16 Hours 40 Minute Flight Not Needed for a Student Connection

As part of the STEAM by Design Seminar I have prodded and held on based on what I and the students needed at that time. I love this fluidity and most of the students are adjusting to owning their learning more each day. Emma has had an awesome week as she was working on getting the City of Lights project ready to film, started an art project with Julia as they felt we needed more art in our STEAM by Design Seminar. I had to get more Pink Duct Tape for their projects. As class was proceeding Emma said it was too bad that our 3D Wox printer by Sindoh did not have any pink filament. I said they do not sell that color and we can only use their filament. She said, “I think I will contact them!”  She wrote all of this on her own and as you can tell she is great at persuasive writing.

I am an 8th grader at Durham Academy in Durham North Carolina. I use the 3D WOX printers in my STEM class at school. I really like to make cool  things that I can use, but you don’t make any pretty colors for us to print with. It would be awesome if you could make colors such as pink, purple and sky blue. I like the 3D WOX printers better than any other company, but the only thing that would prevent me from recommending it are the filament colors. I think that you would get a lot more buisiness with better colors.
Thank you very much for considering this idea.

Dear Emma,

The new Filament colors (Purple and Pink) are going to be available in the early March. (This had not been announced anywhere – emphasis mine)
You will be able to purchase them through Amazon.
Please let us know for any other questions.
Thank you.
3DWOX Team

This was really a cool response and we were both happy about the reply. She went to her first two classes and then came running into the STEAM lab at break beaming with smiles and floating on clouds as she had another message.

How cool is this? I love this printer (have 3 and ordering 3 more) for our school as the printers just plain work! Now I love this company for supporting a students dream to print in pink!

Wait I Know that Drawing

Emma, I saw this notice last night on Twitter from Bookcreator about the new features coming and thought wait I know that drawing.


The finalist where your book is shown and linked to YouTube. http://bookcreator.com/blog/2016/04/comic-book-here-are-finalists/

Your book on YouTube https://youtu.be/wSv_GgOcfVc

If you are still creating you might want to consider getting Creative Commons license although we did give permission for them to use your book for promotions so they have the license to use it.

Still impressed by your work a year later.

What is the Problem?

Andy Pronto and I were working on a project the other day and he mentioned an article he had read while getting his oil changed. He said it was about how hard it is for us to change how we teach, integrate technology, or try other type methodologies into what we do. The article resonated with me as I have done professional development in many different settings for many years and often feel discouraged at the pace of change that comes from the work. It is not because attendees do not value what they learned. There must be something else especially when we all have seen the world change around us in so many ways.

The author; Zachary Herrmann  points out some really great insights in his answers to this question:

So what does a teacher stand to lose by changing her/his practice?
1. A traditional sense of one’s own competence​
2. The comfort of predictability​
3. Familiar successes

“Every time we find a gap between our values and our practice we have an opportunity to reflect and ask, Why? What is really getting in the way?”

“Teachers must embrace the same message we give to students: Learning is about taking risks, trying, failing, and improving.”

The Challenge of Change


The Reluctant Learner Uncovered


The USS Benham DD-397

On the first day of the STEAM by Design Seminar, I asked all of the students why they signed up. It sounded cool or my parents signed me up were the most common answers. One student who was signed up by his mother was reluctant to stay and said so. Since the seminar is done through study hall, he could easily just not come. I did suggest that he give it a day or two before he decided. Those days were filled with struggles and a desire to stop. He persevered and worked on the lessons until his skills and confidence grew. Then one day he asked if he could make his own creation and I said yes as long as it was his creation and not a copy of someone else’s work. That was the day the once reluctant learner became uncovered as he has become a very engaged and creative STEAMer. I found out that one of his passions is WWII aircraft and ships. He is using Wikipedia as a source for his images for inspiration while he creates the 3d object. I asked him why he likes to do these planes and ships and he responded that he just enjoys researching and reading about them. He proceeded to tell me all about a ship (not this one) that was a fuel tanker during the attack on Pearl Harbor that was destroyed. He knew the backstory of the ship and what happened to the crew after being bombed. He also knew how it was scuttled and other details. Is he a reluctant learner or just a uncovered learner that has found his agency in learning. I am very proud of him for the growth he is making.

Finding Time for STEAM – NCAIS Conference


This Friday, 10/21/16, I will be presenting in room 6 from 10:15 – 10:45 at the Annual NCAIS Conference. I proposed this session last year as I think other schools could benefit on how I have approached developing the STEAM by Design Seminar.

Proposal Summary
Making, Makerspaces, and Design Thinking are powerful new instructional methods and concepts that many schools are adopting or trying to adopt. This session will focus on how a Middle School teacher started a STEAM by Design class in a schedule that did not have any room. Come to this session to find a place to add a STEAM by Design seminar in your school.

Proposal Description
Schools are faced with a dilemma when trying to institute new programs or classes. Most schedules in schools are already full leaving little or no room for creating new models of learning and teaching. Our Middle School wanted to have a STEAM class with Coding, Design Thinking, Electronics, 3D Design, 3D Printing, and Making. How do we add something to an already full schedule for students in a way that will not overload the students while also exposing them to these skills and concepts. The answer was to look at the area where students are provided time to study even on days when perhaps they do not need the time to study, or that they would like to learn something about STEAM and still have the time to study when needed. Therefore we are offering a STEAM by Design Seminar as a year-long class open to any seventh or eighth grade student who wants to take the seminar (provided they are also not a double foreign language student). The seminar will meet three out of the six days that their study hall meets. The STEAM by Design Seminar will explore these concepts and skills using the online resources (Project Ignite by Autodesk and CodeMonkey). With this approach, our school plans to infuse the STEAM concepts and skills related to STEAM and Making without wide institutional change that would require committees and time. If we fail, we iterate and adjust to the next design.

This is the presentation I will be using so please feel free to make a copy of

Portfolios, Reflections, and Change

Goals, Reflect, Artifacts

For 7 years now we have been working on creating student portfolios in the Middle School. We are now on our 3rd iteration from what we started with in 2010. I think this iteration is more efficient and will take the least amount of time to fulfill the potential portfolios offer. To quote a fellow teacher when I asked him if his graphic novel unit was proceeding how he hoped. “It is too soon to tell if the juice is worth the squeeze.” This is sort of how I feel as while some of my colleagues think they are a great idea and support them with time and energy, many have no interaction at all. In fact, I would say most of our school has no interaction with the portfolios. Once students leave the Middle School, the portfolio process ends. I spend a lot time “squeezing” the portfolio process and while I believe firmly that students and teachers should have a place to share and reflect on their learning process, I am willing to stop drinking the juice. There are so many other places I can put my time and energy to develop more student agency that I think this is the last year for my championing the use of portfolios. I still think it is a good idea, but I have failed to inject it into the learning culture of our school. I learned that I needed to get more people on board before starting the portfolio process since I believe that would have helped to institutionalize the process.

This is the message I sent to the MS Faculty yesterday

I just finished setting up all of the portfolios for all new students and each 5th grader. You can view all of the past and current portfolios at this address: https://sites.google.com/a/students.da.org/studentportfolios/  (Private Google Apps so only DA students and teachers can view)

I changed the layout a bit and reworked the reflection prompts as follows:

Setting Learning Goals: Each year you should write some learning goals that will guide your learning for the year. What do you hope to learn at school or outside of school? In order to be successful, you need to write these goals down along with ideas on how you will accomplish your goals.

Prompts for writing learning goals:
I am excited to learn about …
To accomplish my goals I will …
Why does your learning matter?

Writing Reflections: Reflecting is the most important part of the portfolio process, for without it, the portfolio becomes simply a collection of work without purpose. By reflecting on your work, you will engage in meta-cognitive thinking and begin to develop a working knowledge of who you are as learners.

Questions to ask yourself when reflecting:
What is the story of your learning as told by the artifacts you chose to add?
What did you learn about yourself as a learner?
What did you learn on your own?
What did you learn from other members of your community?
What are your feelings about your learning?
What was hard or difficult and how will you overcome similar obstacles in the future?
What advice might you have for other students on how to be as successful in the grade you are completing. Examples: How to use the iPad to be successful, how to study, etc..

Some information is from http://tworeflectiveteachers.blogspot.com/2015/03/slow-down-and-reflect-idea-worth.html with a Tip of the Hat to Ms. Goldstein.

Over the weekend I read this article by Mike Crowley and thought there was some nice alignment with what we hope our portfolios showcase. Of special note was this paragraph about Yale adding 3 questions to the selection process for admitting students.

Perhaps, finally, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon with the recent news that Yale University is adding three critical, new questions to its selection process:

What is a community to which you belong? Reflect on the footprint that you have left.
Reflect on a time in the last few years when you felt genuine excitement learning about something.
Write about something that you love to do.

The old system is finally starting to break. Who you are is more important than your grades. Your development as a person is of greater value than your ability to play the game of school. It is important to have a passion, to make a meaningful contribution.

NCTIES Reflections

I was lucky enough to attend NCTIES conference last week in Raleigh. I have not been to this conference for a long time so it was nice to be there again. I attended mostly maker space sessions as I am working on devising how to bring one to our school. There is no magical answer other then to just start and allow agency for the students.

As a Google for Education Certified Trainer, I was asked to help in the Google booth on the vendor floor and had the opportunity to demonstrate Google Expeditions. The technology behind this is pretty cool but I like how the teaching and learning was front and center. The tablet had all of the expeditions loaded on it and the phones inside of the cardboard were delivered the expedition via a closed wifi network. This meant that there was no need for internet access. The phones could be anything 6 inch or smaller. We were using Nexus phones with no data plan. While still in beta through the pioneer program, Google plans to have kits available next year that will feature the tablet, router, speaker, cardboard, and phones for purchase. Pricing is still being determined and currently the free apps are only available on Android. While no guaranty Google has clearly been able to create awesome iOS apps so I suspect much like the Cardboard app, there will be iOS versions of the Expeditions and Viewer apps. Learn more about the hardware needs at this Google Expedition support page.



Helping to Make Learning More Active with an Educanon

I Learned it on YouTube

Image from: aisletwentytwo

Going into our fourth year of our student and teacher iPad learning program I want to invigorate the use of videos. Teachers will often play a video in class while the students passively watch it. Since YouTube is blocked at school teachers will share a link for the students to watch when they are off-campus. Of course, once the student is on YouTube how long will they stay watching the video the teacher wanted them to watch? How long would you stay? Me, probably not long especially if the related videos showed up and if I did not really know why I was watching the video. What are the main points that the students is to learn? I have watched as vendors figured out ways to make videos active and not passive. I decided this year to invest in PlayPosit (fka Educanon) after comparing all three of the leading contenders; PlayPosit, EdPuzzle, and Zaption. While all had similar options PlayPosit had the best overall solution and a real business model. They are easy to work with and are founded by teachers so they understand the pedagogy and technology. The service is affordable and they do offer a free version although I prefer to pay a vendor so I can count on them being there for more then a couple rounds of financing. I am just starting to create the training materials and recruiting the early adopters.

Design Thinking by David Kelly


Ben working on a prototype drawing.

 I read Dan Ryder’s article on Medium this morning about how we might bring Design Thinking in a high school english class, so I followed the links to see what I could learn. Some familiar names popped up Mount Vernon,and  Edutopia along with a new conference I had not heard of The Atlanta K12 Design Challenge which is where I found the video below under the resources they are sharing page. Great resources. The link to the TED Talk of David Kelly struck me and plan to use it with our Making Makers Club. I just bought their (David and Tom Kelly) book Creative Confidence on iBooks as well although you can get it at many other online vendors as well. Check out his site http://www.creativeconfidence.com/

I think there is a lot to learn about how we can reshape the way we teach using the Design Thinking concept. Mary Cantrall’s DEEPdt is new to me and is intriguing as a way to make the process easier for us who need different terms to describe the process.

Making Makers – A Journey of Building

MakingmakersMaking Maker Cards from Leigh Northrup

For the last few years I have watched as other schools opened up Maker Spaces or Design Rooms at their schools. The positive energy the teachers used to describe how wonderful the experience has been for themselves and their students made it certain to me that we would need something like this at our school. I did not want to buy first and figure out later as I wanted to find a curricular fit and a curriculum for teaching our students. Thanks to my friends, Matt Scully at Providence Day School and Leigh Northrup at Cannon School a group of us we able to visit their school’s spaces to learn how they approached incorporating a making culture into their schools.

The approaches they took are slightly different but both schools reconfigured space to accommodate having a making space with tools and a flexible environment. Someday we will need to reconfigure a space on campus so we have a dedicated room like they do but not at this time. Ventilation is important as is access to electrical power so we need to figure out if a present day computer lab could become the making space or if we need to look elsewhere.

The making cards from Leigh will be used to help our Making Makers Club develop the making mindset as the cards feature a Thing (to make) Materials (to use) and a Descriptor (to add).

Students use the modeling materials for prototyping and when the design process is done, there is a possible printed version of the designed Thing

  • In teams of 2 or 3 students
  • Each team draws 1 Thing card
  • Each team draws 5 Material cards
  • Each team draws 1 Descriptor card
  • On the iPad or using a small whiteboard, each student designs their Thing using the materials and descriptor.  This lasts for 3 minutes to design and share with each team member.
  • Team then discuss for 2 minutes and chooses the one design to prototype
  • Team then spends 8 minutes building the prototype
  • Teams will then attempt to find ways to improve the prototype.
  • If the teams get a prototype built that they want to 3D print that will be an option.

Of course Design Thinking is also a very important part of the process so we will introduce these concepts to them using resources from Stanford’s d.school, Henry Ford Learning Institute, and Meadowbrook School’s Eureka Lab These are the important skills to help students understand and integrate into their learning. John Spencer shared this great resource last week that we may also use as he uses slightly different language to describe the process.

When it comes time to construct 3D models we will use Project Ignite from Autodesk which uses the popular Tinkercad online software to teach 3D design and construction. The goal is not to find something to print but to design something that absolutely needs to be printed. We will try the iOS apps: 123D Design for Education and Tinker Play  from Autodesk. While not as robust as the desktop apps they do allow for playing around and learning more about how to create objects.

We currently have 2 – Polar 3D printers although in truth one is the Lower Schools but I have been using it for troubleshooting purposes. I like the printers as they have a nice web interface and allows for students to share projects with me. The printers can be finicky as every 3D printer can be as I have found out so they are a great entry level printer as schools get a discount and they will give you plenty of practice with learning the ropes of 3D printing. Contrary to what many people believe, 3D printing in schools is full of failed prints, trial and error, and messing around to get the printer to print. Frankly it is all a part of making although it reminds me of when I was trying to get all of the Macintosh LCII computers to print to an inkjet printer using AppleTalk since when it worked it was awesome, but when it did not work, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why not!