Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Micro-Credentials in Middle School Makerspaces #EdChat

One of the things I wanted to explore for the Makerspace I'm putting together in the Middle School at University Liggett School is a way to recognize the skills the students pick up through their work. I believe that a Makerspace should be a place where students can explore anything they want. This makes a putting together a system to recognize their achievements tough because the possibilities are endless when it comes to what would need to be recognized. I have been interested in micro-credentialing for a little while, but I could not find a way to make it work in my Literature classes. A Makerspace, on the other hand, is the perfect spot to pilot a badging system.

I set out with the goal to create badges that students can earn for demonstrating various skills in different areas. It has been a very time intensive process to find the different skills that students are interested in and then create a scaffolded system that recognizes their acquired skills and awards them a badge. It has been hard work, but it has been worth it. The soft rollout of the badging system has been amazing! It has been too good to be honest. Students are earning badges left and right and I'm trying to keep up with the student demand for entry level badges to various skills.

I started out with basic skills in physical computing with Raspberry Pi (LED, Buzzer, Button, Motion Sensor,  and Light Sensor), design and building in Minecraft, and 3D design and printing. I thought this would be a good starter spot for me and would give me time to create other badges. It is now near the end of October and I need to ramp up the badge production. I have littleBits on deck and I will be adding MakeyMakey to the mix. I have more things I can add to the Raspberry Pi set so students can earn a level 2 Pi badge and I'm open to students suggesting badges in areas where they are experts.

I made digital copies of each badge I have offered using this free website, From there, I have printed them on sticker paper and have cut out the stickers and given them to students who have earned them. Here is a picture of a student proudly displaying their badges on their laptop.

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

These are the stickers I've created so far and I keep a record of the digital badges. I am still looking for a good portfolio system to deliver and store the digital badges. We use SeeSaw in the Middle School, so that might be what I use, but I'm still looking at other options.

I think if we want to see change in our education system and move away from traditional grading practices, we need to start to look at areas where it is possible to pilot new ideas and I think a Makerspace is the perfect spot to explore micro-credentialing for students.

If you have explored using badges for recognizing student achievement, please share your story. I'd love to see how others are doing this. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Just #LetStudentsMake

I was going over some old lessons and student work and I was hit with something that I just blurted out, "Just let the student make!"

I'm so lucky to be at a school that allows students the creative flexibility to explore learning in a ways that are meaningful to them. The students can express their understanding in a variety of ways and I get to see students engaged in learning. It is hard for me to believe that there are teachers that do not trust that letting students make is a positive force in the classroom. It has been a while since I've tried to get a hashtag up and running, but I thought this is worth it. 

I would love it if everyone could share student work on Twitter with the tag #LetStudentsMake. I want to everyone to see the great things that can happen when we get out of the way and let students show us the amazing things they can do to demonstrate their understanding of a variety of things. 

Here is one of my all-time favorite student projects. It makes me smile every time I see it. I asked students to show me that they could identify connections between The Catcher in the Rye and other books read over the course of the year. I had joked for years that I've really wanted to see students do an interpretive dance. These two amazing students granted that wish and blew me, and everyone in class, away. Enjoy.

Please share student work over the next few days and show educators everywhere to just #LetStudentsMake!

Hugs and High Fives,


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Who Run The World? #STEAM #MakerEd

I was working in the Knight's Forge getting things ready for students who were buzzing about the space and I just looked up and this is what I saw,

A post shared by Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) on

I am sure I had the biggest smile at that moment. The girls were moving around, exploring coding, 3D design, physical computing, and Minecraft. They were helping one another when they got stuck and everything  was awesome.

For me, I wanted to make sure I created an environment that was welcoming to all students and I have plenty of work to do moving forward, but this is a good start.

I'd love it if more people shared photos of their ladies working in Makerspaces to show that these are spaces for all students interested in exploring new ideas and Making things that Matter to them.

Please tag @TheNerdyTeacher and @uniliggett with pictures of your girls making so I can share it with my girls.

Hugs and High Fives,


Friday, October 13, 2017

Making in the Middle #MakerEd #Badges

Our makerspace, the Knight's Forge, is in complete disarray after school...and I couldn't be happier about it.

One of the part of my amazing job at University Liggett School is to build a Makerspace for the students at the Middle School level. While this is a school that is project based and student driven, the Maker Mentality had not been explored fully. I wanted to really create a space based on what the students wanted to do and help them show off what they learned. After going back and forth over where to start and what to do, I settled on Minecraft and Badges!

I spent time talking with students and found that many of them were into Minecraft and I figured that would be a perfect place to start. I dove in and started creating badges and skills students needed to master to earn the badges. Here is a one of the badges I created, the Level 1 Minecraft Badge.

Students were pumped about the chance to earn badges and jumped at the chance to get started. I had 6th through 8th grade students reaching out to me to sign up to use the Makerspace during their study hall. Quickly, I found myself in the great problem of not having enough space for all of the students who wanted to Make!

There were still students who had not come to the Makerspace because Minecraft was not something they were excited about doing. So, I talked to students and the idea of coding seemed interesting, but I did not want students to just sit in front of a screen. I wanted them to explore physical computing like I did when I went to Picademy. I recreated some of the hardware that Matt Richardson and the North American Raspberry Team created for the World Maker Faire so my students could get their hands dirty. Based on Matt's original designs, I added a Motion Sensor and a Light Sensor.

I only have three kits set up for the students to use for the physical computing, so I had to create a waitlist! I never thought I would have this much excitement for the new space.

As word spread about the different things students were doing in the Knight's Forge, more students showed up to see what was going on in the Makerspace. Soon, students started to explore 3D design on Tinkercad and have started to design items of their own.

I have not even had a chance to dive into littleBits, Sphero, Makey Makey, and other great tools because I am just swamped. Kids are flocking to the space, but I wanted them to explore more on their own and create something new instead of just following directions. I wanted to install that Maker Mentality aspect of exploration. To do that, I asked if anyone in the Middle School wanted to help create gadgets to protect against the zombie apocalypse.

Raspberry Pi has a Pioneers program for Middle School students that gives kids a challenge and a set time to accomplish it. Sadly, the competition is not currently available in the US, but I figured that didn't mean we couldn't build cool things. After sharing some tweets, I connected with a school is Mass. and we are going to support one another as our students explore the different projects they create using a Raspberry Pi.

I had two groups form right away and start brainstorming on what different types of gadgets they could create. They were driven to explore different sensors and the code needed to learn how to use them. The students have until December 22 to create their gadgets and the guides on how to build them. My budget is tight, but I might have to start a 3rd group because the project is very popular.

Multiple students have come in to earn their LED, Button, Buzzer, and Motion Sensor badges and that leads to more students wanting to do the same thing. I am a bit overwhelmed because I haven't had time to print the sticker badges and set up the digital portfolio aspect of the badging system.

I have a great problem that I'm too busy and I don't have enough supplies for everyone. This is way better than sitting in the Makerspace after school with a very sad look.

All of this is possible because of everything I learned in building my first Makerspace. I'm avoiding the mistakes and have the pulse of the students body. More students want to make and explore what is possible. Not because they want to play with new toys, but because they want to explore and learn new things.

If you are thinking about creating your own Makerspace, check out my book, Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces, and drop me a line if you have any questions. I'm happy to help in any way that I can.

Hugs and High Fives,


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Zombie Protection Team Challenge #MakerEd

One of the many cool things that Raspberry Pi does is run a Pioneers Program. This program is designed to challenge groups of young students in the UK and Ireland to use Raspberry Pi to solve a specific problem. It has been very cool to watch these students create very fun and exciting projects. The only downside of the Pioneers program is that it is currently unavailable outside of the UK and Ireland. :-(

The newest challenge was released a couple of weeks ago and it is a zombie focused challenge. Students need to create devices to help protect humanity against the zombie hordes terrorizing the world.

"This project sounds amazing and I really wish our students could do this!" That is what I thought, then I thought, "Why can't my students do this?"

While we might not be able to enter the competition in the UK and Ireland, teachers and students in the US can still have some fun with our students and build some fun devices and share them here. A

After chatting with Dave Quinn from MA, we decided to put together our own teams and have them build some fun devices with Raspberry Pi and share.

Then I thought, "It would be cool if more people joined and had students creating awesome things!"

So, I have put together some information if you are interested in joining the fun and having student groups create devices using Raspberry Pi to protect against a Zombie Apocalypse.

The challenge will run until December 22.

I'm also working on a fun digital badge students can receive after completing the challenge and, possibly, a sticker they can proudly display on their device.

See the link below to register your team. Please do so by Friday October 13th to ensure your team has enough time to design and build.

Team Registration 

Once you have registered your team, you will receive an email with info you need to get things started. If you are curious about the overall project, please watch this great video by Raspberry Pi that explains the challenge to the Pioneers.