Amy's Whimsical Musings


Welcome to my brief  “About” page. For more detailed information please see my personal portfolio at

photo by my student, Cara Pyle

I was a Hawai’i private school teacher in the Humanities for 20+ years before embarking in my current journey as Vice President of Academic Affairs with EdgeMakers, Inc – an educational startup based in San Francisco, CA. with the mission of empowering youth to make a difference through a systematic approach to creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

You can find me in various spots on the Web, from the History for Music Lovers project on YouTube, my blog about education and media trends, my numerous G+ communities related to creativity and emerging literacies, or on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, where I regularly share my metaphorical sketches and other visual thinking projects.

I LOVE Remix Culture, Media Theory, Creativity Studies, Typography and Graphic Design, Art History (and all History!), Whimsical Art/Poetry/Literature, Emerging Literacies and Visual Thinking,  and Open Web/Open Culture.

I ADMIRE Marshall McLuhan, Howard Rheingold, Henry Jenkins, Alan Levine, Oliver Sacks, Pablo Picasso, Henry Miller, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Anais Nin, Michael Wesch, Austin Kleon, Mitch Resnick , Jim Groom, Alejandro Piscitelli, David Weinberger, Steve Wheeler, Alan November and Larry Lessig, among others. These individuals have greatly inspired my work and thinking in the past ten years.

I BELIEVE in the power of humor and music;  creativity is healing; sharing and transparency; social media and mobile learning; combinatorial creativity; participatory culture; networked knowledge; writing your own story… Create Don’t Hate… Dare to Make…and Share…The Cloud is Our Campfire.


  • 20+ years private school teacher (7 in IB)
  • Vice President of  Academic Affairs , EdgeMakers

[duties: oversee curriculum development and instructional design (traditional, blended, and digital, 5-12 and higher ed), curriculum writing and review, train the trainer/ professional development; social media; wrote scripts for course trailer videos and higher ed course videos (and appeared in videos)]

  • Google certified teacher / Innovation Leader
  • Google Academy Award winner (Atlanta Class of 2014)
  • Mozilla Foundation Fellow (first cohort) and beta tester; Web Literacies consultant
  • TEDxHonolulu 2011 speaker
  • TEDxHonoluluED 2013 organizer/curator/ photographer (see photos)
  • History for Music Lovers project;  Wired magazine, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Honolulu Magazine, CBC, NPR, and international blogs and media.
  • Beta tester, Paper by Fifty-Three app (sponsored sketchnoter at SXSWEdu2015 for Paper)


I have presented at more smaller conferences and professional development (including International Baccalaureate events) in Hawaii, the U.S. Mainland, and Canada that are unlisted here but are available upon request :


  • FISA keynote speaker February 2016- Vancouver Canada
  • SC Midlands Summit, Google for Education (June 2016) – keynote and session leader
  • iPadpalooza, Austin Texas – featured speaker  (June 2016)
  • Master Classes: ReMix and Re-Contextualization in the Classroom; The Power of Play and the Why of Whimsy, Building Learning Communities (BLC) (July 2016)


  • Creativity Tips for Educators (Bedley Brothers Interview, June 2014)
  • Alan November BLC Master Classes (2015): Image is Everything (Visual Thinking); Make du Jour (Creativity), and Remix for Critical Thinking

ex: Image is Everything trailer:

official sketch for #sxswedu2015, #altc2015, #learninglive2015 #dml2015


public speaking / keynote

developing learning cultures

technology / learning integration

visual thinking strategies

creativity and innovation / creative thinking and collaboration

blended learning experiences / social media and mobile learning

instructional design / course development

“train-the-trainer” / professional development

personal branding (leveraging for legacy)

future of learning

digital storytelling

rethinking learning spaces (both digital and physical)

radical transparency


emerging / web literacies (including vlogging, blogging, leveraging visuals, social media, etc.)

remix culture

sketchnoting / metaphorical and visual thinking and literacy

Gutenberg Parenthesis Theory (media)

portfolio assessment

data visualization in education

arts and history (cross-curricular ties)

creativity and innovation (cross-sector)

crowdsourced creativity

cultivating creativity on a daily basis

serendipitous creativity

power of play and whimsy

critical thinking through making / design thinking

curation and critical consumption (knowledge management)

augmented media

project and challenge-based learning

social / networked learning; cultivating personal learning networks (PLNs) and strategies

narrative and changemaking

rocking the presentation (cutting edge presentation strategies)

Lessons from the artists: learning about learning

The new MTV Generation: Mobile, Transliterate, Visible

Mobile Sapiens: How Mobile Tech can Re-Humanize Us


As a keynoter, I am known for:

  • being inspirational
  • using metaphor, rhyme, and alliteration for “stickiness”
  • drawing my own images for my slide decks (which are primarily  image- based, with relatively  little text)
  • live tweeting all my slides and sharing via Slideshare at the close
  • using interactive elements and always including a challenge or call to action at the end (I encourage use of the conference social media backchannel as well)

I am experienced in these formats:

45 min -1 hour

Ignite style: 5 -10 min

TED style-15-20 min

I do prefer to control my own deck (in other words, to not have the slides auto advance), but if time is a factor I will be sure to keep to the time.

Other formats include:

Online Keynotes



Adobe Ignite



MKThink Design Firm

Interviews / Guest Spots / Hangouts  


Bedley Brothers

Common Sense Media


Howard Rheingold



Journeys in Podcasting with Chris Davis

BREAKOUT SESSIONS / WORKSHOPS: (can be tailored to client’s needs)

1 hour

2-4 hour

4-8 hour (all day with lunch break)

multi-day (consecutive days)

*note that fee is negotiable due to number of participants as well as hours

**I generally require Internet connectivity and participant use of devices


If you are hiring me to sketch your event I can do the following:

  • virtual sketch of event
  • on site sketch of event
  • animated sketch film with music and / or voiceover
  • stop-motion animated sketch film with music and / or voiceover
  • sketch of content: blog, podcast, book, for example


“I first encountered Amy Burvall on Twitter, where I recognized that she was an innovator in digital media and learning . I interviewed her for the website sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation:

— she was teaching a sophisticated theory of knowledge to high school students.

Because of her high output of creative and thought-provoking ideas, I’ve followed her on a variety of media. If you do that, you’ll see what a font of creativity she is. I would be delighted to take a course on creativity from her. She’s adept at teaching teachers, encouraging agency and community among students, and feeding her personal learning network. Amy Burvall is not only one of the most creative people I’ve ever encountered, she is one of the most broadly educated – and takes rich advantage of what she has learned”



“Amy Burvall is one of my education champion heroes.  She has inspired me for years with her creativity and her strategies to help students think more deeply about important questions.   Amy provided a wildly popular keynote at my summer conference on creativity for a global education audience representing more than 25 countries. Amy is a superstar presenter”

“Amy is an inspiring and incredibly prolific, creative educator! She models the way learners of all ages can and should use visual media to deepen understanding and communicate effectively with others. Her “5 C’s of Sparking Innovation” video in the 2014 K-12 Online Conference pre-conference keynote is a great example of using visual notes in a quick edit video to effectively communicate!”

“ Dear Amy:

I wanted to thank you for your inspiring work and numerous correspondences over the past six or seven years. Since I first stumbled upon your work, I have given dozens of keynote and invited talks around the planet wherein I have showcased one or more of your “History for Music Lovers” videos. These videos display the wide range of your historical knowledge and creative talents. The audiences that I show them to are always laughing, smiling, thinking, and, at times, singing along. Needless to say, you have been an inspiration for thousands of people. Your students are most fortunate to have you as a mentor and guide. Not only are your music videos inspiring, they offer important and timely ideas about engaging, interactive, relevant, and creative e-learning and blended learning for educators, training managers, and instructional designers. Much needed!

Your keynote presentation at the International E-Learn Conference in Honolulu back in October 2011 is a case in point. With your keen abilities to interweave cutting edge learning theory and emerging technologies with captivating stories and rich and creative video examples, you had the audience in the palm of your hands. It was among the best presentations I have seen in my 26 years in academia. We all wanted an encore. Finally, I should point out that I admire your ceaseless curiosity and creativity.”

  • Curtis J Bonk;  Professor, Indiana University, Instructional Systems Technology Department, Adjunct, School of Informatics

“What inspires me most about Amy Burvall? She is quirky, unpredictable, creative, mischievous, and she is not afraid to take risks – all characteristics I recognise in myself. She is also a cancer survivor, which in itself should inspire all of us. She is tenacious and has boundless energy, and she never seems to stop. I believe this is because she has a burning desire is to help as many people to learn as she possibly can. She does this through her writing, videos, photography, artwork, live sketching (see Graffikon), keynote speeches and her very popular workshops on creativity, making and learning. Recently we collaborated for the first time on a project that is now known as #blimage which can be read about here (join in – it’s fun!). I’m hoping that this is just the start of our collaboration, and that we will continue to bounce ideas off each other for some time to come”

“Amy is a powerful voice in the areas of creative expression and knowledge sharing…Most recently when I asked people to share video stories of connection, she not only provided one; she gave me ten (‐stories/). That says a lot about her willingness to share her creativity with the world. There is only one Amy Burvall.”

“Amy Burvall is a creative inspiration for so many educators worldwide. Having been a Lead Learner at the Google Teacher Academy where she was a participant, Amy was an instant draw for insight and motivation based on her insight to creative thinking for both teachers and students. Witnessing some of the best educators in the world challenge their thinking based on her guidance was an unforgettable moment of my professional career.”

Google Innovative Educator/Certified Trainer

Apple Distinguished Educator

Breakout EDU Chief Operating Officer

“Amy Burvall brings a fierce intensity to any project on which she works. Her contagious energy and creative approach to professional learning is a breath of fresh air, and is certain to brighten up any event. Amy  is a whirlwind of creative energy that all educators must experience.”

“Amy is one of the most dynamic speakers and educators I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. We met at a panel at MKThink called On Site/Off Site: Cultivating Physical and Virtual Learning Spaces where she represented the full spectrum of physical and virtual learning though her inspiring lessons and stories that ignite the perpetual student in us all to embrace and celebrate our inner artist.”

“During the five years that I managed the Hawaii Schools of the Future Initiative, Amy Burvall was a education resource called upon again and again.  Although she was a full-time teacher, she made herself available many, many times to assist teachers at other schools in understanding and implementing project-based learning in their learning environments.  And she was doing this not only in Hawaii, but invited to do so all about the world.

Amy is an excellent presenter, collaborator, technology genie – that unusual blend of educator, artist and techie who is able to make others comfortable with integrating the latest tech innovations into their classrooms through art and music.

I watched with amazement as Amy introduced a group of Korean K-12 teachers who had never heard of the concept of “project-based learning” to strategies for implementing PBL into their learning environments in Korea.  Within 90 minutes, she had them designing projects that they could take back to their classrooms in Korea.”

Phil Bossert

Philip J. Bossert, Ph.D.

Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (HAIS) |

It was my pleasure to work with Amy as part of Mozilla Foundation’s Mozfest 2014. I helped to run a strand at the festival called #ArtofWeb. Amy was one of a group of curated international artists that created work that reflected on the participatory nature of the Web. Amy had an installed piece but also ran a weekend long workshop that encouraged participants at the festival to create their own work that became part of her piece. Her thoughtfulness in thinking about how to facilitate the creativity in all of us was inspiring and was reflected in the popularity of her workshops.

Paula Le Dieu


“Amy Burvall always brings energy and vibrancy into any room she enters. She works with and inspires teachers and students alike. Amy has shared her creativity and dared my students to share theirs. She has inspired generations of students to create history videos, and her legacy in this realm is enduring.  

Amy packed the room at the British Columbia Social Studies Teachers Association Conference 2 years in a row with her memorable workshops on emerging literacies, digital storytelling, and technology integration.

Amy’s professionalism, her percolating energy, and her creative ideas make me always want to see her keynote speeches and attend her workshops. She motivates me to do more and better every day in my classroom. I consider Amy to be what I call a “mind crush,” one of the intellectuals near or far who has impacted my practice and spurred me on intellectually, creatively and professionally.”

  • Brenda Ball @misssball

Currently: Director, Brockton School.

Past: BCSSTA Conference Chairperson  and Department Head, Crofton House School (when Amy worked with students)

“Amy’s engaging presentation at Harvard-Westlake Middle School (California)  was truly game changing for me . Our time together helped bring a degree of clarity to my emerging understanding of new literacies. I am amazed that ideas that she introduced to me over a year ago continue to influence and shape the way that I think about and use new media personally; and the way that think about, teach about, and use new media with my students.”

“After Amy Burvall’s presentation at Schools of the Future, several of the teachers at Mid-Pacific were simply blown away. The language arts and social studies teachers in particular had been struggling with pedagogical questions about technology and new literacies for students. I quickly arranged for our own workshop with Amy on our campus. She broke a few thinking routines that day and helped build new ones. Amy has an insightful and accessible coaching style that helped my teachers to thrive and grow.”


  • Thomas McManus


High School Principal, Mid Pacific Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii

“Working with Amy ignites my creative confidence. She champions ideas and notions others might see as frivolous or foolish and in so doing emboldens me to press forward.  My students now remix literature, mash up current events, and see collaboration as opportunity more than assignment — due in large part to the influence Amy has had on my teaching.”

  • Dan Ryder; English Teacher, Mt. Blue Campus, Farmington, Maine and Teacher Coach for IDEO’s Teacher Guild @wickeddecent

“I worked with Amy on iPad in Action: Lights, Camera, Action! for the Punahou Summer Lab School in 2013.

This was a brand new curriculum for a two-day hands-on workshop for teachers. Amy pulled together lots of creative examples from her students’ work and produced a fantastic web resource in support of the workshop. Over the course of the workshop, Amy used this as a dynamic resource, adding examples and ideas to it to tailor it to the audience. Feedback from participants was universally positive (with many lamenting that it wasn’t a three-day workshop, to give them more time with Amy!)

Amy is a skilled and gifted presenter, delivering a powerful message about creativity and empowering student voice and choice. She is also one of the most well-prepared presenters I have ever worked with, putting in lots and lots of hard work behind the scenes to ensure that everything runs smoothly. She is truly a gifted and inspiring teacher, empowering other teachers to innovate and enhance what they do in their own classrooms.”

  • Douglas Kiang; Academy Mathematics; Chair, Academy Curriculum Committee; Punahou School; Apple Distinguished Educator

2 comments on “About

  1. lsniestrath
    November 29, 2012

    How interesting and exciting! I will certainly enjoy following your blog and will direct a fellow classmate to your music project!

  2. Kristen Eshleman (@kreshleman)
    February 24, 2013

    Great stuff. Can we clone you? An Amy Burvall in every US high school?

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