Friday, April 24, 2015

Have Me Speak

A snapshot of when I delivered a breakfast keynote at the largest education conference in the nation.

For speaking inquiries, please email me at or scroll down to the form at the bottom.

My Passion for Creative Classrooms

I want to see kids embrace creativity. As a teacher, this has included murals, documentaries, STEM camps, and coding projects. As a dad, this has meant elaborate pillow forts and home-made pinball machines. This is also why I co-wrote Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and co-founded Write About. Now, as I begin my career as a professor of instructional technology, this means inspiring and empowering new teachers to use technology for creative reasons.

Over the last three years, I have had the opportunity to share practical this vision for creative classrooms with a variety of audiences. I've been honored to work with schools, districts and organizations through keynotes, workshops, sessions and coaching on the topics of design thinking, digital literacy, 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. In other words, I am not only passionate about creativity. 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.

My Areas of Expertise

I am in the unique position of having industry experience, classroom experience, and research experience in the following three areas: 
  1. Creativity and Design Thinking
  2. Technology and Literacy
  3. Student Engagement and Flow Theory

What You Can Expect 

  1. Prompt response when you call or email me. 
  2. Plenty of personal attention so that I can tailor the press kit, biography, keynote, and sessions to the context of your audience.
  3. An engaging delivery that includes practical strategies, storytelling, humor, and inspiration. 
  4. A free resource customized specifically for your audience. 
  5. An ongoing relationship after the talk. I want to build a partnership and continue the conversation with your organization. 

Frequently Requested Keynotes and Workshops

The Creative Classroom: Design Thinking in Every Content Area
Despite the myth of "digital natives," most of my students have very little experience using technology as anything more than a consumer device. It doesn't have to be this way. By using a design thinking framework, teachers can foster creative thinking in every content area. I walk participants through the design thinking cycle, offering practical tips and specific examples. Participants leave feeling inspired, challenged and empowered to create spaces where creativity thrives.

In the Zone: Maximizing Flow for 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).

It Is Personal
Personalized learning has become a buzzword in education. However, too often, "personalized" simply means an adaptive program, where students are passively moving through curriculum. What if we empowered students to own their own learning? In this keynote, I share a personalized learning framework that begins with the idea that learning should be relational, social, and creative.

The Future of Literacy
We live in a world where students can instantly connect with information. As a result, students need to create, communicate, curate, connect, collaborate, contextualize and critically think. Here we explore what this looks like both in the classroom and in our world.

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.

Engaging Reluctant Writers
Teachers are often told to using writing across the curriculum because writing is a vital job skill. While this is true, there is another reality. Writing is inherently fun. Here we explore what it means to keep writing fun for students, including finding an authentic audience, using visual writing ideas, promoting student choice and pushing critical thinking.

Other Popular Sessions / Workshops

The following is a list of my most requested sessions and workshops:

  • The Five Types of Creative Teachers
  • The Seven Stages in the Technology Journey
  • A Beginner's Guide to Design Thinking
  • We Want Kids to Be Creative But How Do We Assess That? 
  • Ditch the Test: Ten Tech-Integrated Alternative Assessment Methods

Sample Slide Deck

 I strive to create slide decks that look minimal, modern, and memorable. So, it was cool to see this slide deck as the featured presentation for a full week on Slideshare! 

Places Where I Have Been a Featured Speaker

What Educators Are Saying  

John's classroom expertise on project based learning, design thinking, and writing allow him to offer realistic and practical suggestions to move teachers forward. John's amazing creativity can be seen in his humor, writing, drawings, and visual writing prompts that he creates for Write About. If you are looking for someone to go beyond the "50 Apps in 50 Minutes" style of professional development to a practical, student centered pedagogy then John Spencer is who you should call. - Mike Kaechele, Teacher at Kent Innovation High School and Renowned Expert on Project-Based Learning 
John Spencer is a fantastic speaker. He will inspire you and push your thinking to new heights. His mixture of content, storytelling, and humor makes for a great keynote. - Brett Clark, Director of Technology at Greater Clark County Schools
I went to John's keynote last summer at a conference in Indiana. He made me laugh. He made me think. He left me with a practical set of resources that I could actually use. Afterward, I went to all three of his sessions. This day of learning changed my approach to teaching. - Amy Thompson, Middle School Teacher  
John spoke at our TEDxPennsburgED event and was as dynamic off the stage as he was on it. Throughout the day John had conversations with our students and teachers about creativity, and learning in general. His talk focused on the creative power of limitations, and it was so exciting to see our students congratulate him after the talk because they had already formed a connection. If you are looking for someone to inspire your staff and students, John does so in a personal and creative way that has people talking about the message long after it has been shared. - A.J. Juliani, Education and Technology Innovation Specialist