I grew up in a small town (Jenkintown, PA) where I graduated with 35 students in my class (we were a public high school). This was a perfect setting to grow up with my own interests, and I was able to play two sports, act in the school drama (I was the Lion in the Wizard of Oz), be Student Council President (a lot of lesssons learned), and meet my wife (yes, we were high school sweethearts!).
I left small town life for West Chester University and was an awful student my first two years (which I didn’t seem to mind). My third year was when I realized I enjoyed reading, writing, and discussing deep and important topics. Ding, ding, ding. I headed down the path of secondary education, with a focus on English.
During the end of my college career I was able to go to South Africa and Swaziland on two separate trips. We went with Swaziland Relief, and were able to partner with local communities there to build a community center, health clinic, church, and now a six-classroom school (they just started classes Jan ’13). These trips were not my first to a third-world country, but they did change my perspective on life and education. I left college with an understanding that education was still “the bridge”: out of poverty, out of isolation, and to a life full of possibilities.
I graduated. I got married. I bought a house. I got a job. And all of a sudden I was a real adult.
I started teaching 8th grade English, and my district distributed Macbooks to all the teachers during my first year! We also had a number of classrooms that were 1:1, and I was able to really use technology my first year to engage students and improve my instruction. This continued my next year as I moved up to become a high school English teacher in the same district. Now I was using laptops in the classroom everyday, experimenting with different Web 2.0 tools, and started my Master’s program in “Global and International Education” from Drexel University.
That year, as I was learning about globalization in my grad school courses, my students and I created “Project: Global Inform”. It was a project that let my students actually “do something” about human rights violations instead of merely “learning” about theses issues. The project was a smashing success and again changed my mind on the power of students in the classroom through user-generated education.
The next year 70 of my students and I participated in “The Flat Classroom Project” (started by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay). They collaborated with peers from around the world (US, Australia, Qatar, Romania, etc) and learned how much power we have in this “flat” world. That year I also wrote and published The 2.o Teacher eBook through Six Voices and the Tapstack platform. It was my first real attempt to put my writing out there to the world, and got me started blogging, and connected on Twitter.
I began to “practice what I preach” with my students that year, and began the “20% Project” in my class in January of 2012. This type of inquiry-driven, user-generated approach to learning had been something I’d always talked about and advocated for, but this project allowed me to really give my students the opportunity to learn what they were passionate about, and make a difference.
The past few years have been a whirlwind. My wife and I now have a 9 yr-old daughter, 6 yr-old son , 4-year-old son, and a two-year-old daughter. I’ve moved out of the classroom into administration after being a Technology Staff Developer for a district that started a true 1:1 initiative. I’ve written four books, launched a podcast, and a whole host of other projects. Writing and speaking about education has become my passion, but more importantly, I want to write and speak about an education that would be worthy of my own kids.
I believe we need to focus on the BEST of education, and also what is going to be happening NEXT in education. We cannot be stuck in the past, and we cannot let it dictate how we teach and lead in the future.
I take on a select number of side engagements throughout the year. I want to make sure that first and foremost I am doing my best work at my job. However, I do enjoy a great speaking or consultation gig. You can learn more about my speaking here.