Monday, December 21, 2015

H&R Block Budget Challenge #ad

This is a sponsored post on behalf of We Are Teachers and H&R Block. I received compensation for this post, however all opinions stated are my own.”

Back in high school, I took a course called Business Math. This class was for students who were not excelling in Math, but still needed a math credit. We covered basic math a person would encounter during the course of their day or week. We balanced checkbooks, figured out the tip for meals, tax information, and other stuff that I use to this very day. As a high school teacher, I do not see many students taking classes like this and that could lead to a very serious issue once the students get out of school and need to figure out their finances. Taking high level math might be great for their problem solving skills, but basic real world math still has a place in schools. H&R Block has come up with a great program for teachers to use with their students to cover these important skills. 

The H&R Block Budget Challenge is a program designed to help students understand important issues regarding maintaining a budget. They also have a great set of lessons created by teachers that can be used in class. These lessons walk students through keeping a budget, reading a paycheck, understanding a 401(k), and so much more. These are important things all people need to know and these lessons will help guide students and teachers through the complex world of budgets. 

Another great part of the H&R Block Budget Challenge is the fact that there are 3 Million dollars in grants and scholarships available to students and schools by participating in the challenge. There are 60 opportunities for classes to get up to 5K in grants, 132 chances for students to get 20K in scholarships, and a grand prize scholarship of 100K! 

As we push for higher standards for all of our students, I think it is important to remember that there are still some very basic things that our students need to learn. We take them for granted because we have been doing them ourselves for so long, but why should our students struggle to learn basic budget and money management because we can't find time in the school day to share it with them. With all of the debt they are probably going to rack up with college loans, this is more important than ever. 

Educators may visit to register their classrooms. Class creation closes one week prior to the simulation start date. and for this round the deadline to create your class is January 7thwith rolling deadlines up to February 4th

Here is a cool infographic worth sharing with all of you. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015



In a few days, our school starts our Winter Break. Like many teachers, I really need this break. I'm about as spent as a person can be. It has been a tough few months for me. My head is spinning with all of the things that have kept me occupied since the end of the Summer. Possible projects, failed projects, new school projects, and so much more. When I truly stop and think about it, I wonder why I'm so busy. The surface issue is that I say yes to projects. One level deeper is my desire to help people, but I wonder if there is more. Is burning myself out to help my students, my school, my family, and my friends worth the stress, anxiety and depression?

I'd like to think that the stress does not impact my ability as a teacher in the classroom. I think my classes have been fun and engaging this year. There is always room for improvement, but I do feel this has been a strong instructional year so far. However, I do not want life to impact me in the classroom or at home. These are the two places I am most happy. I think it is because I am surrounded by my real family at home and my adoptive family in the classroom. I still get that rush when I'm in a middle of a lesson and everything is rolling. It is such a great feeling. I don't want to lose that feeling.

I need to recharge and prepare for the new year. I need to focus on me so I can be the best me for both of my families. I'm going to be taking a hiatus from the blog and Twitter. I just need to remove myself from the noise. I love connecting with all of you and I know I will miss many of the interactions I have with you on a daily basis, but I'm not good if I'm done in January. I'm hoping the next three weeks will offer me a chance to quietly reflect on where I am and where I am going.

Since the start of this blog in 2010, I've always wanted it to be a place I can share my thoughts. Good or bad, this is what is going on with me as a teacher. If you feel you are in the same place as me, consider taking a break as well. Just a couple of weeks could be all you need to right the ship. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season and I hope to see you all in the new year.

Hugs and High Fives,


Friday, December 11, 2015

Digital Citizenship Still Matters #digcitsummitUK #digcitsummit

I think some of us in the tech world take digital citizenship for granted. I know I do from time to time. Since I am so involved in social media and technology in the classroom, I sometimes assume that everyone, students included, should just know how to act in online environments and using digital media. This is not the case.

Just like the faulty assumption that all students are digital natives, we cannot assume that all users of digital media have been taught solid digital citizenship skills. Many of us have learned these skills through various trial and error scenarios. Not every person is willing to take the risk and try something in the digital world and hope it works out for them. That is why there needs to be an effort to support all users of digital media on how to properly use these tools. Right now, it is hard to go to any comment section and not see the absolute worst of people. This can change with solid education and support for educators around the world.

Yes, I said the world. Now more than ever, we need to come together and support one another and positive digital citizenship is a start. We need to teach a generation of users how to best leverage digital tools for social good and not spewing hate filled rants. We need to break the power of the trolls by giving people the tools to cope with them and ignore them. We want to create safe environments for everyone to freely share their ideas and connect with others without the fear of harassment. We can do this and we need to work hard.

I'm proud to be helping some great educators plan an event in the UK in the new year. #digcitsummitUK is a great start to the global conversation on how to best support great digital citizenship. Thanks to my great friend Marialice B.F.X. Curran for brining me on board to help make this event a reality. If you want to show your support for this event and global digital citizenship, please share this post with others and sign up here for this Thunderclap.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Teaching with Fear #EdChat

Ralph Waldo Emerson - "Do the thing we fear, and death of fear is certain."

Every day, I teach with fear.

It's not the fear of evaluation or some other top down edict that is going to change education for all to see.
Flickr user BK
It's the fear that I'm going to let my students down. It's the strongest motivating factor in doing what I do. Any given day I can fail my students by not giving everything I can. That fear is what keeps me on my toes and striving to be better at my job.

Fear is too often viewed as a bad thing, but if Pixar movies have taught me anything, it's that everyone is afraid, its how you use that fear that truly matters.

I use that fear to drive me. I want to be the best teacher because I cannot live with the idea that I have failed any of my students. I know I am going to from time to time, but I will never stop doing what I do because I'm afraid.

I wonder if I am the only one that teaches with fear.

Hugs and High Fives,


Thursday, December 3, 2015

It's More Than Just Printing in 3D

I'm a relative newbie to the 3D printing world. It has always fascinated me, but my first hands-on experience did not come until my school got a printer for our Makerspace. I played with it on a regular basis and fell in love with the things it could do. It was magical to me. I never thought I would see something like this in my lifetime. It was too Sci-Fi in my mind.

I was able to have a 3D printer in my home the past month and I printed like a mad man. After a while, my wonderful wife asked me what I'm going to do with this printer. I can't just keep printing nerdy things to clutter the house. She is 100% correct here. After the thrill of printing things has worn off, what do I have left?

My House

I designed this house using Tinkercad. My students use this at school and I'm working on getting better at it. It's not perfect, but I'm so proud of this house I built.

I have watched my students work on fun and crazy projects over the past few weeks and the things they are creating are amazing. Here are some images of topographical maps of mythical landscapes from works of Fiction. This is so cool. The students needed to do some research and design these maps using 3D design tools. This has the students taking literature to a level I did not think possible or practical. I think about this for social studies and other classes that needs students to visualize projects for class.

Printing is just the end result of hours of design. It's not the printed object that matters most, the skills attained during the design process matter the most. I never thought in 3D. Looking at designs I'm working on at the moment, I need to think about the crazy way physics will work. I wanted to see if I could design a ball trapped in a square. This doesn't seem super crazy, but, for me, it was a difficult concept to wrap my head around because I needed to think differently. Here is the design I came up with for my idea.

I did print it and it worked! I posed a problem for myself and I set out to solve it. These are the types of things we need to offer to our students. Find a problem and design a solution. I struggled with my solution, but since I wanted to solve the problem I chose, I worked my butt of to do it. Once I did, I felt like a rockstar.

3D Printing is not about the printing at all. It's about the design process. As teachers, just taking another teacher's lesson, making copies, and giving it to students is not good teaching. Taking something somebody has created, tweaking it to make it your own, is a great way to grow as a teacher. Finally, taking a chance to create something brand new to address a problem is a big risk, but the reward of doing it correctly, is worth every hour that goes in.

Leo was just watching the printer with a sense of wonder. He wants to design his own items and print them out as soon as possible. He has a chance to learn about design, shapes, the physics of building items, geometry, measurements, and so much more. He will learn these as part of a the design process and he will do it because he wants to. It will be relevant to him and he will learn because of that fact. As teachers, we need to work hard to make as much of our curriculum matter to our students so we can engage them at the highest level possible. A 3D printer is not the answer to all that ails us, but it is another tool that can help students AND teachers work to be better learners.

I will be looking at my lesson planning through the eyes of a designer and a maker more to really see what I can do differently and I'm going to encourage my students to spend more time designing and less time copying.

Share your thoughts on Making and Design in the comment section below.

Hugs and High Fives,


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Spending Quality Time with the Idea Builder from @Dremel

Dremel, known for making great tools, has created their own 3D printer and I have been lucky to play with it over the past month to see what it can do. For those that follow me on Instagram and Twitter, I'm sure you have seen some of the pictures, but I wanted to recap some of them here.

I always like to start with some of the basic print jobs that come with a machine. Dremel has some simple designs you can print right from the machine without having to connect it to a computer. It also has an SD Card slot, so you could save designs on the disk and upload to the device when you are ready. Here are some of the basic prints that come with the printer.


This is a simple fun design that was easy to print.


The pattern on this is beautiful and, while it took a bit to print, it came out beautiful. People always ask how long something took to print and the answer varies on a couple of points. If the print was set to the highest setting, it will take longer. Low, Normal, and High are the three settings and the lower the setting, the faster the printing. Also, the larger the object, the longer it will take. It's important to keep these in mind when setting up a print.

T-Rex Head

Leo loved this, but wanted to know when I was going to print the rest of the body. :-)

I really wanted to dive into other designs from other creators to see how the Idea Builder would handle them. Here are a few that were very nice and easy to print.

I printed the coasters for my son and nephew. They loved them and thought they were very cool.

I made these for Thanksgiving and it tool about three hours to do all six. It was a nice addition to the Thanksgiving Table.


This took the longest to print, but the color is beautiful and it is very solid. I placed another print job next to it for scale. It's a little attachment to offer support to my lightening cable to prevent stretching and tearing. Dremel has some nice colors that can be bought to go with the printer. It's nice to change up the color filament to get a different look to a design. The change of filament was very easy and the printer never jammed. It makes printing so much easier without the hassle of jamming happening every few hours. Those who make paper copies know exactly what I'm talking about.
For my final print job, I wanted to tackle something very nerdy and in multiple parts. I wanted to see how well the Idea Builder could handle printing non-stop for almost two days and provide the accuracy necessary to assemble various pieces together.

Here is the Sword of Omens from Thundercats.

I loved this show from the 80s and I was sad the that reboot did not stick around because it was very well done. It took me two days of Thanksgiving break to print all of the pieces and about an hour or so to assemble them together. I still plan on sanding and painting this sword to finish the project.

My House

I designed this house using Tinkercad. My students use this at school and I'm working on getting better at it. It's not perfect, but I'm so proud of this house I built. Designing the house forced me to think in 3D. It has me thinking about perspectives I normally would not notice. My son watched me do some of the design and he really wants to design on the computer. He is only 4, but I have let him try and design using the shapes and he thinks it is very cool. He wants to design his own Dragon Claw.

This 3D printer is really great. The print jobs are solid and the quality is there for small and big projects. The price point of $999, might seem high for some people, but it is worth it for a classroom or a home that wants to have students design and print. I had the printer working non-stop for a few days and I did not encounter a single issue. That is huge for me and any other person who does not want to deal with the hassle of printer jams or filament issues.

If you are looking for an entry level 3D printer for your home or classroom, I would highly recommend that you check out the Idea Builder from Dremel. You will not be disappointed.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Thoughts on Makerspaces #MakingMatters

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

Quick Background:

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

Story 1:

Solving Meaningful Problems

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

Story 2:

Doing Good

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

Story 3

Fitting in

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

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

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

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

Making Matters:

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

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

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

Hugs and High Fives,


Friday, October 23, 2015

5 Years Ahead... #ThinkFurther

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 15, 2015

#NerdyCast with @AdamBellow

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

My Biggest Responsibility #EdChat

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

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

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

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

Not SAT/ACT testing data.

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

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

Not the deep satire Twain uses in is masterful pieces.

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

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

Hugs and high fives,


Monday, October 12, 2015

Supporting Local Schools #MichEd

As a public school teacher, I'm a big advocate for supporting public school. That should not be a big surprise. In Michigan, there will be a number of important bond proposals in communities that are designed to help schools make important upgrades to their districts. Here is a list of districts that have proposals on the ballot this November.

State funding has not been enough to meet all of the needs of school districts. Per pupil funding is not matching the rate of inflation and there are only so many ways you can cut a budget before it severely impacts student learning. Here is a link to the Senate Fiscal Agency Report on Per Pupil Funding. Other than large donations from individuals (which is not a realistic way for districts to support themselves), bonds are the best way for a community to invest in their educational system. 

Here are some thoughts to consider,

I've heard people say that they do not want to support bonds because they do not have children in school, so they do not want their tax money directed to a system that does not directly impact them. That argument makes some sense, but if you look deeper, it is very flawed. Educating the youth of the community does have a direct impact on everyone, whether or not they have students in the system. A stronger educational system can have a positive impact on housing value, it can bring innovative business to the community looking to hire highly trained students, a highly educated community can impact crime, and many more positives are out there if support is given to these schools.

People have also said that they learned just fine without computers, so why do these kids need such fancy devices? While it is true that many of us grew up is world without these devices and have accomplished great things, that doesn't mean these tools have not been important to us today. I'm writing a blog with a Surface Pro 3. I had to teach myself how to use all of these tools. I did not learn this in a class. Tools like blogs and other forms of social media, as well as many different pieces of hardware, are now common place. We need to prepare our students for their future, not our past. Supporting a bond that will provide technology upgrades is key because it will give the students access to the best tools to prepare them for a world that expects them to know how to use them once they leave school. You wouldn't ask a doctor to only use the tools that he used to treat patients 30 years ago, so why would you want a teacher to only use the tools that were used for us? If so, it's time to invest a ton of money in chalk and personal slate boards for our students.

Some bonds do not have anything to do with technology. They are bonds designed to keep building working. Fixing the room, paving parking lots, and other important infrastructure items to keep the learning environment safe for all students. It is important to look into bond proposals to see exactly what they are asking for and what they want to spend it on. Every bond is different for every community. It is important to make decisions based on the bond that impacts your community, not what others have said about bonds in their community.

On the school side, it is very important to have a clear plan to present to the community. What are you going to do with the bond money and how are you going to support it?

As a parent/resident, I supported the bond that came up a couple of years ago. It was a no-brainer for me. I wanted to make sure that my son would have access to the best tools available for his education. I researched and read everything I could on the issue and felt it was right for my family and the community as a whole.

As a teacher, I loved the built in support my home district had in place once the bond was passed. They have organized a tech conference for their staff at the start of the school year and have brought in national level Keynote speakers to kick off the year and inspire the teachers. Providing this support to the staff is crucial. Buying a bunch of tech is nice, but it will be worthless unless you have a plan of action to support it. I was confident that my home district was going to

No matter what, it is important to reach out and ask questions. Attend board meetings, email the superintendent, visit websites, talk to neighbors, and do anything else you can think of to get all of the facts. A yes vote for a bond could ensure that the students in your community can stay competitive and well educated for years to come. A no vote could set the community back years.

Check out this site to see if your community has a bond coming up this year.  

Friday, October 9, 2015

We Are All Models

The thought of me walking the catwalk in my fabulous mesh tank top is the last thing you want to envision, but that is not the type of modeling I am talking about.

As educators, one of the things we need to constantly remember is that we need to do much more showing than we do telling.


There are many ways for us to show our students how to do something instead of just telling them. I've done it in many different ways.

For blogging, I made sure I was comfortable with my blogging skills before I had students do it. For one year, I actually completed all of the blog posts I assigned to my students so I could show them what I was looking for in a completed blog post.

When we read plays in class, I'm the first person to stand up and take the silly voice and run with it. I want my students to feel comfortable to be silly and have fun, so I make sure I can be silly and that I have fun.

If I want students to feel comfortable failing and not knowing something, I make sure to never hide my failures and admit when I'm stumped. I will never ask something of my students that I'm not willing to do my self.


Modeling is key for admins. If you want teachers to do things, model it for them. Give them an example to follow. Show them instead of just telling them.

If you want to see teachers use more technology in the classroom, use more technology in staff PD. If you want to see more student centered classes and engaging lessons, show that in meetings.

Last year, we had PD days designed that got us up and moving. We took trips downtown and to a local historical museum. We used our mobile devices to engage in questions and enhance/facilitate discussion. This was an excellent example of modeling.

Another part of these PD days was that there were teachers involved in the planning of the days. The teacher voice was present to help make it meaningful to everyone involved. How often do we give students a voice before or after a lesson?

Final Thoughts

Students watch us like a hawk. They take our lead every day. If we come into class with big smiles and high fives, they will mirror that enthusiasm. If admins walk in to a meeting with a rain cloud over their head, the teachers will prepare for the worst. We all need to model the best for our students and staff. This is the strategy that will support a culture of learning and growth as a person. 

Put on your best "Blue Steel" impression and get out there. 

Hugs and high fives,


Monday, October 5, 2015

DIY Gamer Kit from @TechWillSaveUs #MakerEd

I had the opportunity to play with the DIY Gamer Kit from Technology Will Save Us and I have to say that it is awesome. Here are my thoughts on using this kit. 

I was given the option of purchasing the kit unsoldered or soldered with love. I have not soldered in quite some time and I'm sure my wife would not want me wielding a soldering iron. It cost a bit more, but I was happy to get the device without any personal burn scars on my hands. 

Everything came together in a nice package and I was able to jump online and follow the directions. The resources of the kits are amazing and easy to follow. If you want to solder on your own, they have the directions for that. If you want to assemble and start playing, they have directions for that. I was able to take it out of the box, assembles it, add a battery, and I was ready to go. Here is what it looked liked assembled. 

Here are some students adding the stickers to the back. 

The next part of the kit is downloading the Arduino software onto my computer so I can start programming my unit. Again, Technology Will Save Us makes this so easy. Their directions walk you thorough the process in a matter of minutes. They also have directions on how to install other games (Flappy Bird and Snake) to your unit. They have other programs that you can play around with as well. Here is one that I was able to place on the unit that I shared on Instagram. 

This was so much fun to play around with on the computer and the unit. I was able to simply plug in the USB and connect it to the computer and start playing with code. I'm not much of Code or Arduino guy, but I felt like a pro in minutes and want to spend more time playing with the code to see what I can change.

I intend to buy more of these for our Makerspace. I want kids to build these and program them for the space. Students can have challenges and competitions to create complex games for others to play and beat. This was such a fun experience for me and my students were interested when I showed them what I was able to do.

There are other kits that are also worth exploring and have peaked my interest. They have a Synth Kit, Speaker Kit, Electro Dough Kit, Thirsty Plant Kit, and more. Check them out to diversify the kits in your Makerspace.

If you are looking to give students more opportunities to tinker and Make, adding some kits from Technology Will Save Us in a no-brainer in my opinion.

Have fun and get Making!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Thoughts on the Microsoft Surface Pro 3

This past summer, I was given a chance to visit CDW in Chicago. I was given a tour of their facility and talked about how their system of managing products for businesses can impact education. It was interesting to see how their shipping facility worked and how they were expanding to create better services for all of their customers. It was nice to hear how they were interested in making the process to buy and receiving tech for schools a much easier process. CDW has been a sponsor at MACUL events and their staff has always been helpful when I had questions. If you have not worked with CDW, you need to check them out and see how they can help you or your school.

It was an awesome trip that included a visit to Microsoft Office in downtown Chicago. I was able to see some new things and here about how Microsoft is becoming more flexible in the tech space and wants to work more with other types of software. This was refreshing to hear. I think it is something that can truly help Microsoft down the line in the educational world. As part of the visit, I was able to play with a Surface Pro 3 for the past month and I'm going to share what I think about with all of you.

I'm actually writing this post on the Surface Pro 3 right now. I'm using the new Edge browser and I'm running Microsoft 10. Blogger warns me that Edge is not supported and this moment and that there might be some issues. I've done a few posts using the Edge Browser and I have not encountered anything goofy yet.

The keyboard, which is an extra cost if you are buying a Surface, is very easy to use and snaps on wonderfully. It also folds back behind the screen if I want to carry it around and use it in tablet mode. I have found this wonderfully helpful in the classroom. I can be standing at the podium listening to class discussion and entering info into Google Classroom or the Google Doc and then quickly pick up and walk around to get a closer view of the students talking in their groups. This flexibility in the classroom is awesome. The Surface is not very heavy, so carrying it around is not cumbersome at all.

The battery was able to last all school day with heavy use. I was even able to throw on a movie from Netflix at the end of the day while I graded to see how long it would last. There was still 20 percent left after a full school day and 90 minutes of playing Netflix. I was able to charge it over night and it was ready to go in the morning. That is awesome!

I was able to download all of the things one would need for their computer without an issue. I downloaded Chrome so that I can access all of my school Google Apps. I can switch to Edge when I need to use my personal account. I could add another browser if I really wanted to. The downloads were fast and simple.

Another awesome feature for me was the stylus that comes with the Surface. I've never been a huge fan of using a stylus, but other web apps have made it very helpful. I use SMART amp with my students. It is an awesome application from SMART that integrates with Google Apps and allows me to work on a digital space with students in real time. Click the link for more info. The Surface is an awesome tool for working with students while on amp because it allows me the freedom to move away from the computer connected to the screen and SMART Board and access amp on the Surface. The stylus allows me the ability to draw and annotate anything I want as I walk around. Students can also access amp from their devices as well. This allows for a completely mobile environment where all students are connected and sharing. The Surface and the stylus make this possible with ease.

I'm a big Evernote user. I always have been. People have asked me about OneNote, but I've never used it. OneNote is built into the Stylus with a click of the top button. OneNote opens and you can start writing your notes or typing away. You can also capture directly from your screen and drop that into OneNote as well. If I wasn't so deep into my Evernote use for me and my students, I could see using OneNote regularly with the Surface.

The 12 inch screen is beautiful and I was able to watch Netflix without an issue. The picture is crisp and clean. No stray pixels to be found. It is a large screen that makes it feel like I am seeing everything I need without an issue. The touch screen is accurate and responsive without any lag. It makes the workflow seamless.

Cortana is nice to use, but I do not use it very much. It is tough to use in class with all of the students chatting. It is nice to tell it to open a specific app instead of trying to find it. It hears me clearly and rarely does it get confused or have trouble executing the task requested.

The Surface starts at $699 and the keyboard is an additional cost of $129. That might seem like a steep price, but you are getting a full computer that could replace your laptop easily. The tablet use is great and the Windows store has all the apps I need and use on my other tablets. The bigger screen is great and it is a wonderful mobile device. Microsoft is pushing the competition and I would recommend people to take a serious look at the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 if they are considering purchasing a new device for work or for home.