Elementary & middle school technology. I’m the 3rd–8th grade technology teacher at Charles Wright Academy. I feel fortunate to have found a job that combines so many things I love doing and thinking about: teaching, working with kids, creativity, design, technology, and media literacy. I love it.
I think it’s important for kids to understand how design, media, and technology work because that knowledge: 1. (as a consumer) enables them to see the world as it is, rather than the way it’s designed and mediated to seem, and 2. (as a producer) empowers them with tools to be proactive about the direction of their lives, rather than surrendering to whatever path they might feel has been set out for them.
Nicknames from the kids I teach: Mr. Spa-new-new, Mr. Sparantinto, Joe Asparagus, Mr. Joe Froyo, Joe Spara-no (“it rhymes!”), Spicy Oregano, Stringbean, Greenbean, Mr. Spara-n-n-no Pota-t-t-to.
Undergrad graphic design. From 2011–2018, I taught graphic design and concepting classes. Originally in Omaha at Metropolitan Community College and Creighton University. And most recently in Seattle at the University of Washington.
My heart is in the introductory classes, and I enjoy developing projects and exercises that introduce students to the potential of what design process and graphic design skills can really do — for other people and for themselves.
Graduate thesis. I have a Master of Design degree from the University of Washington, where, as a grad student, I spent my time researching media literacy, technology, and design skills in classrooms.
My thesis project combines those ideas into a set of classroom lessons on social media literacy for middle schoolers, including 12 lesson plans for teachers and an app for students to use during the lessons. Throughout, students participate in fun photo exercises and import existing Instagram posts, connecting classroom concepts to kids’ actual social media experiences.