EdSpace the social learning network with Michael Crawford, PhD (Ep 28)

March 08, 2022/ By

Michael J. Crawford, PhD, is the co-founder of EdSpace.live, the social learning network for the world of education. Michael is a researcher by training. With passion at the intersection of human development, social impact, and entrepreneurship, Michael drives all things product and community. Follow Michael on Twitter @mjcraw or join EdSpace at www.edspace.live. They are also on Twitter @EdSpaceLive.

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Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Welcome to the Deeper Learning with WeVideo podcast. Nathan here and I'm excited to have my good pal, Michael on. Dr. Michael Crawford is the co-founder of EdSpace, the social learning network for teachers. A researcher by training with a passion at the intersection of human development, social impact and entrepreneurship, Michael drives all things product and community. Prior to EdSpace, he worked at Real World Scholars and the Kauffman Foundation, and he recently completed his PhD in educational psychology, focusing on adolescent development and non-formal learning environments. When he's not working, he's spending time with his wife and two sons, he's reading, or he's tweeting. Michael, it's so good to have you on the show.

Michael Crawford, PhD: Nathan, thanks for having me.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Absolutely. Now I know you're in Michigan right now and it's end of April, it's snowing outside. I'm here in Maine and I'm awaiting the snow. So I appreciate you jumping on in this interesting time with winter during spring and of course the middle of a pandemic.

Michael Crawford, PhD: It is wild. Yeah. I mean Michigan, as listeners may know, has its own ideas for what the weather should look like. So [crosstalk 00:01:16] we were upper 60's and then today it's decided to snow pretty much all day, so we'll take it. And yeah, it is a wild time. I know I think most states, if not all states right now have some kind of shelter in place order upon them and so I think there are major implications for all kinds of things, not least of which schools and teachers and parents and students. So yeah, I'm glad to chat with you.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah. Well, just before we get into the remote learning and all the craziness that we're dealing with right now, I think back. I have followed you on Twitter forever and I remember about five years ago, I was working for a curriculum company and I had a meeting up in Michigan and I reached out, but I couldn't make a face-to-face meeting work, but eventually we were able to connect and then of course see each other at conferences. And it's always good to, you have such an intellectual brain. Obviously, I can see why you received your PhD in educational psychology. But you're also very innovative. You're definitely one of these people I see as these forward thinkers and always looking for ways and tools to move us forward in education. So I'm curious about what's got you in this mode of always looking for the newest and latest tools to engage educators.

Michael Crawford, PhD: Yes, great question. Thanks for the kind words for sure. I have also, likewise, been following you on Twitter forever and always have appreciated your contributions, your words, your writings. And it's great to meet in person [crosstalk 00:02:57]. So, but yeah, Twitter for me has been a massive tool. I remember years ago before I was on it, and I couldn't understand really why people were using it or were raving about it. I never was interested in what people were having for lunch. And so I was always like, I don't care. I don't need to go on there to see 140 characters, a couple of words, and then a picture of somebody's lunch. It just wasn't, it didn't make sense to me. And then at some point I began to, at some point it struck me that wait a minute, I love reading books. At the time, I was reading a book by Dr. Tony Wagner and I thought, well, I wonder if he is on Twitter? And so I looked him up and he was on Twitter and I didn't even have an account at that point.

Michael Crawford, PhD: But then I created an account because I was like, "Oh, I can follow Tony Wagner right here." And then I started to lean more into it and began to recognize that, wait a minute, the people that are normally very challenging to get to. People who are on stages or write books, or are in commercials or movies or whatever, they are on this platform and it's coming from their smartphone that they have in their hand. And so I'm like, this is the closest and fastest way that I can make contact with somebody who I really, really appreciate.

Michael Crawford, PhD: And so that's what started me off on my Twitter journey. Since then, it has grown. I have seen Twitter in particular and other platforms to some extent as a place to be at the forefront, at the cutting edge of what are people talking about? What kinds of work are people doing? Who are the organizations that are pushing boundaries, or just doing really quality work? I think if you're not using some of the existing tools that are out there and you're doing this work in the dark, you can do really, really important work if you're a teacher. You can do really important work in your classroom without being on Twitter. But if you're not on Twitter, then it's more challenging to get access to some of the brightest minds, to some of the newest tools, even to some of the old tools and old folks that are resurrecting in ways that are valuable.

Michael Crawford, PhD: Now, I think it's if you're not plugged in, if you're not tuned in, in those kinds of ways, then it's more challenging. And so for me, as a professional person, that's how I have always seen these tools as helping drive my brain, drive innovation, drive creative thinking. Always trying to follow and find people who aren't necessarily in education, who I can learn from, and borrow ideas from, or take a framework from ecology and bring it over to education and say, how might this fit over here? And I think a tool like Twitter for example, is a great way to do that.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, it really is. I can't remember the last time I Googled an educational topic that I wanted to learn more about. I just, now the normal flow is I open up my Twitter app and look at my home feed and it just takes maybe a couple of thumb swipes, upward to see someone share a resource or share a thought-provoking tweet. And it really is. It's a whole new way of fostering your own personal and professional development. And I think it's, you talked about the connection aspect and being able to... With you and Tony Wagner being this big name and the great content he puts out there and then feeling like you have the opportunity to connect with someone on that personal level.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: So being able to not only learn from a person, but being able to get insight into why they say the things they do or how they came about to be in the place they are. Which I guess it's interesting, I look at your bio and you went the PhD route, which I went to EDD route. And so there's always this rivalry between the PhD's and the EDD's. So the PhD's usually look down on the EDD's, but it's okay, we're strong enough. We can handle it. But I was curious about the path you've chosen, why you chose to get it in educational psychology, and then how that's impacted your work now?

Michael Crawford, PhD: For sure. So I, as I think many young people, I did not know what I wanted to do. The only thing that I knew was that I was interested in people and that I wanted to be able to help people essentially live better lives. And it's cliche perhaps. I think I've seen it on an Instagram meme or something so I feel like it's lost a little bit of its truth, but it has always been the case for me that, I have thought that people, myself included, aren't necessarily living the lives that we could be living. And I'm not talking about going from 70% to 100%. I'm talking about going from 84% to 86%. And just in terms of your own life quality and satisfaction and things like that.

Michael Crawford, PhD: And so I always thought, well, if I could figure out a way to better understand people, and then I could create programs or products, services, events, organizations that could help shift people from zero to one or two, then that could make a massive impact. And so I started in psychology trying to understand people. I ended up working for an organization in Michigan that's around youth sports. And so I went in this non school-specific way. I was interested in youth sports and then I was interested more broadly in afterschool programs. So things like YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs and many of the things that aren't as academically focused, really trying to understand. Students, young people spend a lot of time in school for sure. But they spend more time out of school. And so what are the aspects of these environments out of school that contribute to who they are and who they're becoming.

Michael Crawford, PhD: And so that's the general path that I went. The reason I pursued a PhD, or reasons, I didn't at the time want to be a professor. I didn't want to be locked away in the ivory tower just doing research. Instead, I did want to be more applied and more on the ground, more connected to the actual work. But I thought if people are going to hear what I have to say and are going to take me seriously, are going to listen to me for a moment, whether it's in something I write or in a speech or in a podcast with the letters after my name, it gives them just a slight amount of pause for them to hear what I have to say. And to this day, I think that there is truth to that.

Michael Crawford, PhD: I also think you certainly do not need those kinds of letters after your name. There are brilliant people, much more talented and quote, successful and accomplished and dynamic than I am that don't have degrees and that's perfectly great and I respect and appreciate them for sure. But for me, I always felt like, well, if there's a doctor in front of my name or the PhD after my name, then someone's going to listen to me for an extra half second. And then what I have to say is much more likely to be taken seriously, implemented, considered, et cetera. So that is, that's my answer. [inaudible 00:10:43]

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, well, it's interesting. I feel like you have a youthful appearance and for a lot of my life, I've looked much younger than I am. So I feel like sometimes I walk into a space and people think I must be a little over 18-years-old. So I feel like having the doctorate does cause someone to say, "Okay, he may look like he's 16-years-old but maybe he has some things to offer." But I also, I do agree. Some of the most talented people that I have run into in the space have not gone through a formal graduate school education. They are innovative teachers who have found just amazing ways to connect with their students.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: And I think about with your PhD in psychology and my very first book that I wrote the Everyday Instructional Coaching, it was a lot about looking at thinking about how people think about learning. And a lot of district leaders have to look at the psychology of how humans connect and interact before they implement change. I mean I think a lot of the decisions we make as district leaders are more about psychology than they are the actual change they're supposed to be informing themselves. Just more about how humans are going to react to it than the actual outcomes of the project itself. Do you agree with that?

Michael Crawford, PhD: Yeah, I think so. I mean I think often that it's about the people and it is about the relationships and it's about meeting people where they are. It's about listening. It's about trying to understand what their needs are, what their goals are, trying to understand how certain people work better and worse together, trying to figure out what role time plays? How does technology fit? And all of these things are filtered through the human, through the person. And so, it's one thing to read a great book or have a great sense of the content. I think this is true for leadership and for teaching. It's one thing to have a great handle on the content or subject matter expertise or whatever it may be. But if you don't have relationships, if you're a teacher and you don't understand where your students are coming from or what they went through that morning or how their year has been going or whether that their grandmother just passed away or those kinds of things will impact what happens in the classroom.

Michael Crawford, PhD: In similar ways that a teacher who is going through a divorce is having to navigate some serious personal issues that will affect his or her ability to function in the school building. And that irrespective of what the school leader thinks based on the new framework that they just came in with from a book that they just read. So it absolutely is about the people. And I think tying it back to either remote learning or just the time right now with COVID-19, I think there are teachers and school leaders who have built relationships and built connections with one another and with students that are in a position now with this kind of remote learning circumstance to do some other things with students and with teachers that those who haven't built those relationships are now scrambling to do.

Michael Crawford, PhD: I mean remote work requires a lot of things, but it requires the relationships with the people on the other end because when the Zoom call is over, or when you jump off the phone, you're back in the dark and it requires a relationship. It requires trust. And so teachers and school leaders and students who've been able to build those before this time, I would suspect are in a much better position to weather this. And actually maybe perhaps have something beneficial emerge from it than those who haven't.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Yeah, I completely agree. I think that even teachers who have created those relationships are looking for ways, especially right now, to continue to foster those relationships. And the easy thing might be to send home packets or to even get on the district-approved LMS and type in a prompt. But I mean you can't see meaning, you can't see emotion, the human connection's not there just through text or through a packet. And I think that there's inequities that exist right now with offline access. But for those students who are able to even view a video, and that's why I love with WeVideo right now, we're really encouraging teachers to create even if it's just a five minute morning meeting where you're just greeting your students, you're giving them an inspiring message to start the day, and then just checking in with them.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: But just creating a video, sending it to your students, they're able to see your face, everybody hear your voice, and then you get videos back from kids and you see the toys they're playing with, or a song or a dance that they're performing. I mean the human connection is so very important. And learning is so very social anyway, I think it's still important now during this period of remote learning.

Michael Crawford, PhD: Yeah. I mean I totally agree with that. The work that we have been doing for the past couple of years with EdSpace is predicated on exactly what you just talked about. I mean we have been building EdSpace as a platform that allows teachers and other professionals in education to be able to see one another, hear one another, and connect with one another in ways that an LMS or a text thread or an email chain just doesn't allow for. We obviously built EdSpace not having any concept that something like Coronavirus is on its way. But we know that teachers, one of the main things that teachers report and talk about and a main reason why they end up either getting disengaged or frustrated or leaving the profession is because of their lack of connection and their lack of support with other people.

Michael Crawford, PhD: Teaching is arguably one of the most important and challenging professions on the planet. And oftentimes teachers are isolated in their classrooms not feeling that support, not feeling that connection. And so that's really what inspired us to build EdSpace, which again like WeVideo is video-based. It allows for short, self-shot video clips from your phone, from your computer, asking questions, sharing a funny story, telling about a new passage in a book that you just read or a podcast that you just listened to. But you can see their face and you can hear their voice. And there's something that I think in general, and also in this moment, is really important from a connection standpoint.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: I completely agree, Michael. And I think going forward the way that we're going to continue to really figure this out, as this remote learning evolve is really going to rely on connection and finding a space. So I'm thankful that you have created a place like EdSpace. For our listeners who are new to EdSpace and want to learn more about it, where can they find more information?

Michael Crawford, PhD: Absolutely. So they'd go to edspace.live. So www.edspace.live. You can find out all about EdSpace there. You can also register to be able to join. Similarly, you can find us on Twitter @EdSpaceLive. We are pretty active on Twitter. So feel free to follow, shoot us a DM. And yeah, we're up and running. We launched officially in beta on February 11th. So it's been 60 something days. And yeah, we would love for teachers, school leaders, instructional coaches, basically anybody in the education universe to jump in there, take a look around, say hello, hop in a conversation that's already taking place or start one that you want to hear about. And yeah, that'd be great. Thanks a lot.

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad: Awesome. Fantastic. Well, I'm going to definitely hop on there. Say hello, throw on an a video. I hope I know that our listeners will be excited to check it out. So thanks for coming on the show today, Michael. Really appreciate your insight. Always good catching up with you.

Michael Crawford, PhD: Likewise, Nathan, thanks so much.

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