Category Archives: professional development

Fun with Circuits

I love hands-on learning and creating, and I don’t think teachers always get enough opportunity to experience this kind of making. For the past few years, I have done Scrappy Circuit workshops as regular breakout sessions. They are always been fun but a little overwhelming in terms of preparation and execution. Getting 25 people to tear apart tea lights, build bricks and get their LED to light all within 45 minutes can be a challenge.

I decided to redesign the session as a playground where people can tinker with either pre-made bricks or try building the original Scrappy Circuits from scratch. I finished up building my bricks and worked on the handout that will guide playground visitors in creating their circuits. Next is what I think of as the most fun part: doing some of my own inventing to show off examples of what you can do with these very easy circuits. I’m also going to show how this basic knowledge can then be used with other supplies and devices.

For now, here is the handout I created:

Why I Pursued ISTE Certification

After the conference in December, I posted a public commitment to being more connected, whether it was blogging or tweeting or pursuing my own professional development. In fact, “walking the walk” is my theme for 2019.

I had already made a private commitment earlier in 2018 when I signed on to participate in one of the first cohorts to complete the ISTE Certification.

I am not a full time educator, but I teach School Technology, a graduate course, for University of Richmond each fall, and I have been experimenting with that course to make it more student centered and exploratory than a typical graduate course. Testing my syllabus against the ISTE Standards for Educators intrigued me.

I am pleased to announce that I have successfully completed the certification process and am now an ISTE Certified Educator. As I had hoped, the process, especially the portfolio, allowed me thinkdeeply about my practice in all aspects of my work both in and out of the classroom.

But, the work doesn’t end with the portfolio and the certification. My video reflection was called “Walking the Walk,” and I professed my commitment to connecting online and with my local community. I live in an underserved community and have been looking for ways to connect. The local 4H director introduced himself at the library Halloween party where I was demonstrating Makey Makey. Now, we are working together to sponsor a STEM special interest group. We start next Tuesday. We will be using some of the activities included in the coding curriculum developed by 4H and Google and also exploring Makey Makey and robots.

I am excited but a little nervous as it has been awhile since I have worked with kids. The group will meet six times, and our first meeting is next Tuesday after school at the local community center. I spent the break doing lesson planning. We will be creating LED-lighted name tags as our first activity. I figured it was an engaging and quick way to assess their existing knowledge. We are also going to do an unplugged activity using cards to code a dance and share it. I will let you know how it goes…wish me luck!

Being A Learner

At the end of July, I gathered with a group of other educators to begin the journey to ISTE Educator certification. I’m still not sure why I signed up when the invitation showed up in my inbox. Maybe it’s the same reason I became a JoyLabz certified trainer this spring,  finally opened the box for the Micro-bit this summer, and ordered a pi-top laptop after checking one out at ISTE. I want to devote some time this year to my own learning and professional growth. And, I want to share my journey publicly through this blog.

Despite a busy schedule, I have been making time to tinker. The Pi-Top is the perfect answer to easily using a Raspberry Pi: no need for setting up a monitor and keyboard in limited space, easy to connect a breadboard and components and just kind of fun. Open the lid, press the button, and you are using a pi. In addition to doing the tutorials that came with the laptop, I am practicing my Python skills using the turtle to draw pictures, following along with John Rowland’s Learn Python 3: A Beginner’s Guide Using Turtle Interactive Graphics.

Here’s my answer to the hexagon challenge in the book: (sorry for the low quality: I took a picture of the pi-top screen. Figuring out screenshots on the pi-top will come later.)

hexagonal flower






Reviving the Blog

I have dabbled with blogging almost since blogging began but never started a regular practice the way others have. (Tim Stahmer has always been my blogging hero…he posted almost daily for a very long time.) Blogging regularly means more than just making time to write. It also means connecting with the larger community, committing to research and writing, and being willing to write publicly for comment.

This fall, as part of the certification process in support of the ISTE Learner Educator standard, I will make the commitment of strengthening my ties to my professional learning community. I will make regular blog posts that will reflect on the course I am teaching this fall, share my work around coding and making, and explore research topics related to ed tech. The collection of blog posts will be part of my portfolio for the ISTE course, representing my work around the Learner standard and indicators.

So…the last step: what’s the commitment? Every day? Every other day? For now, I’m going all in: at least 250 words every day. I think a daily practice gets the habit going. I’ve been doing 10,000 steps every day since May 1. I’m not sure I would have achieved that if I had taken a break on May 2.

One Last To Do List Item

I’ve been home for a week since the conference ended and am still getting caught up on various work threads as I try to put the year to bed. My goal? Take a holiday break: time to tackle the book pile, watch favorite movies, and look forward to 2018.

But, there is one last item on my 2017 professional to do list: taking the Google Level 1 Educator test. I’ve been working through the online training. I still have a few units to complete and should probably do a review of all of them before taking the test. I have made changes in my google usage, particularly related to email.

One of my goals for 2018 is to be more productive around email. Thanks to the training, I have reinstated the tabbed view of gmail and created some filters to help get emails where they should be. I haven’t ever been able to maintain inbox zero but may experiment with using an Action category. I have started making emails into tasks and that was incredibly helpful as I tracked last minute registration changes for the conference.  And, while this wasn’t covered in the training documents, I set up a few “canned responses” to use.

So…as the work to do list gets less intense, the personal/professional to do list takes priority. I’ve heard from some people in the various GEG communities with tips for taking the test and will collect and share them here.

Certification Update

For many online courses, the weekly deadline is Sunday at 11:59 PM. While it wasn’t quite that late when I got online to start the Google training, it was late-ish. I knew some of the content as I had completed the first section over the summer and figured I didn’t need a lot of time to get back up to speed.

So, like many of my online students, I missed the opportunity to spend the week considering the content and really thinking about the questions. The first unit focuses on general ideas about using technology and helping students develop citizenship skills. I spent a little time brainstorming ideas for integration but did not meet the level of detail in the examples. I love that I can go back and expand on my original ideas.

Well…it turns out I am already behind! I went to check my study plan against the training center and realized that I had planned to do Units 1 and 2 this week. I didn’t complete Unit 2: Expand Your Access to Help and Learning. Guess I better dive in after my meeting tonight.

Then, my goal is to schedule time for Units 3 and 4 earlier this week so I have time to really dig into the content.

I’ve seen a couple folks in the GEGs who are interested in tagging along with me. Not sure how we might work together beyond just moral support: share ideas, tips, questions.