Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ready, Set, Make #ELWave15

I held my first making presentation yesterday as well as co-moderated #CTedu chat on Makerspaces. It was a crazy day, but I really walked away having learned so much from amazing teachers. Here are some of the things I took away after the day was over and I had some time to reflect.

When it comes to Making, we do not have to look much farther than our own children. They are making all of the time. They do not understand the concept of "can't". We instill that into our kids and we need to be better than that. We need to encourage them to explore and create.

Ninja Warrior Course designed by Leo Provenzano

Leo Provenzano excited to play with the TIE Fighter

When I come to Lafayette, I love to walk around the town. It's a beautiful town with great people. I shop at the independent bookstore and just love checking out everything the downtown area has to offer. This year, I found art in the ally ways.

Using the hashtag #SmallPlacesLafayette with all of the art, I loved the beauty of art throughout the city. When I asked people why the art was put up, I was told it was an effort to spruce up some of the "Small Places" in Lafayette. I just loved this idea. Again, the Making spirit can be seen in the beauty of the art. Give people a blank canvas and they will create beautiful things. We need to give our students more "Small Spaces" to create.

For my session, I wanted teachers to make before we talked Making. Here are some great pictures of people having fun and making.

Paper Airplane competition

Marshmallow Tower Building
Bacon, Donut, and Coffee made with Playdoh
Playdoh Emoji
Building with Lego 
Making beautiful art
It was so fun to see all of the smiles and hear all of the laughter as teachers made things. It set the right tone on what the entire session was supposed to be about. Getting teachers excited about making will hopefully get them thinking about giving their students time to make as well. 

It was a good time with great teachers that were excited to try some new things in a session. I'm excited about where Making is heading in the classroom and I encourage all of you to look into Making and bringing it to your students. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pay Attention to Indiana #ELWave15

I just finished my first day in Lafayette, IN at the Catch the Wave of eLearning conference. This is the 3rd year they have hosted the event and my third year here. I could go on for hours about how much I love the community in Lafayette and all of the amazing educators that come together to share their knowledge.

The Department of Education has put together a program that supports these summer conferences across the state. It is designed to support professional development for their teachers during the summer months. There will be 24 conferences over the course of the summer. That is 24 opportunities for teachers to learn from other teachers. They bring in other educators from around the country, which I've been lucky to be part of, to share their knowledge as well. It is a genius program designed to support teachers. Every state needs to take notice.

I've been to three different parts of Indiana over the past three years and a Keynote and presenter and I've been blown away at the commitment to the teachers. I'm not surprised by the teachers though. I knew I would see passionate learners eager to try new things and share what they know. They are attending a local conference in the Summer, of course they are amazing.

I do not know what the other 49 states are doing regarding PD, but this is a model that I encourage all states to look at and mimic. Supporting teachers with great PD is going to be the best way to ensure our teachers are ready for their students when they come to class in the Fall.

If you get a chance to attend any of these great events in the future, I assure you that you will have an amazing time.

Thanks to the great learning communities in Lafayette, Clark County, and Western School Corp for having me out the past three years to learn and share with you. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Saved By The Bell and Education #edchat

*Editor's Note* Before you start writing nasty comments, let's set a few things straight. This Saved by the Bell post includes story lines from Good Morning Ms Bliss despite the fact it was set in Ohio at JFK Junior High. It was packaged with SBTB and had episodes introduced by Zack. The trip to Hawaii and Jessie's Dad's wedding are also included. The College Years did not happen. They just didn't. The SBTB Wedding in Vegas is in the canon. The New Class did not happen. Nope, not at all. Let’s get started.

Ms. Bliss

I had a hard time picking out one episode to show her greatness. There is the awesome episode where she pranked herself and framed Screech to teach the kids about the legal system that really sticks out to me.  She engaged her students in a way they, and I, would remember for years. I do a mock trial to this date because of how cool that entire episode was to me. Having kids learn by doing is so important and Ms. Bliss did this with many of her lessons. She even brought technology into the classroom for one very funny episode.

Miss Bliss really wanted to teach the kids about the stock market and decided to use something called the Internet in class to have students buy and sell stocks. Zack came up with a crazy get rich quick scheme and purchased a whole bunch of stocks on margin and then the stocks tanked. While I do not recommend that teachers allow students access to their e-trade accounts, it was so cool to see a teacher using a computer in the classroom and actually allowing the kids to use it for real world learning. Real world application is something all teachers should try to keep in mind as lessons are planned. If a student can see how the skill can be used, maybe they will be more engaged.

Miss Bliss was a hard worker that always pushed her principal, Mr. Belding, to accept the different ways she would use to teach the class. She was progressive and passionate. She cared about all of her students and strives to help all of them be who they were. I like to think that I have a little bit of Miss Bliss in me and that makes me feel good. (Note: I do not suggest dating a student's parent like she did with Zack's Dad. That would just be weird.)

Principal Richard "The Big Bopper" Belding

"Woa woa woa, what’s going on here?" The calling card of a person who seemed to never know what really was going on in his school. Mr. Belding is probably not the best example of a principal at first glance, but he really does some things that are worth noting. In his dealings with Ms. Bliss, he supported her crazy ideas because he knew that she got results. Her methods were different, but her success at getting Zack and the gang to learn important Social Studies concepts was never in question. That trust in a teacher as an expert in their field is important. That type of support is something many teachers do not feel. As schools and districts move more toward cookie cutter testing, teachers are not encouraged to try new and different things. "Teach to the Test" seems to be the mantra for many admins across the country. Supporting different ideas from veteran teachers should be encouraged, but also monitored. Mr. Belding did a good job of doing both. Well, after his initial freak out.

I realize that it was easy for Belding to be involved in the day to day activities of his students because the school population was just over 38 kids, but it should not be ignored. Mr. Belding worked hard to be there when the students were doing something interesting or exciting. He was an active participant in the school's events. Whether it is a Ski Trip (The one Zack could not go to because of his grades and he got the waiter from The Maxx to play his Dad and Belding and he only really wanted his Dad's attention.) or a White Water Rafting Trip (Which was supposed to be chaperoned by Mr. Belding's brother Rod, but he bailed to hook up with some flight attendant named Inga.). Anyway, Mr. Belding was always there for the kids and he loved his school. It is too easy for some principals to hide in their office and only see the ones who need punishment. Belding was a visible principal that was involved in the every day activities of the students and staff. He might not have always gotten along with Mr. Tuttle, but he let the teachers do what they thought was best.

Mr. Tuttle

Mr. Tuttle was a jack-of-all-trades. He taught Glee Club, driver's training and business class. Mr. Tuttle was also the head of the teacher union at Bayside. He had a great sense of humor and interacted well with the kids. Despite his failed aspirations to become principal of Bayside High School, he worked hard to provide a fun learning environment. He was actually one of the few teachers that liked Zack despite his crazy schemes. He supported the quiet Violet Bickerstaff when she showed the rest of Glee Club that she had an amazing voice. He was a very kind and funny teacher.

The thing that I liked about Mr. Tuttle is that he was always willing to work with what he had. That Glee club was terrible, but he gave the kids the best experience possible. As teachers, we often do not get the dream class. We get a collection of students with varied skills. We must always be committed to doing our best to reach as many students as possible. I'm not sure if I would use a golf cart in the school for drivers training, but then again, I'm no Mr. Tuttle.

Terrible Testaverde

Terrible Testaverde. The name invokes fear in every student at Bayside. TT was the social studies teacher that gave notes so quickly, it caused Jessie's paper to catch fire. He was known for his difficult tests. As a student, I didn't like him. He did not seem like a very fun teacher at all. He seemed to be all about tests. As a teacher, I don't like him for all of the same reasons. I understand that you should not judge a teacher based on one unit or test, but his stand and talk approach to instruction is something that kids do not respond to. Speaking at kids is not a good form of instruction, especially at his pace. There are times where we will need to give notes and talk to the students, but teachers need to change it up and try to reach the students in the class that respond to other delivery methods. Zack had such a problem with TT's teaching, that he tried to use Screech's new found future telling ability (Gained when he was struck by lightening on Zack's roof) to discover the three questions on the huge exam that would determine their grade in class. Nothing like three questions having such a huge impact on a student's grade. I almost do not blame Zack for trying a crazy scheme. He ends up failing because cheaters never prosper, but Belding should be ashamed to have a teacher like Testaverde at Bayside. That is not learning going on in the classroom, it's rote memorization. Blech!

The Gang

Kelly Kapowski bugged me. I had a crush on her, but I was not a fan of the way that she led Zack on, used to toy with Slater and then cheated on Zack with stupid Jeff. I was glad that her heart was broken when she saw Jeff dance with the other girl at The Attic. Ok, I'm better. I've needed to get that off my chest for a few years. Having said that, there is something to be said about Kelly's actions and the state of education in America. Follow me on this one.

Kelly was an interesting student at Bayside. She always had a smile on her face and was ready to cheer for all of the sports teams and school clubs. She was offered a chance to model in France and was always there for her friends when they needed her. The one thing many did not know was that she came from a big family and that her father lost his job. Things for her family were tough and she could not afford to go to prom (Yes, it's weird she couldn't go to prom because she couldn't buy a new dress.). What I think about now is that we have so many students that are dealing with parts of their own life that they do not have control over. Worse yet, we have no idea they are dealing with these big issues. They put on a big smile and let the world think they are ok, but inside it is a struggle. Remember that even the brightest star in class might need someone to to support them. 

Jessica "Mama" Spano is an example of everything that is wrong with our students today. She was obsessed with grades. She was so obsessed with grades that she became "addicted" to caffeine pills! (Lamest addiction ever) She was stressed out over her SAT scores and was afraid she might not get into Stansbury (The Harvard of the West). Her whole life was predicated on what she received on tests. She was by no means the smartest kid in the school. Screetch had her beat and on Valedictorian of Bayside for that graduating class, but I'll write about that later. Jessie was the student council president, worked for KKTY Bayside, was a swimmer and played Snow White in the school play. She had extra curricular activities, but I start to wonder if she truly cared about these things. Was she only concerned about using them to go to college? Is that the only reason why students do anything anymore? Students need to be taught to learn and explore, not how to to get into college. If our goal is to produce a bunch of Jessie Spanos, we are heading in the wrong direction.

Lisa Turtle was a very creative young lady. She had a keen eye for (90s) fashion and was able to express herself while creating Buddy Bands. In today's standardized test culture, where does she fit in? Would she ever be able to hold a fashion show senior year at The Maxx that would later be ruined by Screech because he saw her kiss Zack? Talents like hers need to be supported over time, not tested away. I feel that Lisa would excel in a Genius Hour/20 Time situation. Giving her class time to pursue her love of fashion could have given her more time to prepare for her fashion show and produce even higher quality 90's outfits. We need to make sure there is still room in our school for the creative spirits. That is really all there is to Lisa Turtle accept that for one episode, her last name was pronounced (turtle-aye). Weird right?

Albert Clifford (AC) Slater was the pleasant jock of the group. My biggest issue with him is that he pursued Kelly even when she chose Zack, but settled for Jessie. The Jessie relationship was doomed because settling for something never works out. I see this in education today. Many teachers want Kelly (Project Based Learning, No Grades, etc.), but settle for Jessie (Common Assessments, Standardized Tests, etc.). As we continue to strive for change in education, it is important that we never just settle for what we have. We have to pursue what we want if we truly believe in it. Albert Clifford taught me that. Well, that and that you can never have too many belt loops on a pair of acid washed jeans.

Screech was the lovable nerd. He was the smartest person in the school, but lacked any confidence outside of asking Lisa out time and time again. Much like Slater, I give him credit for trying to get Lisa despite all of the setbacks. Once he realized she was a pain after she talked through the entire Zombie movie, he moved on to something better. Violet Bickerstaff was a good companion for Screetch. She truly brought out the best I him. Even though Screech would always hold a candle for Lisa, I feel he moved on. Sometimes, I really want to use a certain tool or do a certain project with my class, but I can't seem to get it to work right. I know of too many teachers that try for too long to make something work. As they spend that time on something not meant to be, they could be missing out on something much better. I often wonder about all of the Violets I passed up while longing for Lisas. It is ok go to keep a special spot in your heart for that one project, but try not to miss out some other exciting new ideas that are just waiting to be discovered by you.

Another thing about Screech that really stands out to me was something that happened during the last season. Jessie was stressing over the title of Valedictorian. It is something that she had longed for since she was a little girl. Jessie is the example of a grade and test driven student. Her reaction to her SAT scores only supports this further. It turns out that Screech had earned a higher GPA than Jessie. When Screech was told of this, he passed on the award because he knew it was more important to Jessie. All of the drama that ensues afterward aside, Screech's action speak loudly in education today. An award was not important to him. He didn't work hard because he wanted an award, he worked hard because that is who he was. We never heard that the robot he created, Kevin, was built for Science class, he was built because he wanted to. If Screech was really concerned about grades, he never would have paired up with Zack time after time. Screech was all about the experience of learning. He enjoyed high school and the people around him. Screech and Jessie are different in many stereotypical ways, but from an education standpoint, teachers should strive to create more Screeches and far fewer Jessies.

Zack Morris

I feel that no matter what I write, I will not do justice to my TV childhood hero. He was everything a young kid wanted to be. He was cool, dated the hottest girl in school, he had an awesome phone he carried around and he was involved in crazy schemes that always seemed to work in his favor. As a high school student, I realized how silly everything he did was and that Bayside was not a "real" high school. Now, I really look at Zack and see a student that really responded to one type of learning over all others. Zack was a Project Based Learner. Whether it was Buddy Bands, Screech’s Spaghetti Sauce, the school pond that was damaged in an oil spill or the host of other projects he was involved with, Zack excelled in those projects. Those lessons allowed Zack to dive into the material and create using ideas he was passionate about. The classes he hated the most were the ones where he needed to sit in his desk and take notes. Not being able to collaborate with his peers was the worst way to reach Zack.

I look at Zack and I see his silliness in students today. When I moved away from lecture based lessons and started using more Project Based Learning, I saw an increase in student participation across the board. Kids were excited to be part of the learning. Working with their peers gave them a chance to show off their knowledge to others. Isn't that what Zack was really doing? He needed a chance to show others that he wasn't the goofball everyone thought he was. With a little structure, Zack could have created some amazing school projects if he was given the room to grow. Belding tried very hard to harness Zack's energy by giving him chances to create things for the school. The video yearbook is a good example. The school store is another. KKTY is yet another example. When Zack was given a chance to really show what he was made of, he came through. Granted, he made calendars of the swim team and used the video yearbook as a dating service, but he helped set the radio station up to save The Maxx (with Slater's help) and exposed the sexism in Bayside's wrestling program.

Think about the students in the classroom that are very much like Zack Morris. Are teachers writing those students off as silly kids that just need some ADD meds to calm them down? Have I dismissed a student because he didn't fit my idea of a student years ago? Many people forget that Zack nearly aced his SAT. He was not a dumb student, he was a student looking for the right motivation. When a teacher gave him the chance to shine, he did. Students like Zack usually go on to do amazing things when they get out of the educational system and are free to explore what they are passionate about. Let's not make those students wait until after high school or college. Let’s give them a chance to be Zack now before it is too late. I never thought I would say this, but I would take a class full of Zacks over a class full of Jessies or Screeches any day.

I could have easily written an episode by episode recap and explained the educational meaning behind each, but the characters are really what made the show happen. Zack's report on being Native American or the gang attempting to film a horror movie that gets Screech hunted by the government are good examples of education and what it should be for students in the classroom. I really loved diving into the memories of old episodes and what they meant to me then and now. I've really wanted to write this post for a while and I'm glad I finally had the time to share it with my friends. I hope I have a chance to share even more with you in the future.

You know, I've always been a huge fan of The Simpsons....                                                           

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Leadership in District Digital Transformation #bbworld15

A great panel discussing the important of strong leadership in transforming a district with technology integration.

Moderator: Tom Murray


Angelique Nedved Assistant Supt of T&L, Lawrence Public Schools (KS)
Patrick Murphy Supt Arlington Public Schools (VA)
Jerry Boyd, Supt Putnam County School System (TN)
Philip Lanoue Supt Clark County School District (GA)
Julie Young, CEO of Global Personalized Academics (GPA), Blended Schools Network

Leadership is a funny thing. We have people in our society that are in leadership positions, but might not be actual leaders. Sometimes, the leaders are people we might never expect. I do not believe that leadership is something that can be bestowed on someone because of the title they have on their business card. Leadership is about action. I was interested to hear what these leaders had to say about leadership and where teachers fit in with the conversation.

One of the things that stood out to me from the start is the fact that these leaders gave shout-outs to their teachers for making this possible. The emphasis on teachers as leaders was evident in the panel. There have been conversations on Twitter lately about the term "Lead Learner" being used to describe building principals. There was some push back from me and from others that think the label is silly since it doesn't really make a person a lead learner and it also implies that the teachers are not leaders in their learning as well. What about students? Can they be "Lead Learners"? The conversation on the panel really focused on the community as a whole coming together regardless of title or rank. That is what made these transitions so successful. Tossing out titles for the good of the school.

There was a great conversation on setting the mindset of helping all learners and understanding that it is a slow process to fully understand what is going to happen in the classroom. Starting small and encouraging teachers to take risks is huge to changing the culture of teaching and learning. Teachers need to be given the time to explore and try new things and then share that with other teachers. They have found that to be a successful model for changing the culture of a school.

I loved listening to this part of the conversation. Too often, districts treat technology integration as a sprint. They want to see results in the first few weeks. Changing a culture is a marathon. It takes time and hours and hours of training. It also take a whole team to support those that are trying to make big changes.

Supporting teachers during the transition is key. Angelique Nedved from Lawrence Public Schools  (@Akoblertalked about how they cut admin costs to pull teachers out of the classroom to support other teachers in the transition they were making in their district. These would be 2 year roles so they would not become out of touch. It was such a refreshing thing to hear. There was clear value in the knowledge that teachers had and utilizing it to help other teachers. Also, they also saw that being out of the classroom for too long hurts the coaching model as well. This is a structure that school districts should model if they are looking to truly transform their districts.

The last part of this panel that I really enjoyed was the fact that these district leaders did not focus on the things they did. It was how they were able to use the talent they had in their district to make this happen. Their job was to support the educators that had the big ideas and wanted to change the culture of learning and teaching. They all recognized the fact that they would not be able to make the changes they have made without the great work done by their staff. I think "leaders" that struggle to make long term changes are the ones that focus too much on what they do and how things need to be their way. It was refreshing to hear the great stories about their teachers from them. It speaks volumes about how their districts run.

Being a leader is more than telling people what to do. It is about getting out of the way sometimes and encouraging others to do great things. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Flipped Learning Thoughts From #BBWorld15

Jon Bergman and Aaron Sims moderated a panel on Flipped Learning at BBWorld15 on Wednesday. The panel consisted of Paula Barr, David Hamman, Diana Bailey, and Jessica Gardner.

The Flipped Model is something that I have always found interesting and I have dabbled in it a bit myself. This panel was very interesting because it shed some light on flipping in the elementary classroom. That is something that I never really thought would be possible. However, there were so many different examples of teachers flipping their classroom for elementary. Teachers were seeing increased engagement and more depth in the classroom. They found that they did not have as much lost time in their classroom starting the material because the students have already covered in at home.

The addressed the big questions that always goes with flipped learning, "What if they don't watch?"

The big support comes from the other students. The students that have watched the video can help the other students who need more support. Some students might need/prefer direct help from the teacher, so they do not watch the video the night before. While this seems to defeat the purpose of flipping the classroom, this is actually an ideal situation. Students that have watched the video are emmersed in the content and are supporting others. This gives them practical experience with the material and they can teach others. That will help with understanding and retention. For those students who need more guidance, the teacher now has the time to dedicate to them and support their learning. That would not be possible if the teacher was trying to directly teacher all students at the same time.

Another issue that was addressed was the front loaded time that many teachers do not have. The panelist were all very honest about the fact that it does take time. Long hours upfront to create videos can be tough, but all of the panelists said that once the videos are done, they are in their collection to be used year after year. It will save them time in the long run. Also, there are great videos out there that teachers can use as they start to build their own video collection. +SciShow (YouTube Channel), Minute Earth, and +CrashCourse (YouTube Channel) are just a few create channels that have videos that would be perfect for a flipped classroom model. Over time, create your own videos and replace the others as you go.

One of the best tips at the end of the session was find a community of teachers that are flipping their classroom to get the support you need while you try and flip the classroom. Also, take your time. Flipping does not have to be everything for every subject. Ease into it and think long term, not just the short term.

Check out for more information.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

#semicolonEDU Reflections

I wanted to share some thoughts on #semicolonEDU as the day draws to a close.

I'm so moved at how many people from all over the world took the time to share their semicolon and their story. Countless people tweeted support for those that had the courage to share their stories. Some shared their story for the firs time because they finally felt there was a safe place to do it. I tried to stay away from the feed because I knew I could not handle it emotionally. All of these people in support of something I posted about a few days ago. All of these people, strangers to many, were ready to stand side by side with other strangers and support them as they came into the sunlight after hiding in the darkness. The Internet can be a dark place and the media loves to write about that aspect of it time and time again. However, on this day, people showed the true power of being connected and using the Internet to bring people closer together.

Many people have expressed their thanks to me and to Joe for helping start this conversation, but in all honesty, this conversation was led by all of you. You were ready to have this conversation and we just provided a tiny spark in sharing our stories. I hope that this little spark turns into a bright flame that can guide people out of their self-imposed exile where they hide their battle. I want this to be the start of a conversation, not the end. By taking #semicolonEDU and spreading it around the globe today, you have made that possible.

My last thought to all of you out there is remember this,  for as many people out there shared there story, there are thousands that have not. Remember this and strive to create an environment that everyone feels welcome to share their story. Help erase the stigma.

Here is a Storify I created to capture what has been tweeted and shared on Instagram over the last 14 hours or so. I know there will be more, but I wanted to grab a snapshot of this amazing hashtag.

Hugs and High Fives,


Friday, July 10, 2015

The Semicolon and The Nerdy Teacher #semicolonEDU #ProjectSemicolon

It's been a little over a year since I publicly talked about my battle with depression. There have been many positives about writing that post. Besides making me feel better about what I was going through, the post gave courage to others to share their stories with me and for some to even share them publicly on their own blogs. The outpouring of support from friends all over the Internet really made a difference to me. I made it through this past ISTE without a single panic attack or bout of depression. I would not have been able to do that without my friends. I never would have received the support I did if I did not let people know that I needed support. 

A few weeks ago, I came across Project Semicolon. According to their website, "Project Semicolon (The Semicolon Project) is a faith-based non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire." This really caught my attention, but this quote really struck the Nerdy English Teacher in me. "A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life."

I've never had thoughts of self harm or suicide, but I have had friends take their life. I've known students who have taken their life. It has always been painful to see these special people make these decisions. I will always feel like I could have done something. What if I shared my story earlier? What if they knew I battled the same demons they did? Ever since I came out about my battle with depression, I've committed myself to being more vocal in support of mental health issues. I've connected with so many people who have reached out to share their story it has helped me in my battle. 

I've been so happy to see people start to speak up regarding Mental Health. Joe Mazza shared his battle with depression during a great a TEDx talk at TEDxYouth@BHS and has written a beautiful post on it as well. An amazing young lady named Bryn also shared her story. Sharing the story is important. More people need to hear these stories to help spread a better understanding of what dealing with depression and anxiety is like.

Joe and I have talked over the past few weeks about doing something to support all of the educators out there that are battling depression on their own because they fear the stigma that comes along with depression and anxiety. Joe and I wanted to show that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to mental health. So we went out and had a tattoo of a semicolon placed on our wrists. 



I want people to ask us about this punctuation mark on our wrists so we can share our story. The more people know about mental health issues, the more we can get rid of the stigma. The more we get rid of that stigma, the more people will feel comfortable sharing their stories. We need students to feel comfortable sharing these feelings with their teachers and we need teachers to better understand mental health so they can support these students and their colleagues.  It is not a fun conversation, but it is one we need to have if we want to help people and possibly save lives. There is something all of you can do to show your support.

I would love to see pictures across the Internet from all of my PLN on Tuesday July 14th with a Semicolon drawn (or tattooed if you are up to it) on your body to show support for all of the educators dealing with mental health issues. Use the tag #semicolonEDU to show your support on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Let's show the world that we can come together and fight mental health stigmas by showing our support for one another. I know we can do it. 

Thanks for all of the love and support. 

Hugs and High Fives,  


Sunday, July 5, 2015

We Are Born Makers #MakerEd

"But you're an English Teacher." I've heard this a few times when talking about my love of Making and my efforts to put a Makerspace in my school. It has been frustrating trying to explain Making to others not into the Making movement, but I'm going to give it a try.

We are all born Makers. I know this by watching my son. He grabs his Legos and builds. He creates his stories and narrates them for all to see. He will perform puppet shows for an audience of one. He will draw and draw until ideas escape him. I watched him for 30 minutes as he tried to find items to help him scale the gate keeping him out of the kitchen. It was a beautiful sight to see. He has this is him and I refuse to let school destroy it.

Leo might not go into a field that is heavy in Math and Science, but that doesn't mean he can't still be a Maker. The Arts is filled with Makers. Leo could be the next great Comic Artist or storyteller. He could be a History Teacher. He could do anything and bring his spark of creativity. We need to encourage all students to continue Making when they go to school. This is how the big problems will be solved.

The world today is going to be very different for our children. We need to encourage our kids to keep being creative and keep Making so they are ready to tackle problems that could change the world. Makerspaces are not just a STEM or STEAM thing. It's a space for all people to nurture their creative side and explore their interests in a free form way. 

The next time you think that Making is not for you or your students because you do not teach one of "those" courses, remember that we are all Makers and the real problem is trying to keep students Making despite what curriculum try to do. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

It's Not Their Conference

It's your conference. I'm writing this post is response to the "clique" comments swirling around ISTE again. I'm just so tired of it. 

Now, many might claim my opinion is not very valid because I'm in a clique. I don't know what to say to that other than sorry I have friends I want to connect with after not seeing them in person for a year or more. My first ISTE was 6 years ago and Steven Anderson, Mary Beth Hertz, Amanda Dykes, Tim Gwynn, Michelle Baldwin, Kelly Tenkely, and many more opened their arms up and welcomed me. They didn't have to, but they did. I've met many great people over the years at ISTE  and have formed wonderful friendships with them. I did this because I wanted to and they were welcoming. If they were not, I would have found others. BTW, there are people who were not welcoming, so I don't hang out with them. 

Any conference is a busy time. There are not enough hours in the day. For others to complain that certain people were not more accessible or actively inviting to newbies is annoying. Who are others to other people how to interact at a conference? Why do people have to go out of their way to interact with others? We don't know what is going on with them. Maybe they are not up for it. Shouldn't that be allowed? As long as people are not openly rude/mean, shouldn't we let them be and have the conference experience they want?

I'm all for connecting and I did meet new people, but I did it because I wanted to do it. Kyle Pace got over 100 hugs because I joked about hugging him on a post. He welcomed it and strangers hugged him. That was the conference they wanted. 

Shaming people into engaging others is not the way to go. Let people have the conference they want as long as they are not hurtful to others. People will engage when they are ready. Just don't demand it from everyone all the time. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Don't Judge Their Learning

Subtitled: You Don't Know Me

I watched the Twitter feed during ISTE and saw educators comment on the lack of "learning" going on in sessions. "More of the same" they would tweet or "It's more than just about the tools" others would add with an annoyed emoji thrown in. I was struck by the fact that others were determining the value of sessions for others. I would guess I have been guilty of this myself. Who am I to decided what is learning for someone else? It really made me think about the type of learning I do and how others might perceive it.

Many of us could be considered conference veterans. We have seen many of the same sessions over and over again and have decided, perhaps long ago, what learning looks like for ourselves. However, we should not be the judge of what it looks like for others. There were 20K attendees at ISTE this year. How many of them were there for the first or second time? How many are still trying to figure out what learning looks like for them?

I learned plenty from the sessions I attended my first few years that were just about "the tools". With a better understanding of these tools, I was able to explore different methods of instruction feeling confident I can use different tools to make it possible. That is how I started. Is that the wrong approach? I'm not sure, but I would be really annoyed if someone said the sessions I attended did not support real learning or thinking.

Attending ISTE, and any conference really, allows me to take control of my learning because that is where I am. I think anyone that considers themselves an ed tech leader should be mindful of the fact that not everyone is in the same place and that their journey in the educational world with be their own personal journey and they will get where they are going when they are ready. Our job as an educational community is to support anyone willing to take the trip.

Learning happens in the the strangest of places at the strangest of times. Let's not belittle those who find it in places others do not. It does not help anything.