Episode 142 – AnnMarie Thomas: Playing, Learning, and Making

Meet Dr. AnnMarie Thomas

DR. ANNMARIE THOMAS is the director of the Playful Learning Lab, creator of Squishy Circuits, author of Making Makers, co-founder of OK Go Sandbox (co-PI), and a professor of Engineering and Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas. Dr. AnnMarie has also given a number of TED Talks and was the 2020 recipient of the international LEGO prize.

Questions That Guided Our Conversation

3:34 – Let’s start off by digging a little deeper into your work at the Playful Learning Lab. What is your mission and vision there, and what does your work look like? 

7:36 – AnnMarie, in response to schools closed by COVID-19 in recent weeks, you recently co-created the The PlayLine Resource Guide, which provides play-based activity ideas and hosts supportive digital meet-ups for educators. Can you tell us more about the thinking behind this resource? Who is it aimed at, and what can educators expect to gain when they visit the site? 

13:15 – We also need to touch on your receipt of the $100,000 2020 Lego Prize for your work dealing with how children learn through play. How did you earn it? Tell us more about the work LEGO is doing in this regard.

16:40 – As you look across your professional learning network and your own practice, what else is setting you on fire about education and learning today?

19:19 – How are you looking to grow professionally and improve your practice next year? Can you share about a specific professional goal or project that you’re currently working on?

21:13 – Share about one personal habit or productivity hack that contributes to your success.

Voices That Spark AnnMarie’s Thinking and Ignite Her Practice

Connect with Dr. AnnMarie

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Song Track Credits

  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*
  • Species by Diamond Ortiz
  • *tracks courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

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Recent Authors Discuss Books and Best Publishing Practices

In this edition of the Roundtable, host Tim Cavey connects with three recent authors to discuss their books, best practices on the path to publishing, and their goals for 2021.

Questions That Guided Our Discussion

  • 1:07 – Who are you and what is your current context in education? Please introduce yourself.
  • 3:22 – Tell us about your book: why did you write it, who is it for, and what do you hope readers to take away from it?
  • 14:22 – What is your advice to the educator who feels that they have a story inside them but aren’t sure how or where to get started?
  • 17:46 – Talk about the writing and publishing journey. What are some pieces of advice you could share with would-be writers in education?
  • 33:16How much content do I have to have written before a publisher will agree to work with me?
  • 39:29 – Look back to the beginning of your writing and publishing journeys. What choices or moves do you regret now that you might do differently if given the chance?
  • 43:17 – What’s next for you? What are your content creation goals for 2021?
  • 49:21 – Are you a OneWord kind of person? If so, tell us about your #OneWord2021.
  • 51:50 – How can we connect with you and your work?

Follow These Authors on Twitter and Check Out Their Books

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As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTubeFacebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time/11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!

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Media Creation in Schools

In this edition of the Roundtable, host Tim Cavey connects with educators Bruce Reicher, Paula Neidlinger, and Erika Sandstrom to discuss media creation in schools. Why should we invest time and resources in media creation for students, and how can we get started?

About Our Guests

Bruce Reicher and Paula Neidlinger are two of the three co-authors of Scripted: An Educator’s Guide to Media in the Classroom, published in August 2020. Erika Sandstrom is the Green Screen Gal, a digital learning coach with a passion for media creation and social-emotional learning.

Questions That Guided Our Discussion

  • 1:11 – Who are you and what does your current context in education look like?
  • 5:29 – How do you use media creation to inspire your learners? What sorts of projects energize you?
  • 12:44 – What sorts of wins or opportunities for learning do you see during the time of COVID?
  • 20:45 – Why should school leaders be thinking about investing more in media creation resources?
  • 32:58 – What would you suggest I do with the 20 x 20 foot media/multipurpose room in my school building?
  • 43:15 – Who are some of the creative voices who inspire your learning in the area of media creation? (See full list with links below.)
  • 51:16 – How can we connect with you?

Connect with Roundtable Guests on Twitter

Media Creation Resources from Roundtable Guests

Other Inspiring Media Creators Mentioned by the Panel

Catch the Next Teachers on Fire Roundtable LIVE

As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTubeFacebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time/11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!

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Roundtable: CodeBreaker Authors

*Not a paid endorsement of CodeBreaker EDU.

In this edition of the Teachers on Fire Roundtable, I chatted with CodeBreaker authors and educators. This is NOT some form of paid endorsement – this event is just an expression of my interest in getting to know these educators and hearing more from their learning journeys.

Questions That Guided Our Discussion

  • 0:56 – First, what is CodeBreaker EDU?
  • 1:36 – What does your current educational context look like?
  • 9:12 – What is the mission and vision behind your book?
  • 22:05 – Tell us about your journey to the book. Why did you decide to write, and how did you get there?
  • 43:27 – What does your next goal or project look like? And how can we connect with you and follow your future learning?

Guests Featured in the Roundtable

  • Dr. Brandon Beck @BrandonBeckEDU, author of Unlocking Limited Potential
  • Daphne McMenemy @McMenemyTweets, author of Gracie: An Innovator Doesn’t Complain About The Problem. She Solves It! and editor for CodeBreaker EDU
  • Chris Woods @DailySTEM, author of Daily STEM: How to Create a STEM Culture in Your Classrooms & Communities
  • Dr. Darrin M. Peppard @DarrinMPeppard, author of Road To Awesome: Empower, Lead, Change The Game

Catch the Next Teachers on Fire Roundtable LIVE.

As of Sunday, October 11, 2020, I’m appearing weekly on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time/11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!

Episode 118 – Kristin Merrill

118 - Kristin Merrill

Meet Kristin Merrill

KRISTIN MERRILL is a fourth grade teacher in south Florida who specializes in language arts and strives to make lessons interactive and engaging through the use of educational technology. She teaches at a smaller elementary school with a diverse school community, where she’s affectionately referred to as “the Dinosaur of Fourth.” She recently co-authored The Interactive Class: Using Technology to Make Learning More Relevant and Engaging in the Elementary Classroom.

Questioning Her Vocation

Kristin recalls a time in her career when she found herself questioning much of what she was asked to do as a teacher. She decided to start making changes to her practice based specifically on what was good for students and their learning, but the changes weren’t always warmly received by colleagues. At times, she felt a sense of distance and isolation as she worked to reinvent herself, but she found strength and support in a growing PLN.

Today, she’s happy to report that as her network has grown and her influence has increased, she enjoys much more support and collegial relationships in her current context. One takeaway for other educators is that professional resistance to innovative practices tends to be a passing season; keep pushing through it and consistently grow your practice, and things will eventually get easier.

The Interactive Class

Writing The Interactive Class: Using Technology to Make Learning More Relevant and Engaging in the Elementary Classroom was never on her bucket list, Kristin says, but as she and her husband Joe shared their teaching ideas and strategies on social media, a friend encouraged them to publish a book. Kristin and her husband Joe are passionate about helping other educators build classrooms that are student-centered, fueled by the creativity and collaboration of students, and the book helps them share that message.

The Interactive Class is divided into two parts: first, the philosophy and rationale behind interactive teaching strategies, and second, the applications and best practices of interactive teaching and learning. Although Kristin and Joe come from primary classroom contexts, many of the lessons and strategies they describe could be applied at middle school grade levels or higher. 

On the Subject of Recess

When asked about whether recess should be used by teachers as a carrot or a stick, Kristin says that recess should be considered an essential part of childhood. There is so much that kids learn just through play and social interactions outside of the classroom, she observes, not to mention the processing and recharging time that recess allows young learners. Why would we ever want to take these times away from them?

What Else is Setting Kristin on 🔥 in Education Today

Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt is a kindergarten teacher who does a phenomenal job of building student inquiry, interest, and relevance into her learning activities. Kristin has been obsessed with her lately, following Rebecca on Instagram and taking notes from her latest projects. Recently, Rebecca built an impressive inquiry-based learning experience around pets, and Kristin is a big fan.

A Professional Goal: More Relevance

Motivated by Rebecca’s example, Kristin’s professional goal for the year is to make her teaching more relevant. This means more than just making sure her content and teaching strategies are as current as possible — she also wants to better understand what students view as meaningful. She plans to do this by looking for more ways to incorporate student voice, choice, and inquiry–even when that takes her into uncomfortable worlds like Fortnite! 

Personal Passions and Recharging Activities

“Education is my passion,” Kristin admits, explaining that professional learning really does energize and inspire her — even when she’s at home. Aside from education, she enjoys the simple things, and often those simple things relate to life with family. Whether it’s walking at the beach, exploring a nature trail, or sitting by the fire, it’s in the simple and quiet moments that she feels recharged and prepared for more creative work.

Personal Productivity: A Personal Planner

Social media doesn’t always portray an accurate picture of what life is like for educators, Kristin observes. We all have moments when we don’t have it all together and the tensions between personal and professional spheres make things a little chaotic. Her go-to tools include a personal planner that she maintains on paper, and she writes down every task, priority, and concern that she sees weeks or months away on the horizon.

It’s not to say that none of the plates ever fall, she says, but as long as she’s intentional about her most important priorities, she’s learned to give herself the grace she needs when the house doesn’t get cleaned perfectly or other ideals aren’t met.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Kristin’s Practice

Over on Twitter, Kristin recommends following Andy Knueven @MrCoachK15. He’s a master of Flipgrid, Minecraft, Wakelet, and a ton of other interactive learning approaches in fifth grade.

It’s just too painful to narrow her favorite edtech tools down to one, so Kristin shouts out three legendary creative apps: FlipGrid, DoInk, and Adobe Spark

Kristin has two book picks to share. The first is a children’s lit favorite: The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau. The second is an education classic — The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck–101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers, by Ron Clark.

A favorite podcast that works with her limited time for listening is the Ditch That Textbook Podcast with Matt Miller. After taking a two-month break in the fall of 2019, Matt is back and publishing short episodes almost every day.

One of Kristin’s favorite YouTube channels is The Bucket List Family, a family that travels the world and documents their adventures.

When time allows her to enjoy some Netflix, Kristin’s tuning in to Grace and Frankie. She connects with their sense of humor!

We sign off on this fun conversation, and Kristin gives the best ways to follow her online. See below for details!

You can connect with Kristin …

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Song Track Credits

  • Bluntedsesh4 (by Tha Silent Partner, courtesy of FreeMusicArchive.org)
  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*

*courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

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