Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Monday, September 26, 2022
That amazing idea is a direct quote from the amazing movie, "10 Things I Hate About You". The reason I have this quote bouncing around my head is because I have been thinking about the state of education for me and for thousands of other teachers around the world. To answer Chastity Church's question, yes, you can be whelmed.
I feel like many teachers, myself included, are in this state of being. We are not overwhelmed with stuff going on, but we are not underwhelmed either. It is almost like we are waiting for that one last thing to push us from whelmed to overwhelmed. In terms of mental health, this can also be an exhausting place to live in your head. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is a type of anxiety that many people live with on a daily basis. It is weird though. You'd think that just being whelmed would be awesome. You are not dealing with too much or too little at the moment. It sounds good, but I think teachers have been conditioned to expect the worst.
I teach in a pretty awesome situation. I know my sense of being whelmed pales in comparison to other educators whose sense of being whelmed is teetering closer to over than under. All I can think about are the different ways that I can avoid falling over the edge to overwhelmed. I wish there were easy answers. I wish that we didn't have to have active shooter drills as part of our new normal. Writing about these things can be very helpful for me and I appreciate everyone that listens and shares their thoughts with me.
For all of the educators out there, I hope you have the pieces in place to help you find the balance you need in life to avoid becoming overwhelmed at work and underwhelmed by the support that is offered to you.
Thursday, September 15, 2022
I was thinking about the phrase, "It's just a phase" the other day after watching someone say it on a show I was watching. The phrase is funny to me. It is said as if it is not a big deal, but I think that is wrong. I think going through a phase is a big deal and we should encourage students and adults to go through them. Follow me on my logic here,
A phase is a time where a child is trying something new. This could be a new style of clothing or possibly a new type of music (90's Swing Music anyone?). They will explore this new identity or hobby and claim it is who they are now. Instead of telling kids they are wrong or they will grow out of it, I think it should be encouraged. Exploring and trying new things is not easy. This is something that should be supported because you will never know what you love or don't without experimentation. If you have taught long enough, you have seen students evolve over the years because they try on many different hats. It is a fun conversation to have with them when they get older because they, like many of us, are embarrassed by their phases. I have some great pictures of me with tremendous 90210 inspired sideburns. We shouldn't be embarrassed. We should be proud that we tried something out that made us happy at the time.
As teachers, I think it is easy to dismiss new pedagogical approaches as fads or just a phase another teacher is going through at the moment. There are plenty of things I have tried that I no longer do. I'm not embarrassed but them. I use them as points of growth along my educational journey. They are examples of where I have tried something to better support my students. I either do it because it is great, don't do it because there is something better, or I don't do it because it does not work how I want it to. Not matter the reason, I tried it for myself and I'm glad I tried it.
The next time you think that someone is just going through a phase, also think about how you can cheer them on as they explore something new.
Hugs and High Fives,
Monday, September 12, 2022
We are starting the school year with some fun challenges in our Innovation and Design Level 2 class. I really want to focus on physical making with digital making as a support and design tool. Our first project will be using Adobe Creative Cloud Express to create their own logo. From there, we will use the laser cutter to put their logo on a keychain. Here is my example I will be using with the students,
One of the things I trying to do this year is not make my examples over the top. I spent lots of time on other examples in the past and I had students say they would not be able to match my example. I think that impacted their effort. For first time project examples, I'm going to scale back the examples until I can use student examples.
All of these examples and projects will live in their portfolio on Seesaw. By the end of the trimester, I hope to have each student with a collection of their design work.
Feel free to share some thoughts and ideas on how I could tweak this to make it better. I appreciate all of the feedback.
Hugs and High Fives,
Thursday, September 8, 2022
The start of the school year is tough for so many reasons. One of them is the act of getting back into the school routine of your life. I've spent the Summer sleeping in, working out on a regular schedule (for the most part), and using the bathroom whenever I needed. Being back at school changes all of that.
I have a 40 minute drive to work in the morning and I need to be at school by 7:15ish or else I get stuck in traffic and will never be to school on time for our 7:50 meetings. That means I have to be up and out the door by 6:30ish. Working out has been a huge part of managing my mental health. It sets my brain on the right path for the day and fills me with the good energy. I would need to get up over an hour earlier to get in a good workout and make it to school on time.
Working out after school is tough. I'm tired and I just want to hang with the family and see how the day went. It is tough to want to do an ab workout after running around school all day chasing 6th graders to make sure they have all of their supplies. I wish there was a simple answer here, but I can't find it.
Another part of being back to school is adjusting my bladder schedule and my water intake. I can't just down all of the water I want during the day because I will be with students and will only have a 5 minute window every 75 minutes to have my bio break. That can really take its toll on the body the first couple of weeks.
All of this is going on while I'm trying to come up with new lessons, learn student names, and keep everyone engaged. If I had the time, I would be stuffing my face with food to deal with the anxiety of it all, so I guess that one of the good things to come out of all this. Avoiding the stress eating is a bit easier.
Taking some time in the morning in my room alone with some meditation helps and, sometimes, if the drive to school was really short and it is nice out, I might take a 20 minute walk outside. Trying to find the little windows of mental and physical health support is the best I can do right now and sometimes, the best you can do right now is the good enough.
I hope all of you out there are finding these little moments of personal support and know that it is ok that you are doing your best, even if it is not exactly where you want to be.
Tuesday, September 6, 2022
Welcome back everyone! After a restful vacation I am back at it on the website. I look forward to sharing all of the ins and outs of MakerEd, PBL, and whatever nerdy edu-content that comes to my mind.
It was not an easy year for many educators and I am hoping for some sense of normality, but I'm not even sure what that means. There are things that have changed because of the pandemic and there's no going back and that is good and bad. I hope to explore some of those issues on here and other places that allow me to share those edu-thoughts.
Most importantly, I want all of the teachers out there to know that they are not alone. Being a teacher is tough in the best circumstances and things are not the best right now. Remember that we are all carrying burdens others cannot see and that we are all trying our best. Mental Health needs to be a priority for all of you out there. Feel free to reach out to me here or on other parts of the internet. Make time for you so you can have happy no school related time.
I am never truly sure what I'm going to write on my site on any given day (long time readers have known that for a while), but I promise to continue to share the ups and the downs. As I start to better understand how my neurodivergent brain works, I look forward to sharing what I take away and how that can help students and other teachers. I'm really going to be leaning into how different my brain is and see what I can learn.
Sending all of your big time Hugs and High Fives. Don't be strangers.
Monday, June 20, 2022
It was bound to happen. Conferences are back and teachers are ready to dive into professional development. I wanted to share some tips for anyone that is new to ISTE or any other conference.
1. Wear comfortable shoes. You will be putting miles on your feet over the next few days and you need to take care of your feet. While wearing nice shows while you present or go out after the conferences is nice, you need comfy shoes to walk the halls and the exhibit hall. If your feet are sore after a day, the next couple will be painfully difficult to get around.
2. Stay hydrated. This is particular important for ISTE this year. Drink water all the time, especially if you will be drinking non-water drinks at night. You will not be able to concentrate and you will feel like a hot mess if you are not properly hydrated.
3. Eat. This one seems silly, but it is so easy to get wrapped up in the day and not have a good lunch or breakfast. You need energy for the day and these meals will help you get through the hustle and bustle of a conference. Eat healthy and carve out time to do it. Enter it into your planner and follow it. Your tummy will thank you later.
4. Do not be scared to say hi to people you follow on Social Media. We are all educators and are dedicated to making education better for all. Just because someone has more followers than another person, does not make them more important than everyone else. Say hi. Ask a question. Connect. This is why we are at a conference, so don't be afraid to do it. Maybe avoid talking to them in the bathroom. :-)
5. Find time to unpack. I don't mean your suitcase, I mean what you learned that day. Find a quiet spot and just reflect on what you saw and how you might bring that to your school, district or classroom. Make some notes to yourself so that you can look back at them after the conference and remember what you were thinking when everything was fresh in your mind.
6. Check out the conference sessions and try to plan accordingly. I'd love it if you came to my sessions. I'm doing a session on MakerEd on Monday. Look at the schedule and add the sessions that interest you most. If there is more than one session you want to attend, see if there is a friend going and get their notes. There is never enough time to see everything, so it is important to plan ahead so you do not miss everything.
7. Visit the vendors. I always like to take time to visit the vendor hall and check out anything new and to just say thanks for the cool and innovative things they have brought to the classroom. I always end up with a couple of new gadgets I want to bring into the classroom or want to explore. They vendors help make conferences possible, so please stop by and check them out.
8. Vote with your feet. This staple of edcamp is important at conferences. Time is limited and you do not want to waste it in a session that is not what you hoped. Get up and go. You will not be offending anyone. You need to get the most out of your time at a conference and sitting in a session for an hour not learning anything is not a good use of your time. This is why it is good to have a backup session for each time slot in case you have a bad one. If you can't get into a back up session, go to one of the lounges and connect with others. Some of the best learning happens in the hallways.
9. Go out and have fun! After each day, there is fun to be had at many of the restaurants around the convention center. It is a great time to connect and talk about the things you have learned and make new friends. Some of my closest friends were made at a conference. Getting together and celebrating an end of a school year and the cool things you have learned is a must. Do that with other great educators at the end of each day and you will have a great conference.
If any other veteran conference attendees have other tips, please add them to the comment section. I hope all of you will take the time to stop and say Hi if you see me. I'd love to connect with all of you and learn something new.
Hugs and High Fives,
Monday, May 9, 2022
Hey folks! I wanted to share a fun project that I have assigned my students that uses Adobe Creative Cloud Express and Seesaw. Students will use ACCE to create an ad for a fake podcast they will create. Below are the directions for the assignment.
For this activity, you can partner up if you'd like to create an ad and a sample of what your podcast would be about. Follow the steps below to complete the activity. Step 1: Decide whether or not you want a partner for this activity. Step 2: Brainstorm possible idea for a podcast topic that you think people would find interesting. Step 3: Come up with a script for a short clip of this podcast. It should be around 3-4 minutes in length. Step 4: Design an ad to promote the podcast using images that connect to your script. Step 5: Create the ad in Adobe Creative Cloud Express. (express.adobe.com) Step 6: Post the ad to Seesaw and record the podcast clip on the same page. Step 7. Post the script you wrote for the clip. Podcast Ad Requirement: Name of the podcast. Images that connect to the topic of the podcast. Names of the people hosting the podcast.
Here is a link to the assignment that has my example.
Monday, May 2, 2022
I've been looking for a new project for students this trimester and I was just at home thinking about the different things I wanted students to do. I knew I wanted them to make something with their hands, but I wanted to make it silly and ok if they were not "good" at it from the start. It was while I was watching Antman and the scene where he gave his daughter the creepy doll struck me. Ugly Dolls are are a thing and I think they can be a pretty simple project. I jumped online, found a bunch of videos on how to make these dolls and set to work ordering supplies and giving it a try myself. This has been a fun project because the Stuffys are supposed to look off and ugly. No mistakes, only features. Even in my demo I made that you can see below. I thought the fangs would be cool, but I made them too thin to sew and I didn't have the fabric glue. I pivoted and used excess fabric to make a mouth. It turns out I made plankton from Spongebob Squarepants, but I made him on my own. I just tasked the students with making an Ugly Stuffy, but I could give them more guidance and ask them to create a symbol of a feeling or something like that. There are lots of possibilities with a project like this. If you are looking for a project that will take a couple of days and get the students crafting with their hands, give the Ugly Stuffy project a try.
|My Steps - Made with Adobe Creative Cloud Express|
Students got to work and some had sewing experience and were able to help me and others do a better job. Here is a collection of photos from my Instagram account.
Thursday, April 21, 2022
As we wind down the school year, the stress levels for students tend to shoot up through the roof. One of the things that I have found to be wonderfully helpful in mitigating that stress is something so simple and something that all kids love to do, coloring.
That's right, coloring is great for mental health. Don't believe me, check out this article from the Mayo Clinic and this article from the Cleveland Clinic on why coloring is good for children AND adults. I offered coloring to my students the other day and almost every single one took me up on the offer and they sat, talked, and colored. It was such a nice and calming moment in class.
If you are looking for some coloring resources, you can check out the ones below.
Coloringhome (Warning: Some pages are NSFW, but they have lots of kid options.)
For the mental well-being of your students and yourself, take a break and color something beautiful. You will feel so much better if you do.
Hugs and High Fives,
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
If you are looking for a fun way to bring a design challenge to your students, please take a moment to check out Coolest Projects from Raspberry Pi.
Coolest Projects provides all of the information a student and a teacher needs to be successful. The mentor guide really helps the teacher through the process. I love the student guide that was created that helps walk the students through the design process. From ideation, creation, testing, and reflection, the student goes through the entire process following the guided steps.
Whether creating something using Scratch or something that requires physical hardware, there are plenty of different categories that students can submit their project to for consideration. I will be rolling this out to my 6th grades in the next week and I can't wait to see what they come up with for Coolest Projects.
The deadline for sharing the projects for judging is May 11th. I am looking forward to seeing all of the amazing projects this year.
Hugs and High Fives,
Friday, April 8, 2022
Over the past few years, there has been more talk about Social Emotional Learning. As part of that conversation, many educators are hearing new terms. One of those terms is neurodiversity.
Neurodiversity can be described as the fact that different people experience the world around them in different ways.
As a teacher, we have always known that our classroom was filled with students that approached learning in different ways. We were always tasked with differentiating our instruction to support those students. However, with more research being spent on brain science and the act of learning, we are understanding neurodiversity much more.
Two terms that have become more common place are "neurotypical" and "neurodivergent". These are relatively new terms. So much so, that the spell check on Blogger is telling me I am spelling them wrong. A neurotypical person is best described as someone who interacts with society in ways that are acceptable to agreed upon social constructs. A traditional, but very antiquated, word to describe these folks would be "normal".
Neurodivergent people (Me!) are the opposite of neurtypical people. Their approach to learning and processing tends to go against the accepted views of societies or educational institutions. People that have dyslexia and ADHD are a few examples of the types of neurodivergent people out there. The more I learned about being neurodivergent, the better I felt about myself. So many of my past and current struggles were able to be understood from the lens of neurodivergency. Once I understood it better, I was able to own it. I was able to be empowered by it. I no longer viewed my neurodivergence by my learning deficiencies, but through the special ways I do learn.
It can be very hard for a neurdivergent person or student to "fit in" to a structure or system that was designed for and by neurotypical people. The more I have learned about my on neurodivergent behaviors, the better I have been in understanding the neurodiversity in my classroom. You would be hard pressed to find a classroom that did not have some neurodivergent students. Those students can often be overlooked or labeled as "busy bodies", "day dreamers", "quiet types", and more because they do not fall into the neurotypical definition of a student. This has to change for our students.
One of the things I have been able to do as a neurodivergent person is share the fact that I am neurodivergent with students. I will mention that I have ADHD and that I manage dyslexia. I have found that the more that I have shared, the more that students have spoken up about how they are neurodivergent. Creating a safe space that allows for students to feel comfortable with who they are is key to any classroom.
There are are some things that you can do to support a neurodiverse classroom,
- Talk about neurodiversity in class and what it means
- Allow for fidget devices and/or bring in wobble chairs
- Let students stand or move around the classroom during a lesson when appropriate
- Avoid sarcasm
- Provide written directions whenever possible
- Break projects into smaller chunks with check-in points
- Talk to students who are neurodivergent and see what they need
Wednesday, April 6, 2022
Right now, there is a big push to support students and staff with Social Emotional Learning. My big questions to people out there that talk about SEL is, do you know what SEL actually is? I feel it is another acronym that people use that do not fully understand what it means. There is a vague understanding, but not truly enough to expound on the specifics of it and how it would be possible to implement it.
This is one, of many, issues with public commentary on education that does not have an educator's voice at the front. It is super easy to tell everyone that we need to support our students with SEL and then not have to worry about the complicated process it takes to infuse it into a school. While still requiring students to take these high stakes tests and then find time to make sure their mental health is supported would be comical if it wasn't so sad.
Teachers are not equipped to just "roll out" SEL with students. It should not be a box that is checked as well. "Doing" SEL is not the same as investing in SEL with your students and staff. It takes lots of hard work and the shifting of priorities. I wish more people would spend the time to dig deeper into the buzzwords that are thrown around before expecting teachers to adjust their instructional day, again, for a new program that they have not been prepared.
If you are looking for SEL resources, check out these links,
I hope these resources help. I will be writing more and sharing more on SEL in the coming weeks. Let me know if you have any good tips or resources to share.
Hugs and High Fives,
Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Do you give a cumulative final exam at the end of the school year? Is it mandated by your school? If not, why do you assess your students that way?
Final Exams and the weight they hold on final grades has been something that has bothered me for a while. At a previous school, the final exam was worth 20% of the student's overall grade. One bad exam day and, poof, there goes your average. If you have earned an A for the class, why should you have to take the exam when it only serves to penalize you for small lapses in memory or a missed bubble on a test sheet? If the final exam is designed to assess what you know and you have shown what you know throughout the year, what is the point? Regurgitating a whole year's worth of information is not a meaningful assessment of what a student knows. I gave projects as a final exam for as long as I could until I was forced to give the common final exam at my previous school. My challenge for teachers who are not required to give a common final exam is try something different.
Traditional exams fail to assess what all students know. They are great at assessing type "A" personality students who can cram for an exam, spit out the information, and then move on to the next test. The rest of us need something different. An opportunity to shine in a way that can still be assessed, but also removes the anxiety of an all or nothing exam.
I am very lucky to be working with schools that are actively moving away from the traditional assessment approach and are embracing Project Based Learning. Teachers feel much more excited about projects than they do MC tests. The students feel the exact same way. Here are some quick start tips for those interested in using a PBL approach to the end of the year assessment.
1. Identify the areas of growth and content you want to see in students.
Every content area has benchmarks that we want to see students reach. Identify the most important ones and outline them clearly for the students. Provide examples of assignments and/or readings completed during the year that connect to them.
2. Create a rubric that outlines how each benchmark can be recognized.
Rubrics should clearly lay out each area that a student will be assessed and what is needed for the teacher to recognize their work. Rubrics are not easy to create and will take time to get just right. Do your best and talk to students to make sure nothing is vague to them.
3. Give students the freedom to explore different mediums when creating their projects.
The more freedom many students have, the better the projects you will receive. Some students will need very strict guidelines to follow and other will excel when given complete freedom. You know which students those are in your class. Keep that in mind while support them through the process.
4. Give time for students to present to the class.
Student presentations allow the teacher to assess them using the rubric and also serve as a nice review of the material covered in class. Seeing the content over and over again in different formats can really help all students retain the information.
I have done this with my students I have received some of the very best projects I could hope for over the years. Here is one example that used interpretive dance to connect characters we encountered in our readings that year,
There are so many amazing possibilities for students if we give them a chance to showcase what they know in ways that go beyond the traditional exam. I hope more teachers out there will take a chance on doing things a little differently this year.
If you have any questions about Project Based Learning and how you might bring it to your classroom or school, feel free to reach out to me. My Summer is filling up, but I still have space if you want to connect.
Hugs and High Fives,
Thursday, March 24, 2022
It has been a couple of weeks of first for me this month. I went to my first in person conference in two years. For the first time in a couple of years I got on a plane to visit a school to support their work with PBL and MakerEd. It has been a very weird experience. As I reflect on what stands out most to me about these experiences it is pretty simple, Connections.
I was excited to see so many friends at MACUL last week. These are people I hold dear to my heart and we have not been able to connect in person for so long. Sessions were great, but the connections with my friends are what really stood out. Connecting virtually is nice when you have to, but connecting face to face, that is something that is so very special. It didn't take very long for a group of us to be sitting around a table sharing the new tools we are using or the lessons we are trying out for the first time. We are friends, but we are educators always looking to share and learn as well. Those connections were so invigorating for me. I left the conference full of energy and new ideas that I was excited to share with as many people as possible.
I am in Jacksonville, FL this week working with Assumption Catholic School on their move to a PBL focused pedagogy with an infusion of MakerEd. I've been working with them this school year virtually and this is the first time I've been able to come to the school and check things out. I have been able to visit classrooms and see teachers in action. I held an after school session for staff and talked about PBL and what it can look like for teachers and for the students. I was able to hear their stories and be inspired by the work that they are doing every day. Again, at the end of the day, it was all about the connections. Talking to these great educators has been nice and it has helped them get started on their great work, but connecting in person is boost for everyone. Deep down, we all want to connect in some way. Seeing the students have so much learning about headline writing in social studies or exploring poetry in ELA makes me so happy because the kids were so excited.
I loved be able to present in person and see the reaction of the staff as I told stories. As a presenter, I have missed being able to "read the room" to see if I should spend more time on a topic or move a long. That connection that happens in the room if you are doing it right is so amazing and I didn't realize how much I missed it until I did for the first time after a two year break.
There are many great benefits to learning virtually and connecting online for PD, but nothing can ever replace the value of connecting face to face with friends and friends you haven't met yet to support your learning. I look forward to a busy Summer presenting in person across the country. Please take a moment and stop and say hi if I come to your event or you see me at ISTE. I'd love to connect and learn with you.
If you are looking for PD and support as your school explores PBL and/or MakerEd, reach out to me and we can see how we can connect to make that happen.
Hugs and High Fives,
Thursday, March 17, 2022
One of the things that people ask me about MakerEd is how does it support student wellness. Social Emotional Learning is becoming a very hot topic in education. For those of us who have been around for a while, we have always known the value of making sure students' Social Emotional needs are being met because they cannot learn unless they are. MakerEd is one of many different ways to engage students in learning and also support SEL.
Monday, March 14, 2022
Well, conferences are back and introverts like myself are getting anxious. I will actually going to my first conference in a couple of days after a two year hiatus. My state conference, MACUL, was actually cancelled midway through because of the COVID lockdown. As I gear up for a couple of days of learning, I started to think of all of the different things I'm going to need to do to focus on my mental health as I reintroduce myself to the hustle and bustle of conference season. Here are some things for my fellow anxiety ridden friends and introverted buddies can do to help make conferences tolerable.
1. Pace yourself
The worst thing you can do is try drinking from the firehose. Diving into a bunch of sessions and surrounding yourself with tons of strangers is exactly how you trigger an anxiety attack. Start slow and go to a session and then take some time away to think about what you did and go to the next session after the break. You need time to process and that is impossible if you are jumping from one session to the next.
2. Hydrate yourself
Hydration is huge. For me, dehydration is a trigger for panic attacks. I have to stay hydrated so my mind can stay focused. Bring a water bottle and hit the water stations on a regular basis. Keep drinking and be ok with having to go to the bathroom often. Hydration will save from drowning in anxiety.
3. Support yourself
Take the "me time" you need at the conference. Do not feel compelled to attend every event and engage with everyone all of the time. Bring some earbuds, listen to something that is calming, and just find your center when you feel overwhelmed. You will not be able to retain the knowledge from sessions if you are in a constant state of fight or flight. Take the time for you so you can get the most out of the session you attend during the conference.
4. Push yourself
If you feel up for it, try and push yourself a little bit. Maybe participate a little in a session here and there or go to an event after the conference day has ended if you have the energy. As an introvert, I know how tough it can be to be surrounded by so many different people and just be overwhelmed. Dip a toe in here and there and see how it feels. Never feel bad if you need to check out because it is all too much. Your mental health is number one. Push yourself when you are ready.
5. Reward yourself
If you spent a few days at a conference and learned a bunch, reward yourself with some "me time" away from the world. Grab a book or curl up on the couch and just veg. You have put your brain and body through a stressful ordeal and will be exhausted. Treat yourself to something awesome because you have earned it.
For those of you who are not anxious about conferences or are extroverts, please know that everyone who is an introvert or is anxious presents very differently. Many people who assume that "The Nerdy Teacher" can't be anxious or an introvert and they would be right. "The Nerdy Teacher" is not an anxious person. "The Nerdy Teacher" is very extroverted. However, Nicholas Provenzano is a ball of anxiousness and super introverted. Putting on the "Nerdy Teacher" mask is something I do so I can cope with the conference world and allows me to compartmentalize those anxious and introverted feelings. It is exhausting though. Any person that puts on the mask knows exactly what I am talking about.
I share all of this because if know your friends are introverted or easily overwhelmed at events, please be understanding, kind, and supportive. When things get to be too much, we just need a friend to understand.
Share this with your anxious and introverted friends and your extroverted friends to give them a sense of what it going on in our heads.
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
"How are you doing?"
It is a very simple question that we often think about, but, sometimes, are too busy to stop and ask our students or our colleagues. As Spring approaches and schools go on break, some students might be dreading being away from school for a whole week or more because of the turmoil in their home. Asking this simple question can be open up an important dialogue with students and peers. At a minimum, it shows the person that they are seen. I know when someone checks in on me I feel so loved. Even when things are going perfect, which is rare, it is nice to know that someone is thinking about me and wants to know how it is going. Take a moment and find some people you have not connected with lately, some students who need a check-in, or a colleague that you have not chatted with in a bit and ask that question.
Hugs and High Fives,
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
One of the things that I am often asked is how I assess MakerEd work from students. The traditional education system is still grade focused. Students are taught from a very young age to chase the grade because that is what matters in the end.
Getting students to understand that there is more to school than grades requires serious retraining on the teacher's part. It is not impossible, but it is not easy. One of the ways I have helped my students explore learning and MakerEd in my Mechanical Engineering class is the emphasis we place on reflection.
Each unit is a challenge that students need to complete. They can design their own solutions based on their research and there are goals they are trying to reach, but they are not assessed, or graded, on if they reach those goals. Their assessment is how they reflect on their work in the challenge. Here is one example,
Students are tasked with building a bride using glue and no more than 200 craft sticks. Their bridge needs to be able to support at least 100 pounds. They will do the research and design a bridge they think will best accomplish this goal. When the bridges are done, we take the total sticks used and subtract that number from the total weight it held. The group with the highest number at the end won the challenge.
When they have completed the testing and reviewed all of their work and the work of other groups, they are given a reflection sheet. The reflection asks students to explore why they were or were not successful. Their ability to be critical of the work, or lack there of, they put in is important. The first reflections are often the toughest for students because they are hesitant to be critical of their own work thinking it will lead to bad grades. In reality, the students that dive deeper and are critical of their decisions get the most out of class.
My job during the project time is to be engaged with the students, advise them on their choices as they work, provide feedback on their process, and support their overall needs while working. After the reflection is submitted, my job is to provide my thoughts on their thoughts. It starts a conversation about their learning process. As we move through the semester, I have found that some students are too hard on themselves and sometimes do not recognize the successes they had in the project. Students are still very new to the reflection process so I need to support them as they learn to highlight the wins and understand the loses.
At the end of the day, I have to place a grade in the grade book. The students earn their grade through reflection and dialogue. These reflections are saved and explored at the end of the semester where they are asked to show the growth points in the class. If we truly want growth for our students, you can't have it without reflection. It is a shame that reflections tends to be the first things skipped when we run out time.
How do you use reflection in your classes?
Thursday, February 17, 2022
One of the things that I have always loved about MakerEd is the mistakes that are made along the way. Mistakes are an important part of the learning process, but grades have made them feel way worse than they should be. The best metaphor for this is the egg drop project my 6th graders work on for Innovation and Design.
Students are given a bag of supplies and are tasked with making a vehicle that can protect an egg from a one story drop from a balcony. Students work to design and build their vehicle and are even given some plastic eggs to use a test dummies for practice drops. However, when it comes time to drop the real egg, some students are scared. They do not want to see a broken egg. Even though they will not receive a bad grade for a broken egg (my class does not have grades) and they will be given a chance to redesign and drop a second egg, some of those students are hesitant to drop because of what failure will physically look like; a destroyed egg.
Some students love the idea of dropping an egg and seeing a very real success or failure. The binary way of looking at it works for some students. If it broke, they need to figure out how to fix the mistake so the next egg doesn't break. If it is unbroken, they are reassured that their design worked. While not every assignment or project is as clear as this, it is a nice way of looking at work students do in school.
If the egg breaks, just have another go at it and try to get it right. That approach works for every assignment. I ask students to not be afraid of a broken egg. Just go for it as long as they commit themselves to finding out why the egg broke and work to make sure the same mistakes do not happen again. With that approach, a few broken eggs will be expected and students will not be so hesitant to try.
Mistakes are how we learn and we want students to be more comfortable with them. Sometimes is takes a few broken eggs for them to see this.
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
It's been a bit since I have shared anything on the website and that is because I have been recovering from a cardiac event.
tldr; Had a serious heart event. On the mend now thanks, in part, to the calming nature of making.
Over a month ago, I experienced right chest pain and arm tingling after a workout. Decided to go to ER, but almost turned around because it felt better.
Decided to go in since I was there. I was able to be seen right away and they did some tests. Blood tests showed high Troponin levels. These are high if you’ve had heart trauma. 0-80 is normal. I was at 800, then 3,400, and then 32,00.
They called in the cardiac team and rushed me to the Cath lab to stick a line in my wrist to my heart to figure out what was going on because other tests showed I was supposed to be ok. Turns out I suffered a rare SCAD event.
These events are extremely rare in men. It’s why all of my symptoms and tests were confusing. I was placed on blood thinners and other meds to prevent clots and other nasty things. I stayed in observation for a few days before another Cath visit to see if I’m healing.
The 2nd Cath showed things were going in the right direction. My Triponin levels were dropping and no signs of clots. I was able to go home after 5 days and I saw my cardiologist. I was given two weeks of bed rest to heal. During that time, I spent lots of time making things. I did lots of doodling and spent time with LEGO kits. I needed to do something, but also keep my blood pressure down. I fell back to the things that I loved. Playing with Python code, exploring Raspberry Pi projects, designing in 3D, and other maker outlets was a great way for me to keep my mind active, be creative, but also take it easy. There are great studies out there that support creativity and its positive impact on mental health issues. Here is one by Connor, DeYoung, and Silvia "Everyday creativity activity as a path to flourishing". There are others worth reading if you are interested in going down that rabbit hole like I did.
I will have missed 3 weeks of school by the time I came back. I will be on blood thinners for the next three months and I could not come to #FETC22 or #TCEA22. I have been looking forward to these events because I have missed seeing so many of my friends in person. My mental health took a major hit when I realized what I was going to miss. Making helped me deal with my emotions during this time.
I started cardiac rehab last week and look forward to a return to normalcy as I build back endurance.
I look to be right as rain by the Spring and I’m excited about my Summer opportunities that have started to emerge. #ISTE in NOLA will be great. I can't wait to see all of you after a couple of years away.
The last thing I want to share is to tell you to listen to your body. Get that thing checked out. I was lucky the ER was not slammed for the first time in 9 months and I was seen right away. If I had to wait, I might not be here. Take care and I hope to see you soon.
Hugs and High Fives,