How I Organize Maker and STEAM Ideas from Twitter

During my Make Yourself Into a Maker PD Course, Educators Have Renewed My Faith In Education, I was asked how I organize all the tweets that have amazing ideas. I was discussing how Twitter is amazing at allowing us to beg, borrow, steal, and learn from so many amazing people who share their work.

I created a short little tutorial explaining how I use IFTTT + TweetDeck + Google Sheets = Maker Success

Enjoy and please share how you organize your ideas.

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Educators Have Renewed My Faith In Education

About a month ago I launched my first ever two day Make Yourself Into A Maker PD. I was nervous and scared as anyone is when you are in charge to lead the way to nudge people to make change for the better.

And at the end of those two days I was on cloud 9.

You can read about it here: Educators Can Make Engaging Learning If You Just Let Them! 

This past week I was lucky enough to run another session. And again I was nervous, but in a different way.

What if I don’t bring the same energy?

What if these educators are not as engaged as the first group?

What happens if this or that and all things in between?

I always find it challenging mentally when you repeat a learning opportunity that is on a scale like this workshop that covers two days, pulls educators from their learning spaces, and the pressure to make sure it delivers.

And all I can say after a few days after the workshop is WOW!

These educators blew my mind. They took the learning to a whole new level. I could not have been more impressed than what I witnessed during these two days.

Minor adjustments were made between the workshops to help make things flow better. We had an open PO to allow them to purchase what they needed. We played better music in the work zone. We provided more think time. We adjusted time slots to meet their needs. We had an amazing Show and Tell at the end.

What we kept was providing them time to tap into their ideas and enter the state of flow. We kept the culture and support to help them try new things. We kept the mindset that we can do it!

You can learn all about the workshop on the site. The major goal of the two days was to empower the educators to believe that they can make whatever they want. Through that we infused projects that could impact their classrooms and learning spaces. I believe that if we can empower the educators, then they will go back and empower their students.

Educators must feel supported. They must feel safe to try something new. They must know they are not alone in the work.

The workshop is designed to allow them to get to know one another. They must believe and feel that it is safe to try something new. It was amazing watching them help each other, share ideas, gather feedback, and basically become a support network for one another.

I was going to post all the projects in this post, but have decided to post them as separate posts each day because I believe they need to be highlighted accordingly.

I am excited about education again. After witnessing and experiencing some things recently in education that had me feel crummy about the state of education, these educators in this workshop reminded me that if we simply support them and allow them to do what they know is right all problems in education would be solved. I honestly believe that to my core. It is when we stifle their intelligence and ideas, crush them with negative culture, and drown them in practices that don’t work that the flame starts to burn out. Give educators oxygen and space and let them ignite their flame of passion.

All I can say is THANK YOU!

You know who you are!

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URGENT: International Debate Judge Help for Project Based Learning

Quick backstory.

Students from all over the US and India have been working since October on a debate over the topic: Is Revolution Justified?

Many of the students debate from the perspective of the American Revolution due to standard alignment. These are mostly 8th graders, but a few younger and older kids are mixed in over the course of over 800 students involved.

Students finished recording their debates in November right before Thanksgiving. We are now in the judging stage. Typically we have plenty of judges to provided feedback, but with a late last minute drop we are short judges.

THANK YOU to all of you who have stepped in to help debate. We are almost there. We just about have them completed. I have updated the debate team spreadsheet. All the ones highlighted in blue have the results posted via the Google Form.
If you know of any else who can judge or if you have students who can take another debate I would be so appreciative. I want to get these all judged before winter break as these kids have waited for close to three weeks for their results.
We are seeking help to get the rest of the debates judged. If you have a class of students who can help or if you can take one debate, then please let me know. I can help you get what you need.

Here is how it works

1. This link is a link to our teacher handbook which contains everything about the debate project. This will give you everything you need to understand more about the project.

2. This google doc has the teams that need judges. If you look at column E you will see all the teams that currently do not have a judge assigned to them.

Clarification: you will see three rows for the same debate. This is just for the debate teams to sort students.

Clarification 2: Please add your name to the debates you and/or your students will be judging so we know we have them all covered.

3. Please add your name to any of the debates that you can judge. Feel free to spread the word, have your students judge, etc. Typically we have students just to work on their standards on 21st century skills, but we will gladly take anyone. Even if you can only do one we will still take your help.

4. Part 7 of the handbook has all the information for judging where you can access the rubric/Google Form to submit your scoring.

Let me know if you have questions. Thank you so much.

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LEGO Ev3 Robotics – The Teacher Corner


LEGO Ev3 Robotics – The Teacher Corner

Are you interested in LEGO Mindstorms robotics, engineering, and computational thinking? Come along and learn how you could engage your students in the international FIRST LEGO League robotics competition, which involves over 228,000 students (aged 8-16) from nearly 80 countries!


FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is an international STEM robotics competition  which involves over 228,000 students (aged 8-16) from nearly 80 countries. During the FLL season (Sept-Nov), students have just 8-10 weeks to research and design an innovative solution to a real world problem; program LEGO Mindstorm robots to complete robot game missions; and compete at a FLL tournament. They also uphold the FLL Core Values of coopertition and gracious professionalism. The challenge theme changes each year, and past themes have included finding solutions to problems faced by senior citizens, responding to natural disasters, and caring for animals.

Through participation in a FLL season or adapting it to your classroom needs, students and teachers/coaches will

  • Learn about pedagogical approaches & teaching resources available to support new LEGO robotics teachers, including resources created by FLL coaches and participating students.
  • Explore the STEM learning opportunities afforded by the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition, including students’ high-level research into a real world problem, public speaking opportunities, teamwork, and development of computational thinking.
  • Explore recommended approaches to coaching a FLL season, including advice on mission strategy, project management, the engineering design process, and core values activities.
  • Have the opportunity to learn how to program a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robot.



ISTE Standards for Students


Knowledge Constructor

During the FLL competition, students are challenged to research and develop an innovative solution to a real world problem relating to the challenge theme (e.g. the interaction between humans and animals, caring for senior citizens, dealing with natural disasters). Students use digital tools to construct knowledge, sharing their solution with judges through a creative artifact and presentation.

Innovative Designer

Students use the engineering design process to build and program a competition robot, which must autonomously navigate the game field and complete missions based on real world problems. As part of this process, students must develop, test, and refine prototype programming and engineering solutions.

Computational Thinker

Students use computational thinking to break FLL challenges down into their component parts, using algorithmic thinking and problem solving strategies to find solutions to the robot game missions.

Getting Started

I have shared absolutely everything that we created for our 5 day/15 hour LEGO EV3 camp from this past summer. If you are looking for a progression of learning with multiple avenues of learning and opportunities to succeed, then this is for you. The site contains the flow for each day, rubrics, tutorials, example code, and more.

You can read about the philosophy behind the work here on the LEGO Engineering website.

Check it out and let me know if you have questions or better ideas


Perhaps you are looking to get started in FIRST LEGO League. I have also created a website to help you navigate the season. This site breaks the season down into what I believe are four parts to a season. I have included examples of our past work as the Robodogs. We have been fortunate enough to have great success in the past and I believe it is not because we have amazing kids, but because we have an approach that works.


If you need help with getting started with programming LEGO EV3, then I have a tutorial section here

I started a new series that will have new content coming to the blog soon, but here are a few more to help you start in EV3

LEGO EV3 Programming Tip: The Power of the Comment Block 

LEGO EV3 Programming Tip: Using Spaces 

LEGO EV3: Bluetooth Project – Windy City 

Google Hangout about LEGO EV3 and First LEGO League 

At ISTE 2017, I was able to interview all types of professionals and teachers on behalf of LEGO Education to discuss how LEGO EV3 has impacted the learning for students in the classroom and beyond. These people share some amazing insights.


Hack the Classroom

Class Hack 4: LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 with Aaron Maurer

In an exciting and ever-changing world, students need to develop the skills, the courage to innovate, and the freedom to create! Teachers looking to empower students, turning their natural curiosity into creative exploration, one of our partners, LEGO® Education has worked to develop their solutions as an instant engagement tool. Watch how Aaron Maurer, STEM Lead for the Mississippi Bend A.E.A., shares his teacher hack to inspire his students

LEGO EV3 Courses Microsoft Education website

Become a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 expert with our series of three courses

LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 – Getting Started

LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 – In the Classroom


Supporting Research

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#maker9 Creative Challenge 1: 30 Circles


Your Challenge

Your task is to use the provided template of 30 circles and fill them all in with creative designs. Use any medium you wish – Sharpie, pencil, pen, crayons, etc.

Have fun and go crazy!

30 Circles Template

Share Your Work

Share you work in our Google Photo album for this project

Share using hashtag #maker9

Facebook Group –

Make Yourself Into a Maker Website

Taking It Further

  1. How can you use this activity in your learning space?
  2. If you use with students, then please post how it worked and some examples




***This idea was adapted from an online course by Creative Live 28 to Make***

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The Reality of Taking Risks and Leap of Faith

I have been inspired by a dear friend of mine with whom I have not had a chance to connect and talk with in quite some time, but he is a principal in a neighboring school district. He is one who pushes my thinking time and time again.

Recently, he posted a piece on Facebook where he listed all the flaws that he has to try to break down the perception of perfect lives on Facebook that we often see. A few weeks earlier he had shared with me a newsletter he sent his staff that opened my eyes for being grateful.

I also went and watched the movie Wonder which had my parent brain spinning. A post about this movie coming shortly.

Additionally, in recent weeks some pretty tragic events have happened to students of mine and to families. Life is never easy. Often times in these moments of tragedy we have a lightbulb moment where we pause our current mode of operation to reset the clock and think about our own lives. At least we should do this and not just gloss over to the next event.

This is shared to let you know that many events have lead to this moment of thought and deep reflection.

Anyone who has followed my journey knows that I have taken a leap of faith by leaving a school that I loved for a new job. During that time I also launched a nonprofit to go after my dream vision to how I believe learning and education should operate. Somewhere in the mix of all this I am still after that book of mine, coaching sports, trying to be a good husband and father, and finding time for myself and health.

It is hard. It is impossible most days.

I am in the crux of change and risk taking. The excitement of the launch of a new non-profit has worn off. The craziness of a new job has died down a little.

And here I am.

Thousands of time in my life I have provided the advice to take risks, to take the leap as Seth Godin suggests to family members, students in my classroom, teachers that I work with, friends, my own children, players I coach, and anyone else who I am not including.

Here I am still in midair of my own two leaps. I leaped for a new career change and leaped for the nonprofit. This was not intentional to do both, but it happened. Life happens.

Truth be told as I work to land back on the ground after taking the leap to create a ruckus in the world I realized something that often goes underreported when you read about risks and taking a leap of faith.

It sucks. It is hard. I have dealt with more stress in these last few months than I care to admit.

I don’t sleep well. I toss and turn. I worry. I sweat. I panic.

I get agitated over small things. I get angry at things in my life that I should not, but the stress bubbles over to my children, my job, and other things that develop. If not anger, then the feeling of blah where you get lost in your own head and cannot seem to navigate the maze to get out.

I think that there is a misperception on the realities of taking a risk. Despite the word “risk” we are often comforted by the notion that things will work out due to your courage. Things will be better because you will learn from your mistakes. You will be a better person because you are doing things nobody else is willing to do. We are told these things over and over and over.

While all of these statements do hold truth, I think what often does not get addressed is the sacrifice and frustrations that come with it.

I am 4 months into my nonprofit and here are some realities.

  1. I leave my kids to go work with other kids. This is flawed.
  2. I spend countless hours on social media campaigns, curriculum development, cleanup, teaching class, network meetings, and maintenance of equipment which cause me more time away from home or time spent with my children.
  3. Due to trying to keep the nonprofit going while holding down a full time job I work pretty much from  4 am – 9 pm almost daily. It is all I think about. This is not good for mental health.
  4. I took a risk giving up a robotics coaching job to launch the nonprofit and so far I have lost money every single month to keep the doors open. I am sacrificing our family finances when we face debt of our own, a foundation issue on our house, and just day to day finances that never seem to add up properly.
  5. I treat my mind and body like crap. Because I work all the time it is a constant barrage of garbage food. Hence the reason I have gained 50+ pounds and feel even more lethargic.

I share this with you to be open and honest. I think it is important that we continue to push our boundaries. We must continue to challenge ourselves to try new things.


We must remember that not all things work out. Sometimes we have to realize that when we leap we might not land on solid ground.

I have big decisions facing me in the very near future. I have to begin to look at life in a bigger picture. One thing I know for sure is that if I were to pass in the night unexpectedly nobody would really give a rip about the work I do. What would matter would be family and friends. What would matter would be memories of stories of connections with people, not a blog post or some new class I launched.

My kids are growing up too fast. One day they will be out of the house. These days I have with them are so important. I was looking up old blog posts and found this one

Things I learned from making a volcano with my kids  and this one and this one about geocaching.

Time goes by fast. My son is soon to be 13, Addy is not far behind, and Ava is rocking her 6th year in this world.

My health is important. When all you do is buzz around you build a vicious cycle of bad eating and habits. This does not lead the a lifestyle that allows a person to be at their peak performance.

We all know that we must not work all the time. I cannot express how many times I get angry at myself for sitting on the couch with my daughter and have a laptop or my phone on my lap and wonder why she always wants to be on my phone. I can get angry with her or realize I am simply modeling a behavior that I need to change.

One thing I continue to come back to time and time again is the notion of figuring out how to pursue your passions and dreams while not losing sight of the really important things in life. I don’t know if it is at all possible. Or maybe it is a misalignment of priorities. Perhaps it is realizing that my passions in life are not really the work I do, but the people in my home and the people who I call friends. Perhaps the work is an interest or hobby and I need to address the fact that this work will always be here.

But my kids won’t always live at home(at least I hope not).

My wife has dreams of her own.

And when I get older and the kids are out making their own journey come to life perhaps that is when you jump back into the game of trying to accomplish it all.

However, that is only if you are lucky enough to live to be old.

And so after 1100 words I am back to the start of trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.

I share this with you to let you know that I don’t have it figured out. It may seem like I do when I share online, but I don’t. It may seem like I have extra hours in my day, but I don’t. It may seem like….well I don’t know what it seems like to others and I should not worry about that. Instead, I will worry about myself and my family and figure out what exactly it is that meets the needs of them.

Remember to shoot for the stars. But, please remember that when you leap you might need to crawl back to start and prepare to leap again. Or realize that the ground you were currently on was not so bad after all. You only find out when you try.

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055: Living On The Edge of Chaos – Living By Leading with Laurel Braaten

This is a special episode speaking with a student of mine who has inspired me to step and lead by my actions. She has pushed my thinking into taking the leaps in life to find out what could be. This student, Laurel Braaten, has modeled the way to not only think about ideas, but to work hard to take the plunge to make the ideas happen.

Laurel is more than a student. She is a leader. She has inspired not just her peers, but adults, school leaders, and more to be inspired by being in her presence.

She has inspired me.

This episode was recorded just before the start of the school year as she was preparing for her senior year of high school. It is always amazing to hear the insights and remember that she is a student.


Check out the show and episodes on iTunes

Show Notes

How would you define leadership? (4:40)

What have you done to model how be a leader? (6:00)

How do you go about being a leader? How do you handle the adversity and setbacks? (9:00)

What are your methods to help get other people on board with the ideas? (13:00)

What is your WOW project of the moment? (19:30)

What is advice to help people start leading by taking action? (23:00)

Lightning Round

What are you reading right now?

  • Pamphlet from United Nations

Who is someone we should all follow and learn from?

What is your spirit animal?

  • Gazelle

Final Thoughts or Nuggets of Wisdom

  • Make sure you are surrounded by good people who are just as passionate as you are


Past Blog Posts Featuring Laurel to Learn About Her Work

Student Voice: What Exactly Does It Mean? 

#IowaSLI and #stuvoice has reinvigorated my life’s work! 

Authentic Student Voice and Creating Action

Group Work

What is the Purpose of Education? 

The State of Student Voice. My Thank You Letter 

Student Voice Campaign and Work

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Creating Cookie Monsters: A 3D Print STEM Project for All

One of the ideas or questions that comes up time and time again in my job is that teachers want help moving the amazing ideas of making into their classroom. This requires some help and guidance. How do we help them keep the maker culture alive while also aligning to the mandates of teaching.

A few weeks back I posted a tutorial on making a cookie cutter. I decided to take that concept and scale it into a project.

Full disclosure, I kept some things general on purpose. My goal is that any teacher can take the project based learning template and edit the contents to be grade/class specific. What I hoped to do was build the framework so teachers can see how this work could fit within the classroom walls.

All I ask is that if you do use the work to please share with me so I can share with other educators who are seeking help. Together we can help one another and continue to work to create engaging content and powerful learning experiences for students.


The goal of this project is to help students WANT to create in CAD. We use Tinkercad with students, but this project could be used with any software. I have decided to go the cookie cutter route. I know this sounds simple, but if you have ever tried to make a cookie cutter it is much more challenging than you think. Students have to work through negative space designing for the cookie. Then comes the creation of all pieces being together.

We take them through this basic cookie cutter design process first of the star to help them learn how to make. The real challenge then becomes designing and printing their very own afterwards.

We provide a foundation and then set them free.

The final step is to infuse STEAM yet again by teaching them the science of cooking by actually making cookies and then the art aspect of decorating with real cake designers.

This project is fun, engaging, and helps to serve a need for students while also keeping it real world for them.

I have instructions posted on Instructables to make the star if you need help.

I have YouTube Tutorial as well

Remember, the star is not the goal. The goal is for you to create your very own cookie cutter. Please share your designs with me as I love to see what people create!

Here is the complete project based learning template and lesson plan aligned with standards, differentiation for grade levels, and more. Let me know if you have questions. –> Link

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Educators Are The Best People In The World

I know my opinions don’t carry much weight, but I want all educators to know that I think you are some of the best people the world has to offer.

I have felt so blessed to work with so many amazing educators in my career.

You have done the work.

You have put in the time.

You have had those tough conversations with yourself and your team and others.

You have put in endless hours on top of endless hours because you care about students. You care about your colleagues. You care about your job.

You are dedicated. Sacrificing weekends, nights, time from family, friends, and other events because things simply need to get done because it is the right thing to do.

You put in the time and work not to win awards and recognition(however, these are nice reminders when they do happen), but because you want what is best for students and your school.

You care. You work hard. You work tirelessly. You exhaust your emotions and energy and have to go home and find ways to muster an extra dose of these things because your family needs you also.

You have grinded through a lot of work when perhaps there were more pressing matters at hand because you know the long term impact the work can have for students.

You meet all expectations and deadlines and duties while still trying to find ways to be the educator you want to be.

As a parent I am so grateful for all the educators that work so hard to provide my kids an atmosphere of learning that allows them to grow and learn in a positive environment.

As an educator I don’t know where you can find a more dedicated group of people anywhere else(and I know many other professions have great sacrifices and by no means am I downplaying any other occupation).

As a colleague to so many amazing educators, I am impressed by how you continue to work through obstacles and issues time and time again to do great work.

As a friend I thank you.

I know I am a small voice, but the work that so many educators do all over the world does not go unnoticed. I appreciate you. I appreciate your work ethic. I appreciate what you do for students.

Thank you for being you. Thank you for being an educator.

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