Top 10 Educational #GameChangers of 2017

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As we draw to the end of the calendar year, I thought it an appropriate time to highlight the educators that are truly moving things forward in our profession. The true #gamechangers. The new-year is the time for hope and renewal. For many educators, this renewal is about focus and professional growth. So, this list is to highlight the best and brightest (in my opinion) in the world of education in hopes others follow their work and follow their lead in order to create a better tomorrow for our kids.

I wanted to focus not solely on who is doing great work – there are literally thousands to mention in that regard – but this list is to recognize those that are really changing the game and leading us down the path of progress.

Congratulations to these #gamechangers!!

The list is alphabetical order (by last name) until I name the person I think is single-handedly having the biggest game changing impact on education. You must read to the end as this person is forever changing the landscape of education.

Julie Adams

@Adamsteaching – 6900 followers

NBCT, International Keynote Speaker, Author & Coach emphasizing Neuroscience, Leadership, Content Literacy, Engagement & Critical Thinking

Julie is the best keynote speaker I have heard in the last few years. She was so good, I made it a point to hear her again. Not just to hear her message, but to take notes on how to become a better speaker myself. Yes, she is that good. Additionally, she is a strong female voice on the educational keynote circuit – which can find itself a land void of such perspective.

Julie’s work focuses on connecting what we know about brain science to pedagogy. She does so in a way that is engaging and makes the neuroscience accessible for all educators to leverage in their classroom. Additionally, she is focused on the connection between Maslow’s and Bloom’s – which just makes so much sense and deserves attention.

Additionally, Julie is an innovator and creating online platforms for blended learning through MB enterprises. This has a potential to be a #gamechanger in how we create, package, and consume high quality professional development.

Dave Burgess

@BurgessDave – 131k followers

Educator, PD leader, keynote speaker, publisher, president of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., and NYT Best Selling author of Teach Like a PIRATE #tlap

Dave is quickly becoming the most sought after keynote in the educational world. His presentations are half motivation and half modeling of engagement strategies. They are 100 percent ENERGY. I spoke the day following his keynote at a conference and asked a participant what they thought of Dave. He commented, “I still have a sugar rush after listening to him for an hour. The guy is human diabetes.”

I am not positive, but I think that is one heckuva a compliment. What makes Dave different is that he does whatever it takes to engage his audience and teaches his audience to do the same to serve their kids.

To be honest, the first time I met Dave at an ASCD conference years ago he was dressed like a pirate. I thought to myself – well, this guy must really want to sell some books. Years later I realize he was not just building a brand, he was giving all of us permission to be ourselves and to be our best selves in order to chase down the dream of impacting the kids we serve.

Jimmy Casas

@casas_jimmy 37.9k followers

Senior Fellow at ICLE. CEO: ConnectEDD, Leadership Coach, Author, Speaker. #FutureReady Advisor. Passionate about kids & serving others. Co-Founder of

Jimmy was a rock star principal in Iowa before becoming a full-time consultant, author, and speaker. Jimmy was an early adopter to social media and used it to leverage his voice for educational change and progress. In this arena he made a name for himself as a leader of leaders and his career has ascended ever since.

Jimmy is now a surging voice in education as a speaker and author. His innovation and risk-taking as a founder of What Great Educators Do Differently is what brings him to this list. Jimmy has sought to make to leave his footprint on the educational landscape and has been willing to take the risks necessary to do so. Kudos!!

As a side note – his newest book focuses on school culture and is an absolute knockout.

Larry Ferlazzo

@LarryFerlazzo – 62.9k followers

Urban High School teacher — ESL & Mainstream; Author; Ed Week teacher advice columnist; Writes about ELLs for NY Times

Larry is a practitioner and curator of educational knowledge. Not only does Larry create incredible content, he also goes above and beyond to find content and distribute across the many platforms that he engages upon and with.

Larry is to ELL instruction what Hattie is to research. His name is synonymous with excellence. Did I mention he does all this while still being an active practitioner? I am a huge fan of Larry and he is incredibly gracious and giving as a human being. He is truly someone that helps education continue to progress and is well worth reading. In fact, if you are not well-versed with ELL instruction read Larry’s work not just because it is informative, but it also provides great perspective and encourages compassion and empathy.

Insight Advance

@InsightADVANCE – under 1k followers (come on guys – let’s get this number up)

We’re passionate about changing the status quo on educator #observation & collaboration. #teachergrowth #observme #profdev #growthvsgotcha @insightedgroup

I am biased. If you guys follow my work you know I am relatively obsessed with figuring out how to make teacher evaluation more meaningful. Insight Advance shares a similar mission. They are, in my mind, the clear frontrunner on evaluation software that fully leverages the capability of video as an instructional and reflection tool.

Most districts have some sort of software support to assist evaluators in the documentation of what they see in the classroom. If you do not – get one – like yesterday. This is essentially what Insight Advance does – but they are the Cadillac. They also believe in the concept of supporting coaches and looking at evaluation as a growth opportunity through video.  #Gamechanger!!

Alice Keeler             

@alicekeeler 116k followers

Mom of 5, Teacher, Author, Speaker, Consultant, Google Certified Teacher, NMCk12 Ambassador, MIE, gamification, #coffeeEDU, coder

Alice is a rock star. She serves as instructional coach to the world through her platform and followers on Twitter. She has taken the Google suite and helped de-code it for any educator that chooses to stretch themselves and expose themselves to new tools to best serve our students.

She is also incredibly accessible. As a superintendent of a small school in rural Illinois I have been amazed of the interactions she has had with my teachers as they progress through the next stages of their professional growth. I simply have no idea how she does it.

Additionally, I love that Alice is outspoken on Twitter and is not afraid to defend her progressive thoughts on education when challenged. Always kind and respectful – but never shouted down. That is why Alice is a game changer.

#KidsDeserveIt guys – Adam Welcome and Todd Nesloney

@KidsDeserveIt (also @awelcome & @techninjatodd) 33k followers

Challenging conventional thinking and pushing boundaries. Because Kids Deserve It. KDI Book on Amazon (co-founded by @awelcome & @techninjatodd

To start, the book is really, really good. But, as I said earlier in the post (like 1600 words ago) there are lots of good books and people doing great work in our field. But, it takes a special message and carriers of a special message to create a movement. That is exactly what #KidsDeserveIt became this year.

Additionally, the great work continues beyond the book and carries over to social media activity and presentations. I had a friend reach out and say, “Hey, a #kidsdeserveit guy is coming to my district – know anything about them?” I let them know the quality of the book, but shared I do not personally know the two authors nor had I heard them speak. I ran into the friend a few weeks later and he said – “I still don’t know who those guys are – but my staff is on fire!!”

Khan Academy, again

@KhanAcademy 597k followers

Working to make a free, world-class education available for anyone, anywhere. And having fun while doing it.

That Twitter bio is something, isn’t it. I mean, it is quite a mission statement. You will notice in the name, I list again. Khan Academy just continues to change the game. And, my fear is that they are so incredible at what they do that many are going to be late to the party. Thus, they are included in this list and finished a very close second in my incredibly arbitrary rankings for #gamechanger of the year.

Simply, if you are not paying attention to what Khan Academy is doing to link kids and their PSAT and SAT performance to targeted growth support you are missing out. This type of targeted intervention used to (and in many cases, still) cost tens of thousands of dollars for districts. And again, here is Khan Academy providing it for free. Additionally, in the past several months they have done an incredible job linking this support with Google classroom to make it easier and more accessible for educators.

Simply put, I do not see a day where Khan Academy stops innovating. They are an incredible service to our profession, that is somehow still underutilized.

Lavonna Roth

@LavonnaRoth 13k followers

Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.® & illuminate the world! Self. Heart. Inspire. Navigate. Exceptional. International Keynote Speaker|Consultant|Author #igniteyourSHINE

You may more quickly recognize #igniteyourshine than you do the name Lavonna Roth and that is just the way she would choose it to be. When I first met Lavonna I thought to myself, “Wow – she is always on brand!” This meant always – everything sparkled and shined. Then, I was able to see her speak and not only was it educational and profound, but it was also a performance. True engagement!

When I saw her speak she took chances with her audience most speakers would not dream of taking. That is when it hit me. Lavonna is not always on brand – her brand is simply on extension of her authentic self. She believes so deeply in her vitally important message of leading from strengths and finding genius in everybody that she simply radiates her personal #SHINE.


#SuptChat guys – Mike Lubelfeld and Nick Polyak

@mikelubelfeld and @npolyak 13k combined followers

Mike – Supt Deerfield IL @DPS109 Co-lead #suptchat 1st Wed/month 7pmCT & coauthor w @npolyak The Unlearning Leader: Leading for Tomorrows Schools Today @unlearninglead

Nick- Superintendent @ Leyden High School District 212 – Co-Author of The Unlearning Leader and Co-Moderator of #suptchat

There are lots of chats out there in the Twitterverse for educators to take part in. I think that there may be no more important chat than that led by Mike and Nick because it engages superintendents and creates an environment forcing them to experience life in the digital world. Their active presence in AASA (the go-to national organization for superintendents) and the corresponding training they provide has allowed them to gain the attention of superintendents from across the nation. It is vitally important the district leaders see the power of the PLN and online collaboration and learning so this movement continues. The #suptchat guys ensuring this is the case.

Additionally, both men are active superintendents (and darn good at their day jobs). They also will publish their second book shortly into the new year. Both Mike and Nick are tireless workers, natural leaders, and have a strong desire to be a voice of positivity in the world and change the educational landscape for our kids.

Side note – active participants in #sockgame between educators across the country. A must follow hash tag to see the human side of some educational leaders.


Dave Burgess, entrepreneur

“Wait, Caposey you already said Burgess four minutes ago up there. Remember, between Adams and Casas . . “ I know – but that was Dave Burgess the author, speaker, and educator. The winner is Dave Burgess the entrepreneur – the business creator. He is changing the game – literally and forever.

I really do believe that gigantic publishing houses and professional development providers like ASCD, Corwin, and Routledge produce a great product. I think they act with the best interest of education in mind and attempt to be selective about what information they are supporting, promoting, and putting forward to consumers. All of that considered, the publishing and PD world business model was fundamentally broken for content creators until Dave came along. He is working, almost single-handedly, to turn the industry on its head.

Let me explain, the idea of conglomerate publisher works when distribution is at a premium. If only a select few determine what ideas enter the marketplace, then those select few have all of the power in the industry. In the pre-social media and blog universe that we live in today – the marketplace of ideas (at a national and global level) was largely closed if you did not enter through the doors of major publishers. Are there exceptions? Of course – the same way some mom and pop video stores competed with Blockbuster – but it was not the norm.

Well, with social media and Twitter in particular, the marketplace for educational and leadership ideas became open to anyone. And with it you saw names like the ones above emerge as national educational #gamechangers. The issue is that the publishing companies did not react.

Details? Sure.

Major publishers continued to pay minimum for maximum talent. Did you know as a consumer that if you are paying 30 dollars for a book, the author (particularly if they are an up-and-coming and not a household name) will likely ‘earn’ less than three dollars from that transaction? The company’s exorbitant ‘share’ may have made sense one day because of the large corporations’ ability to market and advertise through professional organizations and in print.  This type of marketing and promotion has proven to be less impactful than that of social media, movement creation, and tribe building. (All of which Burgess Consulting has in spades)

Does this sound familiar? It should – it is the evolution of more than just our industry. It was Burgess and his guts, charisma, and vision however that capitalized on the broken business model of educational publishing and professional development. He is not only publishing, promoting, and inspiring great work but is doing so on his terms. Additionally, his work is putting everyone on notice – they almost have no choice – evolve or die. Burgess has begun what I believe is the ‘Blockbuster-ing’ of the educational world.

Thank you, Dave Burgess. You are truly making a difference. Thank you for being a true #gamechanger.


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