Friday, November 27, 2015


A venture capitalist searches for the purpose of school. Here’s what he found.
The Wonderful:
Yesterday, as I drove Skyler to school we came upon incredible fog formations.  We had had two glorious days of rain here in Northern California.  When we left our house, it was crystal clear but as we meandered up and down and twisted we drove into pockets of fog which sparked Skyler's inquisitive fourth grade mind.  As he picked the songs for our morning playlist, he began his stream of questions which I dutifully answered with a question or an "I don't know - we better find out." Here is a brief example of our exchange:
Skyler - "Why wasn't it foggy at our house?"
Me - "Hmm, I'm not sure."
Skyler - "Why is it foggy in some places and clear in others?"
Me - "Well, what do you notice about the areas that are foggy and the areas that are not?"
Skyler - "The canyons are full of fog, why is that?"
Me - "It sounds like we need to do some research on fog, why don't you start our search of resources by asking Google?"
Skyler - "Okay Google, why does fog form in canyons?"  (he often absconds with my phone and asks Google questions...)

We bantered about fog and hypothesized during our 25 minute drive to school.  It was one of the many inquisitive conversations that we have that has lead to further exploration, curation, creation and sharing.  Later, we whip out our dueling Chromebooks and gather resources; read, discuss, and process the information; decide on a platform to create a place to curate our resources; share our creation with others.  These are the real-life, meaningful learning experiences that Skyler is passionate about and they only occur outside of school (until he shares his creation at school when allowed).

Why do my son's most meaningful learning experiences occur outside of school?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

... And I Only Died 32 Times - Lessons from a Video Game


Just a quick pondering as I watch my son play a video game.

Skyler - "I'm stuck, I'm stuck, I'm stuck...
Dad - "What are you going to do?"
Skyler - "I'm going to figure it out - Mom says it's okay if something is hard because I need to be challenged.  I'm unstuck!  I made it to the next level!"  he exclaimed with confidence.
... and I only died 32 times.

I have a few questions:
  1. When is education going to stop putting a time limit on learning?
  2. When will mistakes and failure truly be embraced as learning experiences and growth opportunities?
  3. When will we look for the little incremental successes within the mistakes and/or failures to help students persevere and keep doing (remember according to Yoda there is no try)?
  4. How do we provide learning experiences that allow for multiple redos?
  5. How do we as educators support the students where they are to help move their thinking and understanding forward?
I could go on and on...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

STEAM Parent Day #BestDayEver

I've been coaching three multi-age teachers this year.  It is year one of a 3-5 year plan to integrate STEAM, Chromebooks, robotics et. al.  This year (as I have stated in earlier blog posts) I spend around 90 minutes in each class helping the teacher facilitate a maker activity and a Chromebook SAMR activity.  Our first trimester ends this Friday October 30th.  The pedagogical shifts that have happened in 2+ short months are incredible and will be shared in a different post.

One of the three teachers planned to have a showcase at the end of each trimester.  So, Friday October 23rd was the day we invited the parents and/or caregivers to come and experience STEAM time with their kiddos.  This was something I tried when I was a middle school math teacher after reading this Blog Post by Josh Stumpenhorst.  Chelsea sent out the invite to the parents and 28 RSVP'd.  It is AMAZING because our STEAM time is from 12:30 - 2:10 smack in the middle of the day and the parents were taking time in the middle of their day to come.

When all was said and done, 18 of Chelsea's 22 students had parents and many of those had BOTH parents.  We had one board member attend also.  This day was about the students sharing what they have done each week as well as model making for their parents.  This day was all about the students and Chelsea.  I stood back and let them all lead. It was a huge success and I was honored to be a part of it!  Here are a few pictures:

Parents working with their kiddos on the Mt. Rushmore HyperDoc

Parents work on Mt. Rushmore HyperDoc with their kiddos
Maker Supply Table and some of the catapults
We are ready to test the catapults

Here are the links to the activities:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

What is Your Story?

Click HERE to go to StoryCorps Great Thanksgiving Listen

I am a huge fan of NPR.  I often find myself in my car parked at a destination not able to get out because I am so entrenched in a story and I'm usually crying so I definitely can't leave until I pull myself together.  When I was in the classroom, I would use things I heard in my math classes. Most often it was a story that had interesting math tied to it.  I would also use stories that would give my students pause - an opportunity to "consider" something.  One of my favorite Morning Edition staples is StoryCorps.  Again I am usually laying in bed knowing that I will be listening with tears in my eyes.  It is my favorite way to start Friday full of empathy and thankfulness for the blessed life I lead.  StoryCorps also teaches me about resilience and bravery and that the challenges we face in life are learning experiences that make us stronger and better.

I am so excited about StoryCorps Great Thanksgiving Listen Project I've downloaded the app onto my phone and perused the questions and all the other tools to create an interview experience.  They are asking teachers to have their students add interviews.  I am thoughtfully contemplating how I will use this powerful tool with the teachers in my district to collect their stories.  Here is a link to the Morning Edition story from October 14, 2015

How will you use this opportunity to have your students, teachers, parents, site leaders, etc... create interviews for themselves and StoryCorps?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cars Maker Activity

I created this activity for my STEAM teachers after attending Cuerockstar admin I wanted to follow Ramsey Musallam's plan he shared with us"

Cars Maker Activity:

  • 3 Straws
  • 4 Mint life savers
  • 1 piece of paper
  • 2 paper clips
  • Tape

Make a car out of the above supplies and make sure it moves, by the way, you can only blow on it to make it move!

Click Here  for information on powering with “wind”

APPLICATION: Continue working on your PUFF MOBILES
On the chromebooks: - Mrs. School’s Class - Mrs. Lucas’ Class

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Creativity and Learning Take Time

I first learned about Genius Hour two years ago when attending a Classroom 2.0 Live Saturday Meeting  (this is the archived recording and all the resources).  They started off with the video below:

As I have been coaching 3 STEAM classes this year I have noticed each class has a thoughtful learner who carefully takes their time.  In the four sessions I have collaborated on each of these students has had his/her success and struggles.  

I ask all educators, please give these kiddos the time they need to find success and struggle through an activity.  The struggle and frustration are key to their learning.  If there is a time limit placed on these kiddos it will cause them to shut down in SOME instances.  

Now, I understand that they need to work through their time issues, however, if you are implementing #geniushour, or #makerspaces, or #robotics, etc...  PLEASE let these thoughtful kiddos have as much time as they need to go through their process.

On that note, I want to share one more thing:
I often tout myself as a relationship builder on this blog, in twitter chats, and elsewhere.  It is one of my core beliefs.  Sylvia Duckworth sums it up in this sketchnote: (However, I believe it true for all not just children)
Click Here to watch Rita Pierson's TED Talk
I believe that relationships are the foundation.  You are thinking, the foundation of what?  The foundation of everything - not just learning but changing thinking or beliefs, risk-taking, creativity, problem-solving, innovation,  etc...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Creating our "Ish" Selves

Last week, I posted our "Ish" lesson from the STEAM classrooms I am coaching this year.  Part two of our lesson was to create our "Ish" selves:

I saw these picture collages when I attended the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) conference in San Diego, CA way back in 1996 (wow! 19 years ago...)  I have had my students make these collages of themselves every year I was in the classroom since then.  The past two years I have not had a classroom so it was a gift to do this in/with the classrooms I am coaching.  Here is a quick how to:

  • Have the students stand with their legs apart and their hands out (palms facing me, fingers spread)
  • I take two shots:
    •  one from the bottom of their hands up to their heads zoomed in so that the student fills the entire frame. 
    • one from the feet up to wherever the frame is full of the student.
  • Order/Make/Print two copies of each photo so the students have 4 photos to work with
  • Have the students cut each picture into horizontal strips
  • Students create their collages by placing their strips onto construction paper
  • No gluing until they have played with the layout of their strips

As Chelsea (Mrs. Atkinson) and I watched the students cut and place and play and share and collaborate and talk and laugh and create and... 

We were taken aback and at the same time she asked me "this noise is okay, right?"  I assured her that this was the noise of creativity, engagement, and discovery and I also assured her that it would get louder before it got quieter.  The students were making sure that everyone in the room saw their "Ish" selves.  

After finishing our 8th day of school, I am so thankful that I get to spend time in classrooms with teachers and their students.  

As a coach I will defer to a twitter post by Michael Niehoff 
"Sometimes you have to believe in someone else's belief in you until your own belief sets in..." - Manny Scott