Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lessons From Summer Vacation 2015

Although it was an extraordinarily long summer, and quite a few things changed in my life, I learned a great deal about myself and grew monumentally as an educator (as well as a person). How? Read on.

#1: Risk-Taking:

When I started my middle school Technology Club last year, I admit I did not know that much about DIY electronics. These past 9-10 months or so have exposed me to technologies I never knew existed. Especially looking back to when I met my friend Laura about a year and a half ago (who told me about the MaKey MaKey as well as littleBits), I thought "cutting-edge" technology prior to then consisted of learning HTML and other coding "conquests" of sorts. I had no idea what an Arduino was... or how many variations of microcontrollers exist. It's mind-blowing.

This summer, I have learned to take risks. I programmed with more "starter-level" microcontrollers: the Arduino Esplora and the SparkFun Digital Sandbox. I learned how to use Ardublock. Additionally, I delved into wearables a bit and feel confident about students tackling the challenge in the fall (while in the spring, something was holding me back... and it's one of the most debilitating things ever: the "fear" of failure, which is actually an extraordinary lesson).

Risk-taking has made me embrace failure and learning experiences more... and will make me a better club advisor this year!

#2: Twitter (and #msmakertech):

I think the biggest professional change I made this summer was getting more involved on Twitter. I had participated in chats before, but certainly not on a regular basis. I was an educator who would maybe (and I mean "maybe" loosely) post a link to something or an inspirational statement a few times a month. This summer, I got way more involved in #edtechchat, #tlap, #resiliencechat, #gtchat, any chat I could find about makerspaces in general, and even #edcampglobal's 24-hour tweeting event on August 1st. I have now participated in plenty of chats and absolutely LOVE it.

I think the greatest aspect of Twitter is collaboration. The degree of professionalism and innovation on there is divine. Here and here are proof! (#1: I created a document focusing on tweets I came across on the #edcampglobal day. #2: I started the new hashtag #msmakertech (middle school maker tech for grades 4-8) last night and have already received some great insights. Also, check out some of the upcoming contributors towards the end of the document!)

I have met some extraordinary people, to say the least, who are absolutely brilliant and insightful. It has opened doors to monumental opportunities as well. They have opened my mind to even more new opportunities for my fifth graders and middle schoolers.

#3: The Power of Affirmation:

One of the biggest things of all is the power of affirmation. I have learned how to appreciate my family and friends in an entirely new light this summer, and as a result, I have been affirming them quite a bit more than before. I have come up with a few challenges for the year and am interested in seeing who else may want to try them. Here they are:

  • At the beginning of the year, go up to a teacher you don't speak with that often (but admire and respect) and wish him or her a phenomenal year. 
  • Write little notes of affirmation for your co-workers over the course of the year and stick it in their mailboxes. Little surprise gifts can be awesome as well, though it may be wisest to deliver those in person. 
  • Find ways to make your co-workers smile and laugh. 
  • Outside of school, find time to hang out with people. Especially family, but also your non co-worker friends. This year, I plan on focusing on hobbies that help me to decompress: my art, photography, perhaps even weekend excursions because I absolutely love road trips. I may even take a few boating trips, which I have never done before! 

#4: The Websites That Are Taking 90 Years to Complete (Well, going on 15 months now):

Some of you may have just come across me for the first time this summer, so you don't know about my website aspirations. I used to maintain websites (as early as 1998 when I had a simple website as a high school junior), but kind of "caved in" a few years ago. Last summer, I purchased two educational domains that are certainly not going to be... small. Soon, I hope to debut at least parts of them and explain they are most certainly a work in process. It's okay... I at least took some time this summer to work on them again.

So overall, this summer has opened my eyes to new opportunities and helped me to embrace life in a whole new way. For those educators who already started school, I hope things are off to a phenomenal start, and for those like me who are starting in the next few weeks, I am excited for all of us! Make it one of the best years ever.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Sensational Books for Maker Education!

Recently, a friend asked about books people like that promote the maker movement in the classroom. Many of these recommended books on my list include wonderful activities that will certainly get your students thinking about engineering and creating! It took a few days for me to compile this list, and I am confident there are choices on here many will most certainly like, even those that are not familiar from the get-go.

All of these links direct you to, where you can preview the books and read reviews. These books are listed in no particular order (I apologize for not categorizing). A lot of these books are applicable for science teachers as well with many practical and awesome engineering challenges and experiments.
Needless to say, students will be inspired by these books! Have a phenomenal time reading and exploring!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Learn So Much About Teaching by Visiting Museums and Aquariums

I am obsessed with visiting museums every time I travel, and this month, I got to visit the one place I have strongly desired to visit for years-- The Exploratorium in San Francisco, California. I also got to visit the Walt Disney Family Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Tech Museum of Innovation, Intel Museum, Cable Car Museum, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

What is the draw about visiting museums and aquariums? I think the greatest thing about them is that learning is authentic; walking through the "rainforest" at the California Academy of Sciences is much more memorable than simply reading a book about it. Also, visiting the Cable Car Museum was absolutely phenomenal because no where else can you see how San Francisco's cable car system operates. From all the experiences I was able to have at these places, I am able to bring back a great deal of information for my students through my photographs, videos, and some of the items I purchased.

My photos below are a great testament. Photographs can serve as wonderful discussion starters. One thing I always make sure to do is capture plenty of photos and video footage. I try to find parts of each place that relate to standards I teach in the classroom (or will enhance concepts I teach, like the brainstorming process).

* I am not affiliated with any of these museums. 

Monterey Bay Aquarium:

The Exploratorium:

Walt Disney Family Museum:

Tech Museum of Innovation:

Intel Museum:

California Academy of Sciences: 

Cable Car Museum:

There are many museums that have a strong Internet presence as well, from wonderful Twitter accounts to offering virtual tours and tremendous resources for educators. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Exploratorium in San Francisco, California:
Twitter: @exploratorium and @tinkeringstudio 
Weblog: The Tinkering Studio
Other: Exploratorium Education

Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois:
Twitter: @msichicago
Other: Education Website, Online Science

American Museum of Natural History in New York, New York:
Twitter: @AMNH
Weblog: Museum Weblog
Other: Ology for Students
Purchase: Guide for Kids

The Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C.:
Twitter: @smithsonian, @airandspace, @smithsonianedu, @nmnh, @smithsoniannmai, @amhistorymuseum
Other: Panoramic Tour of National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Education, Smithsonian Students

More for your students from museums: