Friday, December 20, 2019

Article Commentary: Engineering the Future

While doing some research on STEM Labs and Makerspaces, I found an interesting article that was published recently. The article brought up a lot of major points, but I also feel like its lacking explanations and glosses over some important issues.

"When my daughters and their peers enter the workforce in 10 years, the global economy will be even more competitive, automated and technology-driven than it is today.

Image Source:
The global economy is definitely changing on a daily basis. We all know that jobs tomorrow haven't even been invented today. This is why we need to prepare our students for the real world and not for standardized tests. This is one of the reasons I am such a supporter of the Maker Movement (although I hate calling it that). When we give our students real world problems, or let them decide the problem to solve, they will learn skills that can't be taught through a textbook.

In terms of new jobs, I've seen job titles such as "Innovation Director" and "Chief Learning Officer" among those of educators that have left the classroom and taken on a coaching role. Even these simple changes of mindset can have an impact.

"Schools can't keep pace with how quickly technology is changing."
No ones fault specifically, but a product of the process. When schools learn of new technology, they must first research that technology and make sure it will have a positive impact on the students. If a school was to just buy every shiny new toy, the budget would be gone before Labor Day. The problem however is that some of the decision makers will spend so much time learning about a new technology that by the time they purchase it for the school, it's outdated. This leads to the "we already bought it, so you'd better use it" mentality that forces teachers to get creative.

"Content knowledge skills are relatively easy to learn, standardize and assess. This means they're also easy to automate."
Image Source: Make a Meme
This may be true but there's more to it. Content knowledge creates a foundation that students need but is being skipped over in may classrooms. When I was teaching middle school math, I had students that couldn't multiply double digits without a calculator. When I spent time helping them with these basic skills, I was told be an administrator that the students have calculators and I needed to move past it so they could be ready for standardized testing.

I understand the importance of standardized testing. In Pennsylvania, my ranking as a teacher was impacted on the scores of my students, but I still saw the importance of basic skills. Yes, we all have calculators on our phones, but quick math shouldn't require one. Additionally, when students rely so much on technology they aren't able to recognize extremely wrong answers.

Cited Source:
Chklovski, Tara. “Prioritizing STEM and Coding Won't Fill One of the Biggest Gaps in Education.” Quartz, Quartz, 25 Nov. 2019,

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Ed Tech Chef

Have you ever watched a cooking show? They're full of creativity, quick thinking, and sometimes a little messy. It is with that in mind that I created EdTech Chef as a professional development activity as part of my E2 application. I am please to share this with you and can't wait to use it during an upcoming workshop that I will be running.

Source: azquotes
The premise of this three hour workshop is that teachers will be given their secret ingredient (topic) and then work in groups to create a 3-course meal consisting of a hook, main lesson, and closer.

A vocabulary list has been created to associate the school setting with a kitchen. If you want to have even more fun with your staff, have them wear paper chef hats during the activity.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

NY Google Energizer 2019

All the Google for Education Certified
Innovators that attended the NY Energizer.
I love attending events hosted by Google because I know it'll be non-stop inspiration from the moment I walk in until the moment I leave. The first piece of inspiration I got during the graduation ceremony was a reminder that someday is not on the calendar. Stop saying "I'll do it someday, do it today." This was followed by the newest cohort of Innovators sharing their ideas and goals. So many amazing ideas were shared and I can't wait to see this group of Innovators bring their projects to life over the next year.

A GTAATX reunion.
Saturday morning, I returned to Google's office for the Energizer. After an amazing icebreaker game and "speed dating", we sat down as a group to listen to some Googlers talk about upcoming updates to G Suite (sorry, I signed a NDA) and then we broke into smaller groups.

I went to a session on podcasting and learned some interesting things about getting started and best practices. I also hosted a session on crowd-sourcing your classroom where I shared resources for finding funds. I'm sure you all know my favorite is, but I also shared other websites and companies.

After some more full group activities, we moved the festivities over to a local arcade where we had dinner and fun. While I may not be any good at modern games such as Fortnite and Overwatch, I am still the queen of Tetris. The vintage games at the place had so much nostalgia and I was sad when the evening was over.

The original eSports... Tetris.

The Educational Side of Comic Con

Star Trek transporter.
Last week, I attended a small event in New York that you may have heard of before. New York Comic Con. I was fortunate to receive a "professional" pass as an educator which allowed me to attend the entire four day event for a lower cost. I only attended Thursday and Friday because of another event in NY that I planned to attend, but I got tons out of the weekend.

Go to and
sign the petition.
NYCC hosts a special series of panels on the opening day (Thursday) at the New York Public Library for educators. Unfortunately, the earliest ride I could get from Philly was too late because these panels are in the morning and fill up quickly. Next year, I plan to go Wednesday night so I'm there bright and early on Thursday morning for the library sessions. Titles like "Turns Out They Don't Rot Your Brain: The Study of Graphic Literature" and "How Spider-Man Taught Me My First Physics Lesson" demonstrate the type of panels that are geared for teachers.

When I arrived at the Javits Center I was blown away by the crowds. I thought Thursday was the slow day (hint: it was) and I still waited over an hour to take a trip on the transporter. The actual experience lasted thirty seconds and included four scenes.

Gwen and I are both
After Star Trek, I headed to the expo hall where I walked around. The section I spent the most time in was the publishers because they were giving out advanced reader copies of books and I was hoping to see some of my favorite authors. I tweeted multiple times, but never got lucky enough to see Felcia Day, author of You're Never Weird on the Internet. I did see her talk on the stage but I missed her book signing.

I also met some really cool librarians that explained why I normally have to wait a few weeks for eBooks from the library. Publishers limit the number of licenses that libraries can purchase. (PSA: Go to and sign the petition.)

On Friday, I went back to Comic Con to hang out with my friend since Daisies, Gwen. We walked around the expo hall again and bought a few beautiful pieces of art for her daughter's bedroom. After taking a nap on The Good Place's couch, I said goodbye to Gwen and Comic Con as I headed for my second reason of being in NY for the weekend, the latest Google for Education Certified Innovator's graduation ceremony followed by a full day of Google goodness at the Google for Education Energizer.
A quick nap on the
Good Place couch.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Makey Makey Lets You Make Things

alligator clips attached to a hand drawing of music notes on a staff attached to a makeymakey
Pencil piano
This weekend I drove up to State College, home of the Nittany Lions to attend a "Train the Trainer" event sponsored by PAECT. At this event, we learned about Makey Makey from their VP of education.

a group of six teacher holding hands to create a circuit and play piano
Group circuit. How many people
can you connect?
The training was a full day of activities for us to see how Makey Makey can be used in the classrooms. We will then turn around and provide trainings to different educators from around the state.

The first activity of the day was to test the conductivity of different materials. It seems that Play-Doh is conductive and so is pencil led. I don't think I ever realized how many everyday products are conductive.

One idea we were shown was when a teacher selects a new game each week and has the students design a controller that will create the "natural" movements for the game while functioning as a switch to complete the circuit.

I'm posing for a picture in front of the nittany lion statue.
When in State College, you need a
picture with the Nittany Lion.
Some pieces of advice we got:

  • Avoid dollar store foil because it rips easily and is hard to manipulate.
  • Aluminum Foil Tape is conductive and lasts longer than copper tape.
  • Find "busy work" when the students are given time to create. This will force you as the teacher/trainer not to help solve the problem.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Real World Examples of Re-inventing the Wheel

Source: Pinterest
There is a meme that circulates every once in a while that I love showing to students. I've seen the quote with a variety of backgrounds, but basically it says "If anyone ever tells you your dreams are silly. Remember there's some millionaire walking around who invented the pool noodle." Some quick research however will show you that the pool noodle wasn't the actual invention, but a guy who found a new use for an old product. Steve Hartman saw tons of foam rods for insulation lying around his company and decided to add some color. He marketed it as a pool toy and after some hard work, we all know what a pool noodle is.
Source: Pinterest

Another great story of marketing belongs to a grocery store staple. That's right, carrots. Remember the old days when we had to peel and cut our root vegetables before eating them? In 1989, Mike Yurosek had an idea to reduce waste. It seems that the less-than perfect carrots were being trashed. Yurosek started peeling and cutting those less than perfect carrots and marketing the ready to eat pieces as "baby carrots". He not only cornered the aisle at the grocery store, he also helped reduce waste.

These are just two of the quick antidotes I tell students during entrepreneur lessons. Each story shows how it's not necessarily a brand new idea that will take off, but a combination of having the idea and learning how to market it.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

2019/2020 Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Fellow

It is with great pride that I add another badge to my evergrowing sidebar here on the blog. This past week, I was recognized as a MIE Fellow for 2019/2020. This is very exciting because while I submitted my application last month, I didn't accept to actually receive the honor of leading my fellow MIE Experts. Cohort 9 (PA, VA, WV, and NC) has such amazing educators that I assumed one or two of them would be selected. Each cohort has between two and three fellows to lead the region's MIE Experts. This year, I am joining the two fellows from last year to become a team of three. 

As a MIE Fellow, I have been invited to the US MIE Expert & Showcase School Leader Summit in Redmond, WA this January. If you are unaware, that's the home of Microsoft's headquarters. I can't wait to see what this year as a Fellow brings. I have already reached out to my fellow Fellows to see about organizing some professional developments and events.

Becoming a fellow has also motivated me to organize a potential panel for ISTE 2020. I have also reached out to the MIE Expert and Google for Education Certified Innovators to create a panel called "Best of Both Worlds" which has so far had amazing feedback. I didn't even realize how many of us are involved with both programs.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

TED Masterclass at Google NYC

Such a cute photo opp.
Another visit to a Google office, and another blog post. This time, I journeyed the long route of the New Jersey Turnpike via Megabus to attend a TED Masterclass. This workshop was organized so that those of us participating in the Masterclass were able to get feedback about our ideas and help shape future TED talks. That's right, I'm working on a talk for TED. Don't panic yet though, they're only going to post the best ones on YouTube and only one or two participants will be invited to the main TED stage.

Photobooth fun
When I arrived at Google, there were already a few Innovators waiting in the lobby. We took advantage of the amazing scenery to capture some pictures to begin the day. They even had a photobooth with a corkboard to share your images. The photobooth printed two copies each time so you had one to take home.

Once we settled into our room for the day, we were greeted by the education team for TED. Starting with some ice breakers, even though some of us already knew each other, we meet tons of new people as well. We talked about our inspiration to become teachers and struggles we face in the role.

The entire group.
One teacher discussed how his accent is something he's proud of but that he often worries for his children to be growing up "different" from their peers. They originated from Puerto Rico and moved to NY a few years ago when his children were still very young. Another teacher, also from NY, spoke about how teaching is his second career and he began as a talent agent. Before the me too movement, he was tired of being part of the system and changed careers.

Throughout the day, the discussions were designed to help us create a theme for our own TED talks. We listened to each other, made suggestions, and even helped point out ideas the other person might not have considered. The teacher from Puerto Rico told us a beautiful story about how moving here separated his children from their support system back home because family is very important; they still have their mother and father, but no longer have their grandparents, aunts and uncles nearby.

Google for Education Certified Innovator and TED signs in front of room.
Ready to start, after many reunions.
You might be wondering what theme I've selected to work on fine tuning for my TED talk. Well, it's still in the really early rough stages, but I decided to theme my talk around reluctant learners. My personal connection to this topic is my many failed attempts to get healthy before, finally, in my thirty's I was successful with a plan that helped me get physically healthy. I'm still working on the emotional side.

Just as I needed to be ready to get healthy myself, our students can't be forced into doing something until they're ready. Additionally, the type of encouragement you provide them can make an impact. Want to hear more? I promise to share my TED Talk when it's all finished. For now, I'll leave you with this beautiful picture of the NY skyline from Google's balcony.

View from one of the office's balcony.

Friday, August 2, 2019 Is A Teacher's Best Friend logoIf you're like me, you're always looking for ways to fund exciting new lessons for your students, buy basic supplies for the classroom, or fund your own professional development.

Since 2014, I have raised over $10,000 for a variety of projects using Some failed to reach the finish line but over all I've had ten projects for my classrooms and five projects for professional development funded.

This back to school season (August 2019), is giving you another reason to stop procrastinating. From August 18th until August 25th, any new teacher that creates an account AND posts their first project will get a $50 donation. I'm personally going to add to that. If you use my ambassador referral link ( to sign up, I'll give you back your referral credit towards your project.

So how do you get started? Here's the process broken down into seven steps. If you need help, reach out to me via email or Twitter. I'm here to help because when you succeed, your students succeed.
  1. Sign-up and fill in your profile. You'll need to select your school.
    • Donors can search by general location, school, or teacher.
    • All funded projects are required to be shipped to schools for accountability.
  2. Check for promotions.
    • There are constantly promotions being offered by a variety of charitable organizations. Always start here because you never know if there are special words that will help you raise funds faster. 
      • Example: If you're buying a 3D printer for a Makerspace, there might be a promotion for STEM but you're required to select "Applied Science" as your category instead of "General Science" or "Art". Same project but a different classification can make all the difference.
  3. Go Shopping.
    • No seriously, go shopping. Select one of the approved vendors and add items to your cart. When you "check out" it'll bring you back to
    • Try to keep your request under $500 for the first time. There is a $100 minimum so keep that in mind.
    • Need something special that you can't find through a vendor, you can make a special request.
      • If you're planning a trip, guest speaker, etc. you can upload price quotes.
  4. Write your rationale.
    • Be honest. How will the requested items help your students and the classroom. Be sure to check your spelling and grammar. Once it's posted, you can't edit the request.
  5. Promote.
    • Post on social media
    • Include a link in your class newsletter
  6. Watch the funds come in.
    • You may need to continue promoting your project a few times.
    • Remember to thank each donor. You can reply to the "you received a donation" email to make it easy.
  7. Receive your project and make sure to follow-up.
    • This last step is just as important as the rest. After you receive your project, make sure you follow the steps to close it out.
      • Post pictures so they know it reached the students (block student faces or take the back of heads)
      • Send student thank you letters if required (I make it extra credit)
      • Write an impact statement.
If you need help, send me an email or look me up on Twitter. Good luck!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Does SAMR Truly Exist or is it the Still a Theory to Explore?

I am about to write down my views on a buzz term in education. Please remember that this blog post is my personal feelings on the matter and may be different than your own. That's alright. In fact, that's the fun part of education pedagogy. It's always changing/improving. 

Image Source: Wikimedia
The concept of SAMR has been around for a few years now and there are tons of articles, workshops, and conferences focusing on bringing classrooms into the future with modification and redefinition. SAMR is a great way to help hesitant teachers see the benefits of technology in their classrooms. It shows that even small steps can make a huge impact on student learning.

Even the most experienced and mimicked teachers will climb up and down the SAMR ladder to meet different students and goals. Sometimes, substitution is required at the beginning of a new unit and there's nothing wrong with that. Other times, teachers will give the students a vague(ish) task and send them off on their own to collaborate, explore, and determine the best method themselves.

Most teachers start with the S, Substitution. Instead of photocopying worksheets, share them as a Google Doc and let students complete them on a computer. Is this changing the lesson at all? No. Is it changing the delivery? Yes. Therefore, it's substitution at it's simplest form.

One small level up from substitution is A, Augmentation. This is where teachers can start exploring making small changes to their substitutions. A good example of augmentation would be for counting money. Students can copy and paste an infinite number of images of bills and coins to represent values, rather that literally cut and paste photocopied money on paper. This slightly changing the assignment from the original paper version.

When we move to the next level M, Modification, we really start to see changes in the student's learning. Perhaps instead of having students write a research paper, they can create a multi-media presentation including video and music. Modification is where I feel many classrooms are currently located.

To me, R, Redefinition is the great white whale. Is it there? Yes. Will it happen eventually? Yes. Are we there yet? No. Every time I see someone give an example of redefinition, I think to myself that it sound almost identical to modification. A simple example of this where people might say "but we couldn't do that before" is 3D printing. Sure, students couldn't load a computer generated model and print it before but they could still make 3D models using tools such as cardboard and duct tape.

Image Source: IMG Flip Meme Generator
To clarify, I'm not saying that SAMR is a bad thing. On the contrary, I think it's a great concept and a simple way to demonstrate the path technology is taking our classrooms. I'm just saying parts of it are still being explored and redefined. As technology improves, as teachers collaborate, redefinition continues to move farther out. It's that goal that keeps getting pushed slightly farther away.