Episode #98: Learning + Connection + Human Flourishing with Dr. Michael Crawford

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

Dr. Michael Crawford is the co-founder of EdSpace, LLC, the social learning network for teachers. A researcher by training, with passion at the intersection of human development, social impact, and entrepreneurship, Michael drives all things product and community. Prior to EdSpace, he worked at Real World Scholars and the Kauffman Foundation, and he recently completed his Ph.D. in educational psychology, focusing on adolescent development and non-formal learning environments. 
Your background 
I am currently living in the city I was born and raised in, Detroit, Michigan. I grew up in a suburb, went to school, and played sports. I had a great time in school when I was younger, at least I thought so at the time. I didn’t have to study too hard and got mostly good grades until I went to college. I thought I was smarter than I was when I took an ECON class during my first semester and that set me back a bit. I had to study more than I had ever done before. 

After graduating, I worked in an organization called The Youth Sports Association in Michigan. That is where I saw coaches and parents interacting in a way that moved me to want to learn more and understand how adults could help and harm young people. That’s when I decided to get a Master’s degree in Sports Psychology; a field that can go in a number of different directions. I had this sports background and recognized the power of teams with motivation, perseverance, physical fitness, and mental health. I wanted to learn more about improving team dynamics and at Michigan State University they have a great organization called the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports. I wanted to know about that sports context that can contribute to young people. Sports is one context where young people have developmental opportunities and experiences to grow and learn to become adults.
I needed to zoom up and get a broader understanding of my interest in adolescents. I saw them as the jump-off point between childhood and adulthood. If I could make a difference among teens, then I could positively affect the trajectory of their world. That’s what led me to the University of Kansas for my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology under the work of Dr. David Hansen studying adolescent development, research methods, and exploring learning in school in a different kind of way. 
Your family
Both of my parents are retired, public school educators. My mom was an elementary physical education teacher and my dad was a high school math teacher. Both were coaches so I grew up with teachers and was versed in the grammar of schooling. It made me wonder was school was, what it can be, how it influences young people. What doesn’t get talked about enough in school is the hidden curricula. What are young people learning when everything is provided for them? What are they not learning? What are the impacts of those things for their future? 
I met my wife, Maureen, in high school. She was two years behind me and was the best soccer player. We dated in college. My son Lars is in Kindergarten at the same school that my wife attended and we have our 9 months old named Lennox. 

What you are passionate about
I’m fascinated by people and how they think and make decisions, influence one another.  Young people go to school for a long time, but they also spend a lot of time outside of school and formal academics.