Teachers Pay Teachers Giveaway! {Contest is Now Over}

Win up to $60 on Teachers Pay Teachers!

It's almost time for back to school! Let's say goodbye to summer with two giveaways!

Giveaway 1:
I'm giving away a $10 gift card to be used on Teachers Pay Teachers. Between back to school decor, lesson plans, and so much more, there is something for every educator on TPT.

Entering is simple. Just use the link below. This giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, August 21-so enter now!

Thanks to all who entered this giveaway! The winner was:

An email has been sent to you so may claim your prize. Congratulations!

Giveaway 2:

How would you like to win $50 to spend on TPT? Head over to my Instagram, EduTechie Teacher, and follow the directions in the caption of the image that is posted above to be entered to win a $50 gift card! This contest ends at 5 pm (EST) on August 21, so enter soon!

The winner was:

Bringing Students' Ideas to Life with 3D Printing

Our 3-D printer hard at work!
Our school Media Center Makerspace has created STEAM learning opportunities for students in many new and exciting ways. Now that we are in the second year of the Makerspace, there have been many teachers who have been eager to have me help them incorporate Makerspace learning activities into their curriculum. Whether creating MakerEd opportunities within their lessons, or having me come in and teach students skills that involve coding, creating with the Makey Makeys, and more, it has provided great opportunities to make sure that the Makerspace items and concepts are useful not just to individual or small groups of students in the Media Center, but also to classes full of students.

With this in mind, the newest addition to our Makerspace has by far been the most exciting! That is the addition of our 3D printer. Adding a 3D printer did not come without its own learning challenges. Luckily, our school has an amazing technology assistant who helped me with researching how to setup, align, load the filament, and troubleshoot the 3D printer as we got started.

Our next step was to figure out how to make our own designs. We initially planned to have some CAD software downloaded on a couple of the Media Center computers and realized it may be difficult to have enough time to teach a great number of students how to use that software, thus limiting the reach that the printer could have. Luckily, a little more research led me to an awesome website called Tinkercad. Tinkercad uses CAD design to allow users to combine shapes, letters, numbers, and more to create 3-D designs. Even better news- it's a web-based program that we can access on any computer in the school. This meant that the program could be accessible to students throughout the school-making it even easier to get more of our students designing and printing!

After a few test runs using Tinkercad and the 3D printer with some eager students in the Makerspace, we were ready to roll. The type of 3D printer we have does have some limitations, and those test runs were very valuable to help us learn what some of those limitations were.

Spongebob and a Rocket
BB-8 being printed
Luckily I work in a school where innovation and creation through Making are valued. Many of our teachers have embraced the school Makerspace or Maker Ed concepts in great ways that allow students to be creators while meeting curricular goals of the class. If all schools valued Media Centers and the Maker Movement in this way, it would be pretty incredible to see just how creative all students can really be. I've now had three classes successfully create designs and print on the 3-D printer. For the first two classes, the sky was the limit when it came to design. Students were told to design what ever they wanted (within size and printer limitation guidelines), and they would vote on two to print. Printing does take a lot of time and filament, so we found this to be the most effective way to have that class participate, especially with the end of the semester just days away. We had everything from BB-8 from Star Wars, to Spongebob, to a very detailed rocket ship, and so much more! Students were very creative with their designs and really did a great job learning how to create designs using the program. With the next class that I worked with, a class of 6th graders, students had to tie their Tinkercad designs to an item that represented one of their classes. The designs were creative, and many quite detailed, especially considering it was their first time using the program. In this class we printed six different designs and gave students the option to make more on their own time.

BB-8 from Star Wars
 Maybe even better then hearing students' excitement while they created their designs on the computer, was hearing their enthusiasm the first time they saw the printer running.  Most of them had never seen a 3-D printer before, so the questions and exclamations they had during that first print are a great example of how exciting learning and creating can be.

The initial rollout of our 3-D printer has had its challenges, but all of the time put in to learning how to make it work best for our students has been totally worth it. Throughout the year, I am planning to work with even more teachers to help them find great ways to use 3D printing as a way to enhance their curriculum and continue to work with students in our Media Center Makerspace to help them see their designs and ideas come to life!

6th Grade Student Creations!
If you are interested in adding a 3D printer to your school or Media Center Makerspace, the time put into it can really be worth it to our students. After seeing his design printed, one student said to me "Really? I made this? And I get to keep it? This is so cool!" Since then, I've found him teaching other students to use Tinkercad in their free time, showing off his creation, and discussing design ideas with other students. More and more students have started to jump on Tinkercad in the Media Center on their own time, and many will come to me and show me what they have worked on all night. Given the time, materials, and resources, it is incredible what our students can create!

If you are looking for ideas for what your students can design with a 3D printer, check out my 3D Printer Design Task Cards

Maker Faire at B & N

You know the Maker Movement has taken off when a huge national chain like Barnes & Noble gets involved! I was delighted when I first saw a flyer for a  Maker Faire happening at Barnes & Noble stores just over a month ago. Barnes & Noble has teamed up with Make: Magazine (one of my favorite resources for learning about Making) to create this event. It is also sponsored by some of our favorite creation companies like Little Bits, LEGO, Makey Makey, and Snap Circuits, to name a few. As an educator who is so invested in the Maker Movement and providing opportunities for students to be innovative creators, I am so glad that students across America will have a chance to experience Making with high-tech items and learn from other Makers at this event.

I got in contact with the manager at our local Barnes & Noble to learn more about this great event so I could share it with my Makerspace Intramural kids at my school. The event will run from November 6-8 and there will be all sorts of different activities all day long throughout the weekend. He said they were given fun high tech items, like robotics and circuits, that people will be able to play with and learn from, there will be demonstrations on how to use many of the items, and there will even be Makers from throughout the community there to present.

I know the kids in my Makerspace group are very excited to attend and see all that they have to offer, as am I! Check out the images below to see the MakerFaire schedule at Barnes & Noble stores across the nation:

Another great thing I noticed on the Barnes & Noble website is that they are now selling many of the Maker materials that they will have at their Maker Faire. From Sphero to 3D printers, they are selling some really great Makerspace items! If you host a book fair at their store like we do, it's a great opportunity to shop for your school Makerspace while earning money for your school.

I, for one, can't wait to check out the Barnes & Noble Maker Faire and applaud them for recognizing the importance of giving the community a chance to explore, create, and be innovative by providing this event. I hope to see more businesses embrace the Maker Movement and find ways to get the community involved. Check with your local B & N store if you want to see what great opportunities they will be providing that weekend.

Here is a fun video they put together to promo this event:

It's Time to Celebrate Education

This summer I was selected to be part of the Michigan Educator Voice Fellowship. I had the opportunity to travel to Grand Rapids to meet the other fellows, talk about important issues in education, and learn how to promote our voices as educators. There were many valuable lessons shared during this time that have helped me change how I look at education and helped me to adapt my role as an educator. One of the things that has stuck with me as I started this school year was the importance of celebrating all that we are doing in education.

Despite the criticisms that we hear about public education in America, those doing the criticizing are often not in the position to see what is really happening in our schools. I did not have to look far to find examples of educators who should be celebrated for their dedication, innovation, and commitment to creating an excellent education for their students.

In my position as a Media Specialist, I have the awesome opportunity to work with many different people at our school. I often help teachers with technology questions or resources, collaborate with them about a lesson or unit, or push-in to teach a topic that integrates technology or literacy. In just the first few weeks of school, I worked with educators who were doing great things! I saw teachers lead students in the creation of digital portfolios for the first time, teachers eager to incorporate Makerspace activities into their curriculum, teachers learning new software so they could create hands on lessons for their students, and teachers discussing how to use digital stories in their classroom after viewing a presentation on the topic that a colleague and I presented earlier this year. There are teachers diving into lessons that incorporate technology in meaningful ways to help their students achieve success, and teachers who are willing to try new things to create the best educational opportunities for their students. There is collaboration, innovation, creativity, and an enthusiasm for learning among our school.
A Maker creation by one of the teaching teams

These characteristics could also be seen when we kicked off our school year with a Makerspace Challenge for teachers. The challenge had obstacles, time limits, varying degrees of difficulty, a range of materials, and above all, an emphasis on the importance of collaboration and creativity to share your message. It was a fun experience that highlighted the upbeat attitudes and innovative mindset that make great educators.

In the short time we've been back in school, I can already celebrate the many lessons I've gotten to teach across subject areas, the numerous teachers who I've gotten to plan with or discuss technology ideas with for their classes, my super motivated and dedicated news crew kids who wasted no time creating a great show, the kids who are already jumping into the Makerspace activities with enthusiasm, the students who are eager to talk with me about books they've read or want to read, and so much more.

It can be easy to get caught up in the stresses that come with going back to school.  It is easy to focus on the negative, but it is so important, for our students and ourselves, that we don't. There will never be enough time for teachers to achieve everything they plan to accomplish, and things may not always go as expected (in fact, they probably won't), but it is important to take time to reflect on what has gone well and celebrate it. It's time for all educators to speak up and share the incredible things they are doing. There are great things happening in our schools thanks to dedicated educators, and it's time to start shouting it from the rooftops. I urge all educators to spend time throughout the year reflecting on their successes and to share those celebrations with colleagues, Twitter, or in a blog post-just be sure to share some of the greatness going on in your classroom or school!

Seven Tips for Starting a Makerspace

Many of my posts have focused on our school Makerspace and the Makerspace Club. While I've already shared some of my favorite activities and some of my Makerspace stations, I thought it would be helpful to share some tips for how you can start your own school or classroom Makerspace.

Tip #1

You don't need to buy it all

When you start researching Makerspaces, you will see that there are a lot of cool tools out there. 3-D printers, Arduino, Hummingbird, Sphero, circuits, and more. I would caution you to not buy every last tech  tool and gadget that you've seen in other Makerspaces right from the start. It can be really exciting to see 3-D printers, robotics, and more, but there is a benefit to starting small. Just like you wouldn't just blindly buy the newest and shiniest computers on the market for your whole school, you shouldn't just jump into buying every gadget and gizmo that's out there without doing your research. What do you want to achieve with that tool? How will it help your students learn, create, or discover? Can it be better accomplished with another material? There are plenty of Makerspace recommendations out there, take your time to explore what the purpose of the materials really are before spending money. If you're looking for starter items, check out this post or if you're looking to see how we've used some of our favorite items, look here.

Tip #2

Think creatively to fund your space

Use extra bookshelves for storage and
display- here's our Breakerspace after 
a fun day of breaking
Once you have done your research and have chosen the materials/tools that you are most interested in, the tricky part can be figuring out how to actually fund your Makerspace. Remember that many items, Legos, K'Nex, household items like duct tape, yarn, batteries, old technology for your take apart station, etc., can be donated. Reach out to your school community through a school newsletter or website to see what your community will donate. Also, look to garage sales or Salvation Army for great storage units or building items like Legos. There is no better time to recycle or re-purpose items than when you are building a Makerspace. I use extra bookshelves to store and display our Makerspace and Breakerspace items and old magazine holders to display Maker books for students. Our school/district PTSA and Student Council have been great funding sources as well. Don't forget to look beyond your school and see what district or state grants may be available. You can also look into crowdfunding through sources like DonorsChoose.org, digitalwish.com, or gofundme.com. Both Donors Choose and Digital Wish have been great sources for providing tech materials for my students. There are also many technology or STEM-related grants out there that can really make a difference. Major businesses like Best Buy offer technology grants or check out Funds for Teachers to explore grants by category.

Tip #3

Collaboration is key

A Makerspace is about collaboration in so many ways. It is certainly about student collaboration. Students work together to design, build, and create. It is so fun to see how students naturally come together to explore in the Makerspace and develop theories to test. As a Maker educator, it is also very helpful to collaborate with other Maker teachers. Using resources like blogs or Twitter (try #Makerspace or #MakerEd), you can learn so much about what others are doing, what has worked, what challenges they have encountered, and opportunities to ask questions. Don't be afraid to share or learn from others. It will make a tremendous difference in the experiences that you provide for your students and will help to challenge your thinking and move you forward.

Tip #4

If you build it, they will come...with a bit of modeling

It may seem like as long as you buy the materials, kids will flock to the Makerspace. With time and modeling, that will happen, but you need to make sure that kids know what a Makerspace is and guide them through what they can do. I created a promo video and shared it on our morning news show to first share what we had in our Makerspace and when it would be accessible. Between that and starting a Makerspace Club, word began to spread about the neat things kids could do in the Makerspace and soon kids were exploring before school and at lunch daily.

Tip #5

You don't have to be an expert

As teachers, we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that we have to know everything. When really, kids learn best by doing, exploring, and even making mistakes. That is what a Makerspace is all about. I introduce my students to our Makerspace, share examples, and offer challenges, but I don't claim to be an expert on everything. You will often see me sitting with the kids during our Makerspace Club experimenting with them. My favorite phrase during Makerspace Club seems to be, "Let's try it!"

Tip #6

Utilize Challenges 

It's hard to rate my favorite days with our Makerspace Club, but if I had to, it would be the days that we have challenges. Challenges can be as small or as big as you want them to and tend to develop and change based on the students' ideas throughout the challenge. Sometimes our challenges take a day, other times they'll take a week. We've done paper airplane catapult challenges, Sphero race challenges, and more. We don't focus on winning or losing, but rather the process, design, and planning. I emphasize that challenges are about the thinking process rather than a competition. The kids love the build up designing and creating for whatever the challenge may be. I have designed Makerspace Challenge Cards so that we always have challenges to choose from and multiple challenges can be going on at once. This is great because we have limited materials and lots of interested students. Check them out if you're looking for guided challenges for your Makerspace!

Tip #7

A Makerspace is a journey

This is the most important tip to remember when creating your Makerspace. Our Makerspace evolved throughout the past year, and it absolutely will continue to evolve this year. When I first looked at what other educators had done with their school Makerspaces, I felt inspired, but overwhelmed. I found myself starting with lots of questions that could only be answered by actually creating a Makerspace and adjusting it as needed. What I really learned after one year with our school Makerspace is that Makerspaces really do need to adapt and grow based on your students' interests. Once you see how your students choose to use the Makerspace, you can make choices and activities that build on their interests.


If you're looking to start or enhance your Makerspace, I created a Makerspace Kit Bundle. It includes signs, challenge cards, a Makerspace journal, and more items that we use in our Makerspace. I also have these Makerspace items individually here.

Tech Tools: Symbaloo

One of my favorite ways to bookmark, organize, and share websites is with Symbaloo. This website allows you to create visually appealing tiles to link to other websites. I have found Symbaloo to be extremely useful on our school website and on my own website. I have also found it useful for organizing sites that I frequent personally and for creating lesson resources.

How It Works:

After opening a free Symbaloo account, you can create your first webmix. You are given the option to create your own, or to type in the type of webmix that you are looking for. Using the second option, you could just add a pre-made public webmix to your Symbaloo account. For example, if you type in "research" and find a research webmix created by someone else that you like, you can just choose to view it and add it to your account. Symbaloo also has a Symbaloo Education version, which is loaded with pre-made educational webmixes.

If you're creating your own Symbaloo, give your webmix a title and get started choosing the sites that you want organized on the particular webmix. I have a number of different Symbaloo webmixes set up that I use to share different information with students or teachers.

When adding sites, you type in the website address, choose or upload an image, and color background and then save it to your webmix. Often, the logo of the website you are linking will pop up when you type in the website, allowing you to easily add the image to your tile. Many popular educational websites are pre-loaded and will populate as you begin typing them. You can also search for tiles by category or title.

A Symbaloo for students
A great thing about Symbaloo is that it is very easy to go back and edit the tiles. To re-arrange the order, just drag the tile to the new space. To add more or less spaces, just use the arrows provided. Symbaloo has a share button that makes it easy to share the link to your Symbaloo or embed it on your website. If you later update the Symbaloo, you can just click on 'Update my Webmix' and your embedded Symbaloo will automatically update on your website.

Suggestions for Ways to Use Symbaloo at School:

Our 'Research Sites' Symbaloo
The way that I use Symbaloo the most is to share websites with our school community. I have created a Symbaloo directed towards students, one towards teachers, one for our Makerspace, and one for research lessons, to name a few. Each of these different Symbaloos has useful links for that group or subject. Within a Symbaloo, I also have color coded the tiles to help organize similar sites.

I also created a Symbaloo for our school website with each of the teacher's class websites linked to it. I used the icons/stickers provided by Symbaloo to showcase which subject that class is and color coded tiles of teachers who teach the same subject.

The other way I use Symbaloo is to bookmark sites that I like or that I use frequently. You can set Symbaloo as your homepage and customize the background to your choosing. This makes it really easy to quickly find the sites that I use daily.
A Symbaloo linking to class websites

I have also seen teachers create a different Symbaloo webmix for each grade or subject that they teach and embed them on their website for students to easily access links at home.

Though I have not had students do this, students could easily create their own Symbaloo webmixes of sites that they use frequently at school to access quickly at home as well. Note: If you purchase a premium account through SymbalooEdu, then you have more control over what sites your students link to and see.

If you have other ideas or suggestions for how you've used Symbaloo to organize information for your school or classroom, please share!

This week I'm linking up with The Teaching Trio for the Technology Thursday Link Up!

EdCamp Detroit from an EdCamp Newbie

Early in the morning on Saturday, May 9, I wished my husband luck with our lively 2 year old son all day and headed to my very first Edcamp. I had heard about Edcamp Detroit on Twitter and seen it mentioned by so many great educators online that I knew it would be a great opportunity to advance my learning.

In order to reflect on the great experience and share with others, I thought I'd write about what I experienced at Edcamp Detroit from an Edcamp newbie's eyes.

What is an Edcamp?

  • Edcamps are not your typical educational conferences
There was no keynote speaker, no lengthy program describing who would be speaking and what their credentials were, no session guide to view online the night ahead of time, and no vendors there to promote their products. In fact, it very purposefully lacked these things. 

Although, there still was some pretty great swag-I'm looking at you bright orange Edutopia bottle. 
  • At Edcamp, the attendees are the experts
It lacked all of the previously mentioned typical components of an educational conference because at Edcamp, it is all about learning from each other. The attendees share what they know, what they've done, and how it has impacted their classroom. You are actually hearing from other educators about their experiences in the classroom or school. A giant grid with room numbers and times was written on a white board and the attendees who wanted to present filled it up with topics that they were interested in. While many came prepared with presentations or slideshows, it was clear that others just had something great to share and this was the perfect platform.

Photo courtesy of Ben Rimes

  • You have a voice (and others want to hear it!)
When I attend educational conferences, I typically expect a sit and get experience. However, at Edcamp, your voice is encouraged. Not only to present, but to participate in sessions, ask questions, and even share your own experiences. Plus the sessions were in classrooms, not huge conference halls, which certainly added a level of comfort and familiarity that encouraged active participation. I was happily surprised to find myself asking questions and sharing my own experiences at different sessions, when all I thought I would be doing was listening to others. It made it so that the sessions truly became applicable to what I am doing and helped me to build connections with other educators who have similar interests.
  • You decide where to go and for how long
We were told right from the start, by Edcamp leader Nick Provenzano, to vote with our feet in the sessions. If we decided we weren't interested or wanted to hear someone else speak too, it was totally encouraged to get up during the session and leave. That was a foreign concept to me. Yet, plenty of people came and left throughout the sessions that I attended and nobody batted an eye. I actually had planned to leave one of the sessions I was at halfway through to catch another one, but I was so engaged in what the speakers were sharing, that I forgot all about it. While that option does exist at all conferences (you know, free will and all), it certainly isn't always encouraged. I thought that really gave people the freedom to make sure the conference met their needs and to make every minute count.

Lessons from the Sessions
  • Re-designing learning spaces can create opportunities for more collaborative learning and more engaged students
Furniture photos courtesy of Ann Smart 
I attended a session led by Ann Smart and Lauren Villaluz all about redesigning learning spaces. They both had spent time researching effective learning spaces and helped schools to redesign learning spaces in a way that would make learning more collaborative, flexible, and engaging. I was very interested to hear how the Media Center at an Adrian school had been transformed from an unused area to a hub of activity. Luckily, our Media Center already is a hub of activity (just stop by right when school opens and you'll see what I mean), but it certainly had me wondering how I could make the environment even more student-centered and allow for more flexible learning spaces. They spoke about everything from choosing mobile furniture that serves multiple purposes to the type of lighting being used. It was awesome to hear from the kids themselves how school had changed for them because of the redesign. In the classrooms they had everything from mobile chairs and tables that made it easy to collaborate to smart TV stations so students could share tech projects with peers. The Media Center had more comfortable gathering areas, an array of seating types, and Hokki stools, which I think would be a great addition to our Media Center. A really key message that they had was to ask the students. That seems so simple, but really, how often do students actually get to give input on what their classroom or Media Center will look like? I loved the approach at Adrian Schools to give students the leadership role in their redesign. This session helped me to really view our school learning spaces and consider how they could better encourage collaboration, flexibility, and learning for our students.

  • The Maker Movement is making its way to classrooms and Media Centers everywhere!
  I also had the opportunity to listen to Jennifer Bond and Michael Medvinsky talk about their experiences with Makerspaces within their classrooms.They kicked off the session with an activity to remind us that we are all Makers. They shared great Maker projects that their students had done and really discussed with the group what it means to be a Maker and the collaborative nature of Making. When talking about assessing what students create within Makerspaces, they said that their rubric is asking if you solved the problem. They talked about Making as looking at problems or challenges and finding ways to solve them. With Jennifer’s group, the students were tasked with creating Rube Goldberg machines that required them to analyze the situation to create a functioning machine. Listening to students discuss the elements involved in making the machine function as they hoped it would, emphasized just how important the process of creating and collaborating really is.

Our Makerspace
The various Maker sessions that I attended reaffirmed to me how important it is that our students are given the opportunities to design, explore, create, solve problems, collaborate,  tinker, and make mistakes. Whether it take place in a dedicated school Makerspace, a mobile Makerspace, or through classroom projects and activities, the opportunity to be a Maker allows our students the chance to drive their own learning and collaborate in an authentic manner.

Collaborative learning in our Makerspace

And if the conference weren't enough...

The food trucks were pretty great too!

Enough said.

Obviously I had a great time at EdCamp Detroit and I really recommend it to all educators who are looking to expand their knowledge and inspire their learning!

Photo from EdCamp Detroit

Makerspace Showcase: Stop Motion Video

You know how sometimes your students just do something so neat that you want the whole world to see it? One of my Makerspace Club students did just that at our club meeting this week!

The truth is, they are all always doing such cool things that I wish we could show off all the time. However, most of the time, they are engaged in activities, like playing with the Makey Makey, which we can share in pictures, but you really have to be there to get the full effect of how neat it is.

Stop motion videos are a little easier to share though, so, without further ado, here is a stop motion video that one student made in under 30 minutes yesterday.

I was so impressed with his great video and just had to share it with everyone!

He used the Lego Movie Maker app to create this "video game" stop motion video.

To see some of the earlier stop motion videos that students made and the apps they are using, check out my earlier post on stop motion animation.

If you have any feedback for him, I'm sure he would appreciate it. :)