A mashup of all things educational! From technology and social media to leadership and international education, this is where I will be reflecting and applying everything thing I learn from the web and my PLN. Join me on the adventure and add your opinion to the mix!

10 July 2014

4 We Are All Makers!

I've been meaning to write a post about our progress so far on trying to create a makerspace at our school and now I have too many reasons to put it off any longer!  (If you're interested in seeing our progress and what our space looks like via an interactive photo, visit my makerspace page here.)

Here are a few reasons why this post has finally come to fruition:

  1. I recently did an interview with the EduAllStars team where I talked a bit about our makerspace and making in general.
  2. I was asked while I was at ISTE to do a video on makerspaces for the Summer Learning Series (#SummerLS) that is being led by Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd)
  3. I'm part of the Connected Learning MOOC that is happening right now that is investigating making and it's many forms all summer long
Well, if those aren't enough reasons to get started than what is?!  

So, I'll first start by posting my personal example of making/ hacking which is my challenge for this week from my MOOC on making.  We needed to hack writing in some way to transform analog into digital.  I decided to focus on the makerspace at our school and create a sign that will inspire others to join the maker movement.  Let's be clear... I am not a hacker.  I'm fine with my phone the way it is and happy to only use the fonts and other websites the way the templates provided afford me.  However, I worked with a hacker (@TechGeekFest I'm talking to you!) and am now able to appreciate the mentality behind hacking.  It's being involved with your environment and interacting with it the way that you want to.  It's having a say in what you use and how those tools help you in your daily life.  I was able to appreciate the history of hacking as well after reading the book Invent to Learn which is a great book to read if you are interested in getting started with makerspaces at your school. 

Here is my example of my analog/ digital mashup or hack allowing me to take the language of my environment from books, papers, signs, etc. and re-purpose them for an inspiring sign on making for our makerspace.  I took photos of words around my house to make the saying that I wanted and then made the collage in Google Drawing.

With that example to inspire us, here is the video I made for the Summer Learning Series that encourages teachers to learn something new each week during their summer vacation and think of ways to apply it to the next school year.

So, to reiterate, if you are interested in joining the challenge, here's what you can do to get started in feeling the spirit of the maker movement. 
  1. Go to the Invent to Learn website and learn more about the book and the leaders behind the book.
  2. Go to the Instructables website and find a problem you can solve or something you can hack or something you can make and consciously think about the skills and abilities you are employing as well as your attitude while you are completeing your project.
  3. Reflect on your learning and post on your blog or twitter about your foray into the maker movement and how you see it being connected to your teaching and learning context for the next school year.
Good luck with your making!  
Looking forward to your thoughts!
Jessica :)

04 July 2014

1 ISTE: Catalyst for Action

CATALYST:  A person or event that quickly causes change or action.  
A spark, an incitement, an impetus.

Another year has passed and I'm invigorated and ready to reflect on another great ISTE experience.  This year, my biggest #ISTEtakeaway is- "Be a catalyst!"  Taken from the motivating keynote speech by Kevin Carroll, I think it best sums up what I was hearing, researching, and learning during my five days at the conference.  You can get a sense of everything I was learning and doing through my two storify posts: ISTE Favorites Collection and ISTE @jessievaz12 Collection.

I can sum up everything I was learning into three distinct statements-

1.  Be a catalyst of action by changing student learning through making and creativity.
I've been a long time advocate of #making and #makered and have been working toward making a #makerspace in our school for quite some time.  (You can read about our progress here.)  It was so validating to see that we're on the correct path.  After listening to Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez talk about their theories from their fantastic Invent to Learn book, speaking to many great educators during HackEducation14 such as @teambond and @amboe_k who are also on a making journey, and hearing the great work that is happening in afterschool makerspaces such as the Digital Harbor Foundation, it impressed me how important it is for us to share this message passionately.  Students today need to be involved with their learning through creativity and making as a way to build personal resilience in the face of challenge, independence in learning, and working cooperatively to solve problems and challenges.  Every educator I met that is on this same journey shared the same feedback, "There are never problems with engagement or behaviour when students are making.  They are learning and having fun at the same time."  Isn't that what education is all about?  I challenge you to be a catalyst at your school by going to the Maker Education Initiative site and seeing how you can help bring the movement forward or going to Instructables and make something today as a way to tap into that forgotten love of making that everyone has dormant inside them.

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28 June 2014

3 Who, Meme?!

This week for the CLMOOC Connected Learning activity we had to make a meme or two.  I had dabbled in making memes last year for the ISTE 2013 conference so I already had some experience.  Here are my previous attempts and the blog post about them.

Now, it was great to look at the different resources that were provided for this assignment and learn more about the history and theory behind memes.  The blog about memes and why they matter by Eli was informative and interesting.  I especially liked the in depth information about how difficult it is to make a successful meme and the steps to follow to (hopefully!) make that happen!  I don't think I'll be reaching any viral numbers any time soon, but it's good to have some guidelines to get started!  The other really informative site about meme's was know your memes which goes into some of the famous and trending memes on the internet today.  It certainly gives a great bank of ideas to search!  Ultimately, my very favorite site was the Visual.ly page giving information and clarification on how to say the word meme in the first place! Glad to have that cleared up!

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24 June 2014

1 How to Get Ready for an ISTE Conference!

As part of my first assignment for my Connected Learning experience in the #CLMOOC sponsored by the Educator Innovator and the National Writing Project, we were asked to make a "How To" manual as a way to explain a little about ourselves as well as dive into the creative making atmosphere.

I would like to pause here for a moment and reflect on my learning over the past week.  First of all, this took me WAY WAY WAY longer than I thought it would.  WikiHow was not an easy beast to tame and I'm stupified by it as I find myself to be quite techie.  Between converting photos, uploading or searching for videos, and being re-edited as I created it, I was constantly fighting against the platform! I did much better with the HackPad site as it was much more simplified and straightforward. What I took away from the whole experience was that I am lucky that I have built up so much resilience (I blogged about this last week in my post here) because I really needed to keep pushing forward while I encountered frustration after frustration.  It made me ponder, if I had that much trouble as a "techie" teacher, what would other teachers feel and experience?  (Future blog post on this topic pending as I am now digressing!)

Anyway, here is my first silly attempt with a real intent behind it. (I'm desperate for some Google Glass so I want my husband to see how cool I am wearing a pair.  This will magically inspire him to let me buy some, right?! RIGHT?!!)  I want to give a shout out to my friend Chris Craft for letting me and my teaching team experience his Google Glass while he was here for our recent #gafesummit in Chile!

=> How to Look Cool Wearing Google Glass

Okay. Now on to something more serious... For my real "How To" I decided to tackle a recurring theme in my work so that I can share it with others right away.  Every year, I take one or two teachers from my school to the ISTE conference as a way to generate teacher level, grass-roots interest in embedding more technology into the various subject areas of the school.  Each year I have a meeting with teachers who went with me previously to help explain what ISTE is, how to plan your ISTE experience, etc.  While I'm certainly not going to pass up the great discussion that happens at the face to face meetings, it is good when you can have a resource to back up what they learned from the meeting.  Enter my "How to Get Ready for an ISTE Conference" product!  I hope you enjoy it and maybe, just maybe, someone might find it useful as well!  Feel free to add to it and hopefully visit it next year when I update it!

=> How to Get Ready for an ISTE Conference

Are you planning on going to ISTE this year?  Will this "How To" help you?  What could I add to make it more useful for my teachers that will accompany me next year?

Looking forward to your thoughts!
Jessica :)

16 June 2014

3 2nd Place Sucks, But...

So, I'll be the first to admit it.  I've had a pretty sucky year this past school year.  That's part of the reason my blog was quiet for so long.  While I am not writing this for a dose of Internet pity, I am writing it to offer a reason why I've been in such deep contemplation and what the result of that thinking is so far.

It started around this time last year after I was inspired by ISTE13 and all that I had learned.  I realised that I needed to get out there, be involved, and do some more learning, so I set a goal to apply to a doctoral program.  But, I didn't just reach for the stars, I jettisoned myself out into educational outerspace to boldly go where I've never gone before!  I decided to apply to only free doctoral programs which paid for me to study there with a student stipend.  (In case you didn't know, there's about 7 in all of the United States and they are some of the most HIGHLY COMPETITIVE schools in the nation.  What was I thinking?!)

I worked tirelessly to get amazing scores on my GRE (I kicked butt on the Verbal and sank like a stone in Math. Ugh!).  When the scores didn't go in my favor I worked harder on my Personal Statement and response to application questions in order to wow the reviewers right past my mediocre math scores.  Sadly, it didn't work and I was denied at all the schools where I applied.  While sad, I was proud for putting myself out there and reaching higher than I thought I could.  I was a role-model for my kids and that certainly counted.  What made me sad, as I wallowed in my "second place" finish, was that I didn't know WHY I didn't get in.  A little feedback would have gone a long way.  However, I was not deterred and pushed forward to find another goal to achieve.

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09 June 2014

7 Yes they can! Kindy kids and iPads!

Last week I wrote a post about how we've been using our imagine lab (makerspace) with our grade 5 students to learn more about circuits which was a great experience that I was able to team teach.  This week, I went to kindergarten to see how the teachers were using the iPads with the younger students in kindergarten.  Wow... what a surprise I had awaiting me!

The kindergarten teachers wanted help using "a video app" to help the kids record their summative assessment posters and the explanations behind them.  When I arrived, they were trying to use videolicious to record in under 1 minute what a group of 6 students had learned.  While this was not a bad approach, we quickly realised that it wasn't what they wanted.  After a few minutes of discussion with the teachers, we decided that the students really just needed to use the camera app to video the explanations.  Quickly, the teachers started organising the kids into groups to start videoing the students themselves while the others watched.  Happily, these teachers were AMAZING, open-minded, risk-takers and took to my suggestion to let the students do the filming.  With eyes wide open, they hesistantly agreed and we began watching the magic unfold!  In that moment, the teachers went from substituting the video for an oral presentation to bravely modifying the learning in their classroom. (SAMR model)

The teachers gave the groups of students an iPad and asked them to practice filming one another.  We reviewed the basic rules of iPad use such as hold it carefully and share with the other students.  Off they went and soon there was a flurry of action as the kids went around filming themselves in all sorts of activities around the room.

Kindergarten students exploring how to take video with iPads via Instagram http://ift.tt/TCsFw9

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02 June 2014

3 Gr5 Inquiring About Circuits with Makey Makey!

Today was a new chapter in the development of our makerspace at our school!  Prior to today, we've been using it to stimulate creativity in our school utilizing recycled materials to create prototypes and design projects.  It's a great space and it is working really well with our English department in helping students think "outside the box" on their assignments.  However, now that the space is about to celebrate it's first birthday, we felt we needed to push it even more by jumping feet first with programming and designing.

We bought some Makey Makey kits last year and have been looking for ways to thoughtfully incorporate them into our curriculum.  We've identified a unit in grade 8 where the students will be using them to make games/ interactive programs with Scratch.  To get the grade 8 students ready, we created a display about Makey Makey and Scratch in a common space in our Learning Center.  The students have been investigating this display for about 2 weeks.  Recently a grade 5 teacher asked if we could use the Makey Makey kits to explore circuits for the electricity unit starting this week.  We've identified this as a unit that we wanted to integrate technology into so it was great to see that we were in the same line of thinking as the grade 5 team.  We met with the teachers and soon decided that Makey Makey would be an excellent provocation into the world of circuits to help students understand insulators and conductors.

We started the session letting the students explore the Makey Makey boards with the purpose of answering the question "What will make Makey Makey work?".  We had set up the computers ahead of time with three different examples of Scratch programs: Makey Makey DJ, Makey Makey Piano, and Makey Makey Drum Kit.  Each group was asked to find materials around the lab that would get the program to run.  When they found something that worked, they had to send someone to the front to write the item(s) on the board for others to see and test as well.  The only "clues" they were given were that one cable needed to be grounded to the Earth part of the Makey Makey and that the other end of that cable needed to be in their hand.

Students investigating what makes a Makey Makey work with found materials in our Imagine Lab via Instagram http://ift.tt/1m5TGyQ

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