Sunday, March 1, 2015

Makerspace in the Making

For those of you who are long term friends and readers, you know that this space is truly just my online learning log, a place to document what I've tried, what I've learned, and what is inspiring me. It has been a while since my last post, not because I wasn't doing any of the above, but because my perspective changed a bit. I am now out of the classroom completely.  It has been a big adjustment and knowing how to have a voice in the blog-o-sphere has been lost on me because I am such a practitioner at heart.  I read other blogs where school leaders are sharing about thoughts and opinions on Common Core, state assessments, and philosophies about teacher prep programs and I can honestly say that I am less likely to share what I am thinking about a topic than I am about what I am doing.  I would much rather tell you how we are implementing the Common Core State Standards, how we implemented a new after-school program to prepare for state assessments, or how we are turning professional development on its head and seeing fantastic results.  (It must be the teacher in me., but rather than say anything, I have said nothing for many months.

I wasn't sure anyone would really be ThAt interested, but I have missed blogging.  So, I am jumping back in doing the only thing I know how to do...telling you about my latest venture.

So, what am I doing?  I am in the very beginnings of creating a Makerspace at my school. Makerspaces have been around for a few years. I first saw a video featuring a Makerspace designed by the one and only, Laura Fleming, media specialist at New Milford High, last year.
3-D printing, make and take apart, programming, circuitry, soldering, sewing, crafting, designing, creating...making.  Who wouldn't want this in their school?

Why now? As soon as I saw it,  I shared the video and additional links with hopes that it would capture the interest of others.  It did, but while my co-workers thought it was awesome, they were like me, stumped about how to make it happen.  I mean, which of us could show a student how to turn a banana into a space bar or an orange into the "enter" key?  No one...not a single one.  Much less make play-doh into a joystick:
I knew the kids would love it though, so I attended ISTE 2014 conference with hopes to learn more. I was so inspired and again thought, "We should start a Makerspace". Still no progress beyond the thought.  Fast forward 8 months later to February 2015. I attended Ignite '15 and heard a presentation by Eric Sheninger, the principal who had the vision and made the decision to hire Laura Fleming who designed the Makerspace at New Milford.
After hearing how neither he nor the librarian had any idea about how any of this stuff worked when beginning their project, but committed to figuring it out along the way, I was inspired to stop thinking and start doing! It is time to take a risk....to give it a try...to make the leap. I believe that I do not have to have all of the answers, I just have to be willing to put myself out there and learn.

Why?  It is for the students.  It is time to allow them to become creators, not just consumers.  It is time to empower them with knowledge about how stuff works and foster skills that will allow them to re-imagine their world.

So where am I in this process?  I am definitely taking baby steps.
  • I ordered my first "kit" within hours of hearing Eric Sheninger's presentation.  I chose the Makey Makey - the kit that turns the banana into the space bar, the stairs into a piano, and playdoh into a joystick - because it just looked fun!
  • I arrived home from the conference  at 1 AM on Monday morning and spent Snow Day #1 writing 2 grants for more stuff for the Makerspace (3-D printer, Little Bits, Smart Home kit, and more).  
  • On Snow Day #2, the Makey Makey arrived.  I opened it, looked at it, and put it back in the box :)  
  • Snow Day #3, I finished a video application for another project and still avoided the Makey Makey. 
  • Day #4, back at work. I collaborated with the IT department (who got really excited about putting practical technology into students hands - and then admitted that they didn't know how to make a banana space bar either). 
  • Day #5, found out that Radio Shack near our school is closing.  Hopped in the car and headed out to shop!  I ended up purchasing way too much and have absolutely no idea what any of it does, but I am certain that when I figure it out that it will be really cool.
  • Day #6, found Tinker, Make & Learn, a MOOC related to creating a Makerspace and promptly enrolled.
  • Day #7, I have completed my first assignment in the MOOC and decided to blog about my journey so that if anyone else out there is like me...having no idea how any of this works, but knowing that it would be engaging for students...you can learn about available resources as I document my progress toward Making a Makerspace.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Evernote 101: Tagging and Emailing Into an Evernote Notebook

Last weekend, I began my crash course into Evernote inspired by Twitter friends on a Saturday morning chat. The purpose: figure out how to utilize Evernote at school.  On my first weekend, I learned how to Share Evernote Notes and Publish My Notes to a Blog.  This week I happened to be reading others' blogs and there were several I wanted to save to review again later.  So I did what I normally do...I emailed it, but this time not to my own inbox (which always seems to be overflowing with articles I want to save)...for this article, I mailed it to Evernote!  I am happy to say that I even learned how to file it in a specific notebook and give it a tag!!! I am thrilled with my accomplishment:)

Here's what I did:

To start, I needed to get my personal email upload address from Evernote, so I opened my app and clicked on my name in the upper left corner.


It opened the "Settings" and I scrolled down to  "Evernote Email Address".


When I opened the tab, I chose to copy the address to my clipboard (now, I wonder if I couldn't have just chosen the top option...not sure).


After pasting it in the first time, all I have to do now is type an "e" and Evernote Upload pops up in my address bar.


Now, when I want to send an article to Evernote, I can email the note directly into a specific notebook complete with a tag and a reminder.


How?  When I find an article I want to save, I choose to share it


via email.


After typing the title, I can put the note in a specific notebook by using the @ symbol.  To give it a tag, I use the "#" sign. 


Once I hit send, I can my note in the specified notebook


or when searching by the designated tag.


My UltiMaTe BiG QueSTioN and reason behind my exploration: How do I use Evernote with students and teachers at school? 

Well for me, Way #3:  I would definitely share this feature with students completing research projects. What an easy way to CuRAtE INfOrmATioN pertinent to a project! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Top 10 Most Read Blog Posts and How to Know

This is officially my 100th post.  I knew it was coming all week...today on #MyFavFriday if I kept up with my commitment to write daily in July. For me, it is momentous (I am not a writer. I am a math teacher.) So, as I begin this post, I hear little trumpets and see paper streamers sailing down from the heavens.  I did it!  I did it!  I actually strung together enough words to form paragraphs to generate 100 posts.

I admit it:  I searched other blogs to see what one was supposed to write on this special occasion.  There was a lot of looking back and highlighting best posts.  When I reflected back on how it all began, I chuckled...my posts have changed, my style has changed, but my purpose has stayed the same: share good stuff about school - you know, ideas to positively impact teaching and learning.

My top 10 most read posts of all time are a reflection of my purpose.  So, in true 100th posts fashion, here they are:

1.   Ideas for Interactive Student Notebooks

 
2.  Bulletin Board Update (QR Codes on College Logos for Junior and  Senior Level Students)




4.   Splat! (Review Game)


 5.  Teacher Binder Printable


6.  Equipment Tracking with QR Codes


 7.  Creating a Time Capsule (For Students, By Students)


8.  QR Code Scavenger Hunt


9.  Top Take-aways from ISTE


10.  Scratch Off Cards


How do I know this you may be wondering, well honestly my little Blogger bar told me, but I am committed to getting better at understanding the blog-o-sphere for my next 100 posts.  No, really, I am.  Here's what I am doing...after accepting this month's #July2014Challenge, I decided to learn more about blogging (6 years after I started) and I found Renee Gorskreutz's podcast and blog.


She had so many tips including a recommended reading of @ProBlogger's book: 31 Days to a Better Blog (available in hard copy and digital).  After downloading and reading the entries for the first few days, I stumbled upon #MyFavFriday: Google Analytics.


Google Analytics is totally new to me (and I am certain that I still do not understand all that there is to know about it), but apparently it will help one's blogging by generating data for review (a math teacher's dream).  


Could this be a class project in the making???  Just maybe...but that will be a lot closer to post #125 :D

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How I Got $1.78M for My Classroom and School and You Can Too

We are halfway through our #July2014Challenge for blogging each day. As I have challenged myself to blog every 24 hours, I quickly realized that I am not sure I have something to say everyday...well at least not things that are pin-nable:)  So today, I thought that I would share a part of my life that has yet to make it to my blog.  I am not sure that I can find cute pictures to include and I am not sure if you will be inspired, but it is a huge part of who I am and what I do.

It all started with a few education classes that I was taking almost 10 years ago.  I had an incredible teacher who encourage her students (that was me!) to design a dream classroom.  Her thoughts...there are so many times that an administrator will get a late notice of a last minute deadline for funding and will eagerly search their building for a teacher who has a wish list.  "Really?"  I thought skeptically, but like a good student I completed my assignment and saved the note cards that I had made for each of my wish list items.  Sure enough, within a few months someone in my building sent out an email asking if anyone had anything they wanted.  I sent my list in order of preference along with prices...do you know that I got all but one or two items on the list?

After that I was hooked!  What did I want?  A class set of dry erase boards, 24 TI-84 Silver calculators, a Promethean board, student clickers, a printer, a set of 5 desktop computers which then evolved into laptops for all of my students, iPads, a sound system...oh, flip cameras back in the day, special computer desks to put the desktop computers on, and a new laptop for me to use.  Check. Check. And Check.

Some grant applications are written...others, not so much:)  Either way, they should all be linked to learning.

After I got everything I wanted for my class, I began to dream bigger for the school.  So, I added to my list several sets of laptops and carts, new computers for the library, Promethean boards and projectors for all of the classrooms, Interwrite Pads for teacher mobility, more sound systems, video conferencing equipment for distance learning excursions, new textbooks numerous times over, all new lab equipment for a middle science lab, and 2 class sets of robots (one for middle and one for high school use).  All totaled came to $1.78 million worth of wishes in about 7 years which is pretty cool considering when I started at the school the only people who had computers were teachers and even those were well worn.

 We have been able to do so much in science.  Not only have the activities been fun, but they have also helped increase student understanding of abstract concepts (yes, and test scores). 

How did I do it?  I started with a vision for what I wanted...my dream classroom.  I listed it out by creating a note card for each item complete with a tiny picture of the item, the vendor, page number if it was from a catalog, price and quantity.  Basically, I made it easy for someone to order.  Now that I have more experience, I would suggest to also add how you plan to use it to improve student achievement.  Every grant that I have ever written asks how the funding will directly impact kids.



Next, I found funding sources.  In the beginning, I relied upon people in my building to tell me about grants. Then, I began to search for my own sources. eSchool funding was a fantastic!  In the early days, I think I paid $35 per year for a subscription and twice a month I received an email listing pages and pages of grant opportunities.  I also checked my local area.  I found that a local chapter of defense professionals offered a competitive grant as did our electric company.  Even a local television station here gives $1,000 to a classroom teacher a couple of times per month.


So, I wrote.  (On my first grant, all I could think was "You have not, because you ask not.", so I started asking!)  I was specific about why I needed the funding (what problem did I have?), how I planned to spend the funds (this is where the note cards helped), and what results I expected after implementing the project (how something I could measure would improve).   I also prayed over each and every line.  I remember going to the UPS store and telling the store owner why it was imperative that the envelope arrive at the intended destination by a certain time the next day...he stopped and prayed with me!  Why pray?  I figure that if my Father owns all the cattle on the hill and has a storehouse in heaven just waiting to bless me, why not include Him in the process from the very beginning:)

I share this now, because summertime is a perfect time to get organized and make the wish list.  I write every summer.  In fact I have a grant due in the next couple of weeks full of items I saw at ISTE (and yes, Swivl is on my list!)  Will the items on the list truly impact student learning positively?  You never know until you try! So, I'm going to try... by using research-based best practices to introduce and utilize the new technology components with my students.  Plus, it will add to the fun of teaching.  I've found that if I am excited my students will be excited too.

So, do you have an idea of what your dream classroom looks like? I encourage you to make a list (one note card per item).  Check it twice: include ordering details and how you will implement the project to impact student achievement.  You might be surprised to find others want to support your vision!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

S'more Smores Please

This is Week 3 of #ptcamp for me, an online book study of Beyond the Bake Sale which is focused on building quality partnerships between schools and families. This week's topic: link everything to learn, even communications home. What I was reading seemed to go hand in hand with what I was hearing from Theresa Stager via #RSCON5 on Branding Your School.  She shared lots of great tips including ideas to get your message out to the community.  In the book study, we are talking about partnerships (not brands), but part of building partnerships involves communication.  We have brainstormed topics of what to communicate, but I am interested in how to communicate.

So first let me say, I've started and stopped this post several times and here I am again...this time to finish.  I hesitated to share this webtool, because it has been around for some time (in fact, I even blogged about it back in December).  But it is a unusually cool evening in July, a perfect time for a Smore.

Logo for Smore

No not that kind...this kind!

My Creation from Christmas in Response to Andrea Keller's Challenge

The one that let's you create beautiful flyers and newsletters for your students and their families in just 3 easy steps:)  



I am stealing this idea from Jay Posick, a school principal for students in grades 4-8.  In the #ptcamp online chat, he shared that each week, he sends out a Smore newsletter, all archived on the school website and view-able online.  

Principal Posick's Weekly Newsletter

You can add almost any feature you want to connect families to what is happening at school.  Can you image embedding a video showing how to complete an assignment or help prep for a test?  Maybe include an audio file of a student sharing their genius with classmates.  


The ideas are endless and so are they ways that you can communicate via Smore.  Thanks Jay for sharing the idea!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#NotatDENSI2014 and Still Inspired

Well today's scheduled blog post has been preempted by a post from one who is #NotatDENSI2014 (Discovery Education Summer Institute), because this blog's author is so excited by what she heard today (virtually!!!) that she felt that she MuST share. First, let me say, I love livestreaming and I love Discovery Education. I have been a part of Discovery Education Network for some years and if you have not joined I would say to definitely check it out.  The organization is committed to supporting students and teachers through continuous professional development and quality resources like today's presentation by DEN Guru, Patti Duncan.

Patti spoke on STEM integration...what it is and what it is not...
Image Source
and tons of ways to include meaningful STEM-focused lessons across the curriculum.  She is so dynamic and influential (even through an iPhone screen) that I ended up purchasing 2 books she mentioned, 


reconsidered the focus of my graduate studies, 


and actually entertained the idea of switching to elementary or middle school just so I could make an inflatable
Image Source
that represents a biome,
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the human body, the sea floor or any other space imaginable.


10 great stem lessons upload ed from duncanpatti

I know that I cannot begin to do her presentation justice, so I've linked to the LiveStream archive and her wiki (where there are many more resources) so that you can see for yourself. 

Who would have guessed on a Tuesday afternoon in July, Discovery Education would have ignited such inspiration in a girl 10 hours away???!!!??  Thanks Discovery Ed and thanks Patti Duncan!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Link Student-Created Videos to Study Guide w/ QR Codes

I am so excited to share with you this week's #Made4Math post, because it is not something that I made at all...it is something created by StuDEnTs (I just helped facilitate)!!!  If you have read for any length of time, you know I love projects in which students create videos to explain the ins and outs of solving a specific problem.  We have created math projects filmed as a silent movie, stop motion animation, and just plain old screencasts.  In fact, there is not a week that goes by in which students are not required to utilize technology to demonstrate learning, because I truly believe...


you learn 95% of what you teach, even if you are teaching to an audience via video.  So, to prep for the college Trig final this year, I handed students a 20 question Study Guide and taped a sheet of paper with a table numbered 1-20 to the classroom door.


I invited them to sign up to demo one of the questions on the Study Guide...with a partner, of course (to hold their phone).  The students, now pros at explaining mathematical "how-to's" and "why's" eagerly volunteered to explain a problem (well, let's be real for a moment...these were seniors about to fly the coop so, I offered bonus points - something I rarely, if ever do - to everyone who actually spoke and demonstrated their mathematical prowess in the video).  It was amazing to see how quickly the students volunteered to explain how to work a problem of their choosing!

The students uploaded their videos to You Tube (something else they learned this year) and then shared the link via a Google Form.  I created a QR Code  of their link using QRStuff and took a screenshot of the code (it also let's you save the image if you want).



I inserted the image into the corresponding square of a clean copy of the original table numbered 1 - 20.


The QR Code Table was shared with each of the students and updated regularly until all of the student videos were added.  It has always been a dream of mine to be able to hand students a Study Guide and a sheet with links to relevant student-created videos to support their studies.  So, this was my year!!!  I really had students sitting in class wearing earphones and using a cell phone to scan QR codes to watch their friends explain math problems.  It still makes me smile in July!