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.

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

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 - instead of going through the main home page.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tip - Cleanup with Clearance

Perhaps you viewed my previous posts on ways to stretch your limited dollars when creating a makerspace. Here is another tip in the series:

Food Store Clearnce Aisles - Most food stores have an area designated for slightly damaged or nearly expired items. You can really cleanup on items for your makerspace/classroom here. I recently found a $20 wipe board on a clearance for $2.50. Now there is a math problem I enjoy. Saving $18.50 - hmmm what else could I purchase with that money? Have you noticed boxes of spaghetti that might not be the first to sell due to the status of the carboard? Couldn't they still be used to make tower structures or bridges? Day-old bakery items (like brownies and cookies) still make a special treat for staff. Just consume them that day or the next. But what a bargain when priced at around $1 to $3.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tip - Depending on "Dollar Deals"

Hopefully you have seen my previous posts regarding making Makerspaces realities:
Discovery Education iMake iLearn Blog
Personal blog continuation

Here is yet another tip to consider if you are in the process of developing a Makerspace in your educational space. #OurSTEAMCafe has come about without much in the way of a budget. I've been making magic from my wallet.

Tip - Depending on "Dollar Deals"

Stop and Shop (Food Store) Dollar Deal Bins - Most food stores have either an area or a bin that changes periodically with items on sale or at deeply discounted prices. My local food store labels the boxes “Dollar Deals” and some boxes are $1 items, $2 items or $3 items. Of course I visit the $1 box first! You never know what you will find. But those small items necessary for a makerspace can be gathered quickly and inexpensively here. Depending on the week, you might find varying sized mini-chalkboards, containers, pot cloths, soaps, q-tips, tongue depressers, cups, wipes, sponges and more can be found. Those small bulk items likes straws and cups can be purchased in great quantity for much less than purchasing them in the average aisles on an average day. May I suggest visiting these bins frequently as they constantly change.

These past few tips I've shared are merely a few of the things I have discovered along my way. I would love to hear/learn about your discoveries. How are you bringing your Makerspace dreams to life?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tip - Pharmacies, More than Just Bandages

You may have seen my March 25th DEN Blog Post. I shared 5 ways to help bring a makerspace into reality in your school community. In creating a makerspace/shared community learning center, I have found it necessary to think-outside-the-box. I had to ponder ways to make small steps towards reaching my goal. Here is another idea of such a small step.

Tip - Pharmacies, More than Just Bandages

Of course, having a first-aid kit available is an important small proactive step in creating any makerspace. But your local pharmacy may offer even more opportunities for making your dreams a reality.

Many of the larger chain pharmacies these days offer loyalty rewards programs. You can sign up with your email to receive discounts. Check your email periodically. Additional coupon savings become available to electronically send to your loyalty program cards.

The everyday items you need (mouthwash, socks, candy, makeup, etc), earn money back and coupons you can receive. Also don’t overlook the specific manufacturer coupons. Buy 1 specific brand battery package and get the 2nd free or half price can help keep the gadgets in your room running. 

Last week, I had $4 in rewards to spend. Have you ever noticed that even though these pharmacy locations are usually chains, several carry different items? Keep your eye out for when is the perfect time to actually cash in those rewards. Would it be better to save 20% on an inexpensive bag of cotton balls or 20% on markers? With my $4 rewards I purchased clay, chalkboard labels, and clips for adding to #OurSTEAMCafe supplies. 

The next day at another store of the same chain I nocited a sale. Work the weekly sales that are offered. These activity buckets were on sale as buy one get one 50% off. They certainly helped me gather quite a few assorted supplies inexpensively. Wish I had saved my $4 off for this purchase. But we teachers go above and beyond so my students and staff now have access to the supplies shown in both photos. 

I'll have more suggestions to share from my own endeavor soon. But in the meantime, I'd love to hear how you are maximizing your dollars and making your makerspace dreams come true.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Picking up STEAM

So #OurSTEAMCafe has had a little bit of a pause. The space was needed temporarily to provide an accommodation for a much needed building situation. But soon that project will be complete and my S.T.E.A.M. Cafe project will be up in full swing. Looking forward to "picking up STEAM". More and more teachers have been discovering the community space feel that I tried to create. Several have started contributing: sharing ideas, some accessories for coffee and tea, ideas for inexpensive instructional tools, and better supplies. Love this team experience.

Today a district provided math professional development took place in the space. I loved hearing teachers comment about the change in the physical space. And now I so look forward to hopefully creating a change in perception and use. Perception and eye's-view can make all the difference. A little out of the box thinking can perk us up and brew up some great ideas.

During today's math professional development the lead brought in one of those wonderful Dunkin Donut's Box of Joe's. (Love those) Unfortunately, today's box didn't seem to want to pour as is. While I was preoccupied with something else, someone opened the box. Did you know the box is designed with overlapping cardboard flaps?! I didn't. In the past I have just seen it as all one piece - a Box of Joe.

But on closer inspection, the box is rather uniquely designed. Underneath the overlapping pieces of cardboard is a metalic pouch that holds the warm coffee. Since the usual tipping action wasn't working to get coffee from the pouch, the teachers applied a little "out-of-the-box" thinking. A squeezing action applied to the pouch would force the coffee out of the pouch through the spout and into their waiting coffee cups. How creative and awe inspiring for me. I had to snap a picture of the inner workings. The PD lead let me keep the remaining coffee for anyone else that might like some that afternoon. You can believe before I went home this afternoon, I cleaned out that pouch and labelled it "Keep for Engineering" with a sharpie. Do NOT throw that away. Now THAT's STEAM Ed! What a great discussion about insulation, heat, force, airflow and more do I see in our future! How are you thinking "outside-the-box"? What have you discovered lately?

Since a few months now have gone by, it was time to take stock of the items in #OurSTEAMCafe. Time to see what needs to be renewed, dusted, revamped, replaced, or replenished. So as I dusted and reorganized I snapped a few pictures of the centers I go to reorganize this week. More centers to get refreshed (still had to complete my Instructional Technology Facilitator role) soon. But here are a few photos of the S-T-and M areas.
Science Area

Technology Area (Left)

Technology Area (Right)

Math Area

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hour of Code Party 2014

As promised here are some photos from our Hour of Code Kickoff Celebration for staff:

During the week of December 8 through the 14th all classes at school participated in The Hour of Code during their scheduled computer times. Students had an opportunity to explore,, and/or  

I love that students are still asking if they can use Blockly when they come to the computer lab. I'd say that was a successful implementation.

How did your school (or class) celebrate Computer Science Education Week and The Hour of Code?