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.

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Episode 103 – Lisa Johnson

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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 …

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Episode 90 – Scott Nunes

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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:

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Episode 87 – Kristen Nan

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Meet Kristen Nan

KRISTEN NAN is a blogger, presenter, and award-winning educator for innovative practices. She’s also a believer in goodness, an idea generator, a risk taker, and a disruptor in education!

Kristen just completed another year as a third grade teacher at Hopewell Elementary, a school located in a tight-knit suburban community outside of Pittsburgh, PA. The area is a melting pot of Europe built on a strong work ethic, a steel mill, and an industrial revolution way of life. Kristen entered the profession 22 years ago, with the last 20 of those years spent in third grade.

Idea Tsunamis

Kristen is by nature a risk-taker, and her constant tsunami of new ideas can feel overwhelming for others at times. She’s the kind of person that says, “What’s the worst that can happen here?” while others are saying “Let me list all the ways this can go wrong!”

Although she can get rattled when not everyone is on board, she overcomes this weight by finding her people, her fellow risk-takers, and her supporters. Some of these people are within her district, and others can be found across her global PLN. That’s one of the reasons she finds it so essential to be connected with other educators around the world.

True Grit

Kristen’s blog prominently displays a header that reads “Call me stubborn, but I refuse to quit! T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. is the foundation for success in learning and life! Exploring the dynamics of a successful classroom and how grit is a vital characteristic of student achievement.”

When asked why the development of grit is such a passion for her, Kristen observes that she’s relied on this competency ever since childhood. Her experiences have taught her first-hand how important this trait is, and that’s part of what fuels her mission to promote grit for educators and learners today.

On her site and in her writing, Kristen uses GRIT to represent goal setting, responsibility, imagining excellence, and a tough mindset to back it all up. This mix of heart, soul, and mind is what life is all about!

The starting point for building grit in kids is LOVE – when kids feel loved, known, and safe, they will be more willing to take risks and persevere through adversity. Building grit in our learners is also about not rescuing too quickly, allowing them those times of productive struggle, and making sure we don’t rob them of opportunities to conquer difficult challenges or solve problems through their own efforts.

Perfectionism can be an enemy to risk-taking and grit, which is something both educators and parents must recognize. When our students feel pressured to be perfect and not miss a single thing, they’ll be less likely to take risks or think creatively.

EdTech Innovation and Learning in Education

The excitement of learning something new never gets old for Kristen. One day after her last day of school this year, the ideas had already started cooking for the next year.

New apps and edtech resources energize her, and she gets a thrill out of the collaboration and connections that can result. She finished the year with an app smackdown in her third grade class, and her students blew her mind with their creativity and engagement.

Professional Goals and Self-Reflection

Kristen’s immediate focus is the process of self-reflection and learning that takes place after every school year, and this interview has been helpful in terms of engaging more deeply in this process. What should I be doing differently? How can I be better? These are the questions she asks herself while she sets goals and learns from other progressive educators in her PLN.

She’s also a big reader – she’s read over 50 books in the last two years – and she also loves to write about education when the opportunities present themselves. She doesn’t regret breaks in her blogging activities, because those breaks simply speak to other priorities and realities in her life.

She’s also working on a book at the moment, but she expects it to come out later this year. It will be co-authored by Jacie Maslyk. The title will be “ALL IN: Taking a Gamble in Education.”

Personal Passions Away From Education

The things that really bring life and energy back to Kristen start with the simplest: people, music, and laughter. She also loves to camp, kayak, take photos, and even draw, but none of it fills her soul without meaningful people and relationships in the picture.

Productivity Starts with Emotional Health

Kristen is a glass half full kind of person. She’s certainly seen her share of adversity and difficult times, but her orientation continually brings her back to finding the good in others and situations. “I’m a forgiver,” she says, noting that as we forgive others, it allows us to forgive ourselves. It also helps to give us the joy to ride above the critics or the unfair judgments of others.

Voices and Resources That Inspire Kristen’s Professional Practice

On Twitter, Kristen recommends following @BethHill2829, founder of #JoyfulLeaders and a source of continual inspiration.

Kristen’s favorite edtech tools at the moment are the Sphero Specdrums, which allowed her students to create some amazing things this year.

As a big time reader herself, it wasn’t easy for Kristen to pick out just one book. She settled on the recently released In Other Words: Quotes that Push Our Thinking by Rachelle Dene Poth. If you want to broaden your perspectives, give this book a read, and get to know the author on Twitter @RDene915.

Kristen has two educational podcasts to share. The first is Teach Better Talk with hosts Jeff Gargas and Rae Hughart (both former guests of the Teachers on Fire podcast) and Dr. Sam Fecich’s EduMagic podcast for pre-service teachers. Sam is also a former Teachers on Fire guest and is part of the Teachers on Fire Magazine writing team! You won’t go wrong by adding these podcasts to your podcast app subscriptions.

Kristen’s pick for channels on YouTube is ISTE. With the 2019 conference fast approaching, she’s been gobbling up everything this channel has to offer.

Connect with Kristen:

Song Track Credits

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