From Where I Began

In elementary school, middle school and high school I was a mediocre student at best. In  Sparks Nevada, every tenth grader in 1985 met with a school counselor to talk about the future. Looking at my grades and assessment scores, the counselor told me I shouldn’t even bother going to college  & I didn’t have “what it takes.” Fast forward six years later and I returned to the same high school I graduated from as the youngest substitute teacher in the history of the Washoe County School District for that era ( I was 21 years old).

In 1989 and 1990 I was the Education Coordinator for the Reno Boys and Girls Club. I helped students with homework and assisted with activities to encourage learning. We had a small but powerful MAC lab. Students could sign up to play Oregon Trail.  That was my first introduction to technology and learning. Unlike many of my Ed Tech nerd friends I was not a gamer in school nor did I build my own computer. I didn’t have a game console and only used a word processor as a requirement to write my college papers. You would not refer to me as an early adopter.

In the early 1990s while attending a bachelor’s program which began in special education, I taught small group instruction at a non-public high school and worked as an aid in the larger classes. I then decided to leave education altogether.

I returned in 2003 as the first Data/Ed Tech Coordinator for Pittsburg Unified in Contra Costa County. I was tasked with responding to office civil rights (OCR) complaints and putting to gather data systems for school administrators and teachers.

During the 8+ years in Pittsburg Unified, I had a chance to work closely with teachers as they attempted to integrate technology into their lesson plan design. This time was long before online testing and Chromebooks. Much of what we experienced came as a result of a teacher’s willingness to take risks and fail.

And now in 2019 I feel the formula is still very much the same. In order for a teacher to reinvent their lesson delivery style and change their classroom management protocols attempting to integrate technology with student agency and voice and choice, teachers have to be willing to take on a feeling of risk and failure.

There are volumes upon volumes of resources on this topic in the business world and in the education environments that we now live in. Here are my tips for all the educators out there on this path:

  1. Do only 1 thing at a time, not 2, or 30- just 1. Pick the one thing that is true to your style.
  2. Know it will be as messy as every day of teaching is….Embrace the mess, that’s the risk and failure.
  3. Bells & whistles are just that. Our students need access to you, your content, & guidance. How you get there, what road you are on, what tools you use: they do not generally care…
  4. Repeat 1. Repeat 1.

How can I help you on your journey?

MakerFaire A Many….

This past weekend, I attended the 12th iteration of the Bay Area Makerfaire event in Silicon Valley. The week before the event was set to kick off there was an article in the SF Chronicle suggesting it would most likely be the last year. The rationale was due to cost and declining attendance.

Here’s what I know about having attended this event and promoting it in schools around California for the past many many years: it is life-changing.

The concept of the makerspace, MakerFaire, and just being a Maker is a return to a hands-on experience that many of us lost when technology began its climb into our daily lives. From amazing projects created and designed by teams to innovation introduced by singles, there was much to learn, discover and experience on a regular basis.

Throughout the years, when I talk about being a Maker mom, a promoter of maker teachers, and a designer of maker environments and schools, I am still often asked what does that actually mean?

I share it’s full circle back to where we began when in classrooms, in garages, and in bedrooms all over our country people would design and create amazing things for every day use.

For students and teachers alike in public education, it was an excuse to get away from the grind of standards-based education. Schoolwide efforts and districtwide initiatives to introduce Makerspaces has also begun a decline in the recent years.

What I’ve concluded is that it’s not due to a lack of initiative or desire, rather really good teachers at really great schools integrate the concepts much like they do in the way they use technology as a tool in the classroom- never the end result.

In my last year serving in the Los Gatos Saratoga Union High School District, this has become even more true with our teachers across both high schools. The integrated innovation and examples of what we would refer to as maker activities are prevalent in many courses.

& if the local events do dwindle, don’t worry. The recent addition of dedicated maker programs at community colleges throughout the state has shown that there is a great opportunity for the learner that may not be book heavy will have a place at the table.

Here are the maps I encourage you to share with all of your high school students so that they understand that the traditional four year college is not the only route to go:

Keep Making. I believe in you.

How To Make Schools More Inclusive

4 year effort by Acalanes High School district.

What’s your relationship with race? & what’s the impact of race in your life?

How people look is how we identify them.

Leaning into love space.

Sometimes we need to lean into where someone else is so we can meet in a place to talk about race.

Where do you land on the topic of race?

Morally, heady, action, feeling?

Balance in quadrants will be powerful for you holistically.

Stay engaged on topic of talking about race.

What’s your real racial truth?

Build an equity muscle. Speak our truth.

What’s your racial biography?

UDL: late 90’s

Cognition, learning, & the brain. Learners have tons of variability. Traditional edu systems are designed for average learner.

If we design for the average we miss everyone.

What barriers are we introducing? Direct correlation to space + instruction.

1 goal of UDL- to develop expert learners. Experts at learning.

1. Multiple means of learning.

2. Learning process.

3. Demonstrate what I learned.

Learn more: micro credentials. Credential program.

Sample high school library redesign using UDL cards.

Till next time….


This past month I was asked to be a Provocateur for ISTE’s 1st Leadership Summit.  Target Audience: Administrators from all over the US & Canada.  We went through the IDEO Design Process over 2.5 days in search of 1 Big Idea that would move the needle in our districts.  Some attended as team, others as singletons.

My role for Table 2 as a Provocateur was to facilitate the conversation, keep things moving, provide clarity, poke the bear, challenge thinking.  It was a great fit for my personality.

The Summit schedule included lightning talks, chats, design blocks in chunks, Big 3 ideas for discussion.  It was intentional , thoughtful & well executed.  Here are my notes:

ISTE Tools for Admins:

ISTE Leadership standards


ISTE Partner District:

Recommended Reads for Administrators from Jon Corripo

Free UDL Lesson Plans:

1st design challenge: Discovery Conversation big question in table groups.

1 2 3 icebreaker in partners say 1 then 2 then 3……

15 minutes: take notes as Admin tells you about their district  & their scope their challenges.

Where do you need to work? What’s you Big idea?

Identify 3 essential conditions you want to work on over 2 days.


2nd design challenge: Interpretation

Design Block 3: Ideation
Quick write, pass around for others to ask more questions. We often don’t ask enough ?’s

Craft a pitch. 15 minutes. Practice pitch.


Design Block 4: Experimentation

Cool social media template:

Design Block 5: Evolution

 Block 6: Presentation


Other Resources:

Offline: adventures in real time

As a technology leader over the course of the last 17+ years, I rarely if ever have opted to totally disconnect for more than a day. Two years ago over a long weekend, we took the family to Sebastopol California and discovered we were out of range of cell for two days and to our surprise we absolutely loved the experience. With my young pre teen + teen, we play board games, watched good all fashion DVDs together, read, ate and shared space.

I found in the next year plus I longed for that type of experience again for myself and my now very busy teens. I took an opportunity to go five days in Joshua tree National Park totally unplugged offline. It was an amazing trip. The family did bouldering, photography, played card games, read books, played boardgames, and just spent time together sharing space. The value of disconnecting was huge as we found ourselves in great weather outside enjoying the day together.

It is amazing how fast our culture has changed with the infusion of all elements of our lives being managed and moderated by some form of technology. I believe in today’s culture with young people especially, the value of teaching them to put down devices and go off-line be at for a long weekend or even the ability to go for a full week in the woods, in nature, or out of cell phone range is in valuable for recharging and resetting the body.

I am thankful for the ability to have done that trip last week and encourage all of you to find moments where you too can experience the same type of option off-line for even a weekend.

Disclaimer: I did use my iPhone X to shoot pics.