Sunday, May 21, 2017

Your Summer of Making #MakerEd #EdChat

When school is out, there is nothing better than just sitting back and relaxing without having to worry about school or the classroom for 2 full months. Said no teacher ever. 

Summertime has always been a time for teachers to explore new areas of learning and see how they might impact their classroom, school, or district. I have taken the Summertime in years past to learn how to use Raspberry Pi, play with Arduino, and have fun with robotics. It has been a perfect time to explore areas that interest me without the pile of paperwork I receive as an English teacher. 

For educators out there looking to dive into Makerspaces, but have not had time to do so in the school year, than I would encourage you to check out my book. I know it is a biased suggestion, but the response I've received from teachers around the world has been amazing.

Educators have picked up my book to start their Makerspace journey and shared great stories. Schools and entire districts have used my book to help guide them as they bring Makerspaces to their educational environment. 

Here are just a few things people have said about my book:

I've never had so much fun reading a professional book, ever. Somehow each chapter is equal parts hilarious, gleeful, inspiring and practical. I would recommend to this every educator I know and even parents and students. This is a book you can come back to again and again to laugh learn and make each time in a new way. - Jennie Magiera, Educator and Author of Courageous Edventures

"Nick Provenzano has written an awesome guide to 'making', that not only makes it accessible to everyone, but is an awesome and fun read. His mix of personal anecdotes tied into powerful examples of how to get started and move forward, make this book an awesome addition to a collection for all educators, not just the ones looking to start a 'make space'. Awesome read!" - George Couros is the author of "The Innovator's Mindset", and a global Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant.

"Interested in STEAM education and even starting a Makerspace in your community, then this book should be on your reading list! Whatever your subject specialism it will give you new perspective on your lessons and maybe even get you thinking a little more nerdy." - Carrie Anne PhilbinDirector of Education at @Raspberry_Pi, Author, @thePSF & @CompAtSch board member, Founder @GeekGurlDiaries, Chair of @CASinclude, Google Certified Innovator

"Nicholas is a pioneer. His experience, enthusiasm, and good humor make this book a fun and indispensable resource for fostering meaningful making in your school." - Matt RichardsonProduct Evangelist

If you have any questions about my book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces,  or anything Maker related, do not hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter or email. There are bulk discounts available for 20 or more copies, so please email if you would like to get a set for your school or district. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Failing in Public #MakerEd

This weekend was a big day for me. I had a very epic failure building a PiGRRL 2. I was very excited as I worked on the project because it is always fun to build something and I had pieced together all of the components. I shared my excitement on Instagram.

All I had to do was assemble the case and it was ready to go. Well, that did not happen. As I tried to screw the case together, the battery shifted and I was actually screwing into the Lithium Ion Battery. That is not a good thing. Here is the end result.

I shared this with the my students and one student said, "Aren't you embarrassed?"

It was a funny statement to me because I've shared my wins and loses on social media for a number of years. For my students, they are used to sharing only the positive aspects of their life on Instagram or SnapChat. The idea of sharing a complete epic failure is a little foreign to them.

For Makers, showing others the success can be fun, but the failures can inspire. Too many people watch something being made and shared and think they can't do it. I was one of those people. Perfect projects can scare off potential Makers. This could be adults or children. Sharing our failures is key in advancing the overarching idea that Making is about Success and Failure. We learn from our Failures. We grow from our Failures. It's good to remind others of this.

Have fun Making and Failing everyone!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

3D Design in Language Arts #MakerEd

One of the questions I get about 3D printing and design is, "How do you do this in a Literature class?"

On the surface, 3D design in ELA does not seem to make sense, but it is all about a teacher's approach to assessment. I am a supporter of Project Based Learning. I set my students up in a way that allows them to demonstrate understanding of concepts that are meaningful to them. Part of that is introducing them to various tools that can help them demonstrate that understanding. 3D design is just another tool for students to use.

We were wrapping up our unit on To Kill a Mockingbird and I asked my students to demonstrate understanding of a symbol and how it is connected to a theme we discussed in class. For this unit, I showed students how they could use Tinkercad to design and the Dremel Printer to print their project. I gave them a few days in the Makerspace with the Chromebooks so they could get used to the program and brainstorm ideas for their project. Not all students chose to use 3D design for their project, but many did.

For those that did, many of them came up with these amazing designs and wonderful explanations as to why they chose them. They were able to go into detail on how they designed their symbol and how it related to one of the themes covered in class. They were all very proud of their designs and loved showing them off to others. It was also great watching students figure out the different parts of Tinkercad and then helping other students along the way.

One student put in tremendous effort to create something that was awesome and wonderfully detailed.

She wanted to talk about the good and evil conflict in the story and created an angel and devil on the shoulder of a person. The details made it very difficult to print the way it was designed and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to print it. I might help her deconstruct it and print in in pieces. Anyway, this was the first 3D design this student every created. When I told her that she could do this at home for dun and print at school, her face lit up. She just discovered a new passion she did not know existed. 

Here is the chifforobe that Tom was asked to chop by Mayella. 


Another intricate design from a first time designer. 

This design is taking symbols and creating something brand new that had meaning to them based on their reading of the book. 

A student created a gavel to represent the justice system in the story and wanted to make it as real as possible. 

I told him I would print it using the wood filament I have at home so he could stain and paint it. Here is what it looks like after he took it home. 

It broke while he was painting and staining, but he said that it could be a symbol of the broken justice system found in Maycomb that led to Tom's death. 

There are so many other great projects that students spent time on to show they understood To Kill a Mockingbird and some even found out they had a skill for 3D design. 

In the end, the questions is not, "How do you do this in a Literature class?" The real question is, "How are you giving students the opportunity to demonstrate understanding beyond a poster board, power point, or multiple choice test?"

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fidget Spinners and the Lazy People Who Ban Them

Can everyone just calm down for a minute. Honestly, the country is in the middle of serious issues of Health Care, Constitutional Crisis, and impending teacher shortages. Despite these very real issues taking place, schools and districts are going out of their way to ban little plastic spinners. 

I'm not going to waste time explaining why ADHD kids may or may not need them or how they can be great instructional tools for students interested in design. That doesn't matter. What matters is that educators are wasting time obsessing with the spinners. 

My students have them in class. Instead of freaking out over them, I told them they can use them as long as they were not disruptive to the learning environment. That means they are not spinning them on their desk making noise and tossing them to friends. This is the rule I have for everything in my class. 

Tell the students to use this tool, like any other tool, appropriately in class and everything will be fine. It's that simple. Banning things you do not like because you are too lazy to take the time to instruct kids about the proper use in the classroom is one of the varied reasons kids do not like coming to school. Let them have their short fad and move on to the next thing. 

I'm sure some of the teachers so annoyed by the spinners where huge Pog fans and brought them to school t trade with their friends in class. They were also annoyed when they were dismissed by their teacher as annoying. Don't be those people. Be the teacher you hoped you had while you were hoping to convince your friend to trade you that ALF Pog. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How You Are Doing Making is Wrong

At least, that is what some people would have you believe.

My click bait title is not what I believe.

Making is a journey. Everyone takes their own path in exploring new ideas and the right way is the way that works for you and for your students. You are the expert in your classroom. Read different blogs and different books and collect the ideas that will help you be a success in your classroom.

Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces was written to share the things I did that worked for me in the hopes that others will pick up the things that would work for them and toss the things that didn't. It is not a "this is the right way and this is the wrong way" approach. I have opinions on what I think is best, but that does not make it law.

I have always had issues with the way some ideas are shown to be the solution and everything else is wrong. At least until the next thing comes along and replaces that one. It is the natural order of things for ideas to come and go, but social media has revved up the rhetoric. Watching a Twitter thread become a referendum on something you do in class can be very intimidating. It's important to remember that those people are not in your room. You are the expert of your room.

For those of you out there that are interested in starting to Make and bringing making to your school or classroom, don't stress about what others might think is right and wrong. Do your research, find the things that you think will work, implement them, and fix the things that didn't work how you hoped. This is the natural cycle of trying new things and failing. You will get it right over time. I trust you. Most importantly,

Don't forget that you are the expert for your class.

Hugs and High Fives,


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Internal vs External Ideas #EdChat

I've been involved in some interesting conversations lately regarding the value of internal versus external support. To clarify, I'm not talking about solving IT problems, I'm focusing on the instructional and pedagogical side of education. 

There are good arguments on the value of turning to your own school or district when exploring new ways to engage students or change the curriculum. These educators know your building and district and can make suggestions with an understanding of how it will play out. It is a safe decision that will bring what is expected. For those that think that new ideas can be had internally, I guess my question is why haven't they been heard yet?

The other side is the outside influence. There is something valuable to having someone from the outside come in and bring a fresh perspective to current state of things. Even the best intentions of educators in a building and district can get wrapped up in their own thoughts and fail to see things around them. A new view can help evolve current models of thinking and bring forth change that might not be possible. 

As I look at both sides, it is easy to see why some might think it is a this or that situation, but it's not. This is what makes being a connected educator so amazing and helpful. I have found that sharing what is going on with a lesson or with my curriculum with others outside of my building and districts has opened up ideas I would not have seen on my own and might not have been reached internally. 

I have also reached out to my colleagues for their thoughts on different pedagogical issues and they have pointed out more nuanced things that work well with our students that an outsider would have a hard time knowing.  

I think if you are looking to fresh ideas and a new perspective on something, going for the external point of view is a great way to get it. If you are looking for something specific for your students, then a veteran of the building or district would be a great person to connect with to hear their thoughts. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the value of internal vs external ideas. Leave a comment or shoot me a tweet. 

Hugs and High Fives!


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Depression Lies #EdChat

Depression lies. That's what it does. It will say anything and everything. It will take the smallest events and turn them into emotional catastrophes. For someone battling Depression, it takes all that they can to fight the lies. 

Depression lies, but it also will make people lie, 

"I'm fine"

"Don't worry about me"

Students work very hard to wear the right mask at school and in front of friends and family so they can keep their scars, emotional and physical, from public view. We have to let them know that they are not alone. 

It is important to support friends, family, and our students who are dealing with Depression. Sometimes it is just letting them know you are there for them if they need help. 

The school year is coming to an end and teachers are close to burnt out and students are gearing up for the stress that comes with AP Testing and other end of year assessments. Please take a moment to check in on your friends, colleagues and students to make sure they feel supported. We battle Depression every day and knowing our friends and family are there helps us ignore the lies Depression continues to tell. 

Hugs and High Fives, 


Sunday, April 30, 2017

We Are Demon Slayers #EdChat

It's hard not to write that title and not think of my favorite Demon Slayer, Buffy. However, as a teacher, I've come to realize that I've been slaying demons for years.

After 15 years of teaching, I've had students come to me with their demons. These could be minor issues of fights with friends, but they have included more serious issues of self harm and sexual assault. No matter what the issue, I have to be ready to slay those demons.

As teachers, we all do.

When you fight demons long enough, you do end up with scars and you remember the faces of those students you lose. It breaks the heart to think about them, but it gives me to motivation to fight even harder for those that need help now. The demons are frightened of me and they should be. I will continue to fight them and for my students for as long as I'm there.

As the end of the school year approaches, students are going to be stressed over exams or just being at home, away from the safe place teachers have created for them at school. This is when demons can show their ugly faces and teachers need to be armed and ready to fight.

Students count on us when they are lost and when they feel they do not have anyone else. We need to keep reminding students that they can come to us and get the support they need.

Stay vigilant my friends. The students are counting on you and the demons are scared.

Hugs and High Fives,



Here is a link to if you want some resources to help you slay. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Having Heart: A Quick Book Recommendation

I have been reading over this interesting book by Timothy K. Kanold called 
Heart!: Fully Forming Your Professional Life As a Teacher and Leader and I wanted to share a couple of things that stood out to me. 

The first chapter is all about happiness. What role does happiness play in our daily lives, what can we do to see the happiness around us, what happens when happiness is gone, and other ideas that we, as teachers, do not stop and think about as much as we should. Sometimes we are so focused on the happiness of our students, we forget to take a look at how we are feeling. 

As you read through the book, there are questions you are asked to consider and they write your thoughts down in the book. I like this because it is asking the reader to fully engage in the book and become part of the process. Each chapter has these spaces and it is wonderful to dive deep into a book and dive deep into your own psyche. 

Another interesting aspect of the book is the piece on Engagement. It asks people to be fully engaged in the moment, not engaged ahead. It was interesting to think about when I reflected on my engagement. Am I truly engaged in the moment or living in the next moment? Are the students fully engaged or are they preparing for something else? 

The book also touches on the energy aspect of engagement. A fully engaged person will be very tired in my experience. I had an amazing class the other day where kids were designing and students were discussing the novel and I was with them every step of the way and I was exhausted by the end of class. My full engagement leaves me a shell of human emotionally and physically. The reflection pieces in this chapter are perfect at getting to the core of your tiredness. 

There is so much more in the book and I would highly recommend picking it up. I'm very happy my friend shared a copy with me and I hope you will read it as well. You will not regret it. 

Hugs and High Fives!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Technology Does Not Magically Make Teaching/Learning Better

There is a myth out there that integrating technology in your classroom makes you a better teacher.

It is important to be clear that there is so much more to technology integration than having students stare at a screen. There are too many people out there that think that teachers want the newest technology because it will automatically make test scores soar and make all students smarter. That is not how it works.

Having access to technology offers opportunity. That is the most important thing that technology brings to a classroom.

It is up to teachers to take the opportunity and see what they can do to transform their classroom. Just having it is the first step, not the only step. The tool is only as useful as the skills of the person using it.

A brand new circular saw could help a craftsman build a house, but a person who has never held one before could loose a digit. While technology integration is less perilous, the concept still applies here. A skilled teacher craftsman is needed to get the most out of the tools they are given to craft the best lessons for the students. Teachers are craftsman and they just want access to the best tools to make their job a little bit easier for everyone involved.

From the student perspective, technology also offers them opportunity. One of the biggest opportunities is great access to information. Digital copies of materials are now readily available for almost everything read in class. Now, just because the story is accessible online, does not mean that they are going to understand it more, but they will have easier access which could allow them to read it more than once or listen to it while they read with text to speech software. It gives students the opportunity to access the information it different ways which can lead to better understanding. Great teachers show students how to get the most out of these opportunities.

Another opportunity for students is demonstrating knowledge. I remember when there were students who had a family video camera and they were able to create the coolest projects with access to this new technology. Students who had the passion for visual storytelling were able to demonstrate understanding using video. There are plenty of new tools released every week that allow students to express their ideas and thoughts on anything they are covering in class. Again, the opportunity to use them is not enough. It is the understanding of how to use these tools effectively that matters most.

What makes a teacher, any teacher, better is using any tool to get the most out of their curriculum and their students. Just having access to the tools is not enough. It is how an educator leverages the tools to create a learning environment where everyone can excel.

- Hugs and High Fives

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lunchbox Raspberry_Pi Computer #MakerEd #Make52

I woke up Sunday and thought it would be cool to put a computer inside my lunchbox. I'm not sure the exact reason why I wanted to, but I wanted to. I'm sure I saw something on the Internet about doing this months ago and it worked its way through my subconscious and out of my brain on Sunday morning. 

So, I went downstairs to my basement and my Makerspace and got to work. I grabbed pieces from around my workshop area and realized I had everything I needed. Within a 90 minutes, I had a working Pi powered Lunchbox Computer. Here is an Instagram post with full pictures. It is perfect for my #Make52 Challenge this year. Check out other posts I've made on Instagram for each week of #Make52.

My dream is that schools will be designed/reorganized to support students with similar desires or impulses to make. Public school is so important because it can offer all students a chance to chase their dreams and make anything a reality. How, as teachers, can we make this possible?

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

Nerdy Project Thoughts:

I ordered a two keyboards. One is a Bluetooth collapsable keyboard and another is a rollup keyboard. Both will fit in the lunchbox, but I'm not sure which one will actually work best long term. I can use the other keyboard for another project. 

I'm actually typing this post on the lunchbox right now. It works great and I couldn't be happier. However, like most projects, there are some things that I would tweak for a second time around.

I would re-think the tether system I used to keep the lid in the open position. I've added some hot glue to keep the screws and the fabric in place, but where I connected them doesn't fully work for me. I tried placing the fabric on the side, but the screws I had stuck out too far and would not allow me to close the lid. 

My lunchbox is a little stinky. I never noticed it before, but it's a bit stinky. That is an easy fix with some cleaner, but I did not notice it until after I finished the project. 

There is still room for the Thermos. I would be awesome if the Thermos could be turned into the batter source. If I could have room for the Thermos and the keyboard, that would be amazing. I will have to wait and see after the keyboards arrive in the mail. 

Share any thoughts you might have on the project below and maybe it will be something I can work into the current project or the next one I build. 

Hugs and High Fives, 


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Finding A Teacher/Maker Balance #MakerEd #EdChat

Feeling pretty good today. Another moment to sit and think about stuff. I know, super specific right? I've been thinking about my Maker journey lately. I've been so busy with teaching, grading, and travel, I have not had time to dive into some Maker projects that have been sitting in my workspace for a few weeks. It can be a bit frustrating not working on things you are excited to Make, but that is part of the full-time teacher deal.

I'm still getting tons of great feedback from people all over the world who have purchased my book. It is very humbling to hear from someone from the UK that has loved my book and it has inspired them to create a space for their students. However, I feel like a bit of a fraud when I have not had much time to support more own making our the Makerspace because of papers to grade, projects to assess, etc. I get stressed when I do not have the time I want to commit to helping every student that wants help. I'm not sure if this is a normal feeling for others, but I also do not know how many other educators are full time HS teachers trying to balance an awesome learning environment in the classroom for 150 students and an environment for Making in a high school of over 1600.

I feel the obligation for the students that sit in my class, but I also built a Makerspace for students to connect and pursue things that matter to them. Have I failed because I can't do both at the level I feel is needed? Is this just a normal part of being a teacher that does as much as they can to support learning? It's frustrating.

Life is about balance and I'm committed to finding the balance that will allow me to support the Making culture in the school and the learning environment in my classroom. It's a lofty goal, but I feel like it is a worthy one because of the positive impact it can have on students.

Hugs and High Fives,


Friday, March 24, 2017

More Than A Programming Club

Yesterday was the weekly meeting of the Programming Club I advise. It's a small collection of students who want to learn to code and create something fun. I tend to sit back and let the students organize their ideas and chime in when I think they need a suggestion here or there. This post is not going to be about forming a Programming Club or the different types of programming. This is about the value of this club, and any club, for all students.

The students gathered in my room and could not stop joking around between ideas for the RPG game they want to create. Discussing current memes and inside jokes, this group was happy to have time in a space to just be themselves. The students were comfortable and all smiles. This is key for any club.

I'm glad to give up my classroom for an hour or more after school every Thursday so these students can get together, nerd out on the current games they are playing, talk about the plot and design of the game they want to create, and just have a good time. As teachers, it is important that we create spaces for students in our classroom where students feel good about sharing their thoughts, even if it is a minority opinion. Choosing to advise clubs is another step teachers and school can take to support students and give them a place before or after school where they can explore topics that matter to them. These clubs could be chess, yoga, checkers, basketball, video games, comic books, or any other type of club that lets students come together and see there are other students that love the same thing they love. Making those connections can help some students get through some very tough times.

While taking time out of a teacher's day can be tough, I'm happy to give these students an hour of my time after school so they can just be kids doing something they love. I want to create the best environment for all of my students during class and after school. Advising a club is one simple way to do that. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Parent/Teacher Conferences and Student Relationships

Tonight (or yesterday by the time this is posted) was Parent/Teacher Conferences at my high school. They take place after teaching all day and we meet with parents from 5-8 at night. It makes for a long day. On top of that, the wifi crashed and I was not able to pull up specific grades for the students. I was stressed that it was going to be a long night.

What the night turned out to be was very light on student grades and more about relationships. I was able to focus more on the connections I had with students, what I knew about them outside the classroom, and where I think they were heading as a person, not just a student. I could see the reactions from the parents were much different than the times that focused on their grades with only minor commentary on the student as a person. By being forced to flip the focus, I found much more to talk about and to connect with parents. I've always lamented that the parents I see most often are the parents of students who are already excelling in class. I realize now that those parents are not there to just hear that their son/daughter is amazing, but to see how they are as a person in class.

As a father who son is now in Kindergarten, I can see that. I know how Leo is doing in school and I have a handle on what he is and is not learning. When I meet with his teacher, I am going to want to know about his interactions with peers, his behaviors in class, whether or not the teacher knows my son. It will be the most comforting part of the meeting. I need to keep this in mind when I'm ready to take out the digital gradebook and focus on the numbers and not the person.

I've told my students that they are more than a letter grade year after year. It's time for me to remember to reinforce that with the parents during conference time.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017


It has been too long since I've posted on here. No excuses either. I just cut my reflection because I was busy. That's not to say that I have not had ideas and reflection in my head, I've just told myself I've been too busy and nobody would care anyway. The "nobody would care" part is such a silly excuse and a huge cop-out. Reflection should always be about inner growth. If that reflection leads to great understanding worth sharing, that is awesome, but that is not always the case. The core of my blogging has always been about getting ideas out of my head and onto digital paper.

I need to refocus and reflect more on my site. I have my Anchor channel which is a nice and quick format to share ideas. There is always time if you make the time and I need to do that more. Look for more rambling reflections in the coming days and weeks and I try to refocus on my practice and reflect out loud.

Hugs and High Fives,


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Education/Innovation on @Anchor

I'm excited to announce the launch of Education/Innovation on Anchor.FM

Anchor describes itself as, "It’s like radio, but bite-sized, interactive, addictive, and way more fun."

It's an amazing format that takes the idea of podcasting and makes it accessible and interactive. Instead of having 30 minute episodes once a week, a person can jump on the app, shares some quick thoughts, and other users can call in and leave their thoughts. I've been looking to do podcasting again,  but the work behind running a full podcast can be too much. Anchor allows me to share all of my nerdiness is simple and easy to consume chunks. It also allows my friends to share their ideas as well. 

Anchor is free to use and easy to sign up on your iOS or Android phone. You can favorite other great stations and check them out. I've found one called Star Wars Explained

This is a perfect platform for me to nerd out over Star Wars and then call in and leave my thoughts. Long term, I think this has tons of applications in the classroom and I look forward to exploring that down the line. For now, check out my station and call in if you have something to add. I look forward to your thoughts and hope you will create your own station for me to enjoy as well. 

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

Thursday, January 5, 2017

#ConnectedEd in 2017

I was talking with friends about the value/need of being a connected educator and it lead me to this tweet. 
Big picture question: What does it mean to be a connected educator? Do you just have to read some tweets and snag an idea for your classroom? Do you need to be part of the amazing Global Read Aloud? I wonder what level of engagement would be required to be considered a connected educator.

Slightly smaller picture question: Are students really missing out if a teacher is not a connected educator? Students are very connected as is, so are the missing anything when the teacher is not connected to other classes? There are plenty of amazing educators out there that are not connected educators and their students are doing great. Are those teachers "failing" their students by not being connected?

What do you think? Do schools need to encourage more of their teachers to become connected educators? Are students at a disadvantage if their teachers are not connected? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Exciting Giveaway with @Makerspaces_com & @HueHD


I've partnered with and Hue to kick off the New Year with a fun giveaway. If you are looking to get started with Making in 2017, my book and the Animation Studio from HUE is an excellent place to begin. There are going to be 4 winners and each winner will receive a signed copy of my book, "Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces" and an Animation Studio from HUE. Click below to enter the contest and share with your friends and colleagues. 

Giveaway Rules:

Contest will run from 1/1/17 to 1/31/17 at 11:59 pm ET.
Open to all residents US & INTL
There will be (4) winners chosen at random from the list of entries received.
The winners will be announced in the newsletter on 2/2/17