Monday, June 10, 2019

The Power of Student Agency @UniLiggett #EdChat #PBL

I've just finished my second year at University Liggett School. Seniors shared their amazing ARP projects last week and I was blown away. ARP is our version of Senior Capstone projects. I showcased some of the ones that I helped students finish in my last post, but I wanted to make sure I shared another project that is simply amazing.

Katriel Tolin wrote and illustrated a book about mental health in the black community and it is amazing. The book is available on Amazon right now. People always wonder about the types of things that students can produce when they are given time and provided guidance. This is just one of many different examples I have seen over the past two years working in the Makerspace and teaching at University Liggett School.

This book is a powerful reminder of students are capable of doing if teachers just let them. They have stories to tell, messages to share, and ideas to grow if educators can move past the "sage on the stage" approach to education and give more time to student agency. It is not easy. Students are going to resist it because they have never had it before, but that doesn't mean we do not try. Not every student is going to publish a book, invent an app, or solve a world problem, but we will never know if we do not give them a chance to explore what is important to them and give them the time and means to share.

I encourage you to pick up this book, especially if you teach African American students who deal with mental health issues. A student wrote this book and I hope it serves as a way to help other children dealing with mental health issues and I also hope it serves to inspire students to write, draw, and pursue the things that interest them. Ms. Tolin's book, "It's Not a Big Deal!" But It Feels Like Oneis just one example of the amazing things that students are creating at University Liggett School because we have embraced Project Based Learning and Student Agency. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

Where have all the blog posts gone? #MakerEd

Where have all the blog posts gone? It's been over a month since my last post and a few people asked if I was alright. Lolz. Someone as verbose as me not writing was really surprising to some people. The main reason I have not been writing this past month is that I have been super crazy busy.

Below you can check out some of the Instagram posts I've been creating of student work and some of my work. It is so much easier to share the great things students are doing in the Makerspace on Instagram than it is on a blog post. Plus, kids love being tagged and seeing their stuff on the feed. It is a more direct connection to them and their work.

Some of the things that have been keeping me busy in the Makerspace were the student projects in the high school, senior capstone projects, and learning new things myself as I build a design class for 6th graders next year.

High school students were taking a History of Math class this semester. It is a class that students can choose to take as a Social Studies or Math credit. A love that idea. Anyway, for an end of the year project, students were creating pyramids. Some students came down to use the Dremel LC40 laser cutter to cut the wood perfectly to assemble their project. However, it turned out to be more difficult than they thought because, not surprisingly, there was a ton of math needed to make sure the base was wide enough so all four points can come together correctly at the top. It was fun watching them break out their math skills as a team to solve the problem. A great couple of weeks for learning in the Makerspace.

In another class, students were designing and building toys based on conversations with first graders. Rocking horses, slime assembly lines, and a mini tank were just some of the things that students were building. The space was active every day they had class and they all came together and helped one another when they needed it. It was awesome watching students teacher one another how to use drills, saws, nail guns and more.

Another amazing thing happened in the Makerspace that has been taking up my time. I've been mentoring a Junior who has fallen in love with wood working. She started the semester having never held a drill and quickly took the lead in her group in the Engineering class she was taken. She was the only Junior in the class and was all by herself for two weeks when the Seniors got out. She came to the Makerspace and just started to tinker. I was out sick for three days and when I came back, she showed me a ring she carved out of a solid block of wood! She has decided to change her Senior capstone project to something woodworking related. We might work together and create a woodworking class in the first semester and then she would take it second semester. Still have some things to work out, but she is super excited to make a large epoxy table and some chairs for a final project. That is why I needed to learn to make my own table. Check it out.

Speaking of student capstone projects (We call them ARP projects. Follow the link for more info on ARP), I spent some time helping students with their project artifacts for their presentations to the community. One student, Madison, was building model rooms to showcase what she learned about Feng Shui and room design and how it impacts a teenager's mind. It was very interesting. Another student explored facial reconstruction. I 3D printed a skull for her to to reconstruct. It was awesome! Another student spent her time exploring what was going on in the brain of people that had near death experiences. She took all of the accounts she read and created a VR experience using and an Oculus Go headset I let her borrow for the semester. It was an amazing bit of work that was almost a little too real.

There is so much more I could write and share about the great things happening in the Knight's Forge Innovation Lab. The space is growing and evolving in amazing ways. It wouldn't be possible without the amazing support of teacher who are dedicated to project based learning and administrators that believe in them. If you want to keep up to date on the different projects that are being created in the space, follow my Instagram.

Friday, April 26, 2019

New Podcast Episode: Talking Creativity with Jaime Casap (@JCasap) #MakerEd

I'm so happy I was able to sit down with Jaime Casap and talk about Creativity and its value inside and outside of the world of education. As Google's Educational Evangelist, he shares what he sees in education and has decided to share more of insights on a new YouTube channel.

Here is the episode that can also be found on all of your favorite podcasting stations.

Here is an episode of Jaime's new YouTube channel. 

Thanks for listening and feel free to reach out if you have any suggestions for guests on the show. 

Hugs and High Fives, 


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Deconstruction Lab #MakerEd

Deconstruction Lab

I had the chance to work with my friend and colleague Michael Medvinsky on a fun project with elementary school students. We had a Deconstruction Lab! We had lots of old computer monitors, printers, and projectors that would normally be tossed or recycled, but Mike's idea to let students take them apart and see what's inside is a way better way to use the old tech before it is thrown out.

We used the Fabrication Lab and brought out different sizes of screwdrivers for the students to use. We had some wire clippers  and pliers as well. We emphasized the different between deconstruction and demolition. The students were all on board and excited to see if they could take apart different pieces of technology.

The wonder and excitement of the room over the course of an hour and half was amazing. Students helping one another unscrew things, borrowing and sharing tools, excited statements and new things discovered, and so much more. Students were above and beyond excited to take these things apart. The students wanted to take home motherboards to show their parents. They were able to take apart screens and printers without much damage at all. It was very impressive at how precise they could be.

At the end, which brought sad faces to all of them, students asked if they could take some of the untouched old tech home to deconstruct there. One said, "I really want to have something to do over the Summer." What a wonderful way to engage students in technology and spark some interest in what is going on underneath the hood of many of the tools they see and use every day. Check out some of the picture taken during the deconstruction lab.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Getting the most out of video with @BoClips

If you use video clips in your classroom and spend tons of time weeding out ads and looking for just the right content, them you need to check out Boclips for Teachers. Here is an infographic that breaks down video use in the classroom.

Finding good educational content can be very tough and, sometimes, very, very expensive. What I love about Boclips for Teachers is that it is curated by teachers. You know you are going to be looking at videos that are used by other teachers in the same content area. This is a great way to vet the content you are going to share with your students.

Another awesome aspect of Boclips for Teachers is that it is ad free! There have been too many times that an ad or a preview for a next video has popped up on the screen and I scramble back to my desk to shut it off because it is not what my kids need to see. Without ads, you can easily show videos without the random ad popping up.

I am also a fan of the way that teachers can curate their own content by saving videos to teacher collections. I was able to quickly search for videos on photosynthesis and save it in a collection I labeled Science. As a teacher, being able to curate all of the videos you want to use in class in nicely organized collections is a huge time saver. Too many times, we have all spent time trying to search for that video from last year that was on YouTube and it cannot be found.

The content is not just random videos uploaded on the Internet. These videos come from amazing, and most importantly, trusted resources. You will find videos from more than 120 content partners, including Visual Learning Systems, Intelecom Learning, and Crash Course, and many more amazing institutions. All of this great content can be searched from one page with a simple keyword. Boclips for Teachers takes the stress out of searching for videos to share with students.

More and more video is being created every single day and that means it is only harder for teachers to find the best content for their classroom. It would be great if teachers lived in a world where they were given all of the time they needed to plan their classes and look for the best content, but that is not the case. It is important for teachers to find tools that allow them to cut down on plan time and spend more time engaging with students and their own content. The more time teachers have to spend directly with students or focusing on student achievement, the better school will be for everyone.

Right now, there is a great deal. If you sign up before June 30th and you will get access to Boclips for Teachers and it's curated content for 1 year for free!

Friday, April 12, 2019

New Podcast Episode featuring @JuddWinick on @Anchor #MakerEd

Hello Internet!

I'm excited to share a great conversation I had with HILO creator Judd Winick. In this episode, we talked about creativity from an art perspective and how we can support that in the classroom. Judd shares stories from his childhood that really showed the power of supporting children in their creative endeavors.

Check out this episode and all of my other episodes on various podcasting places around the Internet. My home base for my podcast is The Maker Mentality and it is hosted on  

Friday, April 5, 2019

Exploring STEM with @MyStemKits and @Robo3D

I'm always on the lookout for programs that can help support teachers interested in expanding their work in STEM, but are not sure where to start. It is tough to find the right balance of a program or tool that is easy to use and understand and then implement with students in a seamless fashion. When Braydon Moreno reached out to me to let me know that Robo3D had acquired My Stem Kits and were bringing the companies together to support teachers, I was very interested.

Braydon sent me a Robo3D to explore and then I was given access to My Stem Kits to see what they had to offer. I have to say, right out of the box, the Robo E3 is phenomenal. Here are some of the specs that are worth noting,

This is a wonderful print size and resolution for a printer. An average school doesn't need more than this. While there are other 3D printers that are larger and much more expensive, schools are paying for something they do not need. At $999, the Robo E3 is all the printer a classroom will need. 

Some other nice aspects of the printer is that it offers Cloud printing. You set up the printer to be connected to wifi and you can send to the printer from anywhere in the school. It is a nice feature to have so a computer does not need to be tethered to the printer at all times. The printer is fully enclosed and has a HEPA filter built in. Depending on the type of filament you are using, Robo E3 can use over 20 different kinds, it is nice to have the filter to grab any fumes or particles that might be created while printing. The E3 also has a heated bed that allows for easy print job removals. It has an auto calibration feature and the print head is removable. These are amazing features to have at great price point. The print jobs themselves look amazing as well. 

This is a Ballista that a student printed and will assemble. This came from a great lesson on My Stem Kits that explored force in Physics. The print is very solid and perfect for the student to assemble and see what the Ballista can do. The student still needs to assemble it, but when he does, I will be tweeting it out using the hashtag #Robo3D.

This takes me to My Stem Kits and I have to say, this is a nice program filled with wonderful lessons that can help any teacher new to the world of 3D printing. Here is a short video that explains what is. 

This paid platform is a full of wonderful resources that cover K12 curriculum. Here is a quick screenshot of the first page of projects and lessons. 

There are literally hundreds of different lessons and projects that students and teachers can use. The year long subscription is a great way to explore the different aspects of 3D printing by using wonderfully curated content that can be tweaked to fit any learning environment. 

Overall, this is a two punch knockout of an amazing system. Reach out for a quote on getting My Stem Kits and the E3 bundled together for a reduced price. That is a great deal! Click here for more details. 

Robo and My Stem Kits provided me with a demo for the purpose of this review, but that doesn't make it any less awesome. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Can we please retire the word tomboy? #EdChat

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard parents and seen some tweets on the Internets referring to girls or themselves as Tomboys and it is bugging me. When people use this term, they are clearly saying that the things a girl like to do are actually boy things and they are different because they like those things. The term has been around for hundreds of years and it has been used as a way to make sense of the fact that there were girls or women that wanted to do things like, wear pants, exercise, play sports, or be more than just barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. It was to make it clear that the actions these ladies were partaking in were, in fact, boy things. Calling a girl a tomboy was to make it known those were boy things and being a tomboy was something a girl would eventually grow out of in time. 

In 2019, we should really be moving away from classifying young girls as being tomboys because we do not need to reinforce archaic views of what a girl should be doing with their time. We have a serious gap in gender when it comes to STEAM fields and part of that has to do with the notion that science is a boy thing. A term like tomboy supports such crazy notions. Just because a girl likes to get dirty, look at bugs, or run around and noisy, does not make them a tomboy. It makes them a kid.

As educators, it is important to make sure that our kids have a diverse collection of books to choose from that show women in a wide variety of roles. Show all children that women can do anything they want. Need specific titles, check out Pernille RippMatthew WinnerColby Sharp, or Donalyn Miller for a ton of book recommendations for all types of students. Their twitter feeds are littered with amazing book titles for all ages. As teachers, we need to add the term tomboy to our list of retired words. 

Using the word tomboy might seem like an innocent, little thing, but it’s the little, innocent things that need to go if we hope to make real, big, and lasting change.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Season 2 of The Maker Mentality Podcast #EdChat

Hello everyone!

I'm so sorry it has taken this long to release the first part of Season 2 of the Maker Mentality Podcast. Life has been feeding me a steady diet of curveballs and I finally just decided to release the first three episodes today and I can release the others when they are done.

This season is all about creativity. I have asked my guests about their thoughts on what creativity means to them and what role it plays in learning.

These three episodes feature some of my favorite people sharing great ideas. Check them out here or anywhere else you can find podcasts.

Jessica L. Williams

Meenoo Rami

Andrew Collins

Stay tuned for more episodes in the coming weeks. 

Hugs and High Fives!


Friday, March 8, 2019

Adding Interactivity to the Makerspace with @newlineIDEAMAX

A while ago, I was at FETC checking out the vendor floor when I came across an Interactive Board company. I stopped and watched a demo and my interest was piqued enough to go in and ask some questions. What I found out blew my mind and I had to get a demo for the makerspace. The refresh for our boards in school is around the corner, so testing out boards is a great way to get an idea on what we need for the classroom. I'm super excited about the possibilities of the Newline TRUTOUCH RS Series.

One of things that has been lacking in the Prototyping Space in the Knight's Forge Innovation Lab was access to a screen that allowed students to explore their designs more fully after they have created a prototype. I needed to be able to have students easily connect their device so they can showcase their design work as well. Doing this wireless would be even better. Lastly, I wanted an interactive board that would allow for multiple people to use it at the same time. These were lots of asks from my end, but the RS Series does all of these and more!

One of the cool things about the RS Series is that it can come equipped with a Windows Device. That means you do not even need to connect a computer to have it work. The image above shows that my computer is connected, but that is not the image on the screen. That is the OPS running Windows 10. I can easily switch between the Windows Device and my attached Mac with just a couple of taps on the screen. I like this because it allows for a standard device that can always run and be accessed even if you don't have a device connected. Then, a student can quickly add their device and show their screen. The OPS has a touch screen keyboard that pops up when you need to type, but you can also just connect a keyboard and mouse if you want to work with the OPS that way. 

The OPS has Intel processors that work flawlessly with the Newline board and allow for quick processing speed and minimal lag. This is important to note for the techy people out there because that processing speed needs to be quality. Fast speeds allow for smooth transitions and powerful computing across the board. It is awesome to see Newline invest in quality by going with Intel. If you have used different boards, you will notice the different. If not, the Newline boards will spoil you with their quality. 

Another awesome aspect if the 4K Ultra HD screen. It is bright. That is perfect because I have these windows without shades that let in wonderful natural light, but make it near impossible to project anything on the board. I could cover the windows and turn off the lights, but having the natural light is awesome and the RS board allows me to have the best of both worlds! 

This is the main screen that allows you to choose which screen you want to display. There are multiple options to choose from on this board. 6 total options to be specific and that doesn't even cover the ability to use AirPlay for Macs, Chromecast, or another downloadable app for Windows mirroring. All of these options are great for my school because we are BYOD and the students have a wide variety of devices. The flexibility of the device is key in getting more students to be able to showcase their work seamlessly. 

Another awesome feature is the ability to annotate on the screen directly. The screen is still active and you can annotate write on top of it. Here is a shot of me pointing something out to a student on Minecraft. I was able to click on the menu that runs on the side of the screen to pull up the annotation tool, I chose the color of the pen and started writing. It was so smooth to do. When I was done, I was able to take a screenshot so I could save the annotations and share them as needed. 

The board also allows for multiple users at once. This is great for students trying to work out problems together. Here are a couple of students working on factoring some problems. This is a great example of how a board can be used in a Math class. Multiple students on the board working out a problem and screenshot saved could be shared to the class or students that were out of school that day. It is responsive up to 20 touch points. That is a crazy amount at one time, but perfect if you have multiple students using the board at once.

Below is a tweet where I shared a video of Cospaces and their Quidditch program being Airplayed from my Mac. The quality is amazing! The ability to stream video through Airplay without the lag is huge. For any teacher that connects to the device wirelessly, not having to worry about the lag of videos being played saved tons of stress. 

 The fact that this is on a stand has made it very easy for us to wheel it to our common space to allow for morning meetings to be much nice than trying to project onto a tiny wall space. The picture is vivid and the screen is large enough that all of the students in our large commons area can see the screen.

The build in speakers can be controlled from the remote control and they are loud for a large room. Sometimes speakers on monitors like this can be wimpy, but these are legit.

Final Thoughts:

For schools or districts that are looking to change the way students and teachers interact with screens in the classroom, the newline RS Series is worth exploring more in depth. With multiple connections points, 20 touch point capability, built in OPS, wireless mirroring, 4K Ultra HD, built in annotating tools, built in whiteboard app, and so much more, it would be crazy not check out the board. Oh, did I mention that it is software agnostic? It doesn't matter if you run other whiteboard software. This board works with it all! For more specifics on the specs, check out this download.

Nerdy Disclosure:

Newline Interactive sent me the board to demo for the purposes of this review, but that doesn't make it less awesome. 

Monday, February 25, 2019

Self Care And Empathy Are Not Binary Ideas

Watching the Twitter feed and I came across a post that suggested that people need to separate themselves from people that are unhappy. Specifically,

If someone in your life is unhappy, let them be unhappy.
Get over it, let it go and be happy.

This bothers me in a few ways.

First, there is nothing wrong with being unhappy or sad. Sadness is an ok feeling to have. Watch the movie Inside Out if you need more info on this topic. Out brains need to process sadness. It is good to be unhappy at times. Don't bail on people that are unhappy. That is ridiculous.

Second, if the tweet is about people that are perpetually unhappy, why would you bail on them? What if, like me, they deal with depression and can't help but be unhappy for long stretches? I don't know where I'd be if people moved on from me because I was too unhappy.

Or perhaps the second line is for the people that are unhappy? There is nothing worse than telling a depressed person to get over it, let it go, and be happy. Oh, wow! Depression cured! What insight and wisdom in a single tweet! I don't think that is what the second part of the tweet was suggesting, but just in case, I wanted to address it.

Lastly, for those that suggest this is about self care and that people need to take care of themselves before they can help others, I get it. That is not what the tweet says at all. Self care is critical for all people, not just teachers. A part of self care is knowing that there are people around you that you can connect with when things are tough. Being comfortable to talk to others about serious issues is part of self care. We all need to practice self care, but that doesn't mean shutting the door on everyone else.

You can practice self care and be empathetic to people dealing with sadness. They are not binary ideas. There is a reason someone is sad. It could be depression, the feelings of a lost loved one, a feeling a failure, or any other reason. We are allowed to be sad and we need to be there for those that are feeling unhappiness.

I truly hope that if you are reading this, you will take a moment to think about those that are unhappy in your life, or even your classroom, and think about how you can be there for them instead of how you can move on from them.

#WordsMatter and complex ideas are not meant for cute little Twitter cards. Remember that the next time you get ready to tweet.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Just Make It #MakerEd

I've had some conversations about making in the classroom lately and I feel it always comes down to me telling teachers, "just let them make".

Teachers can often overthink certain aspects of the curriculum or instruction when all that needs to happen is getting out of the way fort he students to create. I have found some of the most amazing things done in the classroom is when the teacher removes themselves from the equation in some way.

Some might read this as a shirking of a teacher's responsibility of teaching students, but they teacher is teaching them something by letting them go. That freedom to make brings so much to students that sitting and listening to a lecture cannot do. The freedom to make supports student creativity and drives their engagement.

Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but why don't we let students just make it? What are the reasons that keep us from letting them do just that?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Cool Hardware I Saw at #FETC

I've been meaning to write this post sooner, but I have been so swamped with Snow Days and working with students in ELA classrooms to write their own text based computer game, this got pushed back. I'm excited to show off some cool things I saw while at FETC in Orlando.

Makerbot Method

I had a chance to stop by the Makerbot booth and check out their new printer, the Makerbot Method. This is a beautiful printer. It is fully enclosed and has this awesome feature that circulates warm air all around the print to prevent warping. Traditional printers only have a heated bed. This was an awesome addition to the printer. The dual head extruder is also very important addition to the Makerbot line. Being able to print in multiple colors or use the soluble filament to create items that need support is a big step in the right direction for Makerbot. The full body metal design prevents flexing that can cause issues on fast print jobs.

I watched the printer in action and I was very impressed at the speed and the quality of the prints. In an educational setting, I see the Method being used in advanced design classes and Makerspaces that are being used by people with serious design skills. With a $6500 price tag, this is not your casual purchase for your space. Long term, I think Makerbot has created a high performance desktop printer that can really add a nice option to any school or Makerspace that is in need of quality print jobs for finished products.

HoverCam Pilot 

I was wandering the floor and I was drawn to this podium like a moth to a flame. I am always looking for things that might be able to support the design aspect of the makerspace. I want to make it easy and fluid to share work with students and for them to share their work with others. Having a wireless podium that can share my computer screen, iDevice, or something I'm drawing with their document camera has everything one would need in a single device. I was super excited at the possibilities of the HoverCam Pilot. The mobile podium also allows the user the freedom to move about a space and go to students instead of students having to get up and come to the front of the room. With a distance of 50ft, you can move far away from the screen and still be connected. I like that because it does not force someone to still be stuck to the front of the room.

The Pilot has a Windows computer built into it, but you can add your own device to showcase work. I was thinking about how adding Minecraft to the Windows device would allow me to showcase student work to everyone on the screen very easily. I also love the attached document camera because student designs and sketches take physical forms, not just digital. I like the idea of having a student being able to easily share their work on the podium for the class to see. I think it creates a wonderful environment that supports design and sharing.  You can check out the full specs on the Pilot here.


Whenever I go to a conference, I seem to notice their are more "screen" companies out there on the expo floor. I tend to get frustrated with some of them because they require specific software to run their screen. I was really excited to talk to the people at Newline-Interactive because their TRUTOUCH monitors are amazing and do NOT require proprietary software to work on your device. The user interface on the screen is one of the most intuitive I have ever come across. You can even personalize objects on the screen to pull up commonly used apps on your device. That is awesome! I have found that some screens and software are super complex to get started and use and teachers do not have the time to explore those hidden menus to get to what they want.

The screen comes in 65", 75", 86", and 98" sizes to suit your visual needs. As I look around the Makerspace, having a board that allows students to connect and share without the need to download specific software is a nice solution to have in any classroom. You want sharing to be seamless and the RS Series allows for that to happen. You can actually connect up to 4 screens to the board and switch between the ones you want to see at any time. You can also instantly annotate on the boards to get ideas out quickly. I love the ability to annotate on boards so the ideation process can be fluid. If you are looking for a simple screen solution that does not make you beholden to software licenses, you need to check out the TRUTOUCH RS Series. I think it will be exactly what you need.


I have to share about Root here because I think it is such a cool tool to support young learners who might be interested in coding. Root is one of the more diverse coding robots I've seen out there and it can do some pretty cool things. It can draw. It has four touch panels on the top. It has touch sensors that enable it to bounce off walls. It has strong magnets that allow it to move around magnetic surfaces, including walls! It can scan for colors and react to what your draw based on your code. It can erase lines you have drawn. A light that you can code and a light sensor that can react to changes in brightness. It can even play music you compose through code.

Through a simple block based app, you can control what the Root does and when it does it. I had a chance to play with the Root and I loved the UI on the app and the ease of adding the marker and having it draw out the coded designs. There are so many different uses for the Root, I think it is a nice addition to any classroom looking to add some code based robotics to the mix.