Maker Moments

I don't know about your locations, but in mine, it often seems like there are bubbles of interest growing in certain subjects here and there. STEM and makerspaces are where some of those bubbles are for us right now. As the only person at the district level with the interest and time to put into it, I've made myself the local expert on makerspaces. I've been meeting with some of the folks at our  schools about this topic, as well as touring other local makerspaces.

As I've pondered teachers' interest in these spaces (and those with no interest), it has occurred to me that perhaps the best way to engage folks in the "maker mindset," might be through "Maker Moments." These could be for teachers who don't have an actual makerspace at their school, those who are intimidated by the makerspace equipment (3D printers, sewing machines, electronics, etc.), or those who just feel they don't have the time to commit to a regular session in the maker…

Don't forget the redesign!

After recently attending the ITEEA (Int'l Technology & Engineering Educators Assoc) conference in Atlanta, I was struck by a number of key takeaways, but one in particular that confirmed something I'd been feeling for quite a while now.

As a STEM teacher, we spend a significant amount of time going over the Engineering Design Process, which encourages the following steps, (there are many variations, but this is the idea):

image via

This process is extremely useful in any sort of problem-solving/computational thinking kind of situation. However, in my weekly 45 min class periods with 8th graders and Legos, in a best-case scenario, we'd get to prototyping by the end of class. If we set the process up to last several classes, the Redesign portion of the process often went something like this: Discuss with your group what didn't go well in your project and decide what if anything you would have done dif…

Kickstarting Change

As I've gone into teachers' classrooms, I've very rarely given direct "Do this" kind of coaching. In fact, the phrases that I've heard myself saying over and over again are, "What if you..."  or "Wouldn't it be cool if...." Although I don't do it intentionally, I feel like this kind of language leads to opening up more possibilities, without implying what they're doing is wrong or bad and without making their heads spin with overwhelming list of things they HAVE to do. These open-ended, "theoretical" questions lend themselves to teachers thinking outside their normal boundaries.

Some folks need a little hand-holding to step out into the great unknown though. There is definitely an element of fear involved. In this case, a great way to start is with something that literally guarantees success. For example, maybe it's starting at the bottom of the SAMR model, just having kids use the drawing tools in the Notes app o…

Back Pocket Apps

I have a handful of apps and websites that I like to call “back pocket tools,” because they are always there, work in almost any setting, have relevant academic uses in almost any age group or content area. They are ones that I can fall back on if the tool that I was going to use keeps crashing, the wifi is spotty, the original tool just gets too complicated, or for keeping others busy when I’m trying to get login issues sorted through with a few students. I also use these with teachers who need an easy access point with edtech and need to see some immediate success.

Seesaw(iOS and Android mobile app and web-based) a digital learning journal that works on any device and allows students to submit work by photo, audio or video recording, drawing, or file upload
If Flipgrid isn’t working, students can submit a recording of their remaining questions after a lesson on circuits through SeesawWhen you can’t use Google Classroom to submit a document, they can send it via SeesawWhen you can’t u…

Nuts & Bolts of Management in the 1:1 Classroom

Right before the holiday break I was asked to do a short session with some first year teachers interested in some extra help in classroom management when students have 1:1 devices. When I returned from break, we discovered one of our teachers would NOT be returning, so I was asked to cover his 7th/8th STEM class for a week in the computer lab. As it turned out, it was a great time to brush up on some of my management skills in a tech-based setting. These were some of the things that came flooding back. I put all my blurbs of ideas in a Padlet, but these are a few of the ideas, in summary.

Front load expectations:

Always prep kids with the way you’d like to see them behave on the technology, and what you’d like to see them accomplish. (This is a great strategy for non-tech work as well.) I always make sure to explain the assignment to kids BEFORE they touch/turn on the devices. This way I KNOW I have their attention. Make sure to present the procedures just like you do with every other…

Do you C what I C?

There are multiple ways to use a blog, one of which is to show cool new tools and features of products. I’ve steered away from that at this point because there are so many people already doing great work on this. I’ve aimed more for identifying broader trends I’ve seen with the amazing educators I get to work with.
What do you C? This month, I’ve seen lots of folks doing cool things with technology, but one area of growth potential I’ve noticed is the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Yes, I see students communicating and collaborating with each other, thinking about their assignments, and drawing pictures and cutting and gluing as they each make their designated elf. However, I think this is simply the low-hanging fruit, and doesn’t really exemplify the spirit of what these 4 C’s are really aiming for. This is the 20th Century way of implementing these skills. We want a 21st century version because that is the world our st…

Design Constraints

“I can’t use technology, and this is why.”
This concept is the refrain that is starting to become more and more common as I go into classrooms. I’m very blessed to work with folks who truly do want to use technology to help their students learn, but based on their constraints, they don’t feel like there is any way to make it happen. Specifically in my setting, I have a group of teachers who teach in our Structured English Immersion program (which means a strict number of minutes have to be applied to language instruction during the day--i.e., most of them) in addition to being required to teach our adopted Engage New York curriculum, to the letter of the script. These two things together take essentially all of the time in the day, and they feel like there is no way to incorporate technology in addition to their other requirements.
Teachers as Engineers As I’ve pondered this conundrum, and witnessed teachers in other rooms doing amazing things with technology DESPITE these challenges, i…