MAKE Learning Fun Workshop – NSTA 2015 in Chicago

MAKE Learning Fun

Today, my colleague Marilyn and I presented a workshop on the Burke’s Makery, sharing ideas on how to engage students through maker education. We had over 175 guests at today’s session and loved the insightful questions we received and the wonderful conversations that we were able to have with folks after our presentation.

Visit our ever-evolving Pinterest page filled with Makery tools and ideas by visiting and clicking on the Nifty Makery Ideas board.

For information on our model for 21st century learning, visit our microsite here.

You can check out our presentation materials by clicking on the image above. The presentation is filled with images from our work so please give it a second to load.


03 2015

Greetings from the Boston NSTA Conference!

It was so wonderful meeting with many inspiring science educators from the world at this week’s National Science Teachers Convention in Boston, MA!


In addition to attending workshops and scouring the expo floor for ideas and resources, I presented two workshops, one on National Board Certification and another entitled “Full STEAM Ahead” on integrating art into STEM education. Click on the “NSTA WORKSHOPS” header at the top of the page to access the presentations and resource pages from my workshops.


04 2014

Google Glass in Science Class

Trying on Google GlassToday I had the incredible opportunity to go pick up my school’s new pair of Google Glass. As part of the Glass Explorer Program, we’ll have an early edition of the glasses to try out before the glasses go on sale to the public later this year. Being in the Bay Area, my colleague Jenny and I took advantage of the option to trek down to Google’s San Francisco offices where we were able to pick up the glasses with a one-on-one tutorial and set-up session with a Glass expert.

Google Glass Patent DrawingFor those of you who aren’t familiar with the technology, the glasses (officially called “Google Glass”)  consist of a small screen and camera that are contained within a pair of lens-free glass frames. The screen sits about one inch away from your eye, just above your line of sight. Thanks to the screen, a set of sensors, a camera, GPS sensor, and a data connection, Google Glass is able to take pictures and video, respond to user voice commands, and display information related to the user’s location. For a basic example, to take a picture, simply look up to trigger the glasses then say “Ok glass, take a picture.” The device captures the user’s field of view in a picture which is then uploaded to the cloud. Things get more interesting when using glass apps – imagine sitting in a cafe in Paris, looking at a cafe menu while wearing Google Glass. Without hesitation, the menu item you’re looking at appears translated into English on the screen of the glasses.

Taking the Google Glass out of the box!My school decided to join the Google Glass Explorer Program to explore the technology’s potential to transform the classroom by teaching and engaging students in new ways. From assessing student learning to creating video guides and field trips, the plan is for any staff member to be able to write a proposal explaining how they’ll use the glasses in their classroom over the course of a week. Names will be drawn out of a hat, with the lucky educators being expected to document their work so that it can be shared with other teachers. Below are some of the ways I hope to try using  the technology in my science classroom.

My Plan for Google Glass

1) With my school’s ongoing focus on teaching 21st century skills, conversations repeatedly come up on how to assess students on skills such as creativity and problem solving. Using the video feature of Google Glass, I plan to record students working in groups so as to capture their work habits and the growth of their knowledge throughout a unit. These videos will become part of the students’ portfolios, allow for classroom learning moments to become part of their student led conferences.

Closeup of Google Glass camera and screen2) Students wearing the glasses will create video walk throughs of their cell projects. These first-hand videos will capture their work and their explanations, documenting their learning in a powerful new way.

3) Wear the glasses at the upcoming NSTA convention in Boston, MA, capturing images and videos that will allow me to share my discoveries and learnings with colleagues once I’m back at school.

4) Create video field trips or “trip previews” for my students. I envision heading to the science museum in advance of my class field trip, narrating and recording teacher point-of-view videos for key exhibits. By uploading these videos to student iPads, I can help ensure key science concepts are conveyed to students while still allowing them to explore the museum in small groups at their own pace.


01 2014

Inside The New Exploratorium – Opening Tomorrow!

The Exploratorium at Pier 15

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to go on a preview visit to the new Exploratorium here in San Francisco. The museum is relocating from its long-time home at the Palace of Fine Arts to a state of the art building on Pier 15 in San Francisco. While the museum will be keeping long-time favorites, it will also include many new interactive exhibits and activities. One of the things I’m most excited about is the Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio. From creating marble roller coasters to dissecting toys to designing air powered vehicles, the tinkering studio is dedicated to helping visitors explore and inquire through projects and activities that integrate science, technology, engineering, math, and art! The pictures below highlight some of I what I think are the coolest and most intriguing features and exhibits in the new Exploratorium. Check it out when it opens tomorrow, April 17, 2013!


04 2013

Takeaways from The NSTA Convention – Part 1

IMG_0260The National Science Teachers Association annual convention is a 4-day exhibition of the latest and greatest in science teaching. From workshops and presentations (the details of which fill a phonebook-sized guide!) to an exhibit hall packed with vendors and exhibitors, I always find the convention to be a wealth of information and ideas. In this series of posts, I’ll be sharing my favorite takeaways from the 2013 event.


At the tinkering and making events I’ve attended over the past several years, I’ve heard countless people share how they’ve used Arduino both in their own projects and in the classroom. Arduino is an open-source micro-controller (think small computer chip with sensors and LEDs) that are programmable with a C++ esque language. At a workshop offered by exhibitor SparkFun Electronics, I had my first opportunity to play in Arduino. Within minutes, I was programming an RGB LED to blink in different colors in response to different light levels detected by a built-in light sensor on the board. I believe the incredible potential for Arduino in the classroom lies in its being easy to get started using while still having incredible potential for advanced projects. As with any computer programming implementation in the classroom, SparkFun and Arduino offer opportunities for students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.

10311-01bWhile incredibly easy to pick up, the Arduino programming language may challenging for younger students – I’d readily teach it to my 6th grade students but I am concerned that the syntax might not be accessible to the 3rd and 4th grade students I’ll be teaching in a maker camp this summer. Enter the SparkFun PicoBoard – an external board and set of sensors that interface with Scratch, the visual programming software developed by MIT. Instead of having to write code, programmers drag programming blocks into chains to create and control animated “sprites.” For example, a student might create an animated cat that closes its eyes when lights in the room are too bright or that runs off the screen when it hears a loud sound (light and sound are sensed by the PicoBoard – readings are then used to control the on-screen animation). I’d recommend starting by playing around with the free Scratch software (version 2.0 to be released soon!) and then adding a PicoBoard when you and your are ready for more complicated programming and animating.

More updates from the NSTA Convention to follow. Stay tuned!

Full disclosure: I received a free SparkFun ProtoSnap as an attendee of their NSTA Workshop. I was under no obligation to use or review this product and receive no compensation from SparkFun for this posting or for any of the links included in this blog.”



04 2013

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