Sunday, February 12, 2017

Makerspaces and You #MakerEd

If you want to know a bit more about Making and Makerspaces, this is the post for you! I wanted to share just a few tips with anyone out there that is interested in exploring the world of Making for themselves or their students. 

1. If you want your students to Make, you need to Make.

You have to be ok with trying new things and seeing where the adventure takes you. I've learned to code a Raspberry Pi and Arduino. I've made some very cool, crazy things, and practical things as I honed my Maker skills. You do not need to be an expert in all areas, but start to dabble and learn alongside your students if they are trying something new. It's a great experience to learn something brand new from scratch. Start Making to create new Makers. 

2. Create a Safe Place for Failure

The biggest thing I've learned about Making is that you are going to mess up. Things are not going to work the first time and some things might not work at all despite the hours put in. Students need to know that it is ok for things not to work right away. If you are Making with the students, they will see that failure is part of the process. People say, "You have to fall down a few times before you ride a bike successfully". In the Maker world, you are going to burn a few finger tips before the solder is in place. 

3. Have some fun

When it comes to choosing projects, have some fun. Go out there and find something that just looks neat. You will learn many valuable skills along the way no matter what you choose, so you might as well choose something interesting and fun to you. Make: and Instructables are great places to start looking for fun projects. If you are not having fun Making, something is terribly wrong. 

These are just a few things I've learned over the course of my time Making. I'm always learning something new and exciting. You can keep up to date on my crazy Making projects on Twitter or Instagram. If you want to dive deeper into Makerspaces and want to set up a space in your school, check out my book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces. It's perfect for someone who is just getting started in the Maker world and needs a good "how to" guide to get them started. 

My book has also been used by schools and districts as a book study. If this is something you might want to bring to your school or district, send me an email so we can set up a time to chat and make it happen. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Solving Everyday Problems #MakerEd #Make52

I have often been asked about the "need" for 3D printers in school. Most people think that it would just be better to just order what you need instead of trying to make it. That is where I disagree.

I like to challenge my students with projects that force them to consider everyday problems. In my technology class last year, my favorite assignment was asking students to identify an issue in their life and design a solution. This project allowed for students to work on something meaningful to them and to create a viable solution. It gives them the drive to really tackle the problem.

Here is my example:

Swinging Baby-Gate Problem

Here is a baby gate door we installed on the second floor to keep my little guy from going down the stairs. It also keeps the two little dogs from going up and getting stuck behind the gate trying to get back down. It has been a minor annoyance, but one that I wanted to address. 

I could have went out and purchased a door stop, but I thought it would be the perfect project for me to design something and print it using my Dremel 3D40.

Took my measurements and started designing on Tinkercad.


I spent some time getting the measurements just right and tweaking it over and over again as I learned to become more proficient using the program. It was a decent amount of work to get the angle just right on the triangle. My high school Geometry teacher would be proud.  Once I got the shape just right, I wanted to personalize it.

 I thought adding my initials to the doorstop would be a simple way to personalize it. I used the letter features and was able to use them to carve out my initials on the doorstop. Once I had it in place, I was ready to print.

It was not good. Not long enough and just didn't look like right. So, back to the drawing board.

Thinner and longer was the key. A couple of measurement adjustments and I was back in business. 

After a short print of about 35 minutes, the doorstop was ready for action.

I added a little tack to the bottom of the doorstop to keep it in place and place on the wall when not in use. This was a fun project that would be perfect for the classroom or Makerspace.

Step 1: Ask students to identify a problem that could be solved with the proper design.

Step 2: Have students work on the design.

Step 3: Print a prototype.

Step 4: Solve the problem.

I can't wait to see what you and your students can come up with to solve your problems.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

What do we do? #EdChat

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order banning travel from specific Muslim countries for 90 days and prohibiting refugees from entering the country for 120 days. That signing brought protests around the country and responses from other countries. This is the #MuslimBan many have feared. 

As educators, we cannot hide from the world around and teach from the textbook. Depending on where you teach and the support from your administration, it might not be wise to dive into this political dumpster fire at the start of Biology class. So, what can we do?

The most important thing educators can do is be present. Students need to know that we care and we are there to support them as they try to unpack the complex emotions they are experiencing. We need to be as empathetic as possible for our students. Educators around the country are going to be working with students who might not be sure their family will be allowed to come back to the United States. They are afraid to leave because they might not be allowed back. Educators need to make sure that schools continue to be safe havens for all students. When a teachable moment arises, it is imperative that we jump on it and help students understand what is happening in our country.

Outside of school, you need to contact your representative. Check out Who Is My Representative, enter in your zip code and it will give you representatives. Call every day. Write every day. Show up at town hall meetings. Our government needs to hear your voice to ensure that proper checks and balances are being followed. As a country, we are going to have our ups and downs, but it's how we, as a nation, respond to the downs that define us. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

GIF Camera Fun #MakerEd

For those who have been harrassed on my Twitter feed with tons of random GIFs, here is the post that explains what I was doing for the past couple of weeks.

In a recent edition of MAKE:, I saw this really cool project for a GIF Camera using a Raspberry Pi Zero. You can find all of the details for that project here. It took me a few hours to wire everything up, but it was pretty easy to do with the soldering skills I've picked up over the past few projects.

I used my Dremel 3D40 to make the case for the camera. I have a spool of glow in the dark filament that I thought would be fun to use for this project.

I had fun with my camera and posted a few GIFs of students being silly.

I started to tinker with the idea that it might be cool to add different lenses to the camera, but I could not find anything that would just clip over the camera lens the way I needed. So, I started designing.

I designed over and over again and used the Dremel 3D40 to print many different prototypes until I finally found the right size for everything.

Here is a link to my Tinkercad file and here is the lens kit I bought from Amazon.

This was just another fun project that would be great to bring into your Makerspace. Total cost without the lens kit is around $50. The most expensive piece was the Pi Camera. You can tons of fun with the design of the case and hack that as needed and possibly add other features for more advanced makers. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I'll reach out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A @Snapchat Project Based Learning Attempt #EngChat #PBL

I wanted to change things up for my students the week before finals and after we finished the Mock Trial of Mark Twain. My students have been doing plenty of writing, so I was looking for something a little different. Instead of coming up with something on my own, I asked the students. During our discussion, Snapchat was mentioned and an entire project grew from there.

The thing that I decided to focus on with Snapchat is that it offers a very specific point of view. The user can quickly share their thoughts on anything and any situation. They can add effects to add emphasis or even context if needed. This ability made me think about Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because the story is told strictly from Huck's point of view. What if the other characters could share their point view on events from the story? This is the foundation for this assignment.

My students are currently working on this assignment and are pretty excited about it. They are limited in time (two days), but are working hard to share their characters point of view. The students have already created accounts and their "Story" will be posted Friday morning and last for 24 hours. They will also download them and post them to YouTube so we can view them later. I encourage you  to follow these accounts to see what they create.

Boggs' Death                                     Freeing Jim

        Huck_Finn17                                      WhatThe-Huck
                                     Willbury.Madi                                    Tom.Sawyer17                             Col.Sherburn                                      Fun_Jim

Wilks Con                                        Royal Nonsuch

                     HuckFinn1995                                  TownsPeople84                       
Joanne_Wilks                                    HuckBoi_Finn
KingLuvsCash                                   DukeOfTheBilge

Here is the assignment if you want to see where I started. I think that this assignment can be used for many different stories that use first person point of view, but it not limited to that. Other stories written in the third person could still use the same assignment. I also think that history classes can accomplish the same thing. How might soldiers engaged in the same battle on opposite sides view the outcomes? There are plenty of possibilities if we are willing to go beyond the norm when creating project ideas for students. 

I do not know how this is going to work out in the end, but I thought I would share it and see where this takes us. This project might be refined based on your suggestions or it might lead to a different project altogether. Stay tuned for the Snapchat stories going live on Friday morning.


Here are the videos that students uploaded to SnapChat for the project. The students shared them and then dowloaded them and then uploaded them to YouTube. We encountered a few hiccups along the way, but the students did a great job problem solving and then provided wonderful feedback on the project.


When uploading snaps later, they upload in the order they were taken, not the order of the upload. This means the students will need to create snaps in chronological order next time.

There was some discrepancy on whether or not you have to follow someone back so they can see their story, but it was determined you can adjust your settings to address this issue.

Some students uploaded their stories the night before instead of the morning of and that threw off the 24hr connection of the entire group. That is fine the students said because you can always re-upload the story again after the 24 hours has passed if needed.


Students said they enjoyed the project as a nice diversion before Finals.

Students said it was fun, but not as in depth as the Mock Trial.

Students would be interested in trying it with other stories. Maybe Huck Finn did not lend itself to this specific project. The Great Gatsby was suggested as another possibility.


Here are a few of the videos from the project. Some of the Snaps are not in the correct order due to the hiccups mentioned earlier, but they are a valiant first attempt at something brand new to everyone involved.

The Wilks Brothers Con

The Royal NonSuch