In this edition of the Roundtable, host Tim Cavey connects with guests Kevin Van Lagen, Nikki Lavergne, Melody McAllister, Tammy G. Neil, and Dr. Casey T. Jakubowski to discuss the state of rural education today.
What are the WINS worthy of celebration in rural education? What are the biggest CHALLENGES that rural educators and learners face today? How is TECHNOLOGY changing the learning landscape? We get into all this and more in the course of this conversation.
Select any of the timestamps listed below to jump to specific portions of the discussion. ⬇️
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As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific/11:00 a.m. Eastern. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!
Dr. Will Deyamport III is an instructional technologist, educational consultant, documentary producer, keynote speaker, freelance writer, and the producer of the Dr. Will Show, a podcast for educators looking to make an impact and generate income in the process.
Accepting the Things Beyond His Control
Dr. Will recalls a time from a couple of years ago when the district budget dictated cuts in his department. When the news came down that cuts were coming, he remembers feeling shaken and disillusioned. Although he suspected he was in line for a pink slip, he made sure to end the school year by fulfilling all of his responsibilities to the best of his ability.
Eventually, Dr. Will actually discovered that his job was intact, but the close brush with a layoff left him with feelings of lingering discouragement and resentment. Those feelings changed after a conversation with a colleague who reminded him that jobs and positions are ultimately in the hands of God – not school districts. Her comments helped change his perspective on his situation and gave him more peace over challenges that fall outside of his control.
An Amazing Educator
Dr. Will recently received recognition as an Amazing Educator in his department, and he credits the quality and timeliness of his work for the gesture. He appreciates the people he works with and tends to get after tasks quickly and well – it’s the best way to serve others, lighten his load, and move on with his day.
The Dr. Will Show: Impact and Income
The tagline of The Dr. Will Show (podcast) is the mobile university for entrepreneurs, where Will focuses on personal development, entrepreneurship, and edupreneurship. He defines an edupreneur as an educator who wants to build an education-based business.
The original intent of his podcast was to talk about issues in pedagogy like blended learning and technology integration – areas of expertise that would build his credibility and visibility as an educational consultant. But after some time in this space, he decided to start asking other questions:
Who are we as human beings?
How can we become better people?
How can we self-actualize and tap into our purpose?
How can we fully utilize our talents to benefit others while also increasing our income and quality of life?
These are the questions that drive The Dr. Will Show today.
About The Edupreneur
Dr. Will’s documentary, The Edupreneur, profiles prolific educators, authors, speakers, and consultants who have built impactful resources, businesses, and incomes in the education space.
To educators who are skeptical or squeamish about the idea of charging money for services, Dr. Will says simply to “Get over it.” As an educator, you’re investing time, money, and effort to develop resources to serve learners and other educators, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with earning some money and reaping the benefits of your hard work. Deciding to charge money for your resources, your voice, or your time is simply an acknowledgment of your genius – your unique blend of experiences, knowledge, and expertise that you offer.
Free is great, says Dr. Will, but we need to move past the notion that absolutely everything in education needs to be free. If we want to encourage the creation of great resources and the promotion of impactful ideas in education, we need to be willing to move from free to fee. Learners benefit, and creators are supported – it can and should be a win-win situation.
It can be naive and even dangerous to simply lean back and trust our districts to take care of us as educators and people. Instead, we should take the initiative to constantly build our own expertise, voice, and services in order to increase our professional value and strengthen our job security along the way.
Define Your Personal Brand
I asked Dr. Will to speak to educators who consume content from other educators but feel like they have no voice or nothing of significance to add to the education conversation themselves. “Educators have to [create],” says Will. “Everyone is a brand.”
Your brand is your reputation, the value that you add to individuals, organizations, and the world. We now live in the world of Google, which means we are Googleable. When your name is searched, what are the results that come up? What narrative is being shaped about you? If you are staying in a passive role, you are allowing other people to tell your narrative in their terms. But instead of leaving your story in the hands of others, Dr. Will urges, start creating content that tells your story and shares your ideas in your own words and on your own terms.
What Else is Setting Dr. Will on 🔥 in Education Today
Other passions for Dr. Will include online learning, entrepreneurial thinking, and financial literacy. These are all areas that are still largely underdeveloped in our schools and districts, but they are essential skills for the twenty-first century. Educators and learners alike have only begun to realize the tremendous potential of video conferencing platforms, for example, that can shrink the world and bring experts to our classrooms.
A Professional Goal for This Year: Building an Online Academy
One of Dr. Will’s immediate goals is to support the development of an online academy for his school district. He’s already begun the work of creating courses in Schoology, but he’d like to do much more in terms of collecting the unique genius and resources that each educator brings for the time that they spend with the district. This might include webinars, video exemplars, clips from teaching, testimonials, vlogs, and other media resources that will help learners and educators to follow.
Areas of Personal Learning and Passion
Outside of his professional work, Dr. Will enjoys learning about entrepreneurship and personal development, and he starts many of his mornings watching YouTube channels dedicated to these topics. He also likes learning about African American history and culture, particularly contributions within Islam.
A Personal Productivity Practice
Dr. Will doesn’t keep a to-do list, partly because multitasking simply builds pressure and raises anxiety, making him less productive. Instead, he tries to do work quickly and do it well, keeping the people he serves happy and himself in a good headspace.
Voices & Resources That Inspire Dr. Will’s Thinking
Over on Twitter, Dr. Will recommends following Dr. Sarah Thomas @SarahDaTeechur. She’s a technology coordinator, professor, speaker, publisher, founder of the EduMatch Project, and one of the most generous educators out there today. Get to know Sarah better in episode 66 of the Teachers on Fire podcast.
One edtech tool at the top of Dr. Will’s list is Zoom, which allows educators to connect, bring speakers into the classroom, and preserve learning through the recording of webinars. Learning is moving to video on demand, and Zoom is leading the way.
On YouTube, Dr. Will singles out Sunny Lenarduzzi, Vanessa Lau, and Jasmine Star – great content creators who model what it means to effectively build a brand, serve others well, and share what it is you are all about.
A bit of a movie buff, Dr. Will has been enjoying a series on Netflix called Raising Dion, which features a strong African American cast and a very compelling storyline.
We sign off on this fun conversation, and Dr. Will gives us the best places to find him online. See below for details!
ARI FLEWELLING is a staff development specialist at Riverside Unified School District in Riverside, California. A former high school English teacher, Ari holds a Master’s degree in Education Technology and is a Google Certified Trainer and Innovator. She can often be found sharing her knowledge at EdTechTeam events.
Ari’s Twitter profile says “Cool on the internet. Even cooler IRL,” which should tell you that Ari is a person who enjoys engagement and is just a fun person to be around!
In our conversation, Ari describes the time in her career when she found herself in a work environment that was “less than collaborative.” It was during this time that she really started to build her professional learning network on Twitter and elsewhere, using these platforms to reconnect with former colleagues and building relationships with new ones. To educators looking to integrate more technology in their classrooms, Ari offers this sage word of caution: always consider context and content. How does this piece of technology help move my students toward the learning objective? Ari also shares her professional goal for this year, explains what ignites her passion about education today, lets us in on some of her passions outside of education, and offers some great picks on Twitter, YouTube, and more.
Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:
1:10 – Ari’s work as a technology integration specialist allows her to focus on empowering student creation and creativity. Coding, writing, video production, collaboration, and sharing: these are the rich kinds of learning experiences that technology can provide students. She currently supports 42 school sites ranging from preschool through Adult Education. She enjoys the challenge of finding the perfect solution for the right need or the right learner.
2:01 – Early in her career, Ari found herself in a difficult work environment with colleagues who were “less than collaborative.” It was during this time that she really started to build her professional learning network on Twitter and other platforms, reconnecting with former colleagues and building relationships with new ones. Where she missed professional connections and collaboration physically, she was able to fill in those gaps digitally.
3:35 – To educators looking to integrate more technology in their classrooms, Ari offers this sage word of caution: always consider context and content. How does this piece of technology help move my students toward the learning objective?
5:06 – Students excite Ari so much! Seeing students create apps, websites, YouTube series, creative memes, and contributing to their communities in real and authentic ways is amazing and fuels Ari’s passion for education.
6:37 – In terms of a professional goal for this school year, Air wants to take stock of all the things she’s doing, figuring out where she’s getting the most value, where she’s being the most successful, and deciding where she’s not going to invest as much anymore. As educators and creatives, we often take on more than is really sustainable. Sometimes we need to simplify our focus in order to make sure the work we’re invested in offers the most value, and we’re taking care of ourselves well.
9:02 – Ari enjoys playing games of any kind, particularly board and video games that involve strategic decision making and well-crafted narratives. She’s looking forward to designing a character in Red Dead Redemption 2, a game with stunning graphics that is both a prequel and a sequel.
12:05 – For Ari, working out is an unplugged activity, so she has no access to the internet. Exercise is a great opportunity to take time away from her work and listen to her body’s needs.
12:53 – On Twitter, Ari recommends following @AnnKozma723. She credits Ann for helping her through a difficult time and describes her as a constant source of inspiration.
13:48 – When it comes to her favorite edtech tools, Ari comes back to the basic power of GSuite – Google’s suite of cloud-based apps. Follow@GSuite on Twitter!
In our conversation, Mandy recalls an experience of discouragement and burnout early in her career, and describes the formula that helped her recover and recapture her passion: avoiding negativity, reading uplifting and accessible education books, engaging on Twitter, and starting a blog. She explains the heart and message of The Fire Within: the journey to view past trauma not as a source of shame or stigma but as a potential source of strength in order to serve students better. She talks about the joys of raising teenagers, the benefits of working outdoors, and her top picks on Twitter, books, edtech tools, and more.
Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:
1:07 – Mandy describes her work as a Director of Innovation & Technology in Ripon, WI. She’s a former elementary teacher, middle school teacher, and technology integrator.
1:58 – Mandy describes one of the lowest experiences of her education career, when at the end of five years, she felt completely disengaged and burned out. Workplace bullying and other issues made her want to leave teaching – something she never thought could happen after entering the profession with so much passion and optimism. Her path to healing and recovery included intentionally avoiding negativity, reading uplifting and accessible education books, engaging on Twitter, and starting a blog.
5:46 – Mandy talks about the heart and main message of The Fire Within: Lessons from Defeat That Have Inspired a Passion for Learning. Her vision for the book started with a conversation she had with Tara Martin (author of Be Real) after ISTE in 2017. It was such a relief to chat with Tara and compare notes on personal histories, childhood experiences, and journeys with trauma. Mandy had always struggled to be fully transparent about her past for fear of what parents, colleagues, and others in the educational community might view her. The Fire Within speaks to the realities of trauma, adversity, and the ways that people overcome negative experiences not by relying on shallow cliches but by fully embracing who they really are. It’s when we can be truly authentic and learn from our experiences that we build the emotional tools to serve students who are experiencing similar challenges.
13:00 – Mandy also talks about her upcoming book, Divergent EDU, which talks about educators who are willing to challenge their own assumptions, be highly reflective, and think differently than the masses. She bases the book in part on a hierarchy of needs and divergent thinking. The book will look at the supports needed to support educators who seek to think and teach in divergent ways.
17:41 – She discusses a source of passion and personal learning outside of education: parenting teenagers! For her, the experience has been far better and richer than advertised. One of many lessons she’s learned along the way is the power of the apology. It’s an essential skill in parenting and in leadership. We need to take ownership of our mistakes and let our children see us doing it.
20:51 – One tried-and-true habit that helps Mandy personally is the practice of studying, writing, and working outdoors whenever possible. There’s something about the sunshine and fresh air that does wonders for the spirit.
22:25 – On Twitter, Mandy recommends following @EvanAbramson and @JCasaTodd. Both are great sources of innovation and divergent thinking in education.
24:27 – A productivity tool that Mandy leans on heavily is Trello. Find out more about what they offer by following them on Twitter @Trello.
In our conversation, Bethany recalls the challenges around teaching students not much younger than her. She discusses the main message of her book, Illuminate, and the ways that her passion for history plays out in and out of the classroom. She also talks about coffee, the importance of exercise, and some of her top picks on Twitter, edtech tools, and more.
Find the highlights from our conversation at the timestamps below:
0:54 – Bethany describes her current context in education. It’s her 11th year teaching high school Social Studies in southeast Missouri. It’s her school’s 5th year in a 1:1 Chromebook environment, and she’s excited by the innovation she’s seen over these years. She’s also an adjunct instructional technology instructor at a local junior college.
1:36 – She recalls the challenges of being an anxious rookie teacher not much older than her students. Initially, she made it her mission to control her class. Over time, she realized that authenticity, transparency, and humor can all go a long way toward building learning relationships in the classroom and creating an optimal learning environment in the process.
3:44 – We talk about the heart and main message of Illuminate: helping educators at all technology levels use technology intentionally and purposefully in ways that support the learning of their students. It’s not about the technology – it’s about the learning. Why are you using it? What do you hope learners to gain from it?
7:36 – Even out of the classroom, Bethany’s passion is Social Studies. A self-professed history geek, she enjoys watching history documentaries and learning opportunities wherever they present themselves.
9:04 – One personal habit that Bethany relies on is exercise. It’s always been a part of her life, and when she’s in her exercise routine she feels like she has a good handle on things, she’s more alert, and more present. She also admits to a strong coffee addiction, often consuming eight or nine cups in a day!
10:30 – On Twitter, Bethany recommends following legends @AliceKeeler and @HollyClarkEdu. Both of these educators tell it like it is and will keep you thinking with practical advice and provocative insights.
11:07 – An edtech tool that Bethany calls indispensable for her Social Studies classroom is EdPuzzle. Follow EdPuzzle on Twitter @EdPuzzle.