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.


Leaders- Step Aside

I am a strong proponent of empowering staff. There are many low-cost opportunities to do just that. Let me focus on staff meetings. Often as leaders, we believe we have to guide the experience in the conversation by presenting a robust agenda, interactive experiences, and opportunities for conversation. I often try to challenge myself to provide opportunities in that same light but actually led by department staff, rather than myself. Professional development is an area that I often will empower department staff to partner with unlikely teammates and prepare and share concepts, best practices, key information technology skills, and new areas of thinking.

Recently, to staff in my department led professional development for our department meeting on the topic of MakeyMakey/Scratch for the Special Ed population. In a 45 minute timeframe, they created and led teams through some very robust skills at a high-level using the design thinking model. They determined the teams, brought the supplies, prepped all of the elements of the training, and then guided and supported the team through the professional development.

At the end of the timeframe, teams shared with department their projects and entertained questions. This professional development could have been delivered in any variety of ways. I personally could have delivered all of the concepts and led the department with the exact same structure. For myself as a professional, it was far more meaningful to empower my staff and actually be a participant amongst my department professionals.

Leaders: my question to you, in every leadership position that you hold, is when do you Step Aside?

Attended @EBMakerFaire 2017

I have been attending the East Bay Mini MakerFaire at the Park Day School in Oakland California for the last 4-5 years. This was the first year I experienced the event flying solo. It is very different to attend an event like this with my kids versus by myself. And walking around, I found myself more often than not struck by the enthusiasm and excitement levels of the kids then I was by the Makers themselves.

As a Chief Technology Officer in a medium size school district in the Bay Area I have an opportunity every day to infuse the Maker movement spirit into classrooms in small ways. I crowdsource a lot of information and share it out with the hope that teachers administrators and students will find nuggets among the resources.

Even though we are a mere 45 minutes from where the Maker movement sprouted as a magazine and then blossomed into an annual conference, there are still so many parents and educators in the area who have never heard of it. I have taken it as an opportunity to share my love and commitment to the Maker movement.

After 17+ years as an educator, I absolutely know there is no silver bullet. There are many approaches to achieving the learning objectives teachers, schools, and districts have with their students. The shift though, is a societal shift & classrooms need to modernize in order to remain relevant. No longer can we ignore technology, the impact of students that are creating content in their spare time, and curating content around passion projects. What historically had been a hobby or after school activity, must become integrated in the school day. Parents now have choice around where their children attend school and that also must be a consideration for our classrooms today, not tomorrow.

The spirit of the Maker movement does not mean high technology in classrooms. The spirit of the maker movement is instilling a sense of curiosity and risk in everything people do as part of the Maker movement. One of the most compelling examples I heard today was a Maker telling a young student to not worry about what it would look like at the end, but rather focus on the tactile and texture of the materials exploring what could be built. In classrooms, in small ways every day, teachers can do just that. To make the movement truly a cultural shift in schools, we must integrate it beyond pockets of excellence.

When I began teaching Maker projects with classroom teachers a number of years ago, my focus was to give them lesson plans and tools that they could deliver immediately with a level of comfort and that same sense of curiosity and exploration. In the past year, my shift has moved more towards administrators and parents in an effort to educate them about the value of the spirit of the maker movement in classrooms. I am hopeful that this new angle will instill the same sense of creativity and curiosity in them that I have seen bubble up in many teachers.  Wish me luck……..

Out Of My Hands

I began my role as Dublin Unified’s first Chief Technology Officer in January 2015.  The morale in the department was low and the frustration was high.  It was not a unique situation by any stretch. Fast forward to July 2017. I want to talk about the power of influence and the spirit of innovation. In my department, professionals that had been programmed to following help desk tickets to guide their work are now innovating at high levels in their daily tasks. The small things I notice as the leader of the department often go unnoticed by the team because it has become the way we conduct our business. I am a firm believer in empowering staff, encouraging risk, providing opportunities for play, and celebrating innovation. Sounds complicated maybe, but it is very basic.

Empowering staff
Encouraging risk
Providing opportunities for play
Celebrating innovation

Every day, in very small ways, someone in the department amazes me with their creativity and heart. Now they will tell you, “It’s no big deal.” They will tell you, “That’s the way we do business.” I say it’s something more. It has changed how they approach teachers. It has made them more confident to teach students (yes they do!).

IMG_7945Creating culture is no easy task. Following a game plan and not backing down is also difficult. I will break down each element of my change plan in coming posts.

What began as one leader’s agenda has now become the way we conduct our department. It is gotten beyond my reach and is now out of my hands. I stand alongside some of the hardest working IT Professionals in education.IMG_7956

I can look at my team right now and see where they will be in a year. I have shared that the while they are doing daily tasks, “I’m a year down the road watching them work.”  I’m not going to share with you where we’ll be in a year, that is going to be shared as it unveils itself. But wow, if you could see what I see. IMG_7927IMG_7917IMG_7918

M&M: Makers and MinecraftEDU at Murray Elementary

I began the new position of Chief Technology Officer in Dublin Unified in January 2015. In every new position, I go and meet school Principals, introduce myself, and hope that we can have a meaningful conversation about how I can support them with technology.  During one of these routine visits, and idea it was born. Murray Elementary School in Dublin Unified, is the one of seven elementary schools. While sitting down with the Principal, and sharing my experiences of how technology can best serve classrooms, I mentioned the Maker movement.  The Maker movement was a new concept to the Principal, but there was a correlation made to the Steam Carnival event that occurs in San Francisco annually. In this conversation, we began planning what would be the implementation of the Murray Maker model beginning in the fall of 2015.

After a series of meetings, reading and assigning the book, Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace
for Your School
by Laura Fleming, and doing a presentation with the Murray teaching staff, we agreed on downloadNovember 6 as our launch date for a formal family event that would introduce the Maker concept and MinecraftEDU in the Windows lab.

We loaded the MinecraftEDU client in the lab and Custer Rodriguez, one of my staff,  set up the MinecraftEDU server in our network and we were ready to run. Four tables of maker projects were planned, set up, and managed by Denise Fischer a veteran fourth-grade teacher at Murray Elementary.

Here’s my formula for a successful implementation of MinecraftEDU: begin by empowering the students to run MinecraftEDU server and manage other students in the lab. We chose fifth graders as the model that would work best for the elementary school. At 9:30 AM, the doors were opened and within 20 minutes the lab was at capacity (36 computers total) with MinecraftEDU loaded all but three kids on the server and the build challenge had begun.

IMG_1094We chose an environmental peaceful mode world set to creative, not survival and had parameters about what could and could not occur in the build. The intention was to build a community in the village and add value to the community. The noise level rose as the morning wore on and the chatter with the students was pure music. Many dads showed up to observe, assist, and play alongside their kids. It was quite an execution. I did tech-support, while my 10-year-old son lead the lab through a build in creative mode. S. Nelson, a six grade student at Wells middle school, also assisted as a server master. They assisted many small children in the primary grades learn the game rules, navigate through the world, and answer key questions about functionality.

We had 50 students, 30 families, and many dads roll through the MinecraftEDU lab and the Maker station projects.

IMG_1214 IMG_1215 IMG_1216 IMG_1217 IMG_1219

Part two of the rollout occurred Monday at 11:50 AM when we opened the lab up to all students in third through fifth grade. The announcement was made by the Principal and three minutes into the lunch hour the lab was packed. Students went into the environmental world, and continued to build or add new structures to the village. Again the noise level rose throughout the lunch. Students became very interested in what they building and working with firends.

Beginning next week (November 16), the lab will be open during lunch, three days a week for third through fifth grade students only. The lab will be run by a rotating group of 4 fifth grade students who have been entrusted with the teacher password and will serve as the server masters.IMG_1227

In January, 2016, we will offer professional development to all teachers at Murray Elementary to begin the formal roll-out of MinecraftEDU to be utilized in classrooms across all grades spans. Stay tuned for my next update as we continue on our MinecraftEDU journey. & folllow us at #makerMES @cn_edd @tr_bo

Maker Classroom

Create your Makerspace with $ Projects:

  1. Begin creating your materials list for 1-2 Maker projects that will occur in your classroom in the fall (Trimester/Semester 1). Create a floor plan of where this may occur in your classroom or be creative and do it outside! Fresh Air breathes creativityIdeas: keep it small-start with yourself. What is your favorite hobby/activity?
      1. Cardboard Rube Goldberg contraption (just cool!)
      1. Popsicle stick trebuchet (Physics lesson)
      1. Make your own butter (need bread for spreading’ on!) (Chemistry)
      1. Scratch Gaming Project (Writing/Math)
  1. Create/Add project lesson plan to Google Classroom/Drive as assignments (1 to 2 to start)
  1. Begin wish list and longer term project list for year: start small- 1 Maker project a month and create a donors choose fundraising campaign if your materials list is $$$$: Now the Money: if fundraising for kits. Or free Science gear from Google: