My Passion for Creative Classrooms
I am passionate about seeing kids embrace creativity through design thinking. As a middle school teacher, this included murals, documentaries, STEM camps, and coding projects. As a dad, this has meant helping my kids with their elaborate pillow forts and home-made pinball machines. As a children’s book author, this has meant co-writing Wendell the World’s Worst Wizard (a book about a non-magical wizard who falls in love with robotics). It’s also why I co-founded the blogging platform Write About. Now, as I begin my career as a professor of instructional technology, this means empowering new teachers to use technology and design thinking for creative reasons.
Over the last three years, I have had the opportunity to share this vision for creative classrooms with a variety of audiences, including the White House Future Ready Summit, a breakfast keynote at ISTE, and a TEDx Talk. I’ve been honored to work with schools, districts and organizations through keynotes, workshops, sessions and coaching on the topics of design thinking, blended learning, and student engagement.
I offer the unique perspective of being a published author, the co-founder of a successful startup, a classroom teacher for over a decade, and now a college professor. I am someone with extensive classroom experience, industry experience, and research experience.
As a facilitator and speaker, I believe teachers need to be affirmed for the great things they are doing while also being challenged to grow in their craft. My approach blends practical skills, best practices, and reflective thinking with a style that is both humorous and conversational. I always include a set of practical resources that participants can access online at any time.
Workshops and Sessions
The following are some of the workshops and sessions I conduct. The goal here is a meaningful, practical, hands-on experience.
The Seven Types of Creative Teachers
Creativity is often viewed through an artistic lens. The creative teacher is the one who is doing things wildly different. However, creativity can manifest itself in different ways on campus. In this workshop, we explore the five creative mindsets used in the classroom. The goal is for teachers to identify and analyze their creative identity while also empowering students to embrace creativity in the process.
The Eight Stages of the Teacher Technology Journey
Using the metaphor of a journey, this session takes educators through the phases that many teachers go through from “tech tourism” to “tech assimilation” to “tech integration” and eventually “tech citizenship” (including media criticism). The idea here is to develop reflective questions we could ask teachers in each phase so that they could progress toward a deeper understanding of the nature of technology. Participants will reflect on their own journey through technology integration while also developing reflective coaching questions they can use with their colleagues.
We Want Kids to Be Creative But How Do We Assess That?
With the explosion of the maker movement, schools are beginning to embrace creativity. However, what does this mean for assessment? Should we assess the creative process? Should we assess the finished product? Does assessing creativity actually make kids more risk-averse? In this session, we explore what it means to assess both the creative process and the creative product without leading to risk aversion. We also explore five authentic assessment strategies you can use tomorrow.
Maximizing Student Engagement
Ever been “in the zone” while working on a project? You lose track of time. You focus on what’s in front of you. There is a strange mix of calmness and excitement. Those moments are tied into something called Flow Theory. How do we create lessons, experiences, projects and spaces that maximize flow for students? This session is an interactive discussion with an end product of something tangible that would increase flow in learning (a space, a lesson, or a unit).
The Power of Maker Challenges
Limitations and challenges can be frustrating. However, they can also be the creative constraint that leads to problem-solving and divergent thinking. Over the years, I’ve learned that students love challenges that they find engaging, intriguing and meaningful. Some of these are practical and real-world. Others are fantastical and require a bold imagination. In this session, we explore what it looks like to create maker challenges to spark student creativity.
Epic Engagement: Lesson Planning Through the Lens of Story
Story-telling is a deeply human way of making sense out of our experiences. Using the lens of story, we explore how teachers can set up “epic” classrooms. The best lessons are the ones with a high level of suspense and profound character development. As teachers, we can allow students to struggle through both internal and external conflict as they make sense out of themes rather than just ideas.
Recent and Upcoming Speaking Events
- January 13: Keynote at Tech Rodeo, Tulare County, California
- January 17: Design Thinking Workshop, Winnipeg School Division, Manitoba, Canada
- January 22-25: Keynote at EdEx Design Thinking Expedition, Eindhoven, Netherlands
- February 5-6: Keynote and Design Thinking Facilitator, St. John’s-Ravencourt, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
- February 7: Future of Learning Keynote, Thompson, Manitoba
- February 22: Mini-Workshop for Empower, Chilliwack, British Columbia
- February 23: Launch into Design Thinking Keynote, Abbotsford, British Columbia
- February 26: Empower Workshop, Klein ISD, Texas
- March 12: Design Thinking Workshop, Cherry Creek School District, Denver, Colorado