it should be about cultivating the whole brain and recognizing the multidimensional person in every learner.

Meeting Students Where They Are

Besides STEM education, Chris is on fire for a program called ‘Capturing Kids’ Hearts.’ Again, it’s about seeing the whole individual, incorporating SEL and trauma-informed teaching strategies to meet students and serve them where they are.

A Professional Goal

This year, Chris is looking for more ways to connect the math that his students are learning with applications in the world around them. Students will need STEM skills and habitudes in any career or field after high school, and he wants them to see that this learning has never been more relevant.

Chris is looking forward to bringing the STEM mindset to a couple of conferences this fall and is always happy to share his learning with other teachers across the United States. Visit his website for more details!

Personal Passions Away From School

When he’s not at school or working on things related to his work, Chris enjoys fixing and building. He subscribes to a mindset of days gone by: make do with what you’ve got. Nothing gives him more satisfaction than to take apart broken things, identify the problem, find a solution on YouTube, and then reassemble whatever it happens to be.

His Productivity Hack

When it comes to productivity, Chris believes in the power of lists. Whether it’s a list in his pocket or sticky notes around his desk, lists keep him on his game.

Voices & Resources That Inspire His Thinking & Practice

On Twitter, Chris recommends following @JsnHubbard, another #TeacherOnFire.

When it comes to an edtech tool that accelerates learning in his classroom, Chris is all about his interactive whiteboards. There may be nothing better in terms of learning together, out loud and in sight of everyone.

Mister RogersFor his book pick, Chris turns to The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor by Amy Hollingsworth.

Chris’s favorite podcast is the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast with Vicki Davis. True to her title, Vicki’s daily pod is daily, quick, and packed with value.

On YouTube, a channel that may be underrated for STEM thinking and creative approaches is Joseph’s Machines. Check it out and subscribe!

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

Connect with Chris:

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