Giving Up Control

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 10.29.36 AM

Why is this so hard for me? Every time I think of allowing students to do something that I normally control, I get a picture in my mind of utter chaos. I just finished reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  I follow the ideas of John Spencer, A J Juliani, Brian Aspinall, Todd Nesloney, and others on Twitter that constantly challenge my need to control the environment and my students.  While participating in a live webinar by Angela Watson titled 5 Summer Secrets for a Stress-free Fall, I was once again confronted with this issue.  Here are the steps she mentions in her webinar:


stress free.004Number 5 was the kicker – OUCH! When she mentioned this step, I immediately thought of allowing students to change the batteries in their macbooks themselves. Our macbooks are over 5 years old, and the batteries no longer stay charged all day.  As a matter of fact, I change at least 15 batteries a day in the computer lab.  Now, it does not take long to change a battery, but I have to admit that the loss of time for a student to have to wait for me to stop what I am doing to change their battery can add up.  But more importantly, what message do I send them when I will not allow them to do this simple task themselves?  What do I think is going to happen if I turn this task over to their control? How many other simple tasks could I turn over to my students that would not only save me time, but send the message to them that THEY MATTER, I TRUST THEM, and WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!  If I truly am going to empower my students to go above and beyond, I will have to move from expecting compliance to trusting them. This is what I want for my students…

The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros, My Take-Aways

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 8.12.32 AM

One of the most exciting things to me about summer break is the opportunity to read the amazing books I hear spoken about through Twitter.  My first book to digest this summer was The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros.  Listed below are the statements I do not want to forget while planning for next year.

If we only teach students the curriculum, we have failed them.

To inspire meaningful change, we have to make a connection to the heart before we make a connection to the mind.

The biggest game changers in education are, and always will be, the educators who embrace the innovator’s mindset.

If students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.

As leaders in education, our job is not to control those whom we serve but to unleash their talent.

This statement from the book resonated with me because it exactly how I feel about my position as a teacher: “I don’t see my work as a job, but as part of my being.”

But this section of the book is the one I will be chewing on for a while; the part of the book where Mr. Couros talks about engagement and empowerment.  In essence, he makes a strong case for the fact that engagement is no longer enough in our classrooms…we must empower students and equip them with the skills to learn.  He quotes Bill Ferriter as saying, “Engaging students means getting kids excited about our content, interests, and curricula.  Empowering students means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interest, and future.”

Two years ago, I came back from the TCEA Technology Conference with the word “EXPOSE” on the forefront of my mind.  This year the word will be EMPOWER, thanks to the information and inspiration of The Innovator’s Mindset.

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 8.24.33 AM

image from

One concrete way I can help empower my students is through the use of their digital portfolios, or blogs.  Every student at White Oak Intermediate School has their own blog through Edublogs.  They begin that process as a third grader and continue with their blog until graduation.  Every teacher also has a blog.  This is an area where I feel I have failed miserably.  As the technology teacher, I have the opportunity to really empower my students to use this tool to express, reflect, display, define, and promote themselves.  As George Couros explains in The Innovator’s Mindset, I need to be willing to model what I expect of my students. One of my goals for this next school year is to personally commit to blog at least weekly, and encourage my students to do the same.

Design Challenge – Ball Holder

I read all the time in educational media how presenting students with real world problems is the best way to engage them in learning. One of my real world challenges is coming up with a solution to storing the yoga balls we have in the computer lab.  We had been placing them under the counter along the walls of the lab, but we are running out of space. I moved them to under the tables, but that becomes a problem when other people, like teachers during a staff meeting, use the lab,  so I presented the problem to the 5th graders to develop a solution. Check it out in the presentation below.

3D Printing

Well, it has happened.  Thanks to my principal, Mrs. Rock, and the commitment to students from Scott Floyd and Michael Gras, the teachers and students at White Oak Intermediate School will get the opportunity to experience the wonders of 3D printing.  By her request, we have been furnished with a Makerbot Replicator 5th generation and 11 spools of colored filament paired with the Sprout computer system!

makerbot printer and computer

I, like my friend, Terri Eichholz at Engage Their Minds (I have never met Terri personally, but she is one of my main go-tos in my PLN) did not understand the value of 3D printing initially.  The printer has been in the computer lab about 10 days, and I have already learned so much, like how to take the smart extruder apart to remove a clog of hardened filament. I attempted to print a firetruck from Thingiverse without considering setting it to print with supports.  When the printer attempted to print the bottom of the truck in thin air, things went ari! I wish I had taken a video. With the help of this Youtube video, I was printing again in no time.  Thingiverse is a great website where creators have uploaded their wonderful creations for others to print.  It is a great resource, but meeting a specific need by creating a design of your own results in a feeling of accomplishment that I was not expecting.  I can only imagine what it will do for my students!  My first project was to design a hanger for a frame. The frames my husband purchases to hang All-State photos in the high school no longer come with the hardware attached to hang them on the wall. Here is the design in Tinkercad and printed design:

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 6.59.53 AM

tinkercad photo hanger

My next challenge was to create a flag holder for the flags we used during STAAR testing to signal for someone to come to our room.  In the past, we had a two sided slip of paper (one side was green, the other side was red) we attached to the door frame.  We would flip it to the red side when we needed a break.  It was difficult for the monitors to see unless they were standing right in front of our door.  The flag was created to stick out from the door frame to make it visible from down the hall.  We were placing it in a clip magnet that was not very stable.  Using Tinkercad, it was fairly easy to create a holder to attach a magnet to:

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 7.01.01 AM

tinkercad flag holder

I introduced the 5th graders to the printer on Friday.  Since they only have a few weeks left in our building, they will not have the opportunity the other students have to enjoy the printer.  With the assistance of the 5th grade teachers, we have come up with a way for them to all get something made on the 3D printer.  Students will be designing a coin that represents their 5th grade year.  The teachers will choose one design from each homeroom and  allow students to vote.  The winning design will be printed for each student in the color of their choice. You can access the template for their design ideas here.

For the other grade levels, I may be using this great resource for ideas from Sylvia Martinez: 29 Project Starters for 3D Printers.


MakerSpace Slideshow

My students are enjoying our MakerSpace immensely, but we needed a way to document and preserve their learning.  Next week, students will be introduced or reminded how to log in to their student email account.   (Each student at White Oak Intermediate School has their own gmail account, since we are a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) school.)  They will create a project using Google Slides to begin the documentation process. I have created a title slide using an interesting font from dafont.  (I can not remember who first introduced me to this site; probably Pam Cranford, but I LOVE all the choices here!) They will practice taking a picture of their MakerSpace activity with one of the 13 iPods I have in the computer lab and emailing it themselves.  Each day students go to the MakerSpace, they will create a new slide, type in their goal, and then access the picture they emailed to themselves from the week before to add to the previous week’s slide with the goal for that week. At the end of the school year, students will post their slideshow on their blog. Here is the image for the title slide:

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.21.22 AM

Goal Setting

This week in the computer lab, students will be introduced to the idea of Goal Setting. Students will participate as a class in watching the embedded video below and responding to the prompts. The objective is to have students think about SMART goals they would like to accomplish while participating in the Maker Space. They will complete this Goal Sheet each week before going to the Maker Space. Students will be responsible for blogging about their Maker Space goals. Students will watch the next video to understand that failure is a part of the goal setting experience. Fail stands for Fresh Attempt In Learning.

Big Idea for December – Compassion


The Big Idea for December is Compassion.  Compassion means caring enough to do something about someone else’s need.  For this character trait, students were divided into 6 groups. Each group was given one pair of shoes. The groups were given 5 minutes to construct a scenario about the person who might wear the shoes who has fallen on hard times or who is going through a difficult time.  After five minutes, one person from each group related the story to the class and how they could show compassion to that person.  When time allowed, students were given a bumper sticker sized sheet of paper to make a bumper sticker about Compassion.  As they were working, the following video was projected on the white board:

3D Printer Contest

My good friend and co-worker, Pam Cranford, sent me an email about MakerBot giving away three 3D printers. The contest winners will be the ones who get the most shares on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, or likes on Instagram. I also came across Buncee today from reading a blog post on FreeTech4Teachers. The third grade teachers at school were looking for a tool for their students to share research on the solar system. I decided to check Buncee out by creating an account and using the tool to post my request for retweets. I wanted to ensure students could embed their buncee creations on their blog, so I embedded my creation here. It looks like Buncee is going to be a great tool for them to use.