Category Archives: Uncategorized

Going to ISTE in San Antonio! See you there.

I’m excited to have several accepted sessions at ISTE, the International Society of Technology in Education.  It will be in San Antonio June 25-28, 2017. Hope to see many old friends and new!

Make It, Wear It, Learn It

  • Monday, June 26, 10:30–11:30 am CDT (Central Daylight Time)
  • Building/Room: (specific location available in May)

Before You Build a Makerspace: Four Aspects You Must Consider

  • Wednesday, June 28, 9:00–10:00 am CDT (Central Daylight Time)
  • Building/Room: (specific location available in May)

Everybody Wins When Everybody Codes  – with Jane Krauss

  • Monday, June 26, 9:00–10:00 am CDT (Central Daylight Time)
  • Building/Room: (specific location available in May)

Workshops – Melbourne 2016 – Invent to Learn, Wearables, STEM

Join us in Melbourne this week! Space still available – Register today!

Monday 22nd August, 2016
Invent to learn with Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager
Join colleagues for a day of hard fun and problem solving — where computing meets tinkering and design.

Tuesday 23rd August, 2016
Girls and STEM / Wearable Technology with Sylvia Martinez
Wearables and Soft-Circuits for STEM Education – Supporting Inclusion and Equity with Hands-on Maker Technology

Thursday 24th August, 2016
Reinventing Maths with Gary Stager
This workshop moves beyond the goal of making math instruction engaging for children by providing educators with authentic mathematical thinking experiences.

Girls in Tech handout – Intel Australia

Girls in TechDownload this free guide with tips, research, resources, and ideas for turning “Making for All” into reality, especially for girls in tech and STEM.

Sponsored by Intel Australia, this is a compact handout about Girls in Tech. Learn how maker education programs and the maker mindset can support equity in education plus interest girls in STEM.

Download this full color 8 page PDF – Girls in Tech.


CTE Makeover Challenge

I just completed my duties as a judge for the CTE Makeover Challenge team out of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career and Technical Education. I’ll be looking forward to seeing who wins, and if the selection of entries I read are any indication, these schools should all win!

It will be great to meet the winners at the World Maker Faire in New York in October.


Video: Fab Academy Recitation with Sylvia Martinez

I was invited to be a guest of the Fab Academy in their monthly recitation. Tomas Diez of Fab Lab Barcelona and Sherry Lassiter of the MIT Media Lab were the hosts. We had a great conversation and questions from all around the world!

Fab Academy is a distributed educational model that gives certificates in making and fabrication as part of the global Fab Lab / Fab Academy network.


Information overload?

It always bothers me when people talk about how information is overloading children today. It just seems like adults projecting their own anxiety onto children. Children have no idea that there is “more” information now, their context is the present. They aren’t overloaded any more than the previous generation was overloaded the first time they walked into a library. No one ran out screaming “I’ll never read them all!!!”

That’s not to say that children don’t need guidance. But let’s leave our adult neuroses at the door when teaching children about the riches of the Internet.

Amazing! Life, art, and making.

This was from a panel discussion at the Crossroads 2016 conference on the culture of making. Brooke Toczylowski drew the scene and it’s amazing!

The best professional development for teachers

It’s always good practice to offer professional development for K-12 teachers as part of any new program or initiative. “Making” in the classroom is no different. Hundreds of research studies offer guidelines and tips, yet it seems that many programs, even if they follow guidelines, do not adequately prepare teachers to change their actual practice in the classroom.

Some of these recommendations are daunting for providers of professional development. Good professional development should be:

  • Long term  (But  often has no follow up planned.)
  • Focused equally on content, pedagogy, and new skills (Usually  within too short a time period.)
  • Continued collaboratively and in the classroom (Even if the school decides to only send one teacher to a workshop and offers no collaboration time once back at school.)
  • Transformative, giving teachers new ideas and ways to change their classroom practice (Even when their leaders are telling them not to change anything, or even directly contradicting the new ideas once the teachers return.)

The most frustrating part of outreach to K-12 teachers is not that the teachers are unwilling or unable to learn new things; it’s just the opposite. The ultimate frustration is when K-12 teachers are inspired and willing to go back to their classrooms and work for change, only to have those bright lights quickly extinguished by the crushing reality of the status quo.

In our book, Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, and in thousands of hands-on workshops with K-12 educators, Gary Stager and I work with one primary stance directed at classroom change. This is to ask educators to shift agency of classroom tasks to the learner whenever possible. Gary Stager suggests making your teaching mantra, “Less Us, More Them”.

When you make your teaching mantra, “Less Us, More Them,” you are channeling Piaget who says that it is not the role of the teacher to correct a student from the outside, but to create conditions in which the student corrects him or herself from the inside.

Anytime you feel it necessary to intervene in an educational transaction, take a deep breath and ask, “Is there some way I can do less and grant more authority, responsibility, or agency to the learner?”

For providers of professional development, this not only applies to young students, but also to K-12 teachers who are learning new content or pedagogical practices. When teachers are faced with new challenges, it is tempting to show them how to do everything, to hand them fully formed curriculum with pre-made handouts and step-by-step checklists of what they should do in their classrooms. Resist this urge. Doing so only undermines teacher confidence that they can make the right choices when faced with the real-time improvisation needed to teach in today’s classrooms.

Even when teachers express frustration that you are not giving them adequate information, try to support them as THEY find answers to THEIR questions, even if they experience frustration along the way. This is not to say that you should deliberately frustrate teachers or hide information. Answering questions with “just enough” information, and helping them find out how to find their own answers helps them develop the independence they will need if there is any chance that they can lead students in a similar quest. Teachers need to develop confidence and an attitude that “I may not know but we can find out together” and model that for students. This may be difficult for teachers who feel that they need to be the fount of all knowledge. But in today’s modern age when simple answers are just a Google away, teachers must help students learn how to find their own answers to questions both simple and complex.

In our Invent To Learn workshops, we always start with hands-on activities, because that creates the touchstone and the vocabulary for follow-up work on how this can be implemented in the classroom.

  • How is it that teachers who say, “I don’t understand electronics” can build a working circuit or a wearable light up bracelet with no instruction, and then be able to explain it to others?
  • What changes when during a workshop debrief, a table of six teachers find they used 12 different methods to solve their problems and answer their questions? How can they justify not allowing students to have the same widespread access to knowledge and expertise?
  • How can teachers justify expecting that their students all do exactly the same project when they started out making a doorbell that sends a text message, but ended up making a robot that plays a song? And learned a lot along the way?

These experiences serve to open teachers minds to assumptions they have been making about the projects their own students do and the scaffolding needed to support students.

These conclusions cannot be presented to teachers, they need to live and experience them first hand, and translate them to their own classrooms and curriculum. Because when they go back to their classrooms, they will need to carry this torch for themselves, and will need to feel agency over their own actions.

Professional development is not what we “do” to teachers, it’s what they formulate for themselves as they see themselves as practitioners who are able to do new things, learn new things, and be in charge of their own learning. This is the only way to empower people, both teachers and students.

For the past ten years, Constructing Modern Knowledge Summer Institute  has been leading the way in professional development that creates maximum impact and agency for teachers. This July 7-12 in Manchester, New Hampshire, is a chance for you to experience this kind of revolutionary professional development! Don’t miss out.

Projects from CMK 2015


STEAM – People always add esthetic elements to projects when they have time, ownership, and interesting materials to work with.

working on a projectCan you tell who the expert is?

light up dressMaking fashion that lights up

“Do good work” – the power of a teacher

Milton Glaser on Art, Technology, and the Secret of Life

This video interview with Milton Glaser is really interesting – considered “the greatest graphic designer alive”. It’s well worth watching. He talks about art, making, teaching, and life. The section that starts around minute 12 shows the power that teachers have to change lives. How even the smallest personal gestures really matter to kids.

His words:

When I was in junior high school, I had the opportunity to take the entrance examination to either Bronx Science, which is a great New York school, or the High School of Music and Art, another great school. … And I had a science teacher who was very encouraging for me to enter into science — I was very good at science — and he wanted me to go to Bronx Science. And I was evasive about that, because I didn’t want to tell him that it ain’t gonna happen.

But the day of the entrance exam — they occurred on the same day — I took the entrance examination to the High School of Music and Art. And the next day I came into school, he was in the hallway as I was walking down, and he said, “I want to talk to you.” I said, “Uh-oh — the jig is up, he’s going to find out I took the ‘wrong’ exam.” He said, “Come to my office… Sit down.” And, as I was sitting there, he said, “I hear you took the exam for Music and Art.” And I said, “Um, yes.” And then he reached over, and he reached into his desk, and he pulled out a box of French Conté crayons — a fancy, expensive box — and he gave it to me, and he said, “Do good work.”

I can’t tell that story without crying, because it was such a profound example of somebody — an adult, authority figure, sophisticated man — who was willing to put aside his own desire for something, his own direction for my life, and recognize me as a person who had made a decision. And he was, instead of simply acknowledging it, encouraging it with this incredibly gracious and generous gift. … The thing about it that always astonishes you is that moment — it couldn’t have taken more than two minutes — was totally transformative about my view of life, my view of others, my view of education, my view of acknowledging the other.

Making it real – constructionism comes to life

The 2014/2015 FabLearn Fellows are a diverse group of 18 educators and makers. They represent eight states and five countries, and work with a wide range of ages at schools, museums, universities and non-profits. Throughout the course of the year, they will develop curriculum and resources, as well as contribute to current research projects. Their blogs represent their diverse experience and interests in creating better educational oportunities for all.

I’ve been privileged to mentor this group this past year and part of that is summarizing their amazing blog posts. Here are some blog highlights from May 2015.

Constructionism through Design Thinking Projects

students working on projects
Working on the “Spring Hard Problem”

Christa Flores shares a complete 5th grade science unit, including resources, benchmarks, assessments, student feedback, and videos of the completed projects. Teams of four uncovered needs, brainstormed, designed, engaged in peer critique, prototyped, built, and shared their projects at Maker Faire.

Continuing Series – The FabLab and Its Learning Dynamic

Nalin Tutiyaphuengprasertu continues her series about the Learning Dynamic of a FabLab, connecting theory with observations of various classes at the Bourn Idea Lab at Castilleja School with Ms. Angi Chau and Ms. Heather Pang.

Telegraph Project in History

A few months ago, Heather Pang wrote a blog post,  Where is the Line? about the line between instructions and letting students figure it all out in a history project about the telegraph and its impact on American history. This post follows up after the project was completed, and Heather shares her thoughts about the results.

Making and National History Day

Heather Pang says that while,  National History Day (NHD) is a rather “old school” competition, she saw “the potential for deep research and thought, a good match with our department history “habits of mind” and a great opportunity for students to pick topics that they cared about.” Find out how she combined this “strictly constrained” assignment with open-ended processes that result in her students working like historians, not history students.

Making Stuff Light Up and Move!

Tracy Rudzitis outlines a
sixth and seventh grade STEAM project on electricity. She shares the learning targets, project prompts, and student documentation of their work. Over 300 students completed their projects in a variety of ways with a wide range of materials from soft and paper circuits to MaKey MaKeys and Arduinos.