Thomas C. Murray serves as the Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools at the Alliance for Excellent Education located in Washington, DC. He has testified before the United States Congress and works alongside that body and the US Senate, the US Department of Education and state departments of education, corporations, and school districts throughout the country to implement high quality personalised learning. Murray serves as a regular conference keynote speaker and was named the “2017 Education Thought Leader of the Year,” one of “20 to Watch” by NSBA in 2016, one of the top 20 thought leaders in education, and the “Education Policy Person of the Year” by the Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015.
HOW DID YOU GET TO BECOME AN EXPERT IN EDTECH?
Personally, I don’t view myself as an “expert” but as someone who is blessed to have had a myriad of opportunities to serve kids at different levels. After teaching elementary and middle school for a number of years, I moved to my first administrative positions as a middle school and then elementary principal. After developing a passion for what was possible when using edtech effectively, I became a Director of Technology in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This role taught me more about hardware, security, and infrastructure than I knew was possible and helped give me a global, district-wide view of both instructional needs and successes at various levels. In my current role as Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools, I have the opportunity to work with school leaders around the country on leadership, school culture, and the effective use of edtech to create personal learning experiences for the students that we serve.
WHAT AREAS OF EDTECH ARE YOU MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT?
The U.S. alone spends billions of dollars each year in educational technology. A tremendous amount of those purchases goes to waste and is used for low level learning. I’m not passionate about technology use. I’m passionate about effective, high level student experiences that are empowered by technology. Today’s technology can be used passively to create low level digital worksheet storage hubs, or can be used actively, where students explore, design, and create, to unleash their genius. Simply put, I’m passionate about leveraging educational technology to support authentic, personal experiences for kids!
WHICH EDTECH INFLUENCERS INFLUENCE YOU?
My Team at the Alliance for Excellent Education / Future Ready Schools – Bob Wise, Sara Hall, Lia Dossin, Avril Smart and my team at the Alliance are amazing champions for children, particularly those who are traditionally underserved. They are tireless advocates for children, people I admire, and I am honored to work alongside them daily.
Eric Sheninger – My co-author for Learning Transformed has pushed my thinking over the years. Having originally connected on Twitter, I admired his work as a high school principal and his ability to create amazing learning experiences for his students at New Milford. His current work with school leaders around the world is simply awesome.
Dwight Carter – Dwight is a dynamic high school principal who models the way. His work on learning spaces and creating a culture where learning can thrive is one I admire. He is the exact type of principal that I want for my own children.
George Couros – George’s book The Innovator’s Mindset has become a staple for so many. An incredibly dynamic speaker and writer, the work of this good friend pushes my thinking regularly.
Carl Hooker – Truly one of the most innovative and out-of-the-box thinkers I know, Carl is as dynamic of an individual as it comes. His mindset to think differently challenges the status quo and my own thinking.
Vicki Davis – Vicki’s work has pushed my thinking for years. As one of the best of the best, Vicki constantly shares incredibly information, tools, podcasts, and amazing content on her website and through various social channels.
OUTSIDE OF EDTECH WHO ELSE INFLUENCES YOU ?
Jesus Christ – As a Christian, the top influencer in my life is the ultimate model of humility, love, hope, and servant leadership.
My Family – Having two children, and trying to see the world through their eyes, impacts all that I do in education. They have defined my barometer and forever changed who I am. It is for them that I do what I do. They are the inspiration to serve others with all that I am and aspire to be.
John Maxwell – John’s work on leadership is simply the best. He puts people first!
Simon Sinek – Another brilliant mind, Simon’s insights into one’s purpose, and again, leadership, is a must read for those who want to effectively lead change.
Dave Ramsey – One of the top known speakers on personal finance, Dave has taught me about living within my means, taking responsibility for my own financial decisions, and being intense about planning for my future. His podcasts challenge my mindset daily.
Jimmy Casas and Joe Sanfelippo – These two educational leaders are not only two of my closest friends, but are two of the finest leaders, speakers, writers, and people with integrity that I know. Their work with leadership teams is some of the best I’ve ever seen and is only topped by their heart for the children we serve. I’m honored to learn from them daily.
WHICH BRANDS OR PRODUCTS STAND OUT FOR YOU IN EDTECH?
Although so much of my work is brand agnostic, today’s students and educators have countless tools that can support dynamic teaching and learning in the classroom. Personally, on a regular basis, I use Gsuite to communicate and collaborate. I leverage Apple’s platforms for communication with others around the world. For my own children, I’ve seen my daughter grow leaps and bounds through dynamic McGraw-Hill curriculum, gain interest in STEM related skills through maker and robot experiences, and watched her incredible teacher communicate in a safe and effective way through Bloomz, a tremendous parent communication tool. In my mind, the most effective tools are those that are easy to use, make communication effective, adapt to the needs of the individual, and put kids at the heart of their why.
IF A BRAND WANTED TO WORK WITH YOU, WHAT OFFLINE / ONLINE ACTIVITIES WOULD YOU BE MOST INTERESTED IN?
I have previously worked with vendors to develop learner-centered visions, discuss various aspects of student privacy, provide feedback on particular products, and help them outline high quality professional learning opportunities for end users.