Thursday, October 29, 2015


In the past 9 months, my school has been fortunate enough to gain access to many different tools and opportunities including  Sphero balls, a makeymakey, 3D printers, Osmo, littleBits, and Snap Circuits.  No, there is no endless budget that I am allotted.

We have gained these tools by me simply asking.

I felt passionate that these items would enhance the learning opportunities at Brooklyn, so I asked.  I had nothing to lose.

My journey all started with Karie Huttner and a Discovery Education PD day.  Karie introduced me to 3D printing and how she was using it with her students.  I was so intrigued.  Then, I went to EdCamp Madison and learned that there was a company called Printrbot with an ambassador program that allowed a school to gain a 3D printer for $400!

At the same time, I wrote a grant to the Oregon Education Foundation for $1800 to get a Cube printer package.  After this was granted, I inquired with our PTO about investing in the $400 printrbot also.  If you know anything about 3D printing, it takes some time to print your product. So, having more than one could be handy. :)

I had one Sphero ball, purchased by my technology director, Jon Tanner.  I thought that it had great potential for coding and classroom use.  So, I also put a class set (12) on the PTO wishlist.  Our PTO is so generous.  They granted both requests.

So, it's February/March and I have now been granted two 3D printers and a fleet of Sphero balls!  WooHoo!  How was I going to start sharing these with students??

That is where coding club came in.  One lunch recess every week, I offered time for 3rd and 4th graders to come down to the lab and explore.  They were hooked!  We played tag and drove obstacle courses with the Sphero balls, learned about the x,y, and z axis while creating our own 3D creations, and just enjoyed coding! When this year began, I had many students asking when coding club was going to start back up.  I am excited to know that they enjoy it so much!

This summer, I read a great book on Makerspaces, given to me by Naomi Harm.  Worlds of Making: Best Practice for Establishing a Makerspace at your School by Laura Fleming is a quick, inspiring read.  I was so inspired, that I decided to give Donor's Choose a shot.  I did a Donor's Choose page for 4 sets of littleBits.  I thought adding a littleBits bar to our growing makerspace would be vital.  My page sat for awhile and a few of my friends donated a bit.  I wasn't sure that it was going to be funded, and I was ok with that.  All of a sudden, I got an email that a wonderful donor had donated the rest of the money and I got to order some littleBits for Brooklyn!

I was pretty excited about the littleBits, however, I was also waiting on a grant that I wrote in May to the Technology Education Foundation (Berbee Derby).  September came and went.  I kept checking my spam, just in case an email from them had gotten lost.  During the time, I had already had several rejections from other grants I had written, so I was just waiting...

One morning, I checked my mailbox and found a letter from TEC.  The rejection!  I was feeling pretty bummed, but when I opened them envelope, to my surprise, a check for $2000.00 fell out!  Brooklyn is getting 3D pens!  Thank you Berbee Derby/Technology Education Foundation! My request was for 3D doodlers, however, they don't recommend those for students under 14.  So, I did some research and found the Creopop pen which works with UV light and is much safer for my learners.  The order has been placed and I eagerly await their arrival!

Today, I just found out that we will also be getting Dash and Dot for our makerspace.  Funded graciously by our Brooklyn PTO. :)

This is not a journey that I have traveled alone.  I have had so many great people inspire and support me.  I am also lucky to work in an environment that is supportive of innovation and the flexibility to allow our students to explore and learn in different ways.

If there is anything that I can take away from the past few months, it would be -don't be afraid to ask.  The worst answer would be no, but , what if the answer is yes?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sphero Chariot Challenge

Last year, I pulled some small groups of 4th grade students and gave them a challenge using the Sphero, GoPro and some Legos.  I didn't have a lot of structure to the challenge.  I was really just curious to see what they would create.  They were amazing and didn't disappoint.
So, this year, I am going to make this a part of our coding club too!  I created a document with the basic structure and three different challenge levels.
I can't wait to see what they design. 
 These creative minds always amaze me!

Energy Explosion!

I have been working on activities to offer during my coding club, other than coding.  My club started with just coding and has quickly evolved to anything that includes THINKING!  I tried this with a 4th grade class yesterday.  They struggled.  It was good!  We ran out of time before anyone got anything going.  They were asking for more!  I can't wait to pull this out in two weeks at club.  I think we will have some amazing explosions going on!  Transparent learning about energy.  Problem solving and thinking, a bonus!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Let the Computer Science and Coding Begin!

This year at Brooklyn Elementary, I will be put into the specials schedule on Fridays to teach 3rd and 4th graders computer science.  This is a "pilot" of sorts and I have high hopes for something like this to spread to the other elementary buildings and up through our 12th grade.

I am also working with the Advanced Learners this year at Brooklyn on Thursday mornings.  I will see a small group of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders and work with them on coding and computational thinking.

The 2nd graders logged into their chromebooks for the first time on Thursday and they were very excited!  I will have them start by logging into next time and beginning Course 2.

The 3rd graders began the Storytelling theme in CS-First.  The first lesson is an introduction on how to work between the two tabs, CS-First and Scratch, and take a survey about what they know.

The 4th graders started the Art theme in CS-First and they were very excited to get going as they did a bit of CS-First last year!

On Friday, I saw one 3rd grade class and one 4th grade class.  Both classes got logged into the network computers and then logged into Google Classroom.  This is new learning for them, as they are used to just logging into Chromebooks.  2-step verification is a bit different and challenging since they have to type their email address and then again type their username and password.

Once they got in, we went to and got logged in.  I started the 3rd graders on Course 3 and the 4th graders began the Accelerated Course.

The current 4th graders had exposure to coding last year and I am confident they are ready to take on a faster paced course.  There are always exceptions, and I am open to students moving to course 4 if they feel it's a better fit for them.

During Computer Science, I also hope to introduce some of the items we use during Coding Club, which will be starting in October. (More on that later.)
This time, I introduced the students to the Sphero balls that we have.  Our generous PTO donated a class set for use to use (12) last year.  We discussed the difference between Bluetooth and infrared technologies and then I demonstrated how to pair the Sphero with the iPad.  I took this time to lay out my expectations for this device.  The 3rd graders should all get a chance to drive the Sphero around, check out it's capabilities, play tag, and just discover.  The 4th graders should be moving from the driving (tag) apps to the coding apps since they had last year to discover the basics.   Tickle and SPRK are the apps we will begin to explore.  These apps are fairly new and allow students to code the path for their Sphero.   They also use Blockly coding, which is what and Scratch use, so the format should be familiar to them.

I am excited to work with the students and watch them discover, play, and problem solve this year!
Rock the Code!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Every Voice Matters Blogging Challenge


Kasey Bell is challenging us to blog and share our voice.  No matter how much I fumble with my words, I am going to try.
I am going to work on doing more blogging this school year and I have chosen to start a bit before I take vacation.  Vacation - isn't that what teachers have from June through August?  Ha!  I have been working since school got out and I am loving it!  I have worked with some spectacular educators during the Oregon Personalized Learning Symposium and Oregon Literacy Academy.  My incredible literacy coach and I are doing some curriclum work to get her resource site for our teachers up and running! I also work for Innovative Educator Consulting over the summer.  I get to travel, meet many educators and spend time with Tim and Naomi!
As I prepare to teach with IEC in Madison tomorrow, I find myself encompassed in Google today!
Computational Thinking for Educators Starts July 15 and it's FREE! 
 and are also starting in July!
So many Google Opportunities.  I have been thinking about trying for a Google Trainer certification this year.  We shall see where the year takes me!
On the student side, I have taught summer school pretty much every year since I began teaching in 1994.  This year, it's Rock the Code II and I have tried to integrate some makerspace/STEM ideas in along with computational and creative thinking!  We have used all our coding resources, plus created bristlebots, LED bracelets,  and vibrating bugs.  Students also have the choice to explore Sphero, MakeyMakey, Legos, marble runs, robot building, and a HotWheels creation station!  I am co-teaching this class with my fabulous colleague Mariah and it has been so much fun!
As this week ends, I transition to vacation.  One week of appointments, one week at Couples in Negril, Jamaica, and one week of just FUN!  #unplugged
Then, it's August and football practice, new teacher and para training, catch up on my Google Computational Thinking class and a training in Portage and Big Foot with IEC is upon me.
Happy Summer to you all!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Digital Citzen Toolkit

During the month of February, I will be doing a Digital Citizen Toolkit lesson with third and fourth grade students at Brooklyn.
I will be using a Google presentation and props to have students think about ways they need to be responsible digital citizens.  Each student will also receive a "mini" book of the presentation as a reminder of what we discussed.  This idea was adapted from a post by Craig Badura.

The props include:

Packet of seeds - A reminder that you are beginning a digital journey and you will want to make good choices along the way to grow and have a positive digital presence.

Mirror - While online, if you looked into the mirror and saw someone's (mom or dad?) reflection, would they approve of what you were writing? 

Bar of soap - Remember to keep it clean.  No bad words or bullying.  Stay on sites that are age appropriate.

Strainer - Learn to be a smart searcher and strain through all the information online.

Journal - Imagine everything you do online in a journal.  Would you be alright with anyone in the world reading/seeing it?

Extension Cord -  It's ok to unplug and not be on a device.  Go outside and play.  Be a kid!

Crumpled heart - Before you type, think and be smart, it's hard to fix, a cyberbullied heart.  You can always apologize, but the victim of cyberbullying will never forget how they felt.

Magnifying Glass - You used to meet people for the first time in person.  Now, you can just google them to get an idea of who they are.  Remember the packet of seeds and make sure you are growing a positive digital presence.

Bandaid - When I was young, our mistakes were easily fixed and forgotten.  In the digital age, mistakes made online are permanent.   Use the other tools in this toolbox so you avoid making big digital mistakes.

Foot - A footprint in the sand is washed away by water.  The digital footprint you build is permanent.  Think before you post.  "How will this reflect me?"

Be a responsible digital citizen!  The world depends on you.  You matter!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Brooklyn Coding Club

This week marks the 3rd week of Brooklyn Coding Club!  It has been going GREAT!  

The student coders have been exploring Tynker and The Foo's while also going back to their favorites like Kodable and

I also have several students exploring AppInventor and CS-First using Scratch. 

During this last meeting, we also explored the Sphero.  We only have one ball, so there was only time for 10 students to drive it, but will keep exploring the possibilities each week.  I am working on an obstacle course for the Sphero and hope to add that to our club.

Friday, October 3, 2014

You Matter!

Recently, I came across this video from Angela Maiers as I was preparing some material for Genius Hour. To some, it may seem kind of corny, but to me, it really hits home. I think it is really important to teach our students to be creative and to embrace the gifts that they were given. The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same. So, let's celebrate our differences! 


Choose to Matter

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Integrating Discovery Education Resources!

Every year, I do a Pirate Treasure Hunt with 2nd grade after their mapping skills unit.
This activity allows them to have fun and demonstrate to their teacher that they understand north, south, east, and west...
We all get Pirate Hats and this year I found a bunch of DE songs and sound effects to play along with the story I had made up!
All the information and templates are here in this Google document!  Enjoy, Mateys!  ARG!!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Gamification Environment

WEMTA got me going on the concept of gaming in the classroom. I started reading "Reality is Broken:  Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World" by Jane McGonigal.  She states that the 4 traits of a game are:
  • goal
  • rules
  • feedback system
  • voluntary participation

She talks about flow, working at the very limit of your ability.  As you game, you get intrinsic rewards:
  • Satisfying work
  • Success
  • Social Connection
  • Meaning (something larger than ourselves)

So how can I apply this in a classroom?
Well, Jennifer Lynch, a 3rd grade teacher, became my ally and we began to brainstorm ideas of how to make her last math unit a more personalized unit with the twist of gamification.

We broke the unit, a review unit, into 4 modules. Fractions, Time, Story Problems, and Place Value were the modules students would need to master. They all took a pre-assessment. If they passed a particular section, they earned a +1 point (little piece of paper with a 1 on it) in their envelope and a class badge.

We explained the goal to the students and we spent some time talking about learning targets so the students understand what they were working towards.  We discussed the rules.  Not just the rules of the new "game," but how would this look and what kinds of behaviors would be required for this to work efficiently.

Students got feedback each day or at least every other from Jen or myself on how they were doing.  The participation wasn't even a factor because they were so excited to be a part of this new journey!

We created task lists (activities) for students to work on for each module.  On this task list there are games, individual activities, activities utilizing Storykit or Show Me on the iPad, and internet/app based games that are listed on our Google Site, Mission Math.  We also tried out a site called Manghigh and they LOVED it.  They all had their own log in and could earn medals there as well.  As students are working on their task list, Jen has time to work with small groups and I am walking around answering questions and facilitating other small groups. 

This is where we worked on flow.  Some students got it right away and others needed a little help to get going. :)  As a group, they worked together on Free Rice.  The goal is 1 million grains of rice.  Each time they play, they fill in a google doc and it adds the rice to our gauge on the Mission Math home page. 

When students felt ready, they could request the assessment (proficiency based progress).  After they took the assessment, Jen or myself would correct it (try to) and give immediate feedback. They would try again in colored pencil on anything they may have missed, after that, they either got a badge and +1 point, or we worked with them some more and then they assess again when they feel more confident.

There were very seldom times that students were not working.  Throughout this unit, there were two different guest teachers and both commented on how the students were so engaged and working so well.  Don't get me wrong, the start was a little rough...but they got it with practice and reminders. :)

Some things we learned...
Since we are not 1-1, it would have been easier for each student to have their own binder with their resources and learning targets.  That way, they have what they need to keep track and be successful and Jen can be the holder of the assessment and her iPad, which would house the progress spreadsheet she would need to track students.

Plan more time.  It was a bit stressful doing this at the end of the year due to time constraints of getting report cards done.

Having a couple of adults in the room as they are learning the "rules" or expectations is invaluable!  This is a new way for them to learn and having someone to facilitate as they are working improves the flow.

I have enjoyed working on this unit with the 3rd graders.  I am ready to jump back in, continue to make improvements, and enjoy the ride!


In the past 9 months, my school has been fortunate enough to gain access to many different tools and opportunities including  Sphero balls, ...