EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

5: Connected, curious and comical - one teacher's journey to becoming digitally connected & a literacy advocate.

October 23, 2019 Jimmy Bowens and Sean Forde Season 1 Episode 5
EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
5: Connected, curious and comical - one teacher's journey to becoming digitally connected & a literacy advocate.
Chapters
EPisodes: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age
5: Connected, curious and comical - one teacher's journey to becoming digitally connected & a literacy advocate.
Oct 23, 2019 Season 1 Episode 5
Jimmy Bowens and Sean Forde

In this EPisode, Jimmy chats with Sean Forde, Elementary EdTech Coach at Chadwick International in Songdo, South Korea and founder of World Read Alouds. This candid, humorous, and inspiring chat is jam-packed with ideas on how to incorporate technologies into your classroom, collaborate with other educators, and become globally connected. Sean brings the fun and the silly to the classroom in this uplifting EPisode, as well as being a passionate advocate for literacy and global connections.

Show Notes Transcript

In this EPisode, Jimmy chats with Sean Forde, Elementary EdTech Coach at Chadwick International in Songdo, South Korea and founder of World Read Alouds. This candid, humorous, and inspiring chat is jam-packed with ideas on how to incorporate technologies into your classroom, collaborate with other educators, and become globally connected. Sean brings the fun and the silly to the classroom in this uplifting EPisode, as well as being a passionate advocate for literacy and global connections.

Jimmy:

Welcome to the Episodes podcast where we explore the world of education, learning, technology, and all the minutia of human knowledge acquisition. My name is Jimmy Bowens and I will be your host for today's show. I'm the head of global English here at Education Perfect and today I'll be chatting with Sean Forde. Sean is the elementary ed tech coach at Chadwick International School in Songdo, South Korea. Sean is an innovative educator and a prolific user of digital technology to connect learners and educators across the globe. He is a Flipgrid ambassador and created a series of world read-alouds to promote literacy and the joy of reading. In this wide-ranging episode, we discuss Sean's experiences teaching in Alaska, Korean culture, Flipgrid, and the world read-alouds, as well as some other fascinating connector initiatives Sean is involved with. So without further ado, I give you Sean Forde.

Jimmy:

Let's get going, so thanks so much for taking the time, Sean. What time is it in Korea at the moment?

Sean:

8:14 AM.

Jimmy:

Oh, wow. You're not teaching today?

Sean:

I'm hiding in the, in my classroom.

Jimmy:

So you're at Chadwick, right?

Sean:

Yes.

Jimmy:

The wonderful, I don't want to say satellite city, but I guess it kind of is in [inaudible 00:01:16]. It's big enough to be a satellite city.

Sean:

So it's kind of like its own little bubble. It might be pushing a hundred thousand now but it feels even smaller than that and probably the safest place we'll ever live. But I'm an American so that's pretty easy to say.

Jimmy:

How long have you lived in Korea now?

Sean:

So this would be year six.

Jimmy:

Oh, wow.

Sean:

I did three years teaching second grade. And then my now wife was here, didn't get a job, so left to teach at American School of Milan in Italy. So I asked her to marry me, I bounced over there for one year, wasn't all it was cracked up to be, Europe was great but other factors. So then we left and wound right back at Chadwick and they've created this tech integration position. She does high school math but now she's taken the year off to be with our four month daughter.

Jimmy:

Oh, beautiful. Can you just give us, as much as you're comfortable with, a bit of an introduction to who you are and how you have come to be such a positive force for good on the Internet and in global education circles.

Sean:

My name is Sean Forde. I originally hail from Montevideo, Minnesota in the United States. And I didn't really gun to go into education. I was going to be forensics and then realized instead of dead bodies and blood and bodily fluids of that nature, I would veer more towards not dead bodies but still bodily fluids and other things within the elementary realm. They just have a pulse.

Jimmy:

What was the thought process or the personal development there that caused that shift, that pivot?

Sean:

Well originally I was going to go to University of North Dakota where they had a straight forensics major. But heading out of high school I was a very, very shy kid and growing up in a small town. And Grand Forks was very far away. It wasn't, it was like five hours away. But none of my friends were going there so I was like, "Oh, I'll go to Saint Cloud State, do biochem, and if all else fails I'll go and be a science teacher." I failed my first bio class, so I was like, "Huh. This sucks. Probably not the best thing." So then as I was going through college then, I found adult sodas, and that allowed me to come out of shell more-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

Instead of being the shy recluse, I started blossoming into the man that I am today. And then I was like, "All right, I may be old but I'm still immature inside, so this elementary thing, might give it a shot." And lo and behold, I had to retake that initial science class that I failed.

Jimmy:

Oh, really.

Sean:

So it all came full circle.

Jimmy:

We're expecting school-leavers to have a much more mature insight into their potential career path than we're probably capable of at that age. Like you mentioned, you were thinking about your social circle, your friends, and realizing then that you didn't like what you had thought you would like. And then it was when you got a bit more social confidence that you started to think a bit more about what you're capable of. I think that's really interesting in terms of what we expect of our young people when they're launched into the world suddenly. Even pre-university, you know?

Sean:

Yeah. Even once I did graduate and I took a job teaching fourth grade, you don't even know if that's the age range that you want to do.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

My wheelhouse is second grade or third grade and the youngers but you don't know that coming out of college either so-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

It's kind of like a trial by fire.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

After graduating, I was expecting to move back into my luxurious basement of my parents and substitute teach but got a last minute job doing Casa Grande, Arizona. It was a good start, I had fun, but in a nutshell, I'd say that I was too much cookie dough for their cookie cutter. I decided that it was time, because financially and job-wise, to move on. So as you do when you're financially strapped, almost leaving education, and somewhat depressed, you accept a job in a remote village of Alaska. It doesn't make a lot of sense as far as the depression realm of things-

Jimmy:

You're following the familiar arc of the Great American Novel, I think.

Sean:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. My mom wasn't too keen on her depressed son moving to a remote village of 320, but it was the best decision I ever made. So I moved and taught three years in a village of 320 called Russian Mission, Alaska. And that is where I met probably the best principal I'll ever have, and he allowed me to rediscover the love for teaching and this is what I was supposed to do. But when you're in a remote village with one store and no alcohol, you have a lot of free time to do stuff-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So that's where I got my online master's in ed tech. And when you're in a fly-in fly-out village, you realize these kids don't get to even Anchorage, so that's where I grew the love of wanting to break down the walls and make connections.

Jimmy:

When you went to Alaska, I mean first of all that's a very impressive move to make, and I know very few people who have been to Alaska, let alone lived and worked there. I've known some people who've worked in the Northern Territories of Canada. You mentioned that you had the best principal you ever had and likely will ever have. What were the characteristics of that person, that make you say that?

Sean:

Coming in, the only Alaskan thing I could do was grow sweet facial hair. So my resume for living in Alaska was pretty bland and now all of a sudden I'm a 400 dollar plane flight away from Anchorage with no roads and one restaurant.

Jimmy:

Wow.

Sean:

And almost left teaching altogether. But he, when you're stuck there and there's only seven teachers K through 12, you're forced to make these types of bonds. And he's young at heart, immature, so pretty much same same, he's just about ten years older than me. So it was like, it'd get to 3:40 in the afternoon, and he'd come in and I'd be still in the lower 48 mindset of still plugging away, needing to make sure all this is this and that and that.

Jimmy:

Mmm.

Sean:

He comes in and chucks a dodgeball against ... He was like, "Close it up, we're going hunting. We're going fishing." And he made sure that work-life balance was definitely present and just made learning and teaching fun again.

Jimmy:

Oh, that's so good to hear. I would imagine then that you go from thinking about bureaucratic things like admin and data tracking into the literal field of hunting.

Sean:

Yeah.

Jimmy:

Brings you back to reality about what's really important.

Sean:

Well just going from the, well we say the lower 48 or the continental U.S.-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

To remote Alaska where these were, majority were Yupik or Eskimos, and my first year there nobody graduated. The [inaudible 00:08:23] 90 kids K through 12.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

But you're in a whole different ballgame than what you're used to in the lower 48, where the first ten minutes, you're going to be able to tell if you're even going to be able to teach a lesson. Or if it's going to be a day where kids are going to randomly need naps or you might get pencils thrown at your face or bitten or, or you're just going to have to make just fun activities and scratch Houghton Mifflin or Scott Foresman.

Jimmy:

I would imagine as well that the rationalization of why they should listen to what you want to teach them is a more challenging endeavor also, because they've got such a different environment in which they're developing and growing up in.

Sean:

Yeah and that was with getting into the global education and the collaboration in projects and stuff. It was when I had a student come back from Anchorage, he was like, "Mr. Forde, I saw Taco Bell." I was like, "Sweet. What did you eat?" "I didn't, I just saw the sign." So first step, Ace of Base popped into my head, and that song The Sign was going on. But then once I clicked pause mentally, I was like, "Holy crap. He was this excited and he didn't even get to enjoy a gordita or a chalupa." So that was where it was like, "All right, I need to start focusing on how I can break these walls down and get these kids' eyes outside of just Russian Mission or just outside of Anchorage." So that was the big eye-opener.

Jimmy:

Fascinating. And in doing so then, was it that the students suddenly saw increased potential in themselves and opportunity, or was it more that they started to have bigger ambitions?

Sean:

I mean at that point I was teaching first and second grade. It's a little tough to gauge. At least open their eyes besides the landmarks or this and that in Anchorage doing Flat Stanley projects where I would e-mail them out instead of mail them out.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

That way they were seeing each of their own popping up all over the world, or doing virtual field trips to Australia or around the U.S. Just showing them what type of stuff they could learn or what type of things they can even see just going out and about.

Jimmy:

It's amazing to think about. I'm picturing in my head that they, these children, are surrounded by a very specific type of landscape, physical environment that they exist in is beautiful, I'm sure, and incredibly natural. But compared to the globalized western world, very minimalistic. I imagine it would be incredible for them to think about all the diversity outside of their own world. My favorite thing I studied at university was, I did a minor in anthropology and I know that's not strictly what we're talking about but it just fascinates me to think about the complete contrast of lifestyles that some people have in this world and you're very lucky to have experienced that, I think. But you're now working in South Korea and you mentioned briefly in the beginning a little bit of your backstory, but what initially got you excited to go there or what was the catalyst for moving to East Asia?

Sean:

So with being in Alaska, you're making some pretty good money. And when I randomly came upon a brochure, international student volunteers, I was like, ""Oh, I still have a class left in my master's so I'm technically a student. So I signed up for this and went on a four week volunteer adventure trip to South Africa, Botswana, Zambia-

Jimmy:

Amazing.

Sean:

That sector of the world. And I was definitely the grandpa of the students, that's for sure. But it opened up my eyes that this is even a possibility so I did my research, joined search associates, flew from Alaska over to Boston, for the job fair there. And I had a whole bunch of jobs, I was only looking for Africa.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

I had previous interviews set up, other interviews. Get off the plane and have an e-mail from the former head of school here. It was asking to meet at John Harvard's Pub. I was like, "All right, that's different."

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

"Um, okay." So over a burger and a beer, met with her and talked to her and she was talking about how the school is innovative and one-to-one and in a new city. I was like, "Okay, this is kind of up my alley." So I shot for Africa, wound up in Asia, and now this is technically two point oh back at Chadwick International. It's worked out but Africa's definitely still in the cards for my wife and I down the road once our daughter gets a little older.

Jimmy:

That's wonderful. Yeah. I respect that. But you know what, it's probably good for you in a way that you went from Alaska to Korea and then you'll have, because I would imagine, I can't really speak to this although my early teaching experience was in the lower socioeconomic end of the spectrum in terms of students, but not to the extent that you've experienced. But I would imagine it is emotionally draining.

Sean:

I mean it's definitely draining, when I was in Russian Mission trying so hard, and then I got bad scars on my hands and arms from each year from getting bitten and this and that.

Jimmy:

Wow.

Sean:

But I wouldn't have changed it for the world. But the weird thing is, you go there and you want to break down the walls because of their economic status and they're in this remote village, you want them to see the world, to get out. And then here I am in a bright and shiny city and an expensive, private, international school. But yeah, sure, they go on these extravagant vacations. But they're somewhere in the exact same ballpark.

Jimmy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sean:

One, they can't see the city because they're in a remote village. And these rich Koreans aren't really seeing the world either. Yes, they might go to Bali, but they're going to the Hilton or the fancy fancies and just swimming in the pool, they're not really seeing the world.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So even though they're total polar opposites in the economic spectrum, they're not seeing what's fully out there to learn to explore and to just take in so it's somewhat the same same.

Jimmy:

Interesting. That's a real educator's perspective. You've found the same limitations in complete contrasting societies. I can relate to what you're saying as well. When I lived and experienced South Korea, having gotten a bit frustrated with, because it is a fantastic place and the people are wonderful and the culture is very unique and it's very strong, but I did find it difficult to kind of break through, myself. And I had a real positive experience when I went to Nepal for a holiday, while I was working in Korea, I took advantage as I'm sure you do as well with being in that part of the world to travel.

Sean:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jimmy:

But I went there and I met a lot of South Koreans in the Himalayas who were very much trying to experience the world in a different way than they were used to and I had some really good conversations, so there are exceptions out there for sure.

Sean:

Oh yeah, definitely.

Jimmy:

But totally, totally understand what you're saying. Now we can't really talk about South Korea without mentioning a few of the idiosyncratic elements of that culture and society. And I'm dying to know what you, I mean you've been there six years so that's, you've probably become completely accustomed to most things but what's your favorite food? How's your language going? Any interesting insights into the culture that you've arrived at?

Sean:

Well favorite food, definitely pork belly and-

Jimmy:

Mmm.

Sean:

Korean barbecues-

Jimmy:

Oh yeah-

Sean:

Lamb skewers. My wife could take a whole bag of kimchi and eat it like it's a bowl of cereal, which is really weird.

Jimmy:

She's got good health then.

Sean:

Yeah, yeah. But I mean there's always those that are always good to go and enjoy. But it's also nice being in Songdo too, where it is pretty diverse, so even if you go to a Mexican restaurant, they have put in their Korean twist to it.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

There is a lot of fusion, which is cool, where you can still get your little tastes of home-

Jimmy:

Yeah-

Sean:

But remixed.

Jimmy:

Have you gotten onto soju?

Sean:

I mean soju is, eh, it's cheap. But it usually goes straight into the beer, so-

Jimmy:

Yeah, I was-

Sean:

I'm not one to sip it or shoot it. I'm not one to be like, "All right, we'll blend it into this [inaudible 00:17:15]."

Jimmy:

And or listeners might not understand what we're talking about right now but I think there's a game that I remember called Titanic, does that ring a bell to you?

Sean:

No but if you drink enough soju, you'll definitely crash and sink.

Jimmy:

I used to work in a university so the, it was hard to avoid going out with some of my students. They would want to bring out the foreign instructors.

Sean:

Yeah.

Jimmy:

And I was always amazed at the inventiveness of the drinking games in Korea and I just, I was constantly surprised by the creative ways they would drink. And they had a game called Titanic, these students that I remember, I was in Daegu. And they would put the chopsticks across the beer glass, like loads of, quite a number of chopsticks, it would almost cover the top of your glass. And they would put this soju shot glass on top of the chopsticks and then everyone had to take turns trying to remove the chopsticks until the person who made the glass fall in or they got the last chopstick, and then they had to shoot the soju.

Sean:

It's like an adult version of Don't Break the Ice.

Jimmy:

Yeah, some warped, abstract Jenga. I had to ask that. What about the culture, the customs, and the social dynamics, because I found Korea to be fascinating in how complex it is in terms of figuring out where you sit in the culture, and how you interact, and how you get on, and all that kind of thing.

Sean:

Yeah, I mean definitely, coming from the States, and I'm sure it's a lot of other places, where you walk past someone and you smile, you nod your head, you get it reciprocated. You just have to accept that you still might smile and nod, but it probably isn't coming back to you. But it is kind of cool, especially having a year experience in Italy, and somewhat looking like I could maybe be Italian, with a dark beard and dark hair-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

They are very proud of their language, I'm not saying Koreans aren't, but if you don't speak Italian they get very angry at you. Obviously they know I don't speak Korean here-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

But they aren't afraid to give it a shot and try, and are very proud that they're trying to learn English and this and that. So it is a cool dynamic to see. But also it's just, I've said it, I tell my friends to try to explain how safe it is here. You could pass out playing Titanic too many times, in a [inaudible 00:19:34], with your passport, your cell phone, your wallet, and cash strewn about, and most likely they'd probably tuck the cash back in your wallet, put the wallet in your right pocket, put your passport in your other pocket, and probably go and buy a blanket to put it on top of you to make sure you're warm.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

I mean it's just crazy how it is here. I've gotten my wallet returned, my wife has gotten her cell phone returned, we go to most other places and chalk that up to gone.

Jimmy:

Yeah, yeah. That's wonderful. Okay, I'm conscious of your time and I, I mean the reason that we're, I'm so excited to talk to you, is because of a lot of your educational initiatives and again, we could probably talk about Korea for ages. I've got plenty of stories myself. But we'll jump forward into some more of the things that you have done wonderfully in the education world. Can you talk a little bit about flipped learning and what is it, what's effective about this, in your opinion, and how have you kind of adopted it in the digital sense?

Sean:

That obviously depends on what level of, you're teaching with your students, but if you could get kids excited or engaged on content or ideas before they actually come, because I think a lot of, there's so much content that teachers have to somewhat shove down students' throats, because they're like, "Oh, we've only got this time window and we have to do this unit and we've got to blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah." And it eliminates a lot of the fun that you can do to take it the next step further. So if you can present things in a way where kids can engage and learn it, whether it's at home, or at their own pace and time, then it backbuilds to when you do come to class, you can take things to the next level and do these external projects, do these virtual connections, without worrying, "Oh, there's just no time for that, I've got to get through blah blah blah and blah," so-

Jimmy:

Mmm.

Sean:

It's definitely, and even, where we're PYP here, so it's inquiry, but if you can get them up to speed in a different fun, unique way, whether it's just watching simple, fun videos at home, or on their own at their own pace of what they're excited about, it helps build their interest and differentiate the types of lessons that you can take from there.

Jimmy:

And you're a champion of Flipgrid. Can you explain what Flipgrid is?

Sean:

Oh, yeah. So, I mean, I wish this was around back when I was in elementary school. Because just last year I had my own first and second grade teacher who happens to live part-time in Guam. She flew up to visit my wife Janice and I. And this was the first time I'd seen her since third grade. So she spent two days here at Chadwick and she went into a staff meeting and was like, "Yeah. I can't even believe who in the world this guy is. Because there were times when Sean just talked in class and I had to call his mom just to like praise, 'Oh my God, Sean said the word 'dog.''" And they're like, "No way. This kid is weird and he won't shut up now." So having something like Flipgrid which is a very diverse, and it's only gotten better over time, type of platform that allows every type of student or every type of person, walk of life, across the world to share their voice in a unique way or implement it in doing flipped learning. It's a very easy, very cut and dry, but very diverse of what you can do with it.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So definitely if you haven't, check out flipgrid.com. And they're from Minnesota so they're super nice. Like me.

Jimmy:

Yeah. Famous Minnesotians. Minnesotians? I don't know.

Sean:

Whatever.

Jimmy:

They're just nice folks.

Sean:

Yeah, exactly.

Jimmy:

Now you created world read-alouds, which in my limited research that I did about you, this was the most common thing I saw was world read-alouds, and I had a look at it and I looked into it and I thought, "This is absolutely amazing." And an incredible initiative in terms of promoting literacy and reading and I'm very passionate about literacy myself, that's my field of expertise.

Sean:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jimmy:

Can you talk a little bit about what prompted that initiative? How did you kind of come up with that, yeah, what's the backstory there to that?

Sean:

It started when I was in Italy. So in Italy I wasn't really a classroom teacher, I was a K through five [inaudible 00:24:09] teacher. That was the first time I'd never had a homeroom or I was limited to these 45 minute blocks now that I had to do, design projects or science projects. But one thing that I always liked was finding quirky, funny books and just reading children's books. As you can tell, that we're this far into the podcast, I have a somewhat monotone voice whether I'm under the weather or not. So I was like, "All right. How can I still be part of read-alouds but also kind of break down the walls and let everybody be part of it."

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So back before a lot of the changes in Flipgrid, I was working really hard at, "How can I take a book and break it down page by page, and have each page recorded by someone else in the world? But keep it in order. So that way when you click play on the first one, it goes through the story as being read by possibly 25 different people in different parts of the world."

Jimmy:

Yeah, wow.

Sean:

And by using Flipgrid, that's the platform that I provide the page prompts and collect the recordings, whether it's individual teachers, adults around the world, classes, students. They record their pages within those grids, and then once it's all done and complete, I build the actual stories with the videos embedded within Book Creator. So this way it gives a unique way for stories to be told to your kids, but it also implements social studies and geography where you can be like, "Okay, here's page one, came from Songdo, South Korea. Page two came from Beijing." Then you can implement math. "How far did it travel from page one to page two to page three?" There's a lot of different aspects that you can differentiate. All the stories that I've completed can be found at worldreadalouds.com. And so far it's done 1.8 million kilometers traveled page to page.

Jimmy:

Wow.

Sean:

And through it all, part of doing global projects is just doing shot in the darks like, "I have no idea if this will work, it'll likely fail, but you never know." So with random shot in the darks I've gotten Aaron Reynolds of Creepy Carrots and Creepy Pair of Underwear-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

To record an introduction for one of them and-

Jimmy:

Amazing.

Sean:

Drew a baby of Rosie Revere, Engineer. And Ada Twist recorded an introduction. So it's all just how you use social media and you never know, like creating one for Peter H. Reynolds has gotten me connected to him and his brother for other global projects, so it's really cool just to see how you can uniquely connect with authors and just classrooms around the world.

Jimmy:

And my first impressions were, "It's so simple, and yet so powerful." It's not an overly complex endeavor, it's reading aloud, it's sharing reading across the globe ... Yeah, I just thought, "How has this not existed before Sean Forde?" So well done, I think it's a absolutely brilliant initiative. Is there any more on the cards? Are you going to do more or-

Sean:

I definitely still books that are still open and available to-

Jimmy:

Okay-

Sean:

Record and build. Right on the website I've got two, so I was like, "If I'm doing this, might as well like try to connect to the authors and maybe raise some money for charity as well." So right at the top there's two charity ones that I'm still trying to build, so Iggy Peck, Architect. So I connected to Andrea Beaty and with that one, there's links to donate money to Room to Read, which builds libraries in underprivileged areas around the world. And then with Peter H. Reynolds, we decided that one charity that would be good is the George Badiel Foundation, which related to a book that world read alouds has already done, but he illustrated, called The Water Princess. So those two are like the charity versions, but if you go to flipgrid.com/wra, then you can get a glimpse of some of the stories that are still alive. There's one called Unicorn and the Rainbow Poop. It's a pretty sweet story.

Jimmy:

Well we're make sure that these links are put into the description for [inaudible 00:28:40] listeners and I would absolutely encourage everybody to go and have a look and click and get involved if they can. There's also a few things that I wasn't overly familiar with when I was looking at your bio. Wakelet was one. Seesaw I recognize but I'd love to hear your take on that as well. And you have two organizations that you are linked with, cilc.org and ISTE. Is there anything that you can tell us about those or one or more of them that might-

Sean:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jimmy:

Cool.

Sean:

So I'll just start with a list. Wakelet is, and it's taken off hugely, they've recently joined with Microsoft, kind of like what Flipgrid did.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

And it's an amazing, not only just curation tool, for educators to your resources, your lessons, or your, just anything and everything. It's kind of like a Pinterest for your own teaching. But it's also an awesome way to collaborate for global projects as well. You can definitely create it for your own personal profiles and build a profile-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

You can follow other educators. The two ways that I've utilized it for a global project is, previously I talked about Flat Stanley, who was a chapter book way back in the day but is still alive and well. It's about a boy who gets flattened by a bulletin board and then he gets mailed off to solve different mysteries and such.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So I was like, "I'm impatient. I don't want to do snail mail. What if I had every kid create a Flat Stanley and I scan him and then e-mail him." That way people can print him off, they can just pull him up on the phone and have a digital Flat Stanley. If a Flat Stanley decides to go swimming in the Pacific Ocean, and not come back, you cam simply print a new one. Or if you're a party pooper and you don't want to do it, you can forward it on to 40 different friends. So this past year I decided to switch it up a bit, to try to make it a unique, different way to share the photos of his adventures-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So one thing with Wakelet is you have a collaboration QR code. So I create the collection but with this QR, which I put on Stanley's belly, after you show him around you just simply scan the QR on the belly and all of a sudden you're a collaborator to this collection of photos of his adventures from all over the world.

Jimmy:

Oh, that's so cool.

Sean:

So you don't have to worry about e-mailing to me, I don't have to worry about taking the e-mail photos and putting it onto a site-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So it's just kind of a one stop shop of photo dump.

Jimmy:

Yeah. Wow, that's so clever. I wanted to ask you more about Flat Stanley but you've done a great job of explaining him there.

Sean:

Yeah, and there's a lot different way, like I did one year where it was a Flipgrid link, so instead of just photos, you could actually share videos of his adventures, so you can be a lot more creative of-

Jimmy:

Yeah-

Sean:

What in the world Stanley's doing. This year one new thing with Flipgrid is their ARQR codes, so instead of the kid creating just their own Stanley, why not leave the Wakelet QR but then also the Flipgrid ARQR, that's a mouthful. So then you scan that and all of a sudden the AR video of that kid who Stanley belongs to-

Jimmy:

Yeah-

Sean:

Is explaining to the person what the project is, how to do it, and all of that. So it makes it more connected with the kid.

Jimmy:

Can you tell us a little bit about Seesaw?

Sean:

Yeah. Seesaw's a great platform., we use it here. It's a portfolio for kids and it ranges, from first glance it might appear more elementary, but it's been used K through 12, even in university, just to build a virtual profile, portfolio for students to show their growth, to connect with other students in the class om projects, and get that connection at home, where back in the day when we were at school like, "Oh, what did you do at school?" "Nothing." And then they don't have any ammunition to call your bluff. So here parents get notified and you could say "Nothing" but "Oh no no, I got a notification. What cool activity was this?"

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So it drives the discussion at home and all of this so-

Jimmy:

Yeah, that's a big thing with us at EP as well, is that there's transparency so that it can be a more informed discussion from parent to student. So yeah, I totally appreciate that, that's awesome. I don't know much about, is it cilc.org or cilc.org?

Sean:

I guess it's technically cilc, but I call it C-I-L-C.

Jimmy:

Okay.

Sean:

It's not only just a collaboration website for teachers but it's also a place where you can get connected to legit, awesome museums and virtual programs, not only in the U.S. but around the world. So when I was in Russian Mission this is where I got really into it, because these were our field trips. We couldn't take yellow buses. So we telepresence in or connect through Zoom or Skype with these places, and the first one I experienced was we virtually connected to Reef HQ in Australia. And it started with a person on the land talking to the kids, explaining hand signals, this and that. And then it cut to a scuba diver in a dive tank with coral, with predators, and this and that.

Jimmy:

Yeah, cool.

Sean:

With a microphone so it was like mind blowing. We did virtual squid dissections with SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska. It's just an awesome way to get the experience but not potentially take a whole day, spend money on buses, spend money on lunches. And it ranges from either free experiences to, I would say probably the scuba diving one is most expensive, probably about 300ish dollars. It's definitely really cool and they're looking to take it the next level and get more engaging with not only students but also older learners, like you're retired but you still want to learn and engage so-

Jimmy:

Mmm.

Sean:

Create programs for my dad.

Jimmy:

We talk a lot about effective resources, digital resources, and you've mentioned some incredible ones here. And what I noticed, listening to you, is that you said "shot in the dark," like you just try it, you've got an idea but you do have some clear intent and ideas that seem to fuel your use of these things. And I think that often teachers feel overwhelmed with the sheer choice that we have ar our disposal now as educators. Do you have any kind of advice or suggestions for teachers in order to be efficient in choosing tools, or working out what tools would be good, or even why they should not use certain tools to implement and improve their pedagogical approach?

Sean:

Yeah. From a teacher realm, I obviously do a lot of my global projects and a lot of projects that I have in the works are currently going on besides world read alouds that deal with Flipgrid.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So I just found a platform that worked and had there been ideas and projects within even Flipgrid [inaudible 00:35:59]. Waking up in the morning and just getting ready for work, which is usually where these random ideas pop in-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

And I go for it and shoot for it and then it totally gets no traction, no tread. I'm like, "Ugh, crap." There's going to be projects or ideas that are going to totally fail, but those are the types of experiences that then, how can you tweak and refine it and take it to the next level? Or twist it to how will you get it to be that amazing experience next. But you just find one that you're comfortable with and go for it. And then once you see the validity and the power of just that one, then it might trigger you to jump on and try another one. As far as the ed tech integrator realm, you always force feed curriculum, force feed other stuff, so you really have no choice. Where, especially in a one-to-one realm, I feel you don't want to force feed, I guess there's non-negotiable of things and platforms that you should use. But I like to say, "To get the horse blinders off, you have to provide a nice platter of hors d'oeuvres." And kind of put them in the footsteps of a kid.

Jimmy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sean:

Don't put them in the realm of the teacher. Provide these little snackies and hors d'oeuvres of what it would be like to use it as a kid.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

And just have an open door policy. You don't know when a teacher's going to be like, "Oh yes, I can use Wakelet" or "Yes, I can use Flipgrid" or this or that. You just give it to them, let them play with it, and when they're ready, they're ready. And I think when you do approach, they're going to be a lot more keen to come to you and be like, "All right, I got a chance to play with it," maybe it's two months later. "I'm now comfortable to try it out."

Jimmy:

I couldn't agree more. That has been my experience with EP as a digital resource as well is that, when they've had a chance to play, I think that's the key thing in terms of teachers successfully adopting any resource. It's that they've independently gone in there out of their own curiosity and played with it, and then take ownership because of their authentic initiative to do it. So I would love to ask you, because there seems to be so much going on with regard to your creative initiatives. I know Flipgrid is a big one, but have you got any particular hopes and goals for the future with regard to your career? You mentioned Africa. Are there any new initiatives on the horizon you'd like to tell our listeners about? That they could potentially get involved with or look out for.

Sean:

Definitely, this is year two of me being tech integration so I definitely want to dabble more in this just to get my head and hands wrapped around this, but my main passion, which has gotten me attached to the ISTE global collaboration team. It is now part of that. Obviously C-I-L-C and all these other projects, is just my main passion, of just finding new and unique projects that can bring the world together. Some of the ones that I've been working on, like currently is going on, is a global book club, which I've got about 90 locations and 90 educators from around the world from six different continents signed up. It focuses on a chapter book each month and then each week is a section of the book, so when you go into Flipgrid and your kids, wherever you are, can record their reflections or discussions or views of "What in the world just happened in the book?"

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

And then someone from across the world can jump in and chime in and build the discussion. So right now we're working on the book Front Desk, which happens to also be the global read aloud book. The website is myglobalbookclub.com. And it has the layout of what books are going to be covered for the following year, but also have authors in line to connect and do discussions, Q and A's, and this and that throughout the year to make it even more engaging for kids. So-

Jimmy:

That's incredible.

Sean:

That's a really fun one. Working with a platforming company called belouga.org, which if you haven't checked that out, they're awesome. They work very closely with STG's and they have things called impact campaigns, so the more you're collaborating and engaging and connecting, you're earning points. And then it puts it into the students' hands of "How do you want to use these points?" So the impact campaigns are lessons that you can watch and interact with your students, or they can do on their own and then they're donating their points to make an impact. So like right now it's making sure there's clean water wells in Cambodia. So it's steps, so you buy the land, then-

Jimmy:

Yeah-

Sean:

The concrete, then the wages for the workers. It's really cool. So looking to build some content for them.

Jimmy:

Can you just spell beluga just in case it's not spelled the way I would expect it to be.

Sean:

So it' just B-E-L-O-U-G-A.org. There's a whole bunch of various different content, both from them, from non-profits, from actual organizations that have built content for kids across [inaudible 00:41:17] levels. So, one last one too and this one's a big one.

Jimmy:

Go for it.

Sean:

Building. I don't know if I'm going to kick it off, I'm still trying to feel out the interest and who would be intrigued to do it. So there's a platform that I've used with my second graders. And it's called boomwriter.com. And it makes writing fun. How it works is you create or use a story, start it from chapter one, and then your students or the people that are signed up read chapter one, write and publish chapter two. And then once that process is done, then they log back in and they read four anonymous entries, vote, four anonymous entries, vote, and then it force, then there's a winner. So then it forces the kids or people to, "Okay, here's now, what happened in chapter two?" How do you have to rechange your thinking for what's going to happen in chapter three?

Jimmy:

Oh, that's so great.

Sean:

And the finished product is a legit published chapter book that your kids are now in. And one of the cool, new features that they've added, that everyone who writes the last chapter, yes, there's the winning, final chapter. But there's an alternate ending. So these books that you can buy that are legit books have that alternate ending which is now customized to you.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So whether you're a low writer or a high writer, you're a published author in this book. So what I want to do is take it the adult level and have educators around the world work, maybe a group of myself and educators come up with a chapter one. And maybe there's 20, start off with chapter two, maybe there's 20 people, educators around the world. This week, write what you want to be chapter two. And then your account name is like Sean Forde is your first name, parentheses Korea, is your last name. So if you're winning or if you win that chapter it's published as Sean Forde (Korea.)

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

So now we have a chapter book that's built by educators from around the world and you're also a published author.

Jimmy:

I love it, Sean. That sounds incredible. What I love about it is, maybe it will just give people a good reason just to step away and activate their imagination for a little while during the day or the week. Or the weekend.

Sean:

Exactly.

Jimmy:

Now especially-

Sean:

[inaudible 00:43:46] collaborate.

Jimmy:

Yeah. And there's just never enough collaboration between educators, it's another thing that I love about what you seem to be emphasizing as connectedness. And how working together is so fruitful, even learning together. That sounds like an awesome initiative. So again, we'll put that in the show notes and make sure that the link is there. And we'll also put your details in there so people can ask questions. I don't want to take up your whole morning and I know that you're in your classroom at the moment but I would love to ask you some really quick-fire, creative questions that have no -

Sean:

Yup-

Jimmy:

Agenda whatsoever. They're just so that we can get to know you a little better, is that okay?

Sean:

That's good.

Jimmy:

What is your favorite word and why?

Sean:

Magical. One thing that I just like to build, whether I'm in the classroom or not, is that it's okay to be quirky, weird, and silly. So I use funny words and talk about, read books about unicorn, I have a pink belt, pink phone case, where it's like, "Who cares? Okay I didn't read funny stories about unicorns and rainbow poop where pink ducks have pink phones." It's like, just have fun. Everybody-

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

Gets uptight so much these days, and just life in general, just let loose and be silly.

Jimmy:

Hear, hear. Do you have a quote or quotes which you find particularly useful to think about or share?

Sean:

There's one definitely that was a big part of when I was in Arizona and going through all of that, the depression, and getting forced out, and-

Jimmy:

Mmm.

Sean:

Financials, and just life kicking you in the behind. There was a poster that I had, so I used to be a runner, emphasis on "used to." Now I'm a walker and an elevator-er. But it's about Steve Prefontaine, who's a runner. And it's, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." So that was like, "I'm doing it my way." And as long as I'm getting the results and kids are having fun, I'm not changing anything because this is what I brought, this is my gift, so ...

Jimmy:

Really good advice. This is an odd one. I'm not sure how I would answer this actually so it's up to you, but give it a go if you'd like. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?

Sean:

That's a good one. I would probably ask, "Where do Bigfoot, unicorns, and Nessie live? And why haven't we found them yet?"

Jimmy:

I love it. That's the first time I've asked that question on the podcast and I think you might hold onto the championship answer for quite awhile.

Sean:

I mean, I might know the answer, so my intro to education course at St. Cloud State. I had a very quirky professor, and he was truthfully telling us some very interesting, I think you call it "fake news" now? [inaudible 00:46:48]. He said Bigfoot and Nessie and things like that are real, but they've never been found because they travel through vortexes. So that might be the answer to my very own question-

Jimmy:

Oh, maybe-

Sean:

But I also think he might be a little crazy.

Jimmy:

But you know what, if we live in the little space there between what you've described, that's a pretty interesting place, I think.

Sean:

Yes.

Jimmy:

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Sean:

Besides a unicorn hunter, I would probably say sports marketing or sports advertising. Whether it's for their visual ads, or TV, or just coming up like the fun, quirky ideas during games to come like Star Wars night or different things like that.

Jimmy:

Yeah.

Sean:

I think that'd be fun.

Jimmy:

Yeah, yeah, it would be. What is the most unusual thing about you?

Sean:

That is a good one. There's a lot of them, I'm very unusual. I like to shave my beard into unique and different facial hairs. My wife hates it but when you're in a remote village and lived a hundred miles away from her, you could get away with it. Whether it's like a question mark, and then you have your kids work on writing questions because "I mustache you a question." Or you cut it into a monkey tail-

Jimmy:

Oh, that's so good-

Sean:

And then have them write tales about monkeys. Cut it into a little crab and it's a crustacean.

Jimmy:

Okay, you've just given me my next facial hair initiative.

Sean:

Yeah, yeah yeah. Right now it's-

Jimmy:

Octobeard-

Sean:

Octobeard. Then it's Movember. And then it's Just-Keep-Going January. Then it's adult word February. And then Mustache March.

Jimmy:

We might be living-

Sean:

It's a whole, whole year.

Jimmy:

We're living in the epoch of the beard and mustache. It's been resurrected, that's for sure.

Sean:

And I think I'm just too lazy to shave, it takes too long.

Jimmy:

No shh, that's not the reason. Keep that to yourself.

Sean:

And it saves food sometimes and it keeps you warm-

Jimmy:

Yeah. I'm all for it. We are brothers in beards. What would be your teacher walk out song?

Sean:

Ooh, it would probably be, I've got two. So there's one to really make an impact, it'd maybe be like the Stone Cold Steve Austin glass-shattering entrance or if it's more towards the end of the week I would maybe say Friday by Rebecca Black.

Jimmy:

All right, got it. It's a good choice. Okay, last quick-fire question. A penguin walks into your house right now, or classroom right now, wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

Sean:

Well, as a teacher it's always good for a good party. And kids are angels and they always lead us to potentially partake in adult beverages. And my wife asked me what I would say for this this morning. Well, I'll stick to the super cheese and it would be, cheerleader style, "Brr, it's cold in here, there must be some tequila in the atmosphere."

Jimmy:

Nailed it.

Sean:

Just a penguin looking to party.

Jimmy:

What a great way to end a conversation. I have to say thanks so much, Sean. I would love to chat to you again at some point, if you're up a for a part two at any point, we would be honored to chat to you a bit more. I think, just listening to the wide-ranging chat we've had, and the diversity of your educator's experience, one of the takeaways I think for me is, your attitude towards education in general which is not overly serious and yet in that, obviously effective. I love that. And I think that we are in a time and an age where stress is increasing and it's just more and more tracking and data and administration and bureaucracy is creeping into what should be a pleasurable career and a fun place to be for both kids and teachers. And you are certainly a refreshing character in terms of what we could be as educators, just a bit more fun, a bit more silly, and a bit more light-hearted. And we can still get the job done, I think, with that kind of attitude. So thank you so much.

Sean:

Thank you.

Jimmy:

It is very infectious. Where can people find you on the Internet if they want to reach out to ask you a question or to leave a comment or to join one of your initiatives? What's the best place they could get in touch-

Sean:

Yeah, so obviously when you said the links to a lot of the projects will be shared later but you can definitely find me on the Twitter at S-E-A-N number four letter D. So yeah, definitely reach out there or my e-mail is F-O-R-D-E at chadwick school dot org.

Jimmy:

Awesome. Have you got any vacation plans around Korea in the near future?

Sean:

Not too much, just kind of laying low with the kid and getting to experience little [inaudible 00:52:32] as she grows. We'll head back to the States for winter break for first Christmas but-

Jimmy:

Nice.

Sean:

Right now, since we're on one income, we're trying to lay low.

Jimmy:

Fair enough. And I can relate to that. I'm in the same scenario. Well thank you so much, Sean. It has been a pleasure and good luck with everything. Hopefully our listeners out there will jump on board with the initiatives that you've mentioned and recommend because they all sound incredible. So thanks so much and take care.

Sean:

Thank you for having me. Have a good one.

Jimmy:

Thanks for listening to another Episodes podcast. If you enjoyed listening, please consider leaving us a review on the podcast service of your choice. We appreciate all reviews and ratings, as we would love to continue providing wide-ranging discussions with educational experts across the globe for you, our fine listeners. If you would like to participate in the discussion on any of our topics, please go to our LinkedIn group, teaching and learning in the digital age. We post regular articles there and we'd love to hear from you. You can also find us on Twitter at education perf. You can also follow me on Twitter at E-P-JBowens. That's capital E, capital P, J-B-O-W-E-N-S, all lowercase. So thanks for listening. Keep your ears open for our next podcast. Go well, be happy, and keep learning.