Be Happy.

Mr. Smiley FaceWhat makes you happy?

Happiness is a very complicated topic for discussion as you may have noticed the hundreds of self-help books at bookstores today.  I am not an expert psychologist, but I definitely feel that there are some important factors that may improve one’s happiness.  As a special education teacher, I work with many students who have learned helplessness, or seem to have given up on school.  Some are depressed, anxious, or unhappy the second they walk through the door.  I believe that educators can impact the mood of their students and guide them to happier lives.

Relationships

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Photo Credit: Kelsey Masserant

“A major study that followed hundreds of men for more than 70 years found that the happiest (and healthiest) were those who cultivated strong relationships with people they trusted to support them” (Loria, 2016).  That statistic speaks for itself.  The majority of people are the happiest when they are spending time with the ones they love, laughing, and feeling connected.  We need to build classroom communities where students feel safe and can form relationships.  Our relationships with coworkers and students need to model those that we want them to form.  Let us not lead them to a future where they spend more time making money than with their friends (Berger, 2014).

Be Thankful

There are so many wonderful things to be grateful for in life.  We need to value and appreciate the basics, the little things, the big things, everything really.  Warren Berger quotes A.J. Jacobs in the book, A More Beautiful Question, saying “there are hundreds of things that go right every day and yet we focus on the three or four that go wrong” (Berger, 2014).  Let’s change our daily mindset to a more positive one.

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, offers simple techniques for how to break “I give up” habits and details the power of positive psychology (Seligman, 1991).  I highly recommend this book as it offers advice on how to promote optimistic behavior in schools.  Optimistic students are happy, confident, risk takers, and creative, which are characteristics we want to see in our students.

We need the mindset of “gratitude is a shortcut to happiness” (Berger, 2014).  This doesn’t mean you have to journal or pray about what you are thankful for every night, but there needs to be a time during the week where these thoughts cross your mind.  Let’s teach our students to be thankful more than just Thanksgiving Day.

Do What You Love

What did you love as a child?  What do you love?  What do you do that makes you the happiest?  What if you spend more time doing things that you love to do?  What would that look like?

It is important to reflect on these questions.  Specific activities or places where you feel most alive should be a large part of your life.  One of my largest passions is in athletics.  I coach volleyball, basketball, and track at the high school level and absolutely love it.  I work sports into my lessons.  I have conversations with my students about current games or teams to help build stronger connections.  I even encourage some students to explore athletics if they haven’t played a sport in the past.  I could go on and on.  Sports have always been a large part of my life and they always will be.  That is because I LOVE THEM.  They bring me happiness and joy.

How can you support the passions of your students and encourage them to share what they love?

Step Back

Lastly it is very important to give yourself a break.  Step back and detach from this crazy busy, technology-rich, stressful world.  This could be “unplugging” from your phone or internet for one day out of the week or turning off your TV for the night.  Instead of being connected, go for a run, read a book, meditate, cook, clean, do something else!  The important thing is that you need to have time to relax, reflect, and question.  This applies in the classroom as well.  There needs to be balance between the use of technology in our lessons, group work, and other forms of instruction.  TPACK helps guide us in this, but keep this “step back” mentality in mind.  Think why am I using this tool?  Is it necessary?  Give your students a break to question and work together.

Any ideas as to how can you model and teach these four keys to happiness?  Leave a comment!

Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question. New York: Bloomsbury.

Loria, K. (2016, July 25). Science says happier people have these 9 things in common. Retrieved July 26, 2016, from http://www.techinsider.io/happiness-traits-behaviors-characteristics-2016-7

Seligman, M. E. (1991). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York: A.A. Knopf.

Ready, Set, Create!

Quickfire.

This single word has a powerful impact on one’s emotions.  Quickfires have been known to make me anxious, excited, frustrated, accomplished, and joyful.  A quickfire is:

A challenge + constraints + a time limit

Throughout the MAET program, we have completed multiple quickfires.  During a quickfire we are challenged to create something within a specific amount of time.  Usually we have a choice of tool or technology that we can use, however you have to choose quickly.  We are encouraged to try something new and push ourselves since we may have already used some of the tools listed.  These quickfire challenges have ranged from creating presentations to introduce ourselves, visuals of our PLNs, paper circuits, 3D classroom redesigns, word clouds, “Keep Calm and..” posters, screencasts, and more!

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My First Quickfire

I will never forget my first quickfire challenge on the first day of class.  We needed to create a five slide presentation through Haiku Deck to introduce ourselves using only 30 minutes, ready? Go!

In my head, I was already freaking out.  What is Haiku Deck? It has haiku in it. Please don’t tell me I have to write a poem about myself…How can I do this in 30 minutes?

My anxiety continued to increase as my laptop was not connecting to the MSU internet… perfect.  As I looked around the room, I saw everyone else already typing away.  I switched over to my new Galaxy tablet and finally reached the Haiku Deck homepage after about ten minutes.

haikudeckMore issues I faced:

  • My options were limited and I couldn’t change text colors.
  • I couldn’t view the full screen of the website so as I typed, words would disappeared into no-man’s land.

Even though I was proud that I had a finished product, it was not everything I wanted it to be.  Besides breaking a sweat in the first 30 minutes of class, I learned.  I learned how to navigate Haiku Deck, push myself, and to be okay with not being perfect.  This quickfire even inspired one of the activities in my lenses lesson plan.

Failure Leads to Success

Flash forward six weeks and I became a little bit more comfortable.  I would still feel myself stressing initially, but then I would start and get in the zone of creating.

There is no time to dilly-dally or overthink during a quickfire.  A quickfire demands split second decisions and immediate action.

Although I would say that all quickfires were a challenge (especially on my six year old laptop), the most challenging quickfire I completed was the classroom redesign.  I needed to use SketchUp to create a 3D classroom.  After downloading it on my computer, I had to switch because it kept freezing and moving super slow.

My Classroom View 1

The next two hours felt like an eternity.  I easily created walls and inserted furniture from the 3D Warehouse.  The big issues I faced were in “painting” pieces and rotating the furniture.  Rotations were impossible!  Right when I thought my whiteboard was on the wall I would switch my view of the room and it would be floating in the air.  During this quickfire I was frustrated, struggled, failed forward, and eventually found success.  My final product= Victory!

In the book, A More Beautiful Question, Berger states that every failure provides opportunity, “How do I learn from failure? The answer is, through questioning” (Berger, 2014).  We cannot be fearful of failure and run in the opposite direction.  We should be asking ourselves, “Why did the idea or effort fail?” (Berger, 2014).  We do not need perfection to be successful and quickfires are a great way to promote this.  The process of persevering through failure and mistakes is the path towards success.  Failure is just a stepping stone.  Reflect on your mistake, question, and move forward.

Even though I have a love-hate relationship with quickfires, I am a proud supporter.  As “there is no universal best teaching practice” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).  I encourage educators to bring quickfire challenges into their classrooms.

  1. There is no right answer: Quickfires are not about the finished product, but the knowledge learned and experience along the way.
  2. Failing forward moves you towards success: This helps build confidence.
  3. It is okay to not be perfect: Accepting this is important for many people to learn.
  4. Promotes risk taking: “Fear is the enemy of curiosity” (Berger, 2014).

 

Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question. New York: Bloomsbury.

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368

All images are credited to Kelsey Masserant.

Wicked Problem

Failing Forward

Today’s rapidly changing world poses new challenges for the field of education.  Some of these challenges may seem near impossible to solve and may be referred to as “Wicked Problems”.  Wicked problems are very complicated and have no specific solutions.

Our group was given the challenge of solving the wicked problem, “Allowing failure to be as powerful a learning mode as success”.  We used Warren Berger’s questioning techniques to move through this project and focus our research.  Below is an infographic summary of our wicked problem that I created using Piktochart.

Wicked Problem Infographic.png After lots of research, we reached out to our PLN (Professional Learning Network) through an online survey and posted a Twitter poll.  We were very impressed with the amount of feedback that we received!  Working through this problem was not an easy task, but I am glad I had my Think Tank group to collaborate with.

Below is our final presentation of our wicked problem’s potential solutions.  We created the background image using Easelly and used ThingLink to organize our information.  Click the buttons along the path to explore our problem more in depth through different forms of multimedia.  Please join our wicked problem discussion by clicking one of the buttons in the bottom left hand corner, “What’s your best bad solution?” Lino board.

Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

Burger, E. (2012, August 21). Essay on the importance of teaching failure | Inside Higher Ed.

Kapur, M. (2016, April 7). Examining Productive Failure, Productive Success, Unproductive Failure, and Unproductive Success in Learning. Educational Psychologist, 51:2, 289-299. Retrieved July 13, 2016.

Kapur, Manu. “Comparing Learning from Productive Failure and Vicarious Failure.”Journal of the Learning Sciences 23.4 (2014): 651-77. ProQuest. Web. 13 July 2016.

Smith, S. s. (2015). Epic Fails: Reconceptualizing Failure as a Catalyst for Developing Creative Persistence within Teaching and Learning Experiences. Journal Of Technology & Teacher Education, 23(3), 329-355.

Smith, S., & Henriksen, D. (2016, March 1). Fail Again, Fail Better: Embracing Failure as a Paradigm for Creative Learning in the Arts. Art Education, 69(2), 6-11. Retrieved July 13, 2016.

Wilcox, K. & Ray, E. (2015, March 2). Embracing Failure to Spur Success: A New Collaborative Innovation Model. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 50, no. 2. Retrieved July 13, 2016.

Calligraphy Creations

My original idea for my networked learning project was to learn calligraphy and then make a piece of artwork for my classroom.  I thought that learning these new skills would be simple because I have “pretty” handwriting.  However, learning calligraphy took more time than I thought as I met many challenges along the way.

I started out by researching different online resources to help me plan my project.  I was a little overwhelmed with everything that is available regarding this topic.  I had to sort through the good and the bad.  I came to learn that there are not only different styles of handwriting, but many different styles of calligraphy.  After buying my supplies, I moved on to the process of learning calligraphy.

It was difficult to form the basic strokes using the Speedball Crow Quill pen and ink.  Once I was comfortable with this writing utensil I moved on to another calligraphy pen and some markers to test out which one worked the best for me.  I love the Black Manuscript italic calligraphy pen!

Practicing lowercase and uppercase letters took lots of practice.  I enjoyed playing around with words and how I organized the letters.  Most calligraphers have their own unique style to writing and I wanted to try some things out.

My first creation on the small canvas was a learning experience.  Spacing the letters out was very difficult.  I used pencil and had to keep erasing to make sure that the sizing was consistent.  I also wanted the final product to fit the whole canvas.  I used both a calligraphy marker and Sharpie brush tip marker because I wanted the letters to stand out.

After hours of research, shopping, and practicing my skills, I was ready to create my final project!  I created this video to showcase what I learned through this networked learning adventure.

I am so happy with the way my project turned out!  It was definitely frustrating at times, but I am proud of myself for working through issues that popped up.  The quote I chose for the final project emulates the attitude that I want my students to have regarding failure.  People learn better from their own failed solutions rather than those provided by others (Kapur, 2014).

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Photo Credit: Kelsey Masserant

Throughout this project, my ideas were constantly changing.  I remixed the final product and wrote on a stepping stone rather than the large canvas.  This surface was rough and made the calligraphy more of a challenge.  This remix idea came to me after going through Berger’s Why, What If, and How questioning process (Berger, 2014).  I continued to question and analyze the best way to solve problems that I faced.  The more beautiful questions you ask, the better outcomes you will have (2014).

Creativity and innovation go hand in
hand with questioning.  It is important to note that “successful innovation requires experimentation and learning from failure” (Ray and Wilcox, 2015).  Without experimenting and learning from my mistakes, I do not think my final product would look the same.

Overall, I am very proud of how everything turned out.  I am excited to continue with my calligraphy journey.  I also want to incorporate a project like this in my classroom where students can learn from doing and be creative!

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Photo Credit: Kelsey Masserant

Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

Happiness. (2012). [Recorded by Royalty Free Music from Bensound]. On http://www.bensound.com

Kapur, Manu. “Comparing Learning from Productive Failure and Vicarious Failure.”Journal of the Learning Sciences 23.4 (2014): 651-77. ProQuest. Web. 13 July 2016.

Wilcox, K. & Ray, E. (2015, March 2). Embracing Failure to Spur Success: A New Collaborative Innovation Model. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 50, no. 2. Retrieved July 13, 2016.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Does the look of a classroom really matter?

The learning spaces in our classrooms have a large impact on student learning.  In fact, according to Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, and Kobbacy, “…classroom design could be attributed to a 25% impact, positive or negative, on a student’s progress over the course of an academic year”.   As educators, we need to take the design of our classroom seriously and think about what will be the best structure for our students.

The six most important factors that should be taken into account are color, choice, complexity, flexibility, connection, and light (2013).  When I was moving through my process of redesign, I was constantly thinking back to these six elements.

My Classroom

Before jumping right into the creation of my new classroom, I had to stop and think.  I used the Stanford D School’s Design Thinking Process to help me understand the improvements that I wanted to make.  In addition to using these five steps, I followed the Why, What If, and How questioning framework of Warren Berger (2014) to effectively come up with the best design I could.

WHY? Why redesign?

Empathize: The classroom where I co-teach Geometry is outdated.  The desks are connected to the chairs and sit in rows of partnerships.  The room has a few windows, carpet, and plain brown brick walls.  As I redesign I need to consider the needs of my co-teacher, my Geometry students, Algebra II students, and myself.

classroom1

A peek into my classroom Photo Credit: Kelsey Masserant

Define: My current limitations are the desks.  They can move around the room, but are difficult to form groups and change seating arrangements.   How can I foster collaboration and encourage creativity in this environment?green question

Ideate:  What if I…

  • Got rid of bookshelves?
  • Had stackable chairs on wheels?
  • Added more whiteboards?
  • Had different tables?

The focus of my ideas centered on the flexibility of the classroom furniture.  With my current resources, it is hard to foster different group activities.  Flexibility is one of the six elements to consider when designing a learning space (2013).  My thought was that mobile chairs would allow for new seating arrangements and groups.  In addition, these chairs will encourage “forced collisions” (Kahl, 2011) between students.  Just as Pixar has seen in their company, these spontaneous meetings may spark great ideas or new understanding that would not have occurred in the old classroom setting.

I also wanted to open up the space and place the focus more on the students.  Students have the chance to share their learning on the multiple whiteboards.  The whiteboards will also help foster questioning processes (Berger) and the maker movement.  Students will be able to be creative and collaborate more in this new environment.

HOW? How can I do this?

Prototype:  I used Google SketchUp and an imaginary unlimited budget to transform my current classroom.

My Classroom View 1

Image Credit: Kelsey Masserant using SketchUp

I chose to build off of my ideate stage and open up my classroom.  I replaced the old furniture with stackable chairs on wheels, hexagonal tables, and tall tables.  The variety of seating is great for students with special needs that need to move around or stand to complete their work.

I included more whiteboards and thin carpet so the chairs can move easily.  Students can spin around in their chairs for class notes or a lesson shown on the Elmo.  As Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, and Kobbacy suggest (2013), I chose to use warm colors on my walls.

My Classroom View 2

My Classroom View 3

Image Credit: Kelsey Masserant using SketchUp

Test:  Even though I have spent a lot of time designing this new room and believe that students will be successful learners here, there may be a better design.  I would start by making small changes and allowing students to have a choice of different chairs.  They could test different options to see where they feel most comfortable and most productive.  After that, we can make more large scale changes to the room.

It would cost a lot of money to make all of these improvements.  Regardless, I still need to consider these ideas at the beginning of the school year.   I can make changes to support my ideas of learning and move away from the traditional rows.  Flexibility is the key!  I want my students to collaborate and be creative.

If you are thinking of redesigning your classroom, remember that many factors impact your design.  Please comment below with some of your ideas!

Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question. New York: Bloomsbury.

Kahl, M. (2011, November 22). What Schools Can Learn From Google, IDEO, and Pixar. Retrieved July 17, 2016, from http://www.creativitypost.com/education/what_schools_can_learn_from_google_ideo_and_pixar

Question Everything

Take a second and think back to your elementary school.  In your classes, who was the person asking most of the questions?  Was it your teacher?  Was it the “smartest” kid in class?  Was it you?

Now think, who should be the one asking the questions?

Typically in schools, the teacher is mainly questioning students.  Then there is that one student, maybe multiple students, who question.  This student is often viewed as an outcast, the one challenging authority.  This attitude needs to change.

Instead of negativity towards these students, educators should be encouraging students to question.  We need to transition into a world where questions are valued more than answers.  In most cases, they are more important.

Why? Questioning drives us towards a solution.  Problems may come in all shapes and sizes.  Solving our problems is not simple.  Berger recognizes a method of questioning that helps solve difficult problems in three specific steps.  This is the Why, What If, and How process (Berger, 2014).

This method incorporates design thinking skills and helps break down the problem solving process (2014).  It may seem like an endless cycle of question after question, but it logically makes sense when you move through the stages.  It organizes your thoughts from seeing and understanding the problem (why?), to imagining solutions (what if?), to eventually doing (how?) (2014).

So how can we use this process in the classroom?

As a co-teacher in high school Geometry classes, I work with mainly freshmen and sophomores.  Along with teaching the curriculum, we are also preparing them for the SAT.  Beyond standardized testing, “we need more patient problem solvers” (TED Talk, 2010) to make sense of the world around them.  Teaching math reasoning is more difficult than teaching math computation, especially to high school students.  After all, who loves story problems?

In our classes we assign complicated “performance tasks” which usually involve multi-step word problems.  Students have to blend together prior mathematical knowledge with new material to find the answer.  The directions may help guide them; however they have to use their problem solving skills to think critically.

Performance tasks are ill-structured problems because students need to coordinate multiple systems, strategies, and skills.  This is not easy.  Students often do not do well on their first one.

This year, my co-teacher and I considered ways to scaffold our performance tasks.  We wanted to give some support early in the year, and then reduce that as the year went on.   We decided to use the visible thinking routine, Micro Lab, where every student participates in group discussion with rounds of sharing that are timed.  We altered this routine a little bit and had students just work with the partner next to them.

  • Students read through the directions and determined the problem on their own.
  • One partner had one minute to tell the other partner possible solutions.
  • The second student had one minute to discuss ways to get to the answer.

question marks

Even though we saw improvements in PT scores after using this routine, I would like to make some more changes.

We used the why, what if, and how framework ideas without explicitly telling students to question.  I would take away the micro lab and just have students write down questions for each of the three stages.  To make sure everyone participates, each student could come up with two questions for each stage.  Then, they can discuss the questions with their partner.  This conversation is critical for brainstorming ideas and coming up with the best method to solve the problem.  Later in the semester, we can take the partners away and students can use Berger’s questioning process on their own.

I naturally go through Berger’s questioning process when I make improvements on my lessons.  It is easy to imagine using this in my personal life as well since I have an analytical, questioning mind.  My new challenge is to instill this in my students by lessons that encourage them to question.

With Berger’s technique, “you can attempt to adjust the way you look at the world so that your perspective more closely aligns with that of a curious child” (2014).  This innocent mindset gives us a new perspective where we step back and truly observe a problem.  We take time to digest the information before jumping to an answer.  When we think this way and question our questions, we might come up with a brand new idea or innovation.  The possibilities are endless.

Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

TED Talk. (2010. March). Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover. Retrieved July 15, 2016. from http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover

Quadrilaterals: The Queens of Geometry

Looking for a way to spice up your teaching and take a break from notes?  Challenge your students to question, research, and become experts on a topic to present in front of the class.

As a high school special education teacher co-teaching Geometry, I have noticed that some students are scared of the class because they think this is a “different math”.  By tapping into their prior knowledge and making connections, the new concepts will be less frightening for them.  This lesson allows students to extend their knowledge of quadrilaterals through inquiry-based research.

I have previously taught these shapes with guided notes and direct instruction.  Looking through a new teaching lens, I chose to incorporate a “Maker mindset” with technology.  It is our job as educators to incorporate technology as we see appropriate while keeping in mind that it is just a tool, not the magic solution (Koehler and Mishra, 2009).

TPACK stands for technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge.  PCK goes deeper than knowing the content or way we teach it.  It “requires the transformation of content in ways that make it intellectually accessible to students” (2009).  This framework is important for educators to use when determining which technology to use in lessons to enhance their students’ learning.

TPACK allows teachers to make these tough decisions based on the what (content), the how (pedagogy), and the tool (technology) used in the lesson.  I used TPACK in changing this lesson from direct instruction to inquiry and discovery learning with technology.

Tpack

The Content: Understanding the properties of quadrilaterals and the relationships between them.

The Pedagogy:  Students will work alone and together.  They will question, discuss, research, create, and present.  They will gain new information and synthesize it into something that makes sense.

The Technology:  Chromebooks will be used to create the Haiku Deck presentations.

I chose Haiku Deck as a challenge for students to work with something new.  Exploring new technologies and expressing their learning is what the 21st century learners are all about.  Students will be engaged with the technology, the challenge, and the creation.

Why will the learning stick?

  • Students are researching their own questions and ideas. As a group they determine what is important and research from there.  They own their learning and become invested in the challenge.
  • The gesture (or dance move) will not just be something fun and memorable. It will be a reference for our class to use when learning the theorems later on.
  • The graphic organizer will take some deep thought to piece together relationships and make connections. Students have to “make sense” of the new information together.  This will be a great guide for them to transfer the new knowledge to proofs.

Do not be afraid!  I encourage you to re-vamp your lesson plans and think about ways to make the learning deep and meaningful.  We all want our students to be successful, but what can we change to make the learning stick?

Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2009). Too cool for school? No way! Learning and leading with technology. Link to article: “Too Cool for School” EJ839143

Practice Makes Perfect

I was really excited to get my networked learning project going.  After reviewing my resources, I decided to make a shopping list of supplies based on what the bloggers and artists recommended.  I took notes on which brand to buy and which not to buy.  As a young teacher, I also didn’t want to break the bank and spend a ton of money on supplies.  I kept the price in mind in addition to the quality.  I wanted to have some great tools that would last.  Once I had my plan, I headed out to Michaels and Jo-Ann Fabrics in high spirits.  My first stop was Jo-Ann’s and I was surprised with what I found:

At home, I was overwhelmed with the variety of tools and did not know what to even put on my list.  At both stores, I was unimpressed with the selection of calligraphy supplies.   I spent some time reading the packages and looking around other parts of the store to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  For future reference, Michael’s has them in two different sections, on opposite sides of the store.  From Jo-Ann’s (where I had more coupons) I bought:

From Michaels I bought:

Photo Jul 07, 3 01 43 PM

The first two blogs, By Dawn Nicole and Boxwood Avenue, provided me with some information to get started.  However, the “free” worksheets were not free or led me to other blog sites where I found some other resources.  Katrina Alana had some great basic calligraphy guide line practice worksheets that I slid under the paper I was writing on.  The guide lines are very important because your letters should make a 55 degree slant.  The lines also help make sure your sizes are accurate.  Since no worksheets had letters, I needed to look up images and videos before beginning as I am a very visual learner.

Here are some awesome resources I found:

Calligraphy for Beginners gives very important basic information on fountain pens.  The artist explains how to put the pen together and how to hold it (60 degrees with the paper and light pressure).  I never knew that all of these little details were so important to calligraphy until I started practicing.  They can make a huge difference in your strokes.

Jordan Moran’s Copperplate Calligraphy Basics teaches copperplate calligraphy in easy to follow steps.  I learned that there are seven basic calligraphy strokes in this traditional style of calligraphy as demonstrated in this short video.

Lessons that I learned while practicing calligraphy:

  1. Open up the container of ink carefully. It could splatter all over your hands or your dining room table, leading me to my next lesson.
  2. Have paper towel available! You will need it.
  3. Nibs are more than just my favorite Twizzlers candy. They are the tip of the calligraphy pen and vary in size depending on how thick you want your lines to be.
  4. It takes time!  You have to be REALLY patient and not get frustrated when you write.  Ink will splatter, paper may get stuck in the tip of your pen, and you will have to keep refilling your pen with ink.  Take your time and enjoy the ride.
  5. Parchment paper is much easier to write on compared to printer paper. Printer paper can rip with some down strokes and mess up the flow of the pen.
  6. Learning the basic strokes will help you form letters. Those seven basic strokes are a part of every lowercase letter in the alphabet.
  7. Just because something looks easy doesn’t mean it is. I thought that having good handwriting meant that calligraphy would come natural to me, however just like everything else, it takes practice.

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The next step in my calligraphy journey will be continuing to practice my letters.  Once I am more comfortable with the lower and uppercase letters, I will move on to experimenting with some of the other writing utensils.  I am very curious to see how the Sharpies write!  Stay tuned!

Spartans Make

Maker, Makerspace, Maker Faire, are any of these words familiar to you?  They were completely foreign to me until last Tuesday.  I had never heard of the Maker Movement.  Through lots of research and discussion, my classmates and I wrote out rough definitions.

Photo Jun 22, 2 15 02 PM

Image Credit: Kelsey Masserant

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Image Credit: Kelsey Masserant

So what’s the big deal about this movement?  It is something special taking the world by storm.  Since humans are naturally goal oriented and seeking information constantly, (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000) it makes sense that we start allowing ourselves to explore and create.  It is commonplace for us to specialize in certain tasks or fields in today’s society.  We have others do what we think we cannot.  The Maker Movement challenges that mindset and promotes us to be the makers.  This is especially important in the field of education.

We want our students to construct knowledge themselves (2000) and that can occur through making.  They learn “by constructing knowledge through the act of making something shareable” (Halverson and Sheridan, 2014).  Students question, ideate, test, and re-test, to push their thinking to the limit.  This type of learning also reaches across formal and informal learning (2014).  We are giving them the time and space they need to learn for themselves.

To help promote these ideas in young minds today, my classmates and I were challenged to put on a Maker Faire at the Michigan State Library.  The planning process was quite a whirlwind.  Most of us had very little knowledge of anything relating to makers or the Maker Movement.  We went from zero to one hundred in a matter of seven days, hosting a public event where over 200 people attended.  There were seven unique stations ranging from penny boat wars (low tech) to programming ozobots to move (high tech).

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#gotthepower

The main objective at our station was for makers to apply their knowledge of completing circuits to explore conductors and insulators.  They learned what a circuit needs to function including how to place materials.  By the end of their time with us, makers could describe which materials are conductors and which are insulators.  They also understood how to operate a Makey Makey and how to play online musical instruments or games.  This activity supports exploration, play, and teamwork.

#gotthepower 2

The entire Maker Faire experience was very rewarding, eye-opening, and memorable.  The planning part of it was stressful at times because there were just so many things that my classmates and I didn’t know.  We brainstormed a long list of questions early on and coming up with answers seemed like such a daunting task.  I remember thinking to myself; how we are going to make this happen?   It took time, collaboration, and dedication to produce ideas that we thought could work.  Things became easier as we got to know each other better.

The “test run” was very valuable to our success at the Maker Faire as Mary and I made some changes to the set-up of our stations.  We learned that we were giving makers too much freedom and that some would need more guidance.  It is a difficult balance of giving them enough room to explore while also giving them some structure.

Our scaffolded stations were a hit with students and grandparents of all ages!  It was a moving experience to witness engaged learners excited about pushing themselves to the limit.  We encountered one hiccup with our technology during our Maker Faire.  One laptop at a gaming station froze and had technical difficulties.  I would suggest if you want to run this station, you have some more adults to troubleshoot if there are any issues or have extra technology on hand.  With that said, I was very happy with the way #GotThePower turned out!

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“Hot Cross Buns” played with a banana, play dough, and a stick of gum!

When I go back to my classroom in the fall I want to use what I learned from this Maker Faire to push my high school students as learners.  Students need to question and explore ideas on their own as “fear is the enemy of curiosity” (Berger, 2014).  I want to provide tasks for them to explore and figure out the meaning behind the mathematics.  They should be the ones asking the questions, not me.  That is what the Maker Movement is all about!

Check out The Power to Conduct for detailed information on how to successfully set up and run this station in your classroom or Maker Faire.  Please do not hesitate to leave a comment if you have a question.  I am happy to help!

I’ll leave you on a high note… This young maker played “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with a gummy bear, apple sauce, a spoon, play dough, and a metal clip!

Bransford, J., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368

Halverson, E. R., & Sheridan, K. M. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495­504. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/docview/ 1651843463?accountid=12598

One Powerful Tweet

“Writing matters!” Maybe you have heard this from an English teacher in school, a parent at home lecturing you to write an essay, or a friend that you would consider a part of the “grammar police”.  Many of us think, but why?  Why does writing matter?  Writing is not just a scholarly activity used only in school or literature; it is visible in different forms of communication including text messages, emails, Facebook, and even Twitter.

After the last few weeks I have a newfound love for language.  Just one tweet can make all the difference.  Last week, I was assigned to do some reading on the topic of maker faires, something I had no prior knowledge about.  I could choose any informational articles that I wanted.  One article from Time Magazine described the Maker Movement and mentioned a maker magazine.  After discovering this I tweeted out directing my tweet at Make Magazine.  I didn’t think it was a big deal until it was liked by one of the editors of the magazine, Mike Senese.  I tweeted out again at Mike and Make Magazine, shocked that he had seen it.  He then replied to my tweet.  Fast forward a few days and I find myself emailing Mike about setting up a Skype chat with the rest of my classmates.  Crazy!

In preparation for our talk with Mike, my classmates, instructors, and I brainstormed a list of questions to ask.  We kept in mind that time was limited and we wanted to ask valuable questions.  We thought it would be helpful to ask about Maker Faires and other specific questions relating to the Maker Movement.  We didn’t want to ask something where you could find the answer online.

Skyping Mike was a great learning experience for all of us.  We went back and forth asking questions, explaining our Maker Faire, and having a great conversation.  He was very supportive of our ideas and complimented what we were doing in our studies.  It was awesome to hear his passion for the Maker Movement and his beliefs that echoed what we had been reading about.

Some important ideas I took away from our Skype session with Mike:

  • Making, in general, is something that everyone can be involved with.
  • Encourage kids to make things and break things. If you don’t break what you make then you’re not pushing yourself to the limit to fix it!
  • Allow students to find their talents, it makes an impact.
  • Promote Maker Faires to come into schools.

Mike mentioned that everyone can be involved with making and should be.  This parallels with Warren Berger’s ideas in A More Beautiful Question.  “In a sense, we’re all ‘makers’ now, or, at least, we would do well to think of ourselves that way.  Whether or not we were ever properly taught how to question, we can develop the skill now, on our own, in our own spaces” (Berger 2014).  As a cohort of educators, we find these words especially empowering because questioning is something we can encourage and practice in our classrooms.  Questioning and making are skills that can be practiced and go hand in hand.

Photo Jun 28, 3 14 33 PM

Photo Credit: Mary Ciotta

When Mike was talking about breaking and making, I made another connection to Berger’s words.  Berger describes how one inventor, Van Phillips, was designing a better prosthetic foot.  Phillips’ prototypes kept failing and Phillips had to ask himself, “Why did it break?  What if I change the mix of materials?  How will this new version hold up?” (Berger, 2014).  This is exactly the mindset that Mike wanted us to take away from our talk with him.  It is valuable for our students to hypothesize, test their ideas, and then revise their work.  Test, re-test, make, break, re-make, re-break, are processes our students need to practice.  They have freedom to wonder, discover, and are actively engaged in this type of learning environment.  Creativity and mistakes are encouraged.

One more positive impact this experience had on me is expanding my professional learning network.  “Educators have to reexamine their own learning practice and move toward becoming more networked and connected themselves” (Daly, 2012).  This can be through online collaboration and networking or in person.  I never thought that I would be connecting with magazine editors or hosts of TV shows in my time as an educator.  I am happy to have Mike as a connection to the “maker world” moving forward.  Writing does matter.

Berger, W. (2014). A More Beautiful Question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

Daly, J. (2012, September 14). Why School? TED ebook author rethinks education when information is everywhere. Retrieved June 21, 2016, from http://blog.ted.com/why-school-ted-ebook-author-rethinks-education-when-information-is-everywhere/