Saturday, August 12, 2017

Making on a more personal level

Sharing these links as friends have been asking where I got my Lego logo items:

This Spring I was able to purchase two sets of Lego WeDo2.0. In order to complete this transaction, I needed to converse quite a few times with the helpful folks at Lego Customer Service. One day I found their webpage in an effort to confirm the phone number that I had. I noticed their graphic banner at the top of the site:
I hope the graphic doesn't change as it is priceless! So very well done. But being in edtech myself I had an idea to borrow their idea and create a Lego representation of myself.

It sparked an idea. I hoped to create something like that for myself for this coming school year. As Legos are a big part of #OurSTEAMCafe, it seemed a perfect concept to bring to life. I began looking at Amazon for Lego figures that looked like me. Didn't quite find any that I liked. I also hoped to write my name on it. So one night scrolling through Etsy, I typed in "customized Lego people." That's what brought me to I was able to choose my hair color and style, some choices about facial features, clothing color, and pants color. I could also have "Mrs. Shields" inscribed upon it. I have to say that I love the resulting product. So adorable!

After purchasing a Lego-like mini-me I figured I needed some type of technology item to hold. Through Amazon I found a great black laptop for Lego. It looks almost like our chromebooks. Perfect! Add to cart!

Next I was on the hunt for Lego furniture. I found a very cute brown desk (some assembly required). Who doesn't love to play with Lego!? For those that have been asking, it was purchased through Amazon but the shop is The kit actually included Lego-like sized speakers, desktop, mouse and keyboard. It arrived very quickly. The other night I assembled it. A perfect evening amusement while it rained outside.

After all the pieces arrived and were assembled, I carefully placed them on top of a sheet of white computer paper. I took photos from various angles with my cell phone. The interesting thing is the photos that I preferred were shot in the evening when it was a little darker in our apartment. I also took photographs the next morning in direct sunlight. But I was surprised that I prefer the first set's lighting.

After uploading my photos to Google Drive, I used Google Slides to create my graphic. I understand the Google Drawings is designed for graphics. But I find that I can overlap layers much better using Google Slides. When you are finished --> File --> Download as --> .jpg creates a picture image that can be used on Twitter, Facebook and most importantly Google Classroom. I have several Google Classroom classes for professional development purposes at my school. One for each of the upper grade levels. I added some text distinguishing the grade level and reoutput to be our Google Classroom banner images. Pleased with myself and my handwork, I shared it on Twitter and FB. Friends started asking, "Where did you get that?" This blog post is my response.

Please note I am an educator. There was no sponsorship from any of the companies in the creation of this blog post. It is just a very happy customer (funding came from my own wallet) glad to share with friends and/or colleagues. If you create something similar I would love to see your results.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Into the Future

There is a part of our educational lingo that drives me crazy. Yet I can't seem to find a better replacement to use instead. This is the year 2017. We are already 17 years into the 21st Century. I agree these skill areas are essential:
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

But saying if we frame things as "aiming for", "focusing on", "improving" etc our students' readiness and preparation for "21st Century Skills", aren't we already setting them up to be behind the times. And yet, I seem to be unable to find a term that I like better. Perhaps we should focus on:
  • Future Learning Skills (not right)
  • Essential Skills (not quite right)
  • 22nd Century Skills
  • Skills Necessary for Success

Has anyone's district adopted a terminology that expresses aiming for the future but with these important skills in mind? I'd love to find something that I can use without cringing every time someone says "21st Century Skills".

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, 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" []

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


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,, Lego storytelling ideas (thank you Lego Education, and makerspace ideas like Foldify. Resources available at 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.