Month: August 2015

Creating a Makerspace in Your School or Classroom

Today’s guest blogger is Lauren Taylor, a Family & Consumer Science Teacher at Downingtown High School West. She’s sharing one of her experiences at the International Society of Technology in Education Conference earlier this summer.

by Lauren Taylor

This summer, walking through the halls of the PA Convention Center for the ISTE 2015, I must have asked myself this question a hundred times: “Where do I fit in?”

“What is applicable to what I do?”

Well, there was one concept that made me feel that I had a home:  MAKERSPACES!

What is a Makerspace? After some research about what a MakerSpace was I found it to be very familiar. Remember manipulatives? It’s the same idea.

A Makerspace is a place where students can go beneath the surface of learning by having a practical, live, hands-on experience. Students can build, create, experiment, and play with tangible objects. Creating a Makerspace in your classroom or school promotes learning through hands-on experiences.

These days this term seems to focus on the STEM environment but Makerspaces are not limited to 3D printers and models. There are many opportunities for Makerspaces in every grade/subject area in our district.

My FCS classroom is a MakerSpace. I have 6 kitchens that hundreds of high school students cook, create, and experiment in every week. Our curriculum lends itself to hands on learning. It isn’t enough to talk about the nutritional offerings and culinary talents that an egg beholds. It isn’t enough to show a video about making meringue. Students need to whip, beat, fry, poach, bake, and hard boil to understand that there is no food quite like the egg. (I love eggs, does it show?) These experiences bring a depth of knowledge that could not exist with a diagram.

What I took from this session is that technology is not taking away our need for hands-on learning, nor is it replacing it – it is enhancing it! The experience of creating something can be amplified by technology but never replaced. Students can benefit from the balance of technology and actual creation. I encourage you to explore where a MakerSpace can fit into your content area.

To read more about Makerspaces, check out these articles:


Food for Thought Friday: Does a Liberal Arts Degree Matter?

Humanities Lime Grove, Manchester Univer by Gene Hunt, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Gene Hunt 

by Kristie Burk

I will never forget my uncle’s reaction when I told him that I was going to major in English at Providence College as an undergrad.

“You won’t get a job with that degree!” he advised.  “You should at least minor in business.”

I didn’t minor in business; I actually double majored in English and Secondary Education. Providence College is a liberal arts school where all the students are required to take courses in social science, natural science, philosophy, ethics, theology, mathematics, English and fine arts.

And the good news is that I have been gainfully employed ever since I graduated!

So it was with great interest that I listened to Fareed Zakaria speak at the Schoology Next conference in Chicago in July. His book In Defense of a Liberal Education was part of our “swag” at the conference. (Thank you, Schoology!)  In his book, Zakaria argues that we still need a liberal arts education to gain valuable skills, including how to read, how to write, and how to learn, that are applicable to all jobs.

“It’s true that more Americans need technical training, and all Americans need greater scientific literacy. But the drumbeat of talk about skills and jobs has not lured people into engineering and biology—not everyone has the aptitude for science—so much as it has made them nervously forsake the humanities and take courses in business and communications. Many of these students might well have been better off taking a richer, deeper set of courses in subjects they found fascinating—and supplementing it, as we all should, with some basic knowledge of computers and math. In any event, what is clear is that the gap in technical training is not being caused by the small percentage of students who choose four-year degrees in the liberal arts.” – Fareed Zakaria

Some technology companies agree!  In fact, an article in Forbes argues that the “‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket.”  Check it out this weekend!

Be the Truffle Pig: Digital Storytelling for Students

Truffle Hunter by Keith Park, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Keith Park 

by Kristie Burk

One of the sessions that I attended at ISTE 2015 was called “Beyond Data: What Does Learning Really Look Like?” Led by Digital Promise, a non-profit organization dedicated to “accelerating innovation in education through technology and research.”

The presenters told us that we often have to present data to parents, for example. Instead of focusing on the data, however, they encouraged us to ask the following question: What stories do you want told on Friday?

The rest of the session focused on the importance of storytelling. When you send home that digitial newsletter or when the students are talking to their parents, what stories do you want them to share?

Here are some of their tips:

First, have your students involved in the process.  At the beginning of the week, ask them to think about what stories they can tell.  What is happening that week? What new things are the students going to learn? Is anyone in the classroom going to do anything exciting, inside or outside of school? Have all the students been highlighted at some point?

Second, the presenters encouraged us to use the four C’s:

  1. Collect
  2. Curate
  3. Cultivate
  4. Create

Finally, my favorite piece of advice was to “be the truffle pig.” Truffle pigs, for anyone who doesn’t know, are used to find and dig out truffles, highly prized fungus from the forests of France, Italy and Spain.  The truffle pigs’ sense of smell is so good, they can smell a truffle buried three feet underground! What’s this have to do with storytelling?  Sniff out the good story – find the story that no one else is telling…and then tell it.

For more information on digital storytelling, read this article called “4 Tips for Making Students Global Storytellers.”

Website Wednesday: Quizizz

Today’s guest blogger is Alyssa Day, social studies teacher at Downingtown High School East.

by Alyssa Day

While I have fully embraced technology in nearly all arenas my classroom, the one area I have been hesitant about fully incorporating technology is through assessment.  How can I assure that the assessment is secure, or valuable, or the feedback I get is organized in a valuable way?  I am embarrassed to admit that I still keep a huge stack of cut up scrap paper to hand out for exit tickets.  My main mission at ISTE was to explore tools and methods to use technology to provide this kind of assessment.  I visited booths that tried to sell me assessment tools, posters with enthusiastic presenters and a number of sessions that I selected with this focus in mind, and I am far more on board with technology in assessment now than I was before attending ISTE.

Earlier in the year, Kristie Burk introduced me to Kahoot!, and I have never been more excited about a formative assessment tool, but then I was introduced to Quizizz.  It runs under the same premise as an interactive game-like assessment tool.  You project the leaderboard on your screen and the students view the questions on their devices, and you are all provided with immediate feedback.  It definitely drove some competition between the session attendees, and you have a number of options available to customize your quizzes.  I already set up a quiz to use on the first day of school this year for the summer reading assignment.

I will mainly be using technology this year for formative assessment, but if you were interested in a valuable summative assessment tool, I would highly recommend checking out Three Ring.  It is essentially an online portfolio organizer.  I can definitely imagine using this as a summative assessment tool for nearly any unit in my Western Civilization class.  Honestly, technology based assessment tools are endless.  One of the biggest lessons that I learned at ISTE was so never so readily exclude technology from any area of my teaching, because I know these tools will help me be a more successful teacher this school year.

How To Force Your Students to Make Copies of Google Docs

by Kristie Burk

In the last few weeks, I’ve attended an e-learning conference in Lancaster, ISTE in Philadelphia, an Edcamp in Philadelphia, and the Schoology conference in Chicago.  My head is ready to explode with great ideas!

This little trick comes courtesy of Tammy Worcester’s session at ISTE called “Tammy’s Technology Tips for Teachers.”

Do you ever have a Google Doc that you want to share with your students?  Do you ever have a document that you want the students to write on, but you don’t want them to edit the document itself?

Usually, you have to share the document as “view only.”  Then, the students have to hit “file” and “make a copy.”  It takes a few extra steps that students often forget.

Tammy taught us this little trick:

1.  Copy the shareable link as “view only.”

2.  Paste the link and change everything after the last slash (usually it says, “edit”) to “copy.”  This will force the students to make a copy of the document before they can even view it.

Awesome, right? (2)

Pennsylvania Passes Cyberbullying Law

by Kristie Burk

On July 10th, Governor Wolf signed into law House Bill 229, which makes it a third-degree misdemeanor to cyberbully a child. The law will go into effect in September.

There are some important points in the law for educators to know:

  • Cyberbulling is defined by the law as “the intent to harass, annoy or alarm” a child through the use of electronic social media.
  • The act must be a “continuing course of conduct” that makes a “seriously disparaging statement or opinion about the child’s physical characteristics, sexuality, sexual activity or mental or physical health or condition; or threat to inflict harm.”
  • Cyberharassment of a child is a third-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to $2,500 in fines and possible jail time.

According to the website Internet Safety 10143% of teens aged 13 to 17 report that they have experienced some sort of cyberbullying in the past year. Wow.

What do you think of this new law? Do you think it will reduce cyberbullying with the threat of harsh punishment? Let us know at