Thursday, November 19, 2015

Everything You Are Doing Is Wrong! and Other Nonsense on the Internet

I've been super busy the past few weeks and I have not had the time to post thoughts on various things. I've been using Twitter and Instagram more to share short bits of things going on in my classroom instead of much longer posts on the blog. There has been something I've seen the past few weeks that really isn't something new and something I'm sure I have been guilty of to some degree and I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

For every educator out there, please know that the way you are doing things is not wrong because someone on the Internet, me included, has said it doesn't work or it is not what is best for students. They are purely opinions. When I write about using more Project Based Learning in the classroom or my love for Makerspaces, it doesn't make anybody a bad teacher for not doing these things. I can't stand standardized exams and think they have little to no value in education. Just because you give them doesn't make you a bad person or teacher. There are plenty of things that I do that some would consider terrible.

I still give grades and I give homework. I do this and do not feel very bad about it at all. I see posts about not doing either and they challenge my thinking. That's a good thing. I respect the heck out of my friends who challenge my thinking without shaming me. Some people want to shame others for doing what they are doing and that is not going to help change a culture and that is not leadership in my opinion. I've come a long way in 5 or 6 years when it comes to my class instruction and assessment. Some people will take longer than others to get wherever they are going, but making them feel bad about their choice of instruction is not going to help. We need to be more supportive of people that are choosing education right now and give them alternatives. There are things we swear by now that might be embarrassing in a few years. None of us were innovative educational giants when we started. Anyone that claims otherwise is not being honest with you or themselves.

It is more about tone and word choice. We all have to be mindful of that. I have to be mindful.

Every situation is different and we need to respect those differences when we claim that our way is the best way and everybody else is wrong. We need to be a more supportive community to all educators out there and continue to share ideas and not just ideology. Ideas can change and evolve over time, ideologies tend to get stuck and cause strife. Let's support new ideas and continue to respectfully challenge old ideas. It starts with us. It starts with me. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Thoughts on Makerspaces #MakingMatters

Since last year, I've been diving into the world of Making. It has been exciting and it has also been a large amount of extra work, but it matters. I just wanted to share a few stories as to why it matters so much.

Quick Background:

My librarian and I have worked together to create an open Makerspace for students to use in the library. It is available to students to use before school, during lunch, during study halls, and after school whenever the library is open. The idea is to give students access to tools on their own to see what they will create. It is meant to be student driven with some nudging from teachers to encourage students to explore different things. We have a 3D printer, Makey Makey kits, Chromebooks, and are stocking the space with more goodies based on student requests. To use the space, the students have to attend and orientation that covers the different tools available and the use of the space.

Story 1:

Solving Meaningful Problems

Here is a picture of a student using the dry erase wall to start her design process. She has an issue with her knee. Her kneecap does not stay in place. It moves around and can be very painful and tough. She is an athlete and has not found anything to help her with this issue. When she came to the Makerspace, she jumped into solving this issue for her. She was working on designs and is close to a prototype of this new brace. She says that there are many people that deal with this condition and she wants to help those people with her creation. She has spent her time working on this project and has said that the space has allowed her to think about this issue and explore possible solutions. She would not have been able to do this without a space that encouraged her to explore a solution to her problem.

Story 2:

Doing Good

This is a great picture of two students who have been spending their lunch time sitting in the Makerspace trying to do something good. They are trying to design a prosthetic hoof for horses. Off all of the things that I expected to see in the space, this never crossed my mind. That is what makes the space so amazing! Students are going to create and do things that we could never imagine and that is what learning is all about. They have spent time researching and diving into the world of assisted technology to see what they would need to do to create this device for horses. I can't wait to see their 3D designs and printed models. Their passion for this project exceeds anything else they are currently working on in school.

Story 3

Fitting in

I run the orientations for the Makerspace. I meet with the students in groups and go over the different things they need to know about using the space. On two different days, I worked 1:1 with two young ladies that were interested in the space. Both of them were very excited  about doing different things and even had ideas for projects. There were two comments that stood out to me when I was talking to them separately.

Girl 1: This is heaven for me. I finally have someplace to go and think about all of the things I want to do. Then, I can do them!

Girl 2: I finally feel like I fit in. I felt weird about liking this type of stuff (making stuff, technology, etch.), but not anymore.

It was tough holding back the tears and the want to give them a huge hug. Everything I had hoped for the Makerspace to do, was happening and these two young ladies put words to it. I wanted to create a space for students to come, tinker, create, and most of all, just be themselves. These students made me feel like I was winning education on those days.

Making Matters:

Making Matters because it gives students, all students, a space to explore the world that our rigid curriculum does not cover. It gives them a community of like-minded people to explore the world. It provides them access to tools they will not use in any other class. It shows them they are not alone in wanting to get their hands dirty and just make something.

We give our students a sandbox and toys to be creative and play when they are younger, but we take that all away as they age. For my high school students, the Makerspace is the new sandbox and I want them to come in, play, create, and most of all, get their hands dirty.

Please share your stories of why Making Matters in the comments section below.

Hugs and High Fives,


Friday, October 23, 2015

5 Years Ahead... #ThinkFurther

“This blog post is part of the ‘Think Further’ series sponsored by Fred Alger Management. For more “Think Further” content, please visit

Looking ahead five years can be a daunting task, but not too difficult if we pay attention to
trends in education and technology. The traditional classroom will be considered more of a
relic than ever before, wearable technology will become more commonplace and change
the way students consume content, and the abilities to connect with classrooms around
the globe will become standard procedure for connected classrooms. These changes will
have a positive impact on education and it is important for teachers to be prepared for

The traditional classroom that revolves around the teacher as the gatekeeper of
information will be more antiquated than ever before. More students will have their own
devices and access to information will be instantaneous. No longer will students need
teachers to provide facts, they will need them to guide them in understanding of the
information and helping them apply it to their lives. Overpriced and out of date textbooks
will be a thing of the past as students will be able to access the most important information
on websites and e-books created by their teachers. Information will be available all of the
time to all students. A room with four walls will no longer be needed house student
learning. Changes to learning spaces will take place that no longer place teacher front and
center. These learning spaces will now focus on communal learning and be student
centered. These needed changes will support student centered learning and change the
way schools are viewed around the country.

Wearable technology will change the way students consume information. As technology
shrinks and enters every facet of our lives, wearable technology will provide everyone
instant access to information. This information can come in different forms.

Personal feedback can give the student information on their health and activity.
Students can use this information throughout the day to keep track of their
movement and other health vitals. This could come in handy for physical education

Personalized Information will allow students to set up notifications that can be
pushed to their wearable devices to keep them up to date with the things that are
most important to them.

Teacher communication can be enhanced with the use of wearable technology.
Updates to assignments or gradebooks will allow students instant notifications and
allow them the ability to address issues immediately.

The days of waiting for teachers to update the gradebook and share assignments on their
website will no longer be considered cutting edge ways to communicate in the classroom.
Wearable technology will allow students to get notifications and stay connected to class
wherever they are. When students are more connected, they can be more engaged. Proper
support and training will be needed to take full advantage of these tools. Wearable
technology will become an everyday part of education like the pen and pencil.

The emphasis on global connections will become more important in the coming years. As
technology grows, the world shrinks. It will become increasingly important for students to
connect with others outside of their community to give them a world perspective on their
studies. Video chat, collaborative web based tools, and other web based technologies will
allow more students to connect than ever before. The world is becoming more a global
community each year and it is important for students to have experience working in that
community. Projects will no longer be confined to the classroom, the building, or even the
state the students live. They will be massive projects that encourage students to reach out
and make connections with others and learn together. These experiences will have a
greater impact on student learning and will replace standardized tests in the future. These
large projects will become portfolio items that colleges and businesses will value more than
a number on a test. The technology will be in place to make all of this happen easily for
everyone involved. It will revolutionize the way everyone looks at education.

The most important thing with all of these predictions is that everyone involved has to be
open to the idea of change. Education needs to evolve with the world around them if it is
going to be relevant for our students. Technology is just a tool and will never replace the
need for teachers. It will be important to spend time learning how to use any new tool to
engage students and support learning. As educators, it is our job to do this. If we do not,
someone will do it for us. That would lead to a very dark future for us all.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

#NerdyCast with @AdamBellow

I had a blast talking to Adam Bellow today on #NerdyCast. We spent time talking about homework, worksheets, Star Wars, and the value of pop culture in our homes and our classroom. Have a listen and share with your friends. You can also get the podcast on iTunes and on PodOmatic. It would be rad if you left a comment or review on either site to help boost my self esteem. ;-)

My Biggest Responsibility #EdChat

As a teacher, we are often asked about our biggest responsibility. It is something I think about whenever another new responsibility is added to the list. Recently, I really spent some time going over what the most important thing is for me in my job. The answer was pretty simple, but I wanted to share it here.

Letting each kid know they are important. This is it. I want every single student in my class to know they are a big deal. I want them to know they are more than a test number or a student ID.

A student last year was talking to me and they said something along the lines of, "I'm just dumb." I looked that student in the eyes and told them to never say that about yourself. You are awesome and you will figure this out eventually or you will not. That does not make you smart or dumb. The student smiled and gave the warmest thank you possible. Their eyes told me that nobody had ever told them that before. At least not in a while.

While some things are important, my students' well being is my biggest responsibility.

Not SAT/ACT testing data.

Not the new piece of technology that is going to "save" education.

Not the difference between verbal, dramatic, and situational irony.

Not the deep satire Twain uses in is masterful pieces.

Not the worksheet from ______ that is going to help the rote memorization of facts.

All of these things are meaningless to a student if they do not feel they are worth a damn in the classroom. If they feel loved, supported, and safe to learn, everything else falls into place. As teachers, we know this. If you do not win over their heart, you will never educate their mind.

Hugs and high fives,