As you're getting ready to head back to school, I'm sure there are tons of tools you've discovered this summer that you're excited to try with your students.
Well here's another one that you don't want to miss.
Campfire App is a free app that is available on the App Store (iOS devices only). Once you enable the microphone, it will listen to the words of the story (similar to if you were using text to speech to send a message) and as you read certain words or phrases in the story, music, sound effects, and lights will surround you (and your students). The music and sounds will play from your phone or a speaker you connect and certain smart bulbs (such as the Phillips Hue bulbs) for an even more amazing experience!
While there are many apps that try to make popular picture books more engaging, I love that the kids don't need a single piece of technology to enjoy this tool. In fact, if you can manage to set up your iPhone or iPad in a position where your students can't see it - they may not even realize that you're using technology either! 🙂
Campfire App works with a number of Bluetooth speakers, but you can also connect it to a speaker with a traditional headphone jack.
Another helpful feature of the app is the ability to manually trigger the sounds. This is helpful if you want to have a student do the read aloud that might not have the precise pronunciation needed to trigger the sounds in the app. This is also great if you have an accent 😉
The app has a catalog of about 50 books but they're taking recommendations constantly. My favorite is Where the Wild Things Are and my four-year-old is a fan of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
I see so many great ways to use this app in the classroom and library. Imagine - projecting your MackinVIA eBooks onto your whiteboard and doing a read-aloud with this app. With just a few simple tools, you can turn a typical story time into an immersive, magical experience!
Add it to your list and share this app with a friend.
See that bad boy up there? Well that bike up there looks just like the one I learned to ride on. I remember I rode that bike so hard that the wheels started to disintegrate (because they weren’t filled with air – they were some foam-type material). I had a matching helmet and since my dad was a biker, I would wear a pair of magic gloves to try to look like him. The point is, I’ve always been this cool. (Actually no, that’s definitely not the point I’m trying to make.)
As I got more comfortable riding, my dad adjusted the training wheels so they were more or less there “just in case”. But at some point, the training wheels had to go and I had to get a “real” bike.
No training wheels.
No foam tires.
A real Huffy bike.
And despite riding for months on my training wheels, I didn’t quite know how to start. How will I keep my balance? How do I brake? How do I turn? All important questions, but ones I didn’t really need to think about when I had the support of training wheels and no hand brakes.
So it took a few tries and some frustration, but eventually I got it (#win). Having younger siblings, I would hop on my kid brother or sister’s training wheel bike and would be entertained for a hot minute and then be bored. Why did I want training wheels when I knew how to ride a real bike?
I went through a similar cycle when learning to adjust to a road bike. But again – I eventually mastered it.
So why do you care about my adventure in biking?
As enthusiastic as I am about makerspaces in education, at some point, we have to take the training wheels off. There are thousands of maker products on the market that come with project guides, activity kits, and curriculum guides. And that is wonderful! But we’re forgetting that those guides and kits are just TRAINING WHEELS. They were just meant to give you the foundation skills and confidence needed to take it to the next level. So what is the next level, you ask? YOU TELL ME.
That is the whole idea of the maker movement and sometimes I feel we are totally missing it.
The maker movement is designed to produce the worlds next inventors and innovators. Not the worlds best replicators.
So who knows what they’re going to do with the smoke alarm they just took apart. I attended a conference a few months ago and I overheard a conversation about MakeyMakey. A woman (with the best intentions, I’m sure), was explaining to her colleague that MakeyMakeys are used to make banana pianos and PlayDoh controllers.
No. No. No. No. No.
There is a time and a place for step by step project guides. I’m not saying I hate Instructables or the project suggestions that come with littleBits (or any other product for that matter). However, when Instructables and How-To books are becoming the only “options” in our makerspace, despite having thousands of “options”, we’re limiting our students. Which is so anti-maker.
So what is the time and the place for how-to guides?
When we first began our makerspace, my kids weren’t familiar with even the basics of circuitry. If I said “robot” they envisioned an android shelving library books. So I had to do some teaching of the skills and show kids how certain things can be used.
And this isn’t as easy as it sounds. I didn’t want to “teach littleBits” or “teach Snap Circuits”. I wanted to teach electronics. And that is why we need to teach things that are transferable. Teach things in terms of “input” and “output” rather than “pink” and “green”. I don’t want to teach Dash and Sphero. I want to teach coding.
If you’re teaching your kids the SKILL and not the PRODUCT, they will be able to transfer those skills and build something new.
So how do I let go?
Just do it. There isn’t a guide on letting go. Or a process. Or an outline. Or an Instructable. (there are, however, some amazing self help books on letting go and an incredibly annoying song on letting go).
But for those of you that NEED something, here are some tips.
When you design “challenges”, make them open ended. For example, “make something that moves” is a LOT different than saying “build a robot with 4 Cubelets”
Beware of circulating kits or stations. Again – there is a time and a place for these. But also keep in mind that a lot of makerspace products were meant to interact. If kids at the littleBits table are only allowed to play with littleBits, how are they supposed to learn how the skills transfer? I remember when my kids took littleBits, Legos, K’Nex and some LEDs and made an old Justin Beiber poster light up and talk. That was cool and there was no Instructable on that.
If you’re just starting a makerspace, consider skipping the “how-to” guides altogether. I promise kids will figure it out. Going back to my bike analogy, the new research suggests that skipping tricycles and training wheels is better for kids and they suggest starting kids with balance bikes.
Seriously people, Henry Ford didn’t invent the Model T with a how-to guide.
Things have been so busy with conferences coming up (and kids, and work, and life), I haven't had much time to blog. But this opportunity was too good not to share!
Finding this was pure luck (or fate). I was streaming my twitter feed (when I should have probably been doing something else), when I found this post:
Some of you are aware, but this is my first year not in the classroom. While I absolutely LOVE my job, there are days when I miss my kiddos so much. The day I first learned about this challenge was DEFINITELY one of those days.
This would be such an amazing opportunity for them to let their genius shine.
We'll get to the grand prize in a minute, but 100 other teams will also be winners. With cash prizes ranging from $200 to $100,000 (yes, ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND), I know my kids would be interested.
So...what's the grand prize?
Well, in addition to the ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS, your entire team will receive a 4-day/3-night trip to Los Angeles to attend the prize ceremony. You'll also get escorted to the limo in a fabulous dress/tuxedo in a LIMO. You'll also receive some spending cash and tickets to cool stuff to do while you're in town. (Remember guys, that's where Disney Land and Universal Studios is!)
And what is that $100,000 for exactly? Well - it's up to you and your team. Want to invest it? Want to donate it? Want to set it aside for college? Want to launch your own business? Go for it. Chase those dreams and don't stop chasing.
And how could I forget! TEACHERS ARE ALSO ELIGIBLE FOR CASH PRIZES. Support the winning team and you could snag yourself a $5,000 educator grant?
But really, the biggest prize is so much more than trips and money. It's inspiring others to try and make the world a better place. It's inspiring kids to try and fail and try again. It's helping kids find their passions. Of course that's the real grand prize. And everyone can win that one.
So what is the challenge?
The Paradigm Challenge is an annual competition that inspires youth to use STEM skills plus kindness, creativity, and collaboration to make a difference. The 2016-17 Challenge aims to generate new ideas to reduce waste in homes, schools, communities, and around the world.
Here is a great video overview for you and to show your students!
I love the theme of this challenge. It's not just about making something. It's about making something that has an impact. That solves a problem. That helps someone (or lots of people). As a librarian, I love that it requires students to do research. And think about the rich discussion surrounding intellectual property and copyright. Wow. (is my librarian showing?)
Students need to find a problem (and not just any old problem, but one they're passionate about). Get them fired up!
Once they find a problem, they need to research what is causing the problem, what (if any) solutions are out there, AND if there are any solutions already out there, WHY is the problem not solved?
As a maker, I love the idea of working through the entire design process AND working collaboratively to solve a problem. This project requires both!
The challenge is open to anyone ages 4-18 (by May 1, 2017). You must have parent permission to participate. There are three divisions for cash prizes (4-8, 9-13, and 14-18)
There is no minimum or maximum team size.
How do my students enter the challenge?
Once your students create an account, they'll get access to a dashboard. In their dashboard, they'll see the 10 steps they need to complete the challenge.
As you can see, I only have 20% of the challenge completed because I've only done one task (choose my avatar).
As I mentioned before, I love how the Paradigm Challenge incorporates so much research. Some of the activities require kids to read about the current state of the environment, and others require kids to learn about methods to reduce waste (composting, solar energy, and others).
Once you get to the part where you're "creating", keep the following judging criteria in mind.
a. Efficacy : How effective is the idea?
b. Feasibility: How possible is the idea?
c. Originality: How innovative is the idea?
d. Presentation: How clear is the idea?
e. Collaboration: How well did the team members work together with each other and with other persons.
Support for Teachers!
Don't worry teachers -The Paradigm Project doesn't want you going at this alone. They've created an entire portal just for educators. Complete with lesson plans, inspirational videos, flyers, letters for parents, posters, and so much more.
And if you have a question, just reach out. They are support responsive and will help you and your students in any and every way possible.
Michelle Lewis is the Outreach Coordinator and you can contact her directly at michelle at projectparadigm.org
I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to do a guest blog for Demco's Ideas and Inspiration blog. It's an absolute wonderful resource and there is an abundance of information about makerspaces and space design on this blog.
Most of you know that I am incredibly passionate about low-tech makerspaces and I am so happy to be able to share my passion in this post. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Unless you live under a rock or are completely off the grid when it comes to technology, you’re probably aware of the maker movement. However, if you need a refresher, I made an infographic. The maker movement is such an exciting time for students and teachers alike! Yet, while a part of you is excited, the other part of you is flooded with the reasons why you just can’t start a makerspace right now.
“I have no money.”
“I’m just not super comfortable with technology.”
“We don’t have devices at my school.”
“I don’t have the space.”
“I don’t have the schedule that allows me to teach the kids how to do the stuff.”
I know it’s summer and it’s cruel for me to make you read.
But I don’t care. Suck it up. Read it.
I’ve actually been writing this letter since the day I accepted a position at Hershey.
Because I knew I was going to leave sooner or later. I always do. I want to be everything and do everything. Therefore, I never plant myself in one place for too long. Perhaps it’s bravery, perhaps it's cowardice. But it’s me. And after the 3rd job change before my 25th birthday, I knew it was how it was always going to be.
I was having a lot of fun and we were doing some incredible things in the library. My professional career was growing and expanding and I was speaking all over the country about our awesome library. I had a ton of other projects I was going to do this year. We were going to do some serious rearranging and expand the makerspace. I was going to teach makerspace classes during flex and we were going to have our own MakerFaire. The school administrators were awesome at supporting us and so were the parents. Best of all, the students (you guys) were great.
(Don’t let that go to your head. Only MOST of you were great. The rest of you were just okay.)
Note: A part of me considered writing this letter as if I was absolutely positive I made the right choice. I considered emphasizing all of the benefits and perks of this new job. I considered repeatedly telling you how “excited I am for this marvelous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”. If I make this new job seem “irresistable”, no one will question why I left, right? No one will think my decision was stupid, right?
But I decided to just be honest. I’m scared to death and I’m not sure I made the right choice.
So why did I leave?
Well...it’s hard to explain (even to myself)
Have you ever seen the show “Let’s Make a Deal”?
At the end of the show, anyone that has won a prize is given the opportunity to go for the “BIG DEAL”. These people have already won hundreds of dollars, electronics, or vacations. Why would they risk losing that - especially since they literally won it just minutes ago? (And if you’ve ever seen Let’s Make a Deal, these people could seriously be trading their car for a box of cereal).
But there is a chance that something bigger and better is hiding behind that curtain. There is a chance that it is a life-changing amount of money.
And yes - there is still the chance that it could be a box of cereal. And there is a chance that this new job is a box of cereal.
But if I didn’t see what was behind the curtain, I would forever ask myself “what if”?
By far this was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. And unlike the contestants on “Let’s Make a Deal”, I had more than 30 seconds to think it over (thank heaven). So I thought, talked with family, and talked with friends. One of my friends absolutely refused to give me her advice. No matter how many times or how many different ways I asked, she simply refused. And I hated that. But I get it now. I needed to make the decision on my own. I couldn’t do what most people thought I should do. I would always place the blame on them if things didn’t turn out the way I expected. Another friend asked me “what do you think will you regret more? Leaving or staying?”
Obviously you know my decision.
Unfortunately, I still don’t know what’s behind the “curtain” as I’m just officially starting my new position this week.
And I’m scared.
And it’s okay. Everything will be okay.
Somehow. Someday. I may not be resolved in my decision for a long time (or ever), but eventually it will be okay.
So why the heck am I telling you this? Shouldn’t I just say, “Hey guys - you were great - read some books - peace” and be on my way? In my last piece of advice to you, I want you to know that it’s going to be okay.
I know two years isn’t a long time, but I hope it was long enough for you to learn how much I genuinely care about you. Teachers aren’t supposed to be “friends” with their students. But I did. I definitely considered some of you friends. I confided in some of you. I cried with some of you. And leaving Hershey means so much more than leaving a library job - it’s leaving a family of teachers and students that I loved (and still do).
So here I am - on this emotional rollercoaster.
P.S. IT’S THE WORST RIDE EVER. Perhaps you’ve ridden it before? Unfortunately, you’ll most definitely have to endure it again. And it will suck. Hard. (I promise)
But I want you to know that it’s going to be okay.
Middle school was one of the worst times in my life. Every memory I have of middle school is like a scene from a horror movie (with Lisa Frank everything, Trapper Keepers, and Hanson posters). You will question your identity. You will be miserable. You will have your heart broken. You will break someone elses heart. You will lose friends. You will make mistakes. You will fail. You will work really hard, and fail again. It will hurt.
They say people never change - that’s crap. People change. Including you.
I can promise you these things:
You are not alone.
You will feel alone.
It will be okay.
It will feel like it will never be okay.
I wish I could be there to support you on your rollercoaster rides. They will be scary. Terrifying. There will be tears.
But you don’t need to swallow your tears and put on a smile (see #1). It’s actually very therapeutic to explain how you’re feeling (hence this four page letter).
And despite the misery that is associated with middle school (and unfortunately, high school too), there is an abundance of joy that can be had if you just let it happen. So, in addition to all of those awful things I listed earlier, there will be instances of beauty. You will find your identity. You will fall in love. You will save someone. You will be the reason for someone’s smile. You will make friends. You will succeed. You will try again, and you will win. You will feel beautiful.
And when those things happen, savor it. Celebrate it. Celebrate the moments of others.
We live in a world flooded with ugly and mean. Please do not add to it. We certainly have enough. Surround yourself with people that make you happy.
Do me a favor and watch this video. It's called "Wear Sunscreen". Watch ALL of it. Look up the lyrics.
Be you. Be amazing. Be happy. And when you’re not, just remember - it will be okay.
I am so pumped to be headed to ISTE 2016 this year in Denver, Colorado. This will be the farthest west I’ve ever traveled and there is no conference more fun than ISTE. I have this huge list of people I want to reconnect with and an even longer list of people I want to meet face to face for the first time.
I’ve got a jam packed schedule at ISTE, but I’m hoping to squeeze a few fun things in there in addition to just “conference” things.
First up, I’m doing a poster session in Lobby D from 7:00-8:30 on Low-Tech, No-Tech Makerspaces. I was so amazed and honored to be listed in this School Library Journal article on “Hot Ticket Sessions” at ISTE 2016. At this session, you get lots of ideas for maker activities requiring little to no technology. If you’ve got trash (and somehow, schools have tons), you have maker resources.
ISTE Librarians Network Playground [Monday 8:00-11:30 Lobby D]
Next on the agenda is the ISTE Librarians Network Playground. I’m pumped to present on Google Cardboard because who doesn’t love VR? I’ll be bringing some traditional cardboard viewers and a few of the Viewmaster Viewers. I’ll also bring a few freebies I got from random giveaways. My session is at 9:30 and then I’ll be posting lots of love from ISTELIB
Next is something I’m super excited for – my interactive lecture on Inclusive Library Spaces. I’m really hoping to stretch the minds of attendees and help librarians and educators rethink their spaces and resources. Too often we focus on the minimum or legal requirements when serving patrons, but we don’t do a lot things intentional to make the library more welcoming and inviting to all. This session is held in one of the flexible learning rooms and I’m really going to try and make this as participatory as possible! Come and share your ideas!
Creating a Makerspace in Middle Schools [Wednesday 11:45-12:45, Room 601 Table 2]
Yesterday, Chris Champion asked if I would co-present on starting a makerspace at the secondary level. Not too many details here, but we’re going to roll with it and undoubtedly, it will be epic.
I’m also super excited to see all of my friends at Buncee. If you haven’t checked out this tool, you need to find them in the exhibit hall. Granted, there are about 300 other companies I’m looking forward to connecting with, but Buncee is a little family of mine and I can’t wait to see them all again.
If you aren’t at ISTE, Craig Yen (and probably many others) will be Tweeting every single second on the #notatISTE16 on Twitter. There’s also a Google+ community.
Today I had the incredible honor of giving the Keynote address at the Delta Kappa Gamma, Alpha Alpha State Pennsylvania Convention in beautiful State College, PA – home of Penn State.
This was my first Keynote and I was more nervous than I ever imagined I would be. There were only about 300 people in the audience, but I was terrified. Prior to my Keynote, I scanned the crowd and saw many faces I recognized – including a Superintendent from my previous district and some of the teachers I had in elementary school.
When I saw my elementary teachers – I wondered if they ever saw me becoming “something”. Even though high school, I just blended in. I wasn’t dumb, but I didn’t see the need to display my intellect in any further capacity than what was required of me.
I say that because, as a teacher, I find myself picking out students saying “oh, you’re going to be something some day – I just know it!” But what about all of those other kids. Those kids like me? I wonder if they’re more impressed because they never saw it coming. So while I’m smiling inside, I’m also keeping in mind the way that I “judge” students future based on their current lives.
Dear students – prove me wrong!
The Keynote was such an amazing experience and I can’t thank the organization enough for treating me like family.
Below are the slides from my Keynote.
I am also doing a workshop on Library as Learning Commons which you can find on my Presentations page.
I just wrapped up an exciting weekend with some amazing Pennsylvania librarians at the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association annual conference. This conference is always held at the “sweetest place on Earth” – Hershey, Pennsylvania. Fortunately for me, this is also the town in which I teach, so I had very little traveling to do.
I currently serve on the Board of Directors for PSLA, so my conference began with a Board Meeting. Meanwhile, other attendees had the fortune of attending a pre-conference workshop learning about the new state evaluation system and how librarians can/should be evaluated. (There is so much debate on this topic and I’m still working out my personal opinion on the issue). So often teacher-librarians are pushed into professional development offerings that target classroom teachers, we sometimes get lost in the mix. And while we most certainly ARE teachers and a lot of the information is beneficial, it’s nice to have a dedicated professional development for our unique role. Many librarians look to PSLA to fulfill that need.
Thursdayevening was the official kickoff. I got to present at the Tech Learning Lab with Mackin to chat about our new eBook consortium. (I am SO excited about this – more news to come soon).
Then we headed to dinner and our keynote speaker, Richard Byrne. Richard spoke on “Leading Students in a Hyper Connected World” and he was kind enough to share his presentation on his blog, FreeTech4Teachers. Nothing is better than a speaker with a sense of humor. Particularly after a long day of learning.
He really had the crowd rolling when he shared this clip from The Office.
I had followed his blog prior to see him speak, and I’m confident he just gained a few hundred more after his keynote.
Friday morning was kicked off with the Awards Breakfast. This is one of my favorite events in the entire conference because I get to see so many hard working individuals be recognized.
The best and worst part about conferences is choosing sessions. I love the ability to choose sessions that interest me, but find it SO frustrating when so many awesome sessions are occurring at the same time. PSLA 2016 was no exception.
PSLA used this awesome tool called Sched to post the sessions online. You could create an account and make your own schedule. I love it! You can still see the schedule of events here. You can even upload session handouts straight to the app. I loved it.
I presented with some of my best friends (also colleagues) on Blended Professional Learning. You can see our slides here.
After the last session, I grabbed a bite to eat and geared up for the Unconference!
We did the Unconference “Learning Commons” style where we organized according to our interests. You can see the spreadsheet here. There was some amazing discussion on eBooks, makerspaces, coding! (Unconferences are another love/hate relationship. I want to be at EVERY table at the same time).
Along the way, librarian’s shared their “Library Wins” which was so empowering.
After the discussions, we moved to the Smackdown. During the Smackdown, librarians share their favorite tools or bring up a topic they’d like to discuss.
Saturday was an easy day with breakfast, our author keynote by Jacqueline Davies, and one final session.
The end of the conference is always bittersweet. You’re so exhausted so you’re happy, but you’re sad that you may not see some of these people for an entire YEAR! (What was life before social media?)
I am so happy to have been a part of the conference. I am also thankful that the conference ended on a Saturday giving me an entire Sunday to get re-energized for the week ahead.
As much as I love attending national conferences like ISTE, AASL, and FETC, there is so much power in your local organization. It’s like a little family. We support each other, we encourage each other, we console each other. I remember my very first time I attended PSLA – I was in my junior year as an undergrad. Since then, my family has grown tremendously with new librarians, but the old faces stay around – supporting, encouraging, and consoling. Regardless of whether they just retired or retired a decade ago – they’re love and passion for school libraries is contagious.
1 – I love Graphite! Graphite is a tool that has an abundance of reviews and ratings for websites and apps. If you’re looking for a tool to accomplish a task, there are hundreds of collections published on every topic imaginable.
2 – I love Common Sense Media. As a middle school librarian I’m always looking for in-plain-English reviews of books. Particularly books with “questionable” topics. Common Sense Media reviews are done by both parents and students that have READ the book and provide specific examples. (I’ll post more about that soon)
I was allowed to write about anything connected to #makerspaces. This was difficult for me. How do I narrow that down? So I decided to shake things up a little bit.
I wrote a post on why you should STOP thinking about starting a makerspace.