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.