How can educators AND students embrace the power of social media in the classroom?

I am honored that I was featured on the PITSCO Education blog:

Embrace social media in your classroom without fear! | Education Highlights

I don’t share this to pat myself on the back. Rather I share this to gain insights. How are you using social media in your classroom, in your makerspace, in your media center? Are you helping to teach and guide students how to make sense of all the tools and apps? Are you leading by example? Helping to model the way.

More importantly, I could not be more proud of the students who enter my space every single day at 7:00 am and stay late into the evenings. They choose the projects, they come up with the ideas, and together we make it all happen.

Once again I am reminded about the joys of teaching, but also am reminded about all the different facets of life that educators are now responsible for. It is a lot. But together we can make it happen.

It reminds me of not only the potential for greatness we can develop, but to do so in a way that we must realize that learning is far from perfect. If you check out my Facebook page for this site I just loaded up Teacher Truth #1: Fallacy of Perfectionism and I think we can connect many of the ideas expressed in this video to the power of makerspaces, learning, and quality learning opportunities for students.

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Make Your Own Makerspace Decorations

Makerspaces are still all the buzz and for many reasons they should be. I often state it is the start to changing how schools will operate because makerspaces are the one place in school that do not feel like school. This is the reason why students and educators all over the world love them. In these spaces real learning is happening and not just education(two very different words often used back and forth).

As we head back to school and begin to prepare for another school year(I know many of you have already started) it is time to think about our learning spaces. This summer I decided that I was going to add a few color splashes to the Coffeechug Cafe to give it a less industrial feel and more welcoming to hopefully bring in more students.

There are so many amazing ideas and things to buy online to get you started, but that really goes against the essence of a Makerspace culture doesn’t it?

I decided to make a sign of my own from scratch. I am far from a expert when it comes to tools and decorating so if I can do it you can too!

Step 1: Find some scrap wood or buy some cheap boards like particle board or fiberboards. In my case I had a bunch of these sheets of scrap wood from an old project.


Step 2: In my case I cut the boards to create 2×2 foot piece. Using a vinyl cutter and 12×12 sheets of vinyl I knew it would be easy to center and apply the letters I wanted to add to the picture. Using a table saw I marked my lines and cut them to size.

Step 3: Once the boards were cut to size, I applied two coats of a white paint with primer as I wanted white as the backdrop. You can pick whatever color you would like for your sign.


Step 4: I opened up the the Silhouette Cameo software and typed the letter M onto the page. I sifted through all the fonts until I found one that I liked and stretched it out to be as large as I could on a 12 x 12 sheet of vinyl.

**Be sure to center the letter and line up your vinyl properly**

Repeat this process for each letter. In my case I was spelling the word MAKE so I swapped out each letter and cut them out accordingly using this same process.

Step 5: Pick out the letters from the vinyl. We are making a stencil so the letter itself is not needed. Once you have the letters picked out, then pull back the vinyl and apply each sheet to the board. These act as stencils. We can now paint the letters without risk of messing up the white paint.


Step 6: Decide what paint colors you would like to use. We used the cheap acrylic paint that we had sitting around. There are a ton of color varieties so make sure you are organized. Who knew there were so many shades of red?


Step 7: Paint. Decide how many coats of paint you want depending on if you want the brush strokes to be seen or letters to be solid. You come up with your own artistic touch. For me, I painted two coats for an in between feel.



Step 8: Peel the vinyl. It is time to pull back the vinyl. Go SLOW! I went too fast and because of this the paint from the letters tore off around the edges. EEK!(see the edges of the M and A!!!)

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Step 9: Repair. I used a straight edge and repainted where the paint ripped off. Be patient and take your time. No rushing! Patience is a virtue and it will pay off!


Step 10: Next is building a frame. I took some old pieces of 1 x 4 boards I had sitting around and cut them into 1 x 1 strips using the table saw. I measured and marked the lengths of each side and cut them to size to make sure it was all good.


Step 11: Paint the frame. I used acrylic paint once again to paint the frames a nice bright orange. Of course when they dry you now have a keyboard to sing the ABC’s!


Step 12: Glue the frame! I used wood glue and glued the frame down to the board. I glued one piece at a time and used clamps to hold them in place. Be sure to have a damp cloth to wipe off excess glue. If you want you could also staple from the backside if you want more support. IMG_4408

Step 13: Hang and enjoy! I will update once I have it up in my makerspace, but I will be using the 3M strips to hold on the wall. I have to wait as I am organizing my room as I found out I am sharing the room with another educator this year.

I hope you enjoyed this piece and let me know if you have questions. More importantly let us be sure we don’t only do lip service about education ideas, but lead by actions. Get out there and make something. And then please share your work as I love being inspired by others and learning new ideas!

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Coffeechug 3D Printed Ornament Challenge Results

I am blown away by the amazing 3D printed ornament designs that students and teachers submitted. I am still printing as I am bit behind schedule with one printer breaking down and staying home with my 3 year old. I promise to have them all done by Friday and delivered in time to add to your tree or wherever.

I started this challenge just to inspire others to try and did not really think about the inspiration I would receive myself by all the submissions. Thank you to the amazing teachers who opened up their rooms to the possibilities of design, creativity, and the opportunity to do something new.

If you have not checked out the ornaments check them out here and realize that I will be adding more images up until Christmas.IMG_1050

If you missed out on this challenge, but still want to make something then please stay tuned. I am in need of a design and will be hosting a new challenge January 2015. Details forthcoming.

This challenge really pushed my level of learning by being full immersed in 3D printing and I hope it provided a new way of thinking for those that participated. I look forward to doing this again next year.

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#YEOT Open Lab 1: Solder Skill and Solder Project

Young Engineers Week 2

Open Lab #1

 The main goal of tonight was to get to know the kids who signed up for YEOT and to develop their first skill: soldering

The first lab was a success. I was exhausted by the end of the two hours after running around helping them all as they began their trip down the path to engineering.

Up to this point they have had two webinars getting prepared for YEOT and starting to learn HTML. Tonight I wanted to get into DOING and MAKING so we did quick intros as we have students from several schools.

Next, we examined the tools in their tool kit that I put together.

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This is just the start. Each student is assigned to their own tub. This is where they can store not only their tools, but their projects as we work on them in each lab. We took time to assemble the helping hand, go over the solder iron and all the safety precautions.

We dove into the atmosphere of Coffeechug Cafe where we are a team all in this together. We help each other. This is not a competition. We learn, make mistakes, and depend on one another to develop skills and attributes that will help us in all aspects of life.

We then jumped right into soldering. Many people think we are crazy, but these kids can handle it! We tinned the tips and then practice soldering two wires together. We had a nice smoky haze in the room as they worked through how to solder, how much is too much, how much is not enough and all the little things that go into soldering.

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After soldering the wires we practiced one more soldering activity. I cut up some PCB boards and bought a bunch of resistors. I gave each student a board and 4-6 resistors. We talked about how to put the resistors on a board, how to solder the holes while not burning the board, and how to clip the legs. We spent about 30 minutes doing this as this took them some time to get used to. You can see we had all levels of quality which is part of the process.

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At this point we had about 20 minutes left before cleanup. We began our first solder project which is an adjustable power supply kit from Adafruit(check out my post on the kit)

We only were able to get three parts soldered on before time escaped us. Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.38.01 AM Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.38.15 AM


Overall, I was very happy with the first session. We were in lock step the whole time to make sure we had the skills and everyone was comfortable. I know that the next open lab students will work at their own pace. We will finish this project up where they work on their own with built in check points and then we will move on to the next project(it is a secret until next lab).

No major injuries and for two hours we had kids working hard and very focused. I am so excited to see what these kids will create as we continue to give them challenges and skills to go with them.

You can access more photos here

The next lab I plan on recording everything with my Google Glass to give everyone a glimpse of the lab. I look forward to working with them again in two weeks.

If you are interested in learning more please reach out to me. I am learning just as much as the kids and love to share what we are doing. The philosophy is to build everything we use so they understand how things work. More importantly hopefully this class inspires a movement to get more of this into the regular school day.


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Africa Story Part 2: School Supplies Are Heading To Uganda

Yesterday, we delivered on our promise. It has been a long journey, but one very important and exciting one that will continue to develop and grow stronger over time.

Over a year ago we established connection with a village in Uganda, Africa. We collaborated on a project comparing what success means between students and have worked to provide school supplies to the village. As we worked to make this happen we have joined forces with Pencils of Promise in hopes of raising enough money to build a school. We have a long way to go and so far not made much progress.

However, we made huge progress in finally getting supplies to the village in Uganda.

The goal of this project is to help students think about others, care about others, and do good deeds to inspire more positive actions among one another.

Since our last post updating everyone with our friends in Uganda, I want to continue the story with the result being the supplies heading to Africa as we speak.

May 2014 

If we go back to May/June and the end of our school year we did a school wide locker cleanout which every school probably does. What we did differently this year is ask that any decent supplies not used or not in terrible condition be donated to gathering school supplies for our friends in Uganda and hopefully to other areas in need. I could not believe how many supplies we were given. It was both amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. Amazing in that we have so much supplies to help others in need. Heartbreaking that many students don’t care about the supplies and would just toss them out and not think twice, or worse yet were not used to enhance their learning.

Regardless, we have over 500 lbs of supplies

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June and July

Not much was done due to summer break. I did not want to move things forward because that would be me doing the work and not students. During this time I worked to contact other organizations, try to develop a plan to expand our work, and from new connections and ideas.

It was during this time that I decided to jump on board with Pencils of Promise. I was meeting with many people about creating my own platform, but with a full time job, kids, coaching, etc. I needed to join a cause. Pencils of Promise was a perfect fit as you can read about on the Build a Schools page.

During this time I connected with the amazing people who have helped so much – Eddy and Eden. I learned from Eddy that

Towards the end of January Eddy shared with me that the cool rains were returning. I asked him what that means for the people and how it affects life.

Eddy shared with me the following which I found quite fascinating:

Rain can affects life, here in Uganda in such away that , 
 Weather always changes to be cool and many fall sick closes changes to wetter 
 Heavy rains accompanied by storms normally destroy crops and affect harvest 
 Mountainous places experience landslides eg eastern Uganda 
 Heavy storms destroy crops 
 Heavy winds in rain always makes people homeless by destroying roofs of houses
 Floods normally displace people who are at lower places such as swamps and when rain destroy electric poles and they fall it affect the production of goods in factories 

Here is Iowa we love rain to help crops, cool off the temps, etc. Rains don’t affect us like they can in Uganda. It was another reminder of how important it is that we understand other cultures, landscapes, and people. It further fueled my drive to help the kids and to provide them materials to help with education.


School started back up. I shared with the staff the goals for the year. I updated them on all the supplies. During this time I had two teachers help with packaging. They took on the task of organizing, sorting, and putting together the care packages. While they were working assembling I finally connect with the headmaster via email. This has been a long time coming and was so happy to finally connect. Communication is vital, but not as easy as one might think. We are oblivious to easy communication with email, texts, and social media, but when you move beyond your circle to areas that are not as quick to communicate with it can be tricky.

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I received the address of the headmaster. I learned that the phone number is the most important part of the address because many people don’t have a usable address. Eden informed me that the post office will call them and let them know that a package has arrived. This is important and to be honest something I am bit scared of as I don’t think I wrote the phone number on the label. My fingers are crossed that it arrives safely. The package will arrive in Entebbe which is close to the international airport. From there, the headmaster will travel about 8 hours to arrive at the school.
The most important part of the address is the phone number. People don’t have a usable address per se, the post office calls them on their phone and tells them to pick items up. Entebbe is near the international airport so they should arrive with him within 10 days of sending.
We bundled the packages for 20 students. They will have to show good grades and hard work to earn the materials. These are not free handouts. We want to reward those who are working hard. Through our communication we have learned that the students in Uganda all have one pencil or one pen, no more and no less. If the pen runs out they buy another one, but not before. The model of ecological. Stationary awards would be like winning a competition for the winning students.
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September 8th we mailed the package. It was a bit under 30lbs and the cost to ship these school supplies from Bettendorf, Iowa to Uganda, Africa was $190. I paid for this out of pocket because I believe in the cause. We have not raised money. I have sold some books to help with the cost, but we need more. We have more supplies and we have more schools in need. In order to help we need more funds. Please check the Build a School page. I am currently selling books to help. We are taking donations as well as getting ready to sell more books. We want to help and we need your help to make it happen.
This has been the most inspiring thing I have done. More kids need to be exposed to this type of work. We need to learn from others. Every culture has something to offer and what I learn from Uganda is the power of family, working together, and not taking things for granted. These are skills that we can all learn here in America.
I will update as soon as I hear word of the package arriving. Until then we will work to establish our next school supply drop and how to raise money to send the next box.


Africa Story: Part 1

Images of the kids packing the supplies

Build a School

Books for Sale


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#YEOT – Soldering Project 1: Adjustable Power Supply

In our YEOT (Young Engineers of Today) program that we are running we are teaching students the basics of soldering(videos and tips coming soon). Once we have them exposed to techniques of soldering we provide the students with the challenge of their first project of soldering together an adjustable power supply kit from Adafruit(link below). Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 2.52.18 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 2.52.52 PM

Adjustable breadboard power supply kit

We chose this project because it will force them to learn how to solder small spaces, but not being too difficult. Additionally, the students can then use this device for their other projects along the way. Below is the series of videos I shot with my Google Glass to help you follow the instructions on the Adafruit site. I shot these videos to help those who like video as well as working on improvements of my skill for Google Glass video.


If you are interested in YEOT and how to join or start up YEOT at your school contact me for more information. Check out my page to learn more


Here are the videos along with my journey to make it work.

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3 Key Components to a Powerhouse Staff and School

School is underway. The first few days are so critical in establishing norms, setting the culture of the building for learning, ensuring safety, and developing a routine for the rest of the  school year. These ideas are nothing short of new, but as we move into our second week of school I realized that we are off to one of the best starts to the school year yet. I had to stop and ask, “Why?”

Here is what I came up with as the reasons for a great start which permeates to a culture of deeper learning and a place students want to be. I am proud to say that our building has the components to make these ideas happen.

1. Losing the fear of failure – As we move to a project based learning model of learning as it fits into the scope of deeper learning we have learned that we have to overcome our fear of mistakes and failure. Many of us will tell others that we are not afraid of failing, but then we never venture too far out of our comfort zones.

Last year many teachers took the plunge to try new things. Some worked and some failed. Some made small mistakes while others made big mistakes. In the end you could feel the pulse of the building change. Learning looked different. Learning was more integrated, more immersive, and more powerful. We still had teachers not make much change, but that is to be expected. When change happens, not everyone is going to embrace it with loving arms. It takes time and we have to keep working to move beyond our comfort zones.

This year we have more teachers really revving their engines. We spent a great amount of in service developing high quality projects. Teachers were collaborating, modifying ideas, critiquing in a good way their ideas, really working hard to develop a learning opportunity that would be both meaningful and impactful. I felt that despite the usual pre school year jitters more teachers than ever before were ready to rock and roll and let things take their course.

This mindset leads to the second key point of

2. Leaving your ego behind – As educators we have to do things we sometimes don’t want to do. There is the paperwork, meetings, and all the other jargon that comes with the job. But, there is another element that I want to address. It is doing things that make us uncomfortable……. in a good way.

This summer we had some teachers really step up to the plate and organize a great kickoff to our school year. They organized a flash mob dance routine to be done by our staff during our all school(1100 kids) assembly where we cover rules for the building. Instead of drilling them forever on rules and expectations we cut it short and a few minutes into the assembly the music pumped through the speakers and most of the staff headed to the dance floor to dance. We had to embarrass ourselves. Some were grooving. People like me tried their best, but smiled and enjoyed the moment. It was a good visual for kids to realize that we have to go for it. We have to try new things. We have to once again move outside of our comfort zones. Instead of threats we started the year off with some fun. Teachers were giving up free time to laugh together, learn how to do the dance and in the end make a fool of themselves. What was more important than the actual dance moves was the amount of staff who danced. It was a powerful visual to students that we are all in this together.

From there we had teachers dressing up in costume and doing a variety of kick off activities to emphasize teamwork, respect, treating others fairly, and developing the pride in what we do all day every day. It was awesome! It was so good to see a great start to the year and done in a way to let students know what we are about how learning will take place this year.

This whole idea leads me to my third point

3. Teacher Need to Be Leaders – The most important element to a successful staff and school are teacher leaders. I am not talking about appointed positions. I am not talking about those one or two people who take on so many leadership roles. I am talking about all teachers stepping up to be leaders when it is their time to shine.

What I want to refer to is the whole staff. This year we have already witnessed new faces step up and lead in their own capacities. Schools and staff need more of this. Every single educator has the skills and abilities to lead when it is their turn to go. Often we just wait for one or two people to step up. Don’t wait. Make things happen. Schools need more educators to step up and lead. I firmly believe that once more educators step up to lead then it is just a trickle down effect and next thing you know it is okay and the norm to step up and take control from time to time. I love how teachers stepped up and organized the flash mob. They made it happen. I love it how another teacher dressed up as a pirate to kick things off. What will happen next? I don’t know, but I cannot wait to see who the next person is to rise to the occasion.

It is not about being better than someone else, but being different and ourselves so that the school has a culture of learning and the freedom to explore paths to discover who we are and what we want to be. We have to lead by examples and strive to challenge ourselves so we are not stuck in a rut.

I hope your school year is off to a great start as well.



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Help Purge the Education Landscape of Terrible Games!

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What video games have you played as a student to enhance your learning experience?

Do you have any? Can you remember?

We need to hear from you and soon!

To make a long story short, I connected with a person who is working with the US Dept. of Education. He is helping with a project with the U.S. Dept of Ed to purge terrible learning games from education an replace them with epic ones instead. We need student voice and voices of any who has insight that could help us out.

Here is what we are seeking

1. What are the issues, skills, ideas or topics you think a video game could convey well that traditional education is lame or ineffective at teaching?

2. What kind of game would you want to see in the classroom?

At this point the ideas don’t have to be on a massive scale. We just need feedback that will allow us to work to create quality gaming.

Be sure to include the names of any games that you played. Please provide more than just that the game sucked. We need reasons why. We need to know what YOU think would create that excellent platform.

We need to hear from you soon. Deadline is very close.

Please spread the word, share this post, share the video. The more voices we hear the better the results will be.

When I hear any updates on where things are heading after this step I will be sure to share!

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My 3 favorite online sites that nobody ever talks about in education

There are three websites that I use quite a bit that are rarely ever discussed in education. I wanted to take time to share them because I think that they can be valuable tools for other educators to gain insight and find answers to questions. If you use these tools I would love to hear from you about how they have helped you. If you use other sites that are rarely discussed I would love to hear about them as well!

1. Quora – This is a great website that I use to pose questions when seeking answers to ideas in my head for either life in general or education. Quora is basically a question and answer website which is nothing new. What I like about this site is that I can track my own questions and most of the time I receive valuable feedback. Many times the feedback are answers that I don’t receive from Twitter or other spaces. The population of users are much different or at least it seems that way.

The other way I use this site is to find inspiration in other questions people have posted. I will follow key questions and use that as a way to learn more. Additionally, I try on the weekend to take time and answer questions to be helpful in returning the favor for those that help me out.

To test this site out I have posed a question for you to answer. Go ahead and give it a try.

2. Hugdug – This is not so much of a tool, but a site I came across because of Seth Godin. I am an avid of his and this is one of his projects where basically you submit reviews of anything and as people read, view, and potentially buy the product the money will then go to charity. It is a great site and one that I make sure to post all my book reviews to as I finish them up. You can see some of my posts. (feel free to support my reviews!)I like the layout. I like how there is a bit of randomness to it. I like that I could potentially help out a charity by sharing my opinions. I have been using this site for a few weeks and will continue to do so. A great way to feel good about yourself without having to do a bunch of extra work.

3. Reddit – is another social network platform that allows you to post questions, share content, collaborate, and more. What I like about Reddit is the simplicity. I don’t go to this site all the time, but when I do I become consumed in the content and waste hours. I love when celebrities or famous people do Q and A sessions and you can ask questions and follow along. I have started to post some content on here, but am more of a lurker at this point.

This tool could really help educators find content or answers to items they need help with. I think it is important to branch out of the education world for input to receive a diverse perspective on things.

Go ahead and test it out by asking me a question or posting a comment here


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