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.

iTunes | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 77 – Adam Welcome

77 - Adam Welcome

Meet Our Guest

ADAM WELCOME is a former teacher, principal, and director of innovation. He’s also a recognized education leader, speaker, and the author of Kids Deserve It and Run Like a Pirate. Follow Adam on Twitter and Instagram @MrAdamWelcome.

Disappointed by Mediocrity

Adam recalls the year that his professional enthusiasm was dampened by colleagues who preferred to stay with conventional practices and were reluctant to support new initiatives. Students were disengaged, there was little laughter in classrooms, and he knew learning was being sacrificed in exchange for convenience. It was frustrating to see.

Finally, Adam decided to change grade levels and acquire his administration credentials. That move helped him get to a place where he could put his money where his mouth was and actually do the hard work of building school culture instead of complaining about negativity.

When you’re in a tough situation, try to stay positive and actually do something about the problem, Adam urges. This too shall pass, and you can be that positive solution.

The Birth of #KidsDeserveIt

After connecting with Todd Nesloney on Twitter and then chatting with him further at a principals’ conference, Adam realized the two educators shared a passion for putting the welfare of students at the forefront of their work.

After a tweet to that effect was widely shared, Adam and Todd wrote a blog post on the topic and then developed their ideas more fully in Kids Deserve It. #KidsDeserveIt continues in the form of book studies, Twitter chats, and an educational philosophy of school formation.

13 Marathons in One Year

Run Like a Pirate followed an impressive year of 13 marathons in 12 months. Although he was fairly public about his running goals and activities, Adam didn’t envision a book at the outset of the year. But after more and more people were inspired to set new fitness goals and do more with their lives, Adam started to think seriously about writing the book. Although he couldn’t do much writing during his year of marathons, the ideas and passion flowed quickly in the months that followed, and #RunLAP was born in the spring of 2018.

More than just running, this is a book about realizing our full potential, about challenging our vision of what is possible. In some ways, #RunLAP is #ThePowerofYET (I’m not a runner … yet).

When we put ourselves in a box by saying we’re just NOT something, it’s kind of demeaning. But when we take the opposite stance, when we say we can become anything we want to be, our students see that and build confidence as well.

What Excites Adam About Education Today

Adam appreciates innovations in education like edtech tools and the makerspace movement, but the macro change that really gets him excited is the idea of teachers backing up and taking more of a facilitation role in their classes.

Doing so frees up time and energy for teachers to build relationships with students and conference more often on a 1:1 basis. It also empowers students to take more agency and ownership over their learning journey. Teachers are no longer chiefly sources of information – they’re coaches, facilitators, and enablers.

Personal and Professional Goals

In education, Adam is focused on doing more video content. The world is moving more and more to video, which gets more play, engagement, and excitement. It’s where our younger learners are moving for learning, and it only makes sense to develop our message on video platforms.

As a personal goal, Adam looks forward to a 4-marathons-in-4-days event coming up in the Bay Area that uses 4 bridges to come up with the necessary miles. Being comfortable is easy, but nobody grows in the comfort zone. He’s looking for ways to push himself professionally and physically this year.

Passions and Productivity Hacks

Adam gains fuel from his family, and lately he’s also been inspired by leadership books outside of education. Authors like Jocko Willink, who’s written Extreme Ownership and also produces a podcast, are particularly inspiring.

He’s also a big believer in strong starts to the day, including getting up early and making the bed. Although he’s given up trying to make his bed while his wife is still in it, his kids have learned to practice this habit from a very young age. It’s about starting the morning right and feeling fully prepared for the day.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Adam’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Adam recommends following the wonderful @RaeHughart, guest on episode 73 of the Teachers on Fire podcast.

One of Adam’s go-to edtech tools is Evernote. Whether you go with Evernote, OneNote, Google Keep, Wakelet, or another curation and note-taking tool, find and use one that syncs across all platforms and devices, he advises.

Adam’s book pick is Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Although these authors come at leadership from a military perspective, the lessons and principles they share are universal and apply equally in education.

Sticking with the same author in the world of podcasts, Adam recommends listening to the Jocko Podcast. He also loves The Rich Roll Podcast, produced by another vegan and legendary runner with a phenomenal personal story.

Over on YouTube, Adam shouts out CJ Reynolds, an inspiring English teacher in Philadelphia who also appeared on Teachers on Fire at episode 39. His YouTube channel is called Real Rap with Reynolds.

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

See more from Adam:

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

iTunes | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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

Episode 70 – AJ Juliani

70 - AJ Juliani

Meet Our Guest

AJ JULIANI is a dad, a sought-after speaker, and prolific author of several education books, including The PBL Playbook, Empower and Launch. He is a recognized authority on design thinking, genius hour, growth mindset, IBL, PBL, and all things innovation in education. Read more from AJ at http://ajjuliani.com/ and follow him on Twitter @AJJuliani.

AJ is currently the Director of Learning and Innovation for Centennial School District, located near Philadelphia. He and his team serve about 6,000 learners. In addition to his work there, AJ writes frequently on education and speaks at schools and districts across the country.

Frustrated by the Game of School

Teaching in 2011, AJ was starting to get discouraged by the climate of his classes. His students were intent on playing the game of school, navigating their way through assignments in ways that they thought would earn them the best grades for the least work. Frustrated by what he saw, AJ started reading more widely and searching for better solutions in his practice.

He eventually found Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, and it led him down the rabbit hole of intrinsic motivation, inquiry and passion-based learning, genius hour, and much more. It was the beginning of a huge paradigm shift, and he’s never been the same. He now sees student choice as a sort of secret sauce when it comes to inspiring student engagement and empowerment.

Thoughts on How to Approach Project-Based Learning

AJ’s practical advice about project-based learning is to start small. Try to avoid massive projects that simply follow exhaustive requirement checklists, which really amount to recipe-based learning. Instead, start with small class activities that help students embrace greater amounts of control and direction in the classroom.

Secondly, treat the project itself as a source of continual formative assessment instead of simply using it as a piece of summative assessment at the end. It’s the main course, not the dessert. Students should be able to demonstrate their evolving understanding of concepts throughout.

The Professional Benefits of Blogging

In many other professions and industries, it’s normal and expected for practitioners to write about their work and share it broadly. In K-12 education, this work is often left to researchers, when in fact the teachers in the trenches have important and valuable perspectives worth sharing as well.

AJ sees three primary benefits in blogging about educational practice:

  1. It helps us reflect on and learn from our own practice.
  2. We’re sharing the highs and lows of our practice in a way that others can learn and benefit from.
  3. As we reflect and write, you start to see your profession differently. You start to see the growth that is possible as you track your evolution as a professional, engaging with other educators, and sharing other perspectives. Blogs and PLN activities can inspire us and give us the encourage.

Be More Chef

Most students – and many educators – approach education as cooks. We want to follow a given recipe, and follow it well, hoping to find the success and learning that the formulas promise.

The chef’s approach is different. She takes a look at available resources and asks “What can I make with this?” And that’s AJ’s call to educators.

As you think about your practice and even your life, ask yourself “Am I just following recipes?” AJ’s late brother was a fine example of someone committed to leaving the beaten path and writing his own recipes. Yes, there will always be economic opportunities for people who prefer to follow and be compliant. But there are far more opportunities in today’s economy for people who are go-getters, strong self-starters, creators, makers, designers, and dreamers.

Building Empathy Through Design Thinking and Story

Design thinking always starts with awareness of one’s surroundings. It helps learners learn to take note of the needs of others. It helps young learners to ask critical questions to better understand their context and the needs of others. These are important skills.

Another way we can build empathy is through stories. Brain researchers tell us that the brain processes stories in a different way than it does other information – it activates more resources in order to gain a deeper appreciation for the needs of others. Telling and sharing stories is by far the best way to build empathy.

One recent example of a design product that came from AJ’s district was the creation of reflector socks for cyclists from MIT. The students didn’t enter the design process thinking they were going to engineer a new sock design, but after getting a clearer understanding of the needs of the cyclists, that’s where they ended up. The socks continue to sell today! In another case, some elementary students designed an artificial insect that could evade exterminators effectively. These second graders had to pitch their product design to some actual exterminators – another authentic learning experience.

Goals, Interests, and Passions

At the moment, AJ is working with a company called Next Lesson to develop PBL lessons and units for elementary classes. These are resources that will help educators take their first steps into PBL without jumping straight into Genius Hour.

From a larger perspective, though, the thing that is really exciting AJ about education is how many people are doing things differently. Most educators have moved past the initial stages of integrating technology in their practices, and now so many educators are thinking more deeply and differently about the learning process itself.

AJ derives tremendous joy and fulfillment from sports, but the thing that he’s really been diving deep into lately is AI. He’s reading and watching as much as he can, and he feels like today we’re boiling the frog – things are already drastically changing around us, often in ways we don’t notice or are not aware of. For him, AI isn’t something to fear but instead something to be cognizant of and recognize.

Voices & Resources That Inspire AJ’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, AJ recommends following @CultofPedagogy. He learns a lot from Jennifer Gonzales and describes her as his pedagogical North Star.

AJ just finished reading 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, and considers it a fascinating read. Follow the author on Twitter @Harari_Yuval.

AJ’s podcast pick right now is The Knowledge Project Podcast with Shane Parrish. Follow the host on Twitter @FarnamStreet.

Over on YouTube, AJ suggests subscribing to his co-author, John Spencer. Follow John on Twitter @SpencerIdeas.

In terms of non-educational viewing, AJ and his wife are enjoying The Americans on Amazon Prime right now. It’s making him suspect everyone around him of being a spy!

We sign off on the conversation, and AJ gives us the very best place to connect with him and receive more of his thoughts on education: AJJuliani.com. Visit him there and subscribe!

Other Places to Connect with AJ

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

iTunes | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Follow the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media.

Song Track Credits

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