Make Your Makerspace

As I’ve shared in a previous post, I recently signed up for an online workshop hosted by Digital Harbor Foundation.  In this series of workshops, you learn how to build 10 different DIY projects.  The course helps you with step-by-step instructions on how to complete the build.  Along with the printed step-by-step instructions, you also get the live walkthrough of the build.  Each project comes complete with a list of materials you will need for each build, along with support when you bump into troubles along the way.  In this first build, using an Arduino, I learned how to program a Neo-Pixel LED light, which can be used as part of a maker space sign.  Now, for anyone who knows truly knows me, knows that I love big bright lights, especially colorful lights, and this project appealed to my peculiar sensory needs.

While I am unable to outline the directions for the build here, you’ll have to sign up for the workshop for that!  I will share my experience during the process, with a few snaps here and there… First of all, I will have you know that she (me) had no clue as to what she was doing, but that’s okay, both @jonathanprozzi and @shawngrimes were there to field my questions…

During the build, I learned to install a program from the Arduino Library, which caused the lights to “light up”.  You’ll notice below in the strandtest below that you have the ability to customize the pattern and timing of the lights, which is pretty neat.  I am thinking of using the lights to make a Neopixel basketball hoop.  It’s gonna be LIT!!! Like, literally… Haha!
screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-11-12-00-am During the build, of course she ran into a little snafu (just learned how to spell that word) during the build when I attempted to connect the Arduino via USB.  I received the error message below and of course, called in @jonathanprozzi for damage control. Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 9.10.02 AM.pngOf course, he directed me to unplug everything, reboot and reinstall the program to my computer and, yes it worked!  See pics above.


Til next time,





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Middle Ages Film Festival

Some weeks ago, our students completed a two-week long project on the Middle Ages, wherein they were given a variety of topics to choose from including, the Black Plague, feudalism, the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades.  In groups of 3, the students approached the task by conducting background research on their selected topics, using advanced search strategies for their images.  Collaboratively, they crafted and revised their shared storyboard, finally filming trailers using some green screen effects and iMovie.

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The project cycle involved the teacher and I sitting down to discuss the learning goals for the unit, as well as what she was hoping to accomplish through the activity.  Next, we planned a project timeline, which included a few deliverables along the way.  I used Tony Vincent’s iMovie Trailer Planners to help the students plan and organize their stories. (Consider following Tony on social media)  Scaffolding the project in this way not only ensured the students understood the project, but also helped with time management.
Before students set about to complete their story boards, I spent time discussing the importance of attribution and photography etiquette.  I did this, as it is routine and tempting for students (and adults) to quickly google an image, copy and paste it, without citing where the image was taken from or knowing whether the image could be remixed or used in other ways.  Since we were on the subject of images and photography, I also felt it was important to talk with the students about etiquette.  Jenni Swanson Voorhees, my tech bud and former colleague at Sidwell Friends School, shared with me a lesson she and her students had completed centered around the theme of “Creating a Culture of Consent“, wherein students crafted a community agreement, laying out their rules for taking photos in the class.  The agreement is simple but fosters the consideration and respect we want our students to display.  I shared with the boys the importance of asking a person’s permission before taking a photo and sharing with them how that image will be used.  In addition to asking permission, it is also important students share those images with the subject, and allow them to view the final product, as well as have knowledge about how that image/media will be shared.  As the students were all working in groups, they were able to easily shared those images with their group members, in addition to viewing and editing the final products.

After our chat, students independently brainstormed their story ideas, followed by a collaborative planning session, where they merged their various visions into a singular story.  After the storyboard was completed, the classroom teacher gave the students time to explore the various trailers to gain a sense of the tone and theme they were hoping to achieve.  Finally, it was time to shoot.
The next 2 days or involved filming and editing, where students used the picturesque grounds of the National Cathedral in Washington DC, in addition to some green screen techniques to finalize their movie.  I used Impact’s green screen and the DoInk iOS app ($2.99) to complete the project.  Their vision and hard work culminated in a Film Festival, where students voted for their favorite trailer…
For me, one of the most important pieces of a project is that of reflection.  Upon completion of the project and film viewing, both students and teacher were asked to reflect on the process and the product.  The responses included those that were technical in nature, to simply having more class time to film and edit.  From a technical perspective, a few students mentioned their desire to use tripods and professional lighting during their filming, in addition to having access to a wider green screen.  While others expressed a desire to explore a different trailer/movie making app as well as more sophisticated editing software (Adobe Premiere) for enhanced quality (by the way, even I don’t yet know how to use Adobe Premiere) ha!

Another essential piece in refining a class project is that of teacher reflection and feedback.  The classroom teacher thought this project gave her students an opportunity to explore their creative talents but also felt the trailer was a little light on content.  If we were to do it again, we would explore a different video making format, so as to allow the students more flexibility to include their own voice.  The teacher also felt it would have been helpful if students were able to record their own audible storyline in the trailer.  For next time, the idea of a short movie might be a viable alternative.  Having the boys use iMovie trailers for the first project was a scaffolded way of introducing them to the ideas of storyboarding, capturing images and editing.  While she would like to do the project again, she and I both agree on coming up with ways to encourage the students to include more content.

Rest assured, this isn’t the end… We’ll be back!

Here is the write up, along with the trailers, located on the school website.
Til next time,

Reflections of a Maker

In my previous post, I discussed my plans to launch a maker club at my school.  In this post, I plan to provide a bit more context.  Each club meets once a week for 45 minutes for seven (7) weeks.  Because this was my first time ever doing this, I wanted to come up with a few project ideas in advance.  Further, I wanted to select projects that would provide a low barrier to entry, as well as one that would incorporate scaffolded skills sets the students could build upon and leverage as they move towards more challenging projects.

As usual, I planned way more than I needed for the first day, as I was not yet familiar with the ability and skill level of the students.  So, I decided on two (2) mini projects, Paper Flashlights, and Artbots.  I “borrowed” the Paper Flashlights project idea from the Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF) and Instructables.  During the Maker Workshop at DHF, one thing we discussed is the simple, but all important act of sharing one’s work. Had DHF and others chose not to share their work, I, as well as my students, wouldn’t be able to benefit and grow from their wonderful resources, so I was reminded by @jonathanprozzi to “pay it forward” through sharing (hence, my post).

Within the first 10 – 15 minutes of the club, I realized we would not complete both projects. My ambition was tempered with a reminder that planning adequate time for project execution is also key.  The students set about the task of making Paper Flashlights using a template.  Here are a few pics from that experience.

During our second session, the students and I crafted Art Bots.  This was done to engage the students in the idea of using technology as a means of self-expression.  For this project, we used recycled yogurt cups, googly eyes, and markers to create the bot.  After securing the battery and wires, we then set about connecting the battery pack to the cup. Next time, I might just go with the suggestion of DHF and use electric toothbrushes from the Dollar Store.  This would have made the motor assembly much easier.  If you’re looking for additional inspiration along these lines, The Tinkering Studio has a similar project posted titled, “Scribbling Machines“.

In short, the boys seemed to enjoy the project.  I’m interested in where this will go next…

til next time,
– theberknologist

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My Maker Space Journey

Each year our school offers electives to students in Grades 4 – 8.  These electives, better known as “clubs” include activities ranging from lacrosse, handball, and photography to Zumba.  There’s even a crew of Star Wars enthusiasts.  Learning this, I thought I would jump at the chance to launch a club for makers in Grades 4 – 6.  You might recall from some of my earlier posts my previous attempts at starting a maker space.  Learning from that experience, I decided to try again.  With that said, the next few posts are a reflection of my attempts to get the ball going.  Again.  In this post, I wanted to document some of those processes.  I might add I didn’t quite have time to develop the mission statement nor a collection of materials to furnish this space, and I was comfortable with that.  I simply wanted to get started.

sgadobeTo better my own understanding during the process, I wanted to comb through some reputable resources, as well as connect with some folks who knew what they were doing (smile).  That’s where Shawn Grimes and the folks over at Digital Harbor Foundation (DHF) come in.  Consider following them on Social Media at @dhfoundation.  From their site, Digital Harbor “is dedicated to fostering learning, creativity, productivity, and community through education.”  What seems to be so cool about what they’re doing is that they seem to value the idea of reimagining and reclaiming used things.  In particular, their current home is housed in a former recreation facility in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore City.  What they’ve done is transformed this space into a vibrant community hub for kids, educators, and maker enthusiasts, both young and old.  After their first year, DHF launched the Center of Excellence to provide training and support to others, like me, on how to incorporate making into their own learning environments.  I might add that among others, they also offer a mean workshop on 3D Printing for Educators… That’s my next stop.  However, I digress.

During today’s Maker workshop, we explored the “why’s” of making and learning to see making as a means of developing productive habits of mind like adaptability, creativity and much more you’re likely aware of.  One thing that stood out to me, however, is that making also equips students with skills and understandings for jobs that do not yet exist!

Over the two days of the workshop, Jonathan Prozzi and Andy O’Neill walked us through various projects we could easily take back to our schools and replicate, one thing I liked about this workshop – definitely not a passive experience.

During the workshop, we made LED name tags, Galaxy Bots, Paper Circuits and more.  In addition to the cool projects, we talked a lot about the types of maker spaces, how to get started, how to fund your maker space, how to teach making, building maker culture, prompt development and how to deal with frustration during a project.  We even received a box of supplies valued at $300 to help us get started.

To date, I’ve been able to complete a few of the projects with my students.  My next post will cover our first day of making in the Maker Club and the projects our students tackled along the way.  Don’t forget to check out the footage from my Funky Wind Tube Challenge. The challenge required us to create an object that covers in the blue zone for at least 10 seconds and guess what?  She did that…

Til next time.


Digital harbor foundation. (2017). Retrieved January 22, 2017, from

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6 Principles for a Robust Technology Integration Plan

Originally, I was thinking of penning this post, “Survival of the Fittest for Your Tech Integration Strategy”.  Read more to find out why.  As a former biology teacher, turned tech integrator, I found Martin Reeves, Simon Levin and Daichi Ueda’s recent article featured in the Harvard Business Review interesting.  The Biology of Corporate Survival offers a unique perspective on what causes corporations to fail or succeed, juxtaposed with survival principles from natural ecosystems.  You can also find some of these ideas revealed in Reeves’ co-authored book, Your Strategy Needs a Strategy.
R1601B_REEVES_NESTEDCOMPLEX     Screenshot 2016-05-09 08.48.03

Image taken from “The Biology Of Corporate Survival”  – January – February 2016 (c)

The writers investigated 30,000 public firms in the US and came to the conclusion that businesses are disappearing like never before for their failure to adapt to the complexity of their environment.  If we were to align this idea to our various school contexts, we could then pose the question of why technology integration efforts fail?  In what ways do we anticipate, build and sustain complexity?

Their research takes a rather interesting look at the  intersection of business strategy, biology and complex systems and what makes each of the systems more robust.  Think about it, the more biologically diverse an environment and ecosystem are, the better their chances of natural survival and sustainability.  Additionally, it is known that healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters.  The writers refer to these systems as “complex adaptive systems”.  In this vein, not only are businesses and biological species complex adaptive systems (CAS), but so are schools.m15-fig1-mikhail-rogov

In a complex adaptive system, the interactions between local events and organisms shape the system, resulting in a never-ending feedback loop, where systems are influenced by the individuals and the individuals by the system.  Such systems are nested in broader systems —  i.e. Teachers and students are nested in broader systems of school and local culture.

The authors propose six (6) principles that make a CAS robust and I would argue the same in light of technology integration efforts.  Over the next few posts, my plan is to tackle each one of these in the context of technology adoption and integration.  I hope you will join me on this journey as I try to make sense of this.

As Reeves, et. al., see it, here are those six principles:

  1. maintain heterogeneity of people, ideas and endeavors
  2. sustain a modular structure
  3. preserve redundancy among components
  4. expect surprise, but reduce uncertainty
  5. create feedback loops and adaptive mechanisms
  6. foster trust and reciprocity in their business ecosystems 

And please, by all means, feel free to challenge me on these ideas – it helps me solidify my own understanding – that’s the point – right?


Life.  (2014, January 19).  Why is Biodiversity Important?  Who cares? – global issues. Retrieved May 9, 2016, from

Reeves, M., Levin, S., & Ueda, D. (2016, January 1).  The biology of corporate survival. Retrieved May 9, 2016, from Managing uncertainty,

Science for designers:  Complex Adaptive Systems – Point of View – August 2012. (2012, August 6).  Retrieved May 9, 2016 from May 9,

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Google Slides… Now accepting audience questions.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!


Did you know you can now accept questions from the audience while presenting in Google Slides? How dope is this?!  Well, maybe I’m late to this, but for me, this is a game changer… Think about students in your class who might be reluctant to raise their hand or speak in front of their peers?  This creates a way for them to insert their voice in a less-threatening way.  It could also be a means of developing confidence in that student and helping to provide additional opportunities for students to feel included.

I’d encourage you to check it out for yourself!  See Google Science Fair Winner Shree Bose in action as she shares with students.

Source: ATLIS Deep Dive 2016 – Google Slides



Audience Q&A Functionality within Google Slides



Yoda is waiting for your next question.







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Chromebooks in the Classroom 101

Join me today, as I present on “The Top 5 Chrome App Extensions” for Simple K12’s Chromebooks in the Classroom Online Conference at 3 pm EST.  To register and for additional information, visit the Simple K12 website.

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The Association for Technology Leaders in Independent Schools Conference 2016 @theatlis

Two weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of attending and co-presenting at my first ATLIS Conference.  ATLIS, or the Association for Technology Leaders in Independent Schools is an amazing network of educational technologists, information technology specialists, IT Directors and more all in one consortium.

I haven’t presented in a while and thought this would make a great opportunity to get my work out in front of an audience – remember my earlier post?  fail fast – shipping included

My Co-Presenter was the fabulous Ms. Chris Stephenson from St. Edwards School, located in Vero Beach, Florida, where the weather is nice.  Because of our separation in space, we planned the entire presentation remotely over Google Hangouts.  Our session was a 3-hour deep dive session, entitled, “Technology You Have, Integrate You Will!“.  During our session planning, Chris and I noted how our parallel our career paths and experiences had been, which brought us to a common understanding of the importance of rationalizing a case for technology integration.  In our talk, we used Stanford University’s D.School Design framework to facilitate the discussion, wherein we asked session participants to use the design framework ATLIS Deep Dive 2016to explore some of the issues or challenges they were experiencing in their schools.  With this approach, groups of peers empathized, defined and ideate, reiterated and prototyped solutions to their problems.   and refined that problem,

Here is the presentation deck from the event.  We both are looking forward to sharing again next year, but until that time, hit us up!  Chris can be found on Twitter at @geographywee and I can be found @theberknologist.

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Shipping Included

I’ve been listening to Seth Godin’s Linchpin audio book.  In his work, he refers to the concept of “shipping” as the notion of getting your creative works before an audience – often, early.  The idea of failing early and quickly, in addition to iterating rapidly is also referred to in Stanford’s D.School Design Thinking Process Guide  talk.

I know, I know… getting your ideas in front of an audience can be intimidating, but it’s one path in the pursuit of learning, growing and improving.  As a perfectionist and as one who constantly questions my work, I usually wait until the ninth hour to ship.  This way, I protect myself from the critique and much-needed feedback I could actually benefit from.  Crazy huh?  I hold no guilt, however, as I know of others who, like myself fail to get their creative works before others.  One such example is this blog.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve contemplated this blog’s genesis over five years ago. But it’s all good you know… I’ve done it and here it is.

I digress… In this blog post, I wanted to connect the idea of shipping to the construction of the Maker Space I am working on.  I am attempting to capture images of it along the way, as this “space” is not a dedicated “space”.  Instead, it resides in the corner of one of the rooms in our library.  Here are a few images of that space… While this space is in no way what I have fully envisioned, it’s a start.  In additional to material items and goods, I also wanted to provide some inspirational reading material.  I am hoping to use the vinyl cutter to create a few quotes for posting in the space.  Stay tuned.  More to come.

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Makerspace R & D

Since my last post and thanks to Laura Fleming’s Worlds of Making, I’ve been able to gather additional information and insight on creating the Makerspace I envision.  As mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to devote some thought towards why such a space is needed and important and how I would articulate this to a community.  One thing I tend to do is wait until something is perfected before sharing it – totally contrary to the idea of a Makerspace.  Makerspaces are all about creating safe spaces to risk and fail forward.  In that same spirit, I have come up with the following mission for this space:

“To cultivate a community of learners, who are open and responsive to new and diverse perspectives, cross-generational learning and shared learning experiences through material goods. Learners of all ages are welcome.”
After giving this some thought, I set about with some of the more easier planning considerations, such as location, budget and supplies, programming and advertising, among a range of other things, which I hope to cover in later posts… Laura’s book shared so many useful resources to assist me during this phase.
An essential, but often overlooked component is that of community engagement.  Engaging the members of your community will not only be important to launching such a space, but will contribute to its longevity and community influence.  Part of my planning involved creating an informal committee of students who helped to shape what they wanted to see in such a space.  Students were involved throughout the process from advertisement and community engagement , to having them brainstorm what projects they would like to work on in the space.  The students even created a survey to come up with a name for our venture.   Exciting times!
Stay tuned, there’s more to come…

til next time,
– theberknologist has spoken

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