Saturday, June 10, 2017

Game Hacks for Makers

My son turned five in April.  Among the gifts he received was the card game UNO.  I remember the game from my childhood and thought that would be a good one for him to start to build his strategic thinking.  As we opened it and started to set up the game, I saw a new component.  The new version contains "customizable wild cards" that you can write on.  Players can create a new dimension to the game by having players swap hands or making your opponent give up all their wild cards. 

So I "googled" UNO's new twist and found tons of ideas for how people are customizing the game. Just one small hack by including some blank cards can totally change the game.  It allows players to think creatively and strategically about how to beat their opponents. 

The concept made me wonder if other games have added any new twists.  But then I thought--they don't need to!  Who says we can't create our own hacks to games? 

Surely, we've all considered different twists to Twister or adding a creative rule to Monopoly.  Lots of people have switched up Jenga to make it more unpredictable and interactive by writing different commands on each wooden piece. 

Why couldn't we hack other card games or board games?  How might we transform traditional board games into something new and different?  By changing one component of a game, our approach may be different. Would our strategies need to change?  Could we merge two games into one or take parts from many different games and combine them?  The possibilities are endless!

In education, we are pushing the 4 Cs- fostering creativity, building communication skills, developing critical thinking skills, and pursuing collaboration.  Adding a small hack to an existing childhood game can provide opportunities for all four.

We are in the era of the Makers.  A generation of young people are growing up with a tinkering mindset that gives them the permission to hack, deconstruct, and mess with just about anything in order to create something new and better.  This hack in the UNO game is small step towards innovation. 

What games have you hacked?  Share you ideas on how hacking a board game can be a creative shift for students.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

3 Ideas to End the Year Strong

Raise your hand if you've shown your students a movie towards the end of the school year.

I know lots of teachers who have relied on movies because they just didn't have the energy to do much else.  I get it.  The weather is getting warmer--it's hot inside your classroom.

"My kids are done!" ---I have heard teachers say.  But as teachers, we have this awesome responsibility to educate our students the very best we can in the time that has been given to us.  So, let's make it the best experience all the way til the last bell rings.  End the year strong!

Whether you teach first grade, high school chemistry, or somewhere in between, here are 3 ideas you might try to end your school year as strong is you started it.

#1 Engage Them

When you give up, so do your students.  Show them that you will stay engaged even into June. Engage them with hands-on projects, an end of year project-based learning unit, or an engineering design challenge. Engaging students through Making is one way to keep them thinking, collaborating, and creating throughout the school year.  Check out my book STEAM Makers for more ideas to infuse creativity and innovation into your classroom.

kinesthetic Classrooms .png#2 Get Moving

Do your students get a little antsy this time of year?  Keep them active!  Plan a scavenger hunt around the school.  Take the class for a walk around the building. Get outside and beautify your school grounds.  Try some action-based learning.

Plan regular brain breaks.  There are lots of benefits to using this strategy in the classroom.  Check out this list of brain breaks from Jill Thompson:

#3 Have Fun!

Are students really having fun watching Finding Nemo or some other Disney classic?  Throwing on a movie might make the day seem a little easier to you, but your students would rather learn about a new tool, play a game, use technology, plan a project, or talk about their interests.  What can you do to have fun and keep kids going until the last bell?

Explore Common Sense Media and let students check out new apps or summer movie releases.  They can blog about a new app they've tried or create their own movie trailers for a summer blockbuster.

Start summer vacation early by trying Google Expeditions . Choose exotic locales or historical hot spots that the class may want to visit.  Check out the amazing experience with Google Cardboard or other virtual reality tools.

Look at some DIY projects to end the school year. Students will have fun choosing projects that interest them from decorating and building to gardening or hacking.  The end of the year can be filled with engaging, creative, and fun learning opportunities.

So put down that VHS tape that you've shown for the last 10 years.  Make the end of this year memorable.  Use the last few days or weeks left with your students to do something amazing and keep them learning until the last bell.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Press the orange button!

Several months ago I started using Voxer.  I joined a lively group of educators who were reading Innovator's Mindset by George Couros.  The concept of adding voice to the discussion format that I loved on Twitter really intrigued me, so I jumped right in.  Some of the educators were hesitant and only sent out a "vox" after lurking for a while--and that it OK.  At least they did it!

As I listened to my Voxer messages on my way to work one morning, someone said something simple that really struck me--you have to have the courage to press the orange button.  (If you don't know Voxer, there's an orange button that you press to record your voice to send your message out.) The person that said it was encouraging others in the group. Come on.  Press the button.  You can do this!

Since then, I've noticed evidence of metaphorical button pushing all over the place.  One motivated teacher was interested in flexible seating for her classroom.  She knew this was a risk and outside of what her colleagues might consider, but she pressed the button anyways.  She created a plan for seating options in her classroom and went for it, resulting in enthusiastic and engaged students.

Another teacher, a digital immigrant, wanted to find new ways to involve her students in her ELA lessons.  While she was ready to try something different, she wasn't convinced that technology was the way to go.  She collaborated with another colleague and learned a few apps that could infuse technology and increase student participation in class.  She pushed the orange button and even showcased her new learning for her annual classroom observation.

Some teachers are still pretty reluctant to push the button.  Perhaps it's that they don't like the sound of their own voice.  Or maybe it's the fear of stumbling as your speaking.  I get that--I had those same fears at first too.  But, I hope that the reason isn't that they don't think they have anything important to say.  Sharing your ideas is critical to growing as an educator.  So, maybe your vox isn't mind-blowing. That's OK!  It doesn't have to be.  It does, however represent the opportunity for you to connect with other educators--just by pressing that button.

Go ahead . . . you can do it.


Image result for voxer button

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Who's Hungry?

As the holidays are fast approaching, family, friends, and food are likely on the minds of many.  Oven-roasted turkeys, savory side dishes, and delicious desserts will fill our tables and our bellies as we gather in the upcoming days and weeks.  The sights, sounds, and smells of the holidays heighten our sense and make us hungry.

In education, we see a different kind of hunger--the dedication and drive to do more for our students. Recently I served on an interview committee as our team worked to fill a teaching position in our school district.  While we had lots of qualified candidates, some stood out from the crowd.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  The educators that are so engaged in the conversation that the passion is just oozing out of them.  Their enthusiasm and eagerness is simply contagious.  They are filled with knowledge and ideas that they just can't contain.  They ready to teach--just show them to their classroom.  They're HUNGRY!

When it comes to decision-making time about the interview candidates, I conveyed my strong beliefs about the candidate who had risen above the rest. Motivated. Intelligent. Passionate. Energized. Creative.  Hungry.  

In my opinion, the hungry candidates wins out every time.  It is their insatiable hunger that continues to propel them forward, not just in the interview process but throughout their careers.  They go on to become teachers who are always striving to better themselves, improve their instruction, and provide a relevant learning experience for their students.  They are willing to take risks, push the boundaries, and think about the possibilities.  The hungry teachers keep current with technology while looking ahead to see what's coming.  They recognize the importance of collaboration and engage in a network with other hungry people.  They pursue opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally.  

In keeping with the food theme, here are some characteristics of hungry educators.  They show us that they want to FEAST:

F- Forward-thinking
E- Eager
A- Authentic
S- Smart
T- Tireless

While these may not encompass all of the attributes of hungry teachers, the list provides a starting point to describe the go-getters that we need in our schools.  So, as we head into Thanksgiving and into the holiday season, maintain your momentum and push yourself to seek out new learning for you and your students.  Surround yourself with other creative thinkers.  Start a new collaborative project. Do something to feed your desire to improve as an educator. Stay hungry!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

When Was the Last Time You Tried Something New?

I like to think of myself as an innovative person.  As an educator, I feel like it comes with the territory.  I love Twitter and read books often (Thank you #SixtyBooks challenge!)  but I can't really think of the last thing that I tried that was really brand new to me.

This reflection makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite because in many of my roles, my responsibility is to get people to create, innovate, explore, and dive headfirst into the future.  As a mom, I am always pushing my young sons to try something new, take a risk.  "Here honey, try a pea." "Yes, you can dive in without your swimmies."  "I bet you can climb to the top of the rock wall. Go for it!"   But, when have I done the same?

As an assistant superintendent, I rally our principals to be forward-thinkers and lead with no limits. Collectively, we are working hard to move our district in the right direction.  I push them often to think through a different lens and get uncomfortable.  How often do I?

With our teachers, we are challenging them to "think outside the box". Scratch that.  We want them to jump out of the box, smash the box, and design a better one!  I always thought my attitude towards learning demonstrated that, but what have I done lately to prove it?

This week I decided to get involved in some innovative professional development of my own focused on the Innovator's Mindset by George Couros.  I joined the #IMMOOC and am excited to participate in all that this journey has to offer.  I also joined a Voxer group (So, it may not sound risky to some, but it is brand new to me.)  Thanks to some encouragement from Twitter friends, I sent out my first Vox.  It is becoming my routine that I listen to all the other participants on my commute to work and from work each day.  It has been so interesting already (we are only a few days in) to hear from folks all over the country and beyond!

Trying something new will not only help me to learn and grow as a professional, but I believe it will put me in the right frame of mind to continue to try new things in both my personal and professional life.  I look forward to the opportunity to connect with other educators around the idea of innovation and who knows--maybe I'll even try Brussels sprouts!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

25 STEAM Makers Every Educator Should Follow on Twitter

As STEAM and Maker Education collide in our schools, classrooms, and libraries, connected educators are looking to find all the resources they can to design meaningful learning experiences for students.  There are so many awesome teachers, principals, librarians. technology gurus, and innovators on Twitter who are building a powerful network of STEAM Maker leaders.  Check out these 25 (in no particular order) that are making amazing contributions to advance STEAM Maker learning for young people.

1. Colleen Graves @gravescolleen A real mover and shaker in all things MakerEd, Colleen has a new book coming out focusing on maker projects.  A teacher and librarian, she also started the Maker Slow Chat.

2. Louise Morgan @MrsMorgansClass  Louise is an instructional technologist who regularly blogs about her adventures in makerspaces.  She also puts out the STEAM Makerspace Daily newsletter. Supportive in her re-tweets, Louise shares relevant articles around STEAM and Maker Education.

3. Kathi Kersznowski @kerszi I attended a session of Kathi's in 2015 at the inaugural Evolving Educators conference and I've been following her ever since.  She regularly posts pictures of the great things she is doing in her STEAM Maker club.  She is a forward-thinking and innovative educator!

4. Diana Rendina Want to learn from an inspiring librarian and makerspace maven?  Follow @DianaLRendina !  Her blog is a fabulous resource for new and experienced STEAM Makers.  She reviews relevant professional books and posts pictures of her library, providing great ideas for educators interested in bringing creativity back into our schools.

5. Meredith Martin  @geekyteach  is a vibrant STEM teacher who is passionate about educational technology and Maker Ed.  I've participated in a few of her hands-on workshops as she pushes tinkering and design thinking for teachers.  Meredith tweets about cutting edge ideas in STEAM Maker education.

6. Sylvia Libow Martinez @smartinez The author of Invent to Learn, a must-have book if you are into STEAM Maker learning.  She shares relevant research and practical posts about classroom innovation.

7.  Justin Aglio @JustinAglio This Director of Innovation, is a super hero when it comes to advancing STEAM Maker learning in his district.  Justin shares great information about flipped learning and virtual immersion technology.

8. Zeina Chalich @ZeinaChalich An educational disruptor, Zeina tweets about design thinking, coding, STEAM, and educational technology.  A Leader of Learning and Innovation K-6 (love that title, too!) her AussieEd chat is a great way connect with other STEAM Makers.

9. Susan Wells @wellssusan tweets about all things digital learning, from coding and robotics to new STEM tools.  Susan shares lots of pics from Tech Terra Camp, making you wish you were 7 years old  and at camp again!

10. Holly Gerlach @MrsHollyGerlach Holly is a STEM coordinator and classroom teacher.  Active in lots of Twitter chats, Holly shares great pictures of classroom happenings.  She is an encouraging and resourceful member of my PLN.

11. Margaret Powers @mpowers3 Director of STEAM Innovation (a great title), Margaret shares great content around design thinking and STEAM education, including lots of Vines to see STEAM Maker learning in action.

12. Dan Ryder @WickedDecent I met this high-energy educator at a design thinking workshop last summer.  What a motivational guy!  He tweets about educational technology, student voice, and building empathy, among other relevant educational topics.

13. Laura Fleming @LFlemingEDU Her book Worlds of Making is a great resource for those starting out in their STEAM Maker journey.  Laura's website includes a digital badging platform and great professional development tools.

14.  Eleni Kyritsis @misskyritsis This Aussie educator is up on educational technology and shares often about new tech tools.  Knowledgeable in Google and Microsoft, Eleni regularly shares tips for teachers engaged in technology.  She is also the creator of the Genius Hour Fair.

15.  Krissy Venosdale @krissyvenosdale Always love her tweets since they are filled with great visual images- photos, info graphics, and art work.  Reminds you about the importance of the A in STEAM!

16. Maker Mark @Maker_Mark is a STEAM and Maker Advocate.  Check out his TED Talk on ensuring access to all Makers.  He shares great information about research, policy, and professional development for STEAM Makers.

17.  Brandon Johnson @bjohnson_STEAM He is into project-based learning and Google Apps for Education. Brandon is a supportive retweeter of all things STEAM, Makered, and leadership.

18. Carrie Baughcum @HeckAwesome Her brightly colored profile page pulls you right in!  Carrie is an innovator and impressive sketch note creator.  Her tweets include topics like gaming, growth mindset, and making.

19. Aaron Vanderwerff @aVndrwrff  Aaron is Maker and innovator who posts videos and picture of student projects from his Creativity Lab.  If you want to see STEAM Maker learning in action, follow Aaron!

20. Chris Chappotin @Chris_Chappotin  Providing great updates from STEAM Middle School, Chris posts about educational technology tools and project-based learning resources.

21. Lindsey Own @LindseyOwn Lindsey posts great pics and videos from her makerspace.  If you are looking for information on Maker Ed and design thinking, you should follow Lindsey.

22. Brian Briggs @bribriggs Brian is a Director of Innovation and Technology sharing posts on creativity, genius hour, coding, and new educational technology tools. 

23.  Susan Riley @susanrileyphoto The CEO of Education Closet, Susan tweets about anything STEAM including relevant research, interesting articles, and online professional development.  

24.  Ginger Lewman @GingerLewman Self-professed "silo killer", integrating STEAM and Maker in meaningful ways.  She is the creator of STEAMmaker Camp and advocate for all things project-based learning.

25. Me!
Follow me @DrJacieMaslyk  As the author of a new book, STEAM Makers: Fostering Creativity and Innovation in the Elementary Classroom I share examples of STEAM and Making happening in my district as well as in my region.  I love connecting with other educators who are invested in forward-thinking and exploring the possibilities in schools.

There are many, many other great educators out there involved in STEAM Maker learning.  This list just represents a few who are moving education in the right direction.  If you have suggestions for other names to be added to the list, please share a comment!

Monday, August 15, 2016

You're off ALL summer ?!?!?!?

As educators, don't you just love it when someone says-- Oh, you're a teacher/principal/administrator . . . . What do you DO all summer?  ALL summer.  I know the impression is that we are off for 3 whole months, but I can't remember a day that I sat in my office with my feet up eating bon-bons, that's for sure.

In the last 53 days, I've been busy. I've spent more than half of those days working with teacher teams, writing curriculum and planing new learning for our students.  I've met with teachers to discuss innovative projects and start a grant writing team.  We've planned school-wide design challenges and for a little inspiration we visited innovative places in and around our city.  We've collaborated with other school districts and built relationships with those in our community.  We've spent time with our leadership team, setting goals, planning professional development, and building excitement for a year of new beginnings.

I've done some things so that I can grow as a professional, as well.  I spent several days at a national conference and presented on STEAM and Maker Education. A few more days were spent at local workshops, too. I've attended county-wide meetings and a regional summit on STEM education.  In my free time, I published a blog or two and an article that will run in a national magazine.  I wrote four grants and two conference proposals for this coming year.  In an effort to meet my 60 books in 2016 challenge, I've read 20 books, including some great educational books.  (Kids Deserve it, Innovator's Mindset, and Launch have all been really inspiring!) It's been a busy summer-busy with activity, reflection, and growth.

SO, if you're not in education, please talk to teachers and principals.  Find out about all of the things that happen over the summer to prepare for a new year.  (I didn't even mention completing state and federal reports, ordering new books and materials, interviewing and welcoming new faculty and staff, coordinating services for students, overseeing renovation projects, meeting with parents, orienting new students to the district, reviewing files, responding to emails, attending board meetings, and on and on.)  We are doing so much over the summer, professionally and personally, so that the first day of school is a success.  We devote our time to preparing for students so that they come to school energized and ready to learn.  August is an exciting time of year.  While I'd love to sit poolside and finish my bon-bons, there's more work to do!

Best wishes for a wonderful school year :-)