EducationLeadershipSchoolhouse Heroes

Schoolhouse Heroes: Ryan Warren

I want to start a new series where I spotlight the incredible work being done by amazing educators from all over the world, in a variety of roles. While classroom teachers are on the frontlines, directly impacting our students on a daily basis, educators wear many different hats and are in many different positions. I recently met Ryan Warren and he graciously agreed to be my first for this series on Schoolhouse Heroes.

Ryan is the Founder and Co-Director of Educational Technology Innovations (ETI) and is employed by the University of Minnesota’s College of Education + Human Development. The following are the questions I’ll pose for all of the spotlighted educators, and Ryan’s answers.

What do you love most about your job?

I get to work with faculty members who have devoted their careers to conducting research in K12 settings. Before we established ETI, this research did not lead to easily implemented software solutions, which is our focus. Who wouldn’t love working to bring evidence-based products to students, teachers, and schools? What I love the most is to hear from school personnel who begin a sentence with, “Our students love PRESS/IM4/Check&Connect/Ramp-Up to Readiness…”

How do you make the greatest impact on students?
We bring evidence-based products into schools. In many ways we view our unit as a bridge between what our faculty are researching and schools are implementing. For too long one of the biggest problems with university research is that it was too isolated and didn’t lead to sustained, implementable solutions for schools. We seek to change that and by doing so, allow for school personnel to influence future iterations and feature-sets of the software. I began my career as a teacher, and I will say without hesitation that, while I enjoy this work and believe in our mission, the greatest impact on students will always come from their teachers. Period.
What do you wish more people knew about education?
I wish every time anybody did anything in education, the primary goal and outcome would be to facilitate stronger teacher-student connections to lead to student success. This reminds me of a time when I taught and another English teacher approached me about taking a kid from his classroom that I had the year before. This student was far from the highest achieving student in the school, but he responded well to me and my classroom and he was struggling with the other teacher. It wasn’t that I would make it easier on him, but we believed he would do better in my classroom and that it was in the best interest of the student to move. Pushback around this came in the form of statements like, “Students need to learn to respond to different teachers and teaching styles.” Okay. But if I enroll in a course in college that I realize isn’t a good fit, I can move out. If I am not connected well with my boss, I will likely leave to find a new job. At times, I think we ask students to do things that we wouldn’t do ourselves, and we miss one of the most critical elements – support – strong teacher-student connections that lead to student success. For me, my best educational experiences come back to the power of the connection – with the material, with the space, with my peers, but most importantly, with my teachers.
What is your favorite learning resource (person, podcast, book, Twitter chat, conference, etc)?
I’ll go back to where it all began for us – Flipgrid. In my opinion, the best ed tech tool that facilitates the power of the connection.
Anything else we should know?
There are many pieces to the K12 puzzle. ETI is one piece and committed to making a difference, but we can only do so through partnership – both with faculty internal to the college and with K12 districts both in and outside of Minnesota. The key is to communicate, communicate, communicate. We all need to be talking – policy-makers, superintendents, principals, teachers, consultants, and researchers to name a few – to identify what is most needed and then get busy playing our part to make it happen.
Connect with Ryan on LinkedIn, and check out the innovative work being done by Educational Technology Innovations, bridging the worlds of higher ed with K12. As educators, our goals are all the same – connect with students and provide them all they need to be successful in life.

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