Sunday, January 15, 2017

Lighting the Fire

Well the holidays are now over. My 41st birthday has passed. Life is returning to its "normal" hustle and bustle. At school we are administering the mid-year benchmark assessments for students. This monopolizes much of my professional time. I enjoy the few moments where I actually get to participate in engaged learning for students. This past Friday, I was able to demonstrated the power of individualized digital learning with a fifth grade class. Finally the weekend was here. Of course that means snowfall would be keeping us indoors on Saturday. This weekend was quite cold in New York. Saturday we went to refuel with some Dunkin Donuts. I discovered that Dunkin now sells tea pyramids. So the holiday decorations came down. The large container of cold tea was set to brew, #teapot2017. It felt good to just rest for a few days.

But of course, do I just rest? Oh no. Recently I attended a webinar regarding the updated version of Atomic Learning, http://atomiclearning.com. So this weekend also involved some exploration of this old familiar website. Interestingly a friend also shared on her Facebook page that Atomic Learning now has an educator ambassador program. Are you aware of this program? I just applied. Let's see what happens. It felt good the last few days to be involved with teaching and professional development again. I feel somewhat renewed and ready to seek more.

For tonight, I will curl up on the couch with Netflix Series of Unfortunate Events, some unsweetened iced tea, and down time. I look forward to refueling myself so that I can explore more resources to share with others soon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Teapot 2017

Watched several friends selecting a word or phrase to symbolize their approaching new year. I was struggling for some time to discover the word or phrase that had meaning for me. So I decided to put the thought on the back burner and just enjoy Winter Recess. Along with all the splurge eating, family visits, I also started walking again. I spent some time making a dent in the extra clutter that surrounded our lives in our apartment. While cleaning, I unearthed a clock that I was given years ago. The clock is in the shape of a teapot. Yes, back in the day, I collected teapots. Since we got married and wound up in smaller living spaces, I let most of my collection either go or some pieces are in storage. Seeing my teapot clock reminded me to make a nice cup of tea and curl up on the couch. There was quite some satisfaction in having a slightly neater area by "my spot" on the couch. There was some satisfaction as snow squalls swirled outside to sit on the couch with a nice cup of tea.

Thoughts began to swirl about the coming year. I began to realize that I need to take some time for me. There is a saying about you can't fill other's if your own cup is empty. So true. Yet so overlooked most of the time. With these thoughts in my head, I continued to make some additional progress on our apartment. I rediscovered another gem. A book I had bought for a friend and myself. Felt finding that book was sign. So I had to snap a photo of the cover.  The book was "The Twelve Teas of Friendship" by Emilie Barnes. It is a collection of ideas for various tea parties throughout the year. Each month has a new idea for a tea to try and a tea party concept to implement. Not that I will be hosting 12 tea parties this year. But taking a moment to focus on a different tea each month might bring some peace, calm and relaxation.

My concept, idea, thought, phrase for the year was beginning to brew. It still needed to steep for a little while.  I looked online for tea quotes. I began to find several interesting thoughts that others had regarding tea. So I began with my summary tweet:
"Need to get back to me.
Find the comfort, find the joy,
even when life boils -
patience will let it cool
My hashtag for the yr: "

My comfort through tea reminds me to take a step back, soak it all in, and enjoy. When things feel like they are boiling over, maybe it is time to breathe (and perhaps whistle) instead. I came across an image on the web that had a quote "There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation. - Lin Yutang" [http://www.notable-quotes.com/t/tea_quote.jpg]

Additionally, recently I read another post someone shared online that speaks to when we walk into our schools WE set the mood. I would much prefer to be a source of joy, love, peace, calm and happiness. This applies to both students and my colleagues. So if I make the effort for me, perhaps it will have a ripple effect for others. So I will drop a spoonful of honey into my teacup and see where it takes me this year.

I hope you will join me (either in reading or in drinking a pot of tea) this year. I have indeed chosen my hashtag. I hope conversations of #teapot2017 will spread some warmth for others as well. I know some days my meanderings will be about being the tea bag floating in the cup. Some days it will be about the loose tea leaves settling at the bottom of the cup. And some days it will be the steam rising from the hot pot. But I will try to find the joy and share those ideas both here and in #OurSTEAMCafe. Will you join me?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hack-O-Lantern

Recently, I found LittleBits was offering a Hack-O-Lantern kit. These are small electronic circuit blocks. The best part of them is that they connect magnetically. You can't assemble them in the wrong direction. They are also color coded to help distinguish power from inputs and from outputs. The kit sold as "Hack-O-Lantern" was designed to create a voice activated light for the inside of a Jack-O-Lantern. What a great way to celebrate Halloween at school! Fun and educational.

I bought the kit due to the wonderful nature of LittleBits and the price couldn't be beat. I had them in my purse as they had just recently arrived. This Friday, there was a professional development session provided by another trainer in #OurSTEAMCafe. As it drew to a close, I overheard a teacher say that she needed to leave as her husband was coming to help her carve a pumpkin with her class. I followed upstairs to ask if I could come play. Thankfully the teacher liked the idea. We arranged a time for me to return with the kit.

We started with a quiet classroom (thank you, children!). I explained what all the parts did. Then we assembled our circuit. The children were very excited when the light lit. I then added the sound component. Again we hushed the room. I intentionally and dramatically let, "Now..." and we watched the light begin to glow. We settled the room again. A child clapped. Yep the light lit. We settled the room again. We chorused, "Happy Halloween!" Science, Halloween Magic, imagination and fun combined that Friday afternoon. Thank you class for letting me visit! I look forward to finding other ways to use these electronic circuit blocks in other projects.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Fun Before the Fun - #ISTE2015 Series

This weekend Philadelphia will be host to the ISTE Conference #ISTE2015. The city of brotherly love is a great place to host such an event. So many amazing places to visit. Delicious and interesting restaurants to test and revisit. I understand due to the development of my PLN and my #DEN-ln I have many wonderful friends in the #Edtech community. But there is nothing like walking along every few feet and being greeted by another familiar DEN or #Edtech face. Of course there are some I know by name only. But then there are those you must meet with a hug because we have so much shared #DENlove.

It is a great feeling that two of my colleagues from my district share this opportunity with me. It's nice to compare notes, share notes, collaborate on notes, and hum a few notes at the Karaokes together.
I woke up in the middle of the night one night, realizing that I had not yet booked our ISTE hotel. I scrambled to my computer to make the arrangements for the three of us. The hotel we had been looking at was now unavailable. So I looked for the next available reasonably priced location. The one we found sounded good in theory. Point 2 miles from the conference center is its location. Not 2 miles but point 2 miles. Click book quickly.

When we arrived you could easily miss it. The entrance is small. In fact, I circled more times than I would like to admit. But what a great location. Beautifully modern hotel inside. While waiting for my colleagues/friends to arrive, I waited outside to direct them to it and parking... I began to run into #DENfriends. The squeels, the cheers, the hugs. You feel like Norm in Cheers with all the "Neene's" as I come off an elevator. Love you guys.

Visited the conference center to get a lay of the land. Spotten an awesome light table that gave me an idea for next year at school. Love that the ideas are percolating for #OurSTEAMCafe even before the conference officially gets under way.

The Mobile Mega Share #ISTEMLN pre-conference was amazing. So many great ideas. So many wonderful contacts made. Virtual field trip ideas, raffles (no I didn't win), Copernicus work caddy (thank you Copernicus, http://www.copernicused.com/), Lego storytelling ideas (thank you Lego Education, http://education.lego.com/en-us/) and makerspace ideas like Foldify. Resources available at https://sites.google.com/site/istemobilelearningnetwork/iste-2015-conference/mobile-megashare-2015. Can't wait to digest it all later. But for now... sleep.

Are you enjoying #ISTE2015? Someone at one of the round table sessions said, "I feel so overwhelmed." I responded, "Then you are doing it right!" There is so much to see, absorb, learn, consider, and more. But the experience is well worth it. Looking forward to experiencing more tomorrow.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Tip 6 - Target Dollar Aisles


Hopefully you have seen my recent blog posts regarding creative ways to fund your makerspace/classroom areas without putting too much undue burden on your wallet.  Here are quick links to the previous posts:

  • Tip 5 - Making the Most of Digital Discounts
  • Tip 4  - Benefit Others When Building Your Makerspace
  • Tip 3  - Cleanup with Clearance
  • Tip 2  - Depending on "Dollar Deals"
  • Tip 1  - Pharmacies, More Than Just Bandages

Have you noticed the little area of discounted items when you first enter a Target store?
This area changes nearly every time I visit. I never know what I will come home with that day. Packages of party supply favors can be opened and used to provide items to more students. Construction paper, gift bags, tissue paper, seeds, markers, chalk, books, decorations, and more may be available at a store near you. I tend to periodically visit to collect items. Some things may be seasonal. Some things may be more basic. 


Can you upcycle a seasonal item? Buy it for $1 and cover it with construction paper or contact paper. Maybe even use some washi tape found in the same Target Dollar Aisle. 

I even found a Crayola Wonder Light-up Palette one week. It retails for around $20. I managed to snag it for my students for $5. I know the students in #OurSTEAMCafe will love it. As demonstrated in the photo, I found a multi-screwdriver tool. A birdhouse kit was available at a drastically reduced price. The tin mailbox had a heart on the side for Valentine's Day. I plan to repaint it. Sponges and colored pencils will round out the Art Area supplies section.

This is just one more small way that I have saved a little money and yet created our makerspace. I am more than willing to spend for the right items for #OurSTEAMCafe. But I much prefer to keep a little in my wallet for other things. 


How have you made your budget go further? I'd love to see photos of your school/class makerspace.



Monday, May 11, 2015

Tip 5 - Making the Most of Digital Discounts

Hopefully you have seen my recent blog posts regarding creative ways to fund your makerspace/classroom areas without putting too much undue burden on your wallet.  Here are quick links to the previous posts:

  • Tip 4  - Benefit Others When Building Your Makerspace
  • Tip 3  - Cleanup with Clearance
  • Tip 2  - Depending on "Dollar Deals"
  • Tip 1  - Pharmacies, More Than Just Bandages

Now for this week's tip:
Tip 5 - Making the Most of Digital Discounts

When you know you will be needing those larger ticket items, save up those online discount offers. I know we all want our items, well... yesterday. But sometimes, patience pays off. Many stores offer $10 coupons for purchases over $50. Some weeks this can be an even greater discount. If you that classroom event is coming and you will need invitations, favors, and more - bundle them together. Make your total over $50 and you really only spend $40 of your own money. Search for such deals online. I have an email account that I use mostly for marketing things. If a store requests my email, sure here have my extra email account (not my everyday personal address). This wahy I am not indundated with messages daily. But when I know I am going shopping from my couch, I will check that account for a digital discount. During big events like Opening Day of School or Digital Learning Day, I have ordered special items from Edible Arrangements or Cookies by Design at deep discounts by pre-ordering when a digital discount becam available.  I did order ceramic mugs for the STEAM Cafe at a discount store site and found a 15% coupon. Yay! I was buying them anyway. Now that I saw that coupon offer it was time to click "add to cart". A little pre-planning and the power of the Internet can make big splashes for less.

P.S. You do search for "/storename/ + shipping code" or "/storename/ +promo code" before making any online purchases, right? I thought so. Just checking...


Monday, May 4, 2015

Tip - Benefit Others from Building Your Makerspace

Recently, I have written some blog posts to share ways in which I have made the funds in my wallet go a bit further. My methods were nothing fancy. But a fascination with deals has helped me build quite an engaging community area in our schools. Teachers can come have some coffee and light refreshments. Together we can discuss ways to integrate technology into our daily teaching. Students can come to explore learning passions tied to curriculum. All of these from just thinking outside-the-box regarding an underused area of our school.  One small idea that I had has benefited several from our building. Along the way, my efforts have also benefited a non-profit that helps students in Pennsylvania. Here is another such tip:

Tip - Share through Smile.amazon.com

As teachers, so many of us sacrifice and purchase items to make our students and schools have what they need. If you know you are going to purchase items to bring to your makerspace/classroom, why not have 10% of your spending benefit the charity of your choice. My purchases have been supporting The Purple Feet Foundation but many organizations are participating (including many PTA's). Your kindness supplying items for your makerspace/classroom can have double the rewards. Gift your makerspace with items and gift the charity of your choice with a percentage of the value of your purchase. Financially, it costs you nothing. You just need to remember to visit the correct website - smile.amazon.com instead of going through the main home page.