Building My Own 3D Printer

A few weeks back I was invited to participate in a class at the University of Nevada, Reno, where participants would build a 3D printer from a kit and learn how to use it. I jumped at the chance since you get to keep the printer, and I saw the possibilities to take it with me on the road as I travel throughout the rather large region I cover as STEM Learning Facilitator in northwest Nevada.








The class is being taught by the same mechanical engineering folks that facilitate our high altitude balloon launches (see the TEDxDenverEd video in the right margin of this blog). My colleague Doug Taylor who taught with me for years when we collaborated on those launches and much more is taking the class with me and is building his own 3D printer.

I do not have much of a background in programming unless you count a bit of BASIC I learned 30 years ago or the LOGO I dabbled in with students, so I see this as stretching me a bit as well as providing another resource for the school districts I serve.










After presenting us with some background on advanced manufacturing we were put into pairs since 2 printers came in each box, and put to work putting them together. The directions are YouTube videos and PDF files you are linked to –  which is a nice combination.









You can see they crammed 2 printers in each box and there are numerous parts and many are very small. The tools are Allen wrenches, screwdrivers and pliers.



ABOVE: Everything required to build 2 printers.

BELOW: A finished printer printing gears. This is the instructors’ practice printer – they figured they better go through the process of building one themselves. The printing material is blue plastic – reminds me of the line you use in a yard trimmer, but a bit thicker. You can see the blue spool of material in the upper left of the photo.

These are MakerFarm Prusa 8″ i3 3D Printers – about $600










BELOW: Some of the parts I assembled our first day.












BELOW: And here is what I got done the first day after about 2-3 hours. Finished pieces are on top. Lots left to do. Next class is this Saturday. I’ll try to post our progress.












Learning Is Messy!


Posted in 3D Printing, Education, STEM, Student Access, Teacher Access, Technology | 1 Comment

With all the talk about how much we value teachers, and especially great teachers …

In the past few weeks we have witnessed Winter Olympic medal winners and participants receiving their medals and much deserved national media coverage, parades, expanded media interviews, front page articles and lengthy news reports. When they arrive home they are met at the airport by more media coverage of all kinds. The Academy Awards or Oscars were recently held and the media was more than obsessed with all the award winners and attendees and what they wore and didn’t wear and on and on. I could note other award broadcasts for music and other entertainment and sports stars of just the past few months.  Of course we should be honoring these people, they have worked hard and practiced hard and have been singled out as the best in their profession.

Many of these award winners not only win their specific awards or medals, they are often  invited to meet the President of the United States, other high ranking politicians, receive lucrative endorsement contracts and are generally venerated by the general public and ad nauseum by the press. Again, they have earned these accolades.

These award winners are plied with questions so we learn about their hard work, what great things they have done and obstacles they have overcome. What makes what they do rewarding, difficult … do they ever think of giving up? They are presented as examples we should all follow … of what is great about being human, going the extra mile.

On the other hand, we hear from media, politicians and others about how vital and important education is. How teachers, especially great teachers, are vital to society and that we should honor and celebrate them and support them whenever possible. Additionally, we hear now about how vital STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) teachers are. The perception, at the very least, is that we are behind in producing teachers that are well versed in STEM and STEM fields, so much so that there are editorials, speeches, rants, and more about how we need to do all we can to attract teachers that have these backgrounds to teach. It has even been stated that this could be a national security issue!

Were you aware that a bit more than a week ago 101 of the best teachers in America were flown out to Washington D.C. because they are the Presidential Award Winners in Math and Science from the past 2 years? They have been singled out as the best in their profession. They are so honored that they met with the President of the United States! Yes! The President, Barack Obama, as did teachers when George Bush was President and before that. Wow! So I don’t know what happened where you live … but did you see front page or any newspaper coverage? National and local TV interviews? Did the press meet them at the airport? Probably not (but please share in comments if that happened where you live).

Where I live education is SO important they even have reporters for the local newspapers and TV news that specialize in education. Their whole job as reporter in some cases is just covering, or includes reporting news about education. So of course we’re sick of reading about and seeing TV interviews about these great teachers … STEM teachers … that are so honored they were flown out to the White House to meet the president! And of course we should be understanding of that coverage … we need more great teachers and so honoring them and giving them this attention is part of attracting more talented folks to teaching … Right?  … Um … NO …. I’m sad to say that at least where I live barely a mention besides a few weeks ago along with school fundraisers and the like in a “What’s Going On In Our Schools” kind of column.

And understand, The White House, the US Department of Education, the governor, the state superintendent of schools, the school district where BOTH winners locally teach, all issued, or were quoted in press releases about the awards where they expressed their support for these great teachers. The response from local and national media? A collective YAAAAWN! … not worth covering, much less making a big deal about apparently … even though education, and specifically STEM education, as I mentioned above, is SO important and vital to our nation and community’s future and our economic development.

Education is SO important that one of the national networks even devotes reporters to an ongoing focus on education. So of course their reporter devoted time to cover the awards and interviewed these incredible educators. They had stories on their national news broadcasts singing the praises of these honored and valued teachers  … right?

No .. as far as I saw, not a mention on any of the networks, including the one that prides itself on education reporting.

As a nation we are just short of obsessed with the value of education and great teachers because education and teachers are so essential that we would not let this opportunity to celebrate them slip away …. right?

Learning is messy.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Interview on Wes Fryer’s “STEM seeds”

Today I connected with my friend Wes Fryer, a fellow STEM teacher, to have a conversation about STEM learning and to share some of the projects my students have participated in in the past. We also touched on the definition of STEM and what it is NOT. Wes has started up what he calls “STEM seeds” – he describes it as, “A Community of STEM teachers sharing lesson ideas.”

Wes is definitely more well known for his blog “Moving At The Speed of Creativity” and his numerous writings, books and speaking engagements.

Here is a link to STEM seeds and another to the YouTube channel Wes uses.

Learning is messy!



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STEM: Cantilever Spans









Background on Cantilever Spans

(click on any photos in post to see enlarged)

We participated in a school’s Family STEM/Science Night recently, which always ends up being a kick. Having families participate together and watching what happens is a blast. My cohort in science, Lou Loftin, who is the Science Learning Facilitator (I’m the STEM Learning Facilitator) where we work, took an idea he stole borrowed from a colleague last year, shared it with me, and we ran with it. Lou was running a, “How Many Drops Of Water Fit On A Penny” station, and I ran the, “Cantilever Span” station – it worked out even better than we imagined when we planned it. This would be an incredible classroom lesson that could stretch over several days to several weeks depending on just how deep you wanted to go.

So, how does it work you ask?


Paint stirring sticks – in this case probably 200+ – we procured these from a big box hardware store … for free when we explained we were using them for science and gave them the obligatory sad, begging face.

Washers – (other weights could be substituted) – these are about “half-dollar size” – we had several hundred.

Thats’s it!


Since this is an inquiry experience, I gave as little input as possible. When getting a participant started (and usually parents stepped back and let their children take it on themselves) I would take one stirrer and place 2 or 3 washers on the end, stick it out from the table (see photo below) and then explain that they were to make as long a span as possible out from the edge of the table. “You can use as many washers and stirrers as you want …. Go!”









No other directions – and questions like, “But what do I do?” were answered by me with shoulder shrugs.

Some students worked by themselves and others grabbed friends and siblings (sometimes parents) and worked in groups. Preschoolers through middle schoolers stopped by, often confused about what the heck was happening here, but we could have charged a fee …  if I’d really wanted to be evil (and rich) I would have mentioned that the first ten minutes are free but after that it’s $0.25 per 5 minutes. This event was only an hour long and there was plenty else to see and do … and parents were having to beg their children to leave … “Honey we only have 20 minutes left and this was only the third station we stopped at.” – “Ah Mom.”

As things proceeded there are failures … which are punctuated by the sound of 20 – 100+ washers crashing to the tiled floor, followed by the realization that the scattered washers and stirrers would have to be picked up. That deterred a few, but generally as fast as they could recover their materials they were back at it.


















And when I say they were back at it … check out this video clip of one more intense participant:

We put out measuring tapes – a few measured (and if this had been a classroom learning experience we would have done that for sure), many took photos of their span.









In the classroom I would do just about this same experience as a first step, but:

– Next have students design as long a span as possible with as few washers / stirrers as possible.

– Give materials a cost and have students build the longest most cost effective structure.

– Perhaps have them build a structure that is not necessarily the longest, but with the most stirrers as possible sticking out beyond the edge of the table?

– Can structures be started out on facing tables and meet in the middle to form a bridge between tables? Lots of possibilities.

Two groups that built next to each other decided to connect their structures:









WARNING – OK warning is a bit strong. But keep in mind that these structures are easy to bump into with disastrous results. So think about that when planning where to have students build. Move all the desks to the 4 walls of your room and build out from there? Perhaps the cafeteria? Library? other large room where separation between structures is possible? Also have that discussion with students about looking out for each other.

In the classroom I would also spend some time talking about reacting to disappointment when for any reason their span collapses. Really disappointing for sure, but in the real world this happens (maybe show the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse video after your first experience – adults have things end in disaster unexpectedly too) – just know that and carry on.

Writing pieces on what, how and why in a journal would be great. As would thoughts on what will/would we do differently? I haven’t had a chance to develop creative writing ideas yet, but descriptive words about what it looks like, feels like, … colors, etc. can always be turned into poetry and stories.

More photos from the experience:

































Here’s a link to a Flickr set of photos.

UPDATE: If you played the video above note how tenuous the balance is. Note that the weight on the table has to be more than the weight hanging off the table. How much weight on the table is necessary to offset the weight off the table? Going deep might include pre- weighing the stirrers and washers and then getting as close to equal weight on both sides of the edge of the table. Think of the edge of the table as the equal sign in an equation, but this is going to be an inequality because there has to be more weight on than off the table. How close can you get to equal? Is there an inequality that shows that correlation?

Learning is messy!

Posted in Change, Cooperative Learning, Education, Inclusion, Messy Learning, Project Based | 7 Comments

Rethinking School District Social Media Policies for Teachers / Students

I’ve been fortunate enough to teach in a school district that blocks very little – blogs, Twitter, Flickr, wiki’s, YouTube, Cover-It-Live, and more are all open. FaceBook and the obvious porn and other sites are blocked. However in my job as STEM Facilitator I hear from teachers locally and nationally in school districts that block most to all the above and more. If there are any social possibilities, whether it is moderated or not … it’s BLOCKED, no questions or comments allowed.

I’ve also been asked to share with local, state and even the US Department of Education, “What would be the most useful thing we could do to encourage district leaders to rethink their social media policies for teachers/students?”

So for everyones benefit it would be more than helpful to get feedback about that here. Especially if you are an administrator or government representative that has successfully dealt with this issue. The Common Core State Standards require students to collaborate globally, and certainly many of us can sing the praises as to why and how that is a valuable learning experience. So again – What would be the most useful thing we could do to encourage district leaders to rethink their social media policies for teachers/students? PLEASE share in comments and I will pass on.

Thanks in advance!

Learning is messy!





Posted in Change, Education, Inclusion, Messy Learning, Project Based, Reform, STEM, Student Access, Teacher Access, Technology | 19 Comments

Unleash the Learning Power of Blogs By Actually Using Them Consistently!

Blogs are an incredible learning tool. But like an exercise bike, having one does not lead to self improvement unless you use it. And using it sporadically is only barely helpful. You have to invest time to get the great results … imagine now the sculpted/toned bodies of the models they use in ads for any exercise equipment … then imagine the sculpted/toned brains of your students using blogs. That doesn’t happen without consistent use.

Now that I think of it though, blogs are not like an exercise bike, blogs are like one of those pieces of fitness equipment that include multiple exercises – weight lifting, sit-ups, pull-ups, leg lifts and so on. Blogs are certainly writing spaces, but they lend themselves to not just publishing writing, but also response and discussion which is that higher level thinking we are vying for. But wait! There’s still more. Blogs also include, publishing photos, videos, podcasts, spreadsheets, slide shows, art work, and much more. AND all of those pieces can be written about and discussed. AND note its not even all writing, notice in my partial list it can be oral language and media … and of course it involves reading. So multiple exercises for the brain! AND all of that is archived and it is then easy to see improvement over time – you can see it, your students can see it and their parents can see it.

Did I mention the family connection? Not only is the blog available for student collaborators to see and interact with, the students’ families can as well. Students can go home and show parents what they did today, family members can comment … see what I mean? Oooh, and I’ve had experts like scientists and athletes and the like leave comments and interact as well.

Here’s the thing though, getting back to my initial point, that doesn’t happen if we don’t use them consistently. Blogs are powerful, engaging, motivating, learning tools. So use them consistently, and use all their possibilities. Otherwise it is like doing one or two writing projects a year that you turn into published books … “My Poetry Book” and/or “The Day I Was My Dog” – great stuff, but imagine doing that all the time and you (the teacher) doesn’t have to find the special paper and laminate and so forth.

Oh, and couple your class blog with a wiki and a photo sharing service like Flickr … it only gets better.

So if you have your students blogging because you want them to learn. Then really have them blogging all the time!!!! The initial time it takes to get them up and going will pay big dividends!

Learning is messy!

Posted in Blogging, Change, Education, Literacy, Making Connections With Blogging, Messy Learning, STEM, Student Access, Teacher Access, Technology, Wikis | 9 Comments

Sharing Real-World Projects Sharpens the Literacy Skills of Connected Students

I have a new post up over at the Powerful Learning Practice Blog entitled: Sharing Real-World Projects Sharpens the Literacy Skills of Connected Students. Head over and give it a read … and comment as well. :)

I’ve been making the point in my STEM trainings that part of the appeal, to me at least, of STEM and Maker learning, is how language intense it should be. Teachers react well when I point that out and make the case for not leaving the language experiences “on the cutting room floor,” so to speak. There are so many deep, thoughtful, and especially, creative language possibilities that are too often not realized or wasted in the rush to do an interesting, engaging activity and then move on.

Learning is messy!

Posted in Change, Education, Literacy, Messy Learning, STEM | 2 Comments

Constructive Learning Is …

7 Years ago Doug Noon, an elementary teacher in Alaska, who some will remember for his fantastic blog “Borderland,” which unfortunately he decided to end awhile back, challenged his readers to write their own blog posts about what constructive learning is. I’d link to it, and my original post did, but alas there is nothing to link to. For some reason my old post has been garnering more than usual interest the last few days so I went and checked it out and found it still has legs. See if you agree, and maybe write your own:

Constructive learning is learning about something you had no intention of learning about because of what you did or are doing to produce something. You learn that you can have persistence, you can stick with something to completion – you just spent more time on task than you ever did in your life. You learn from failure what doesn’t work and why it doesn’t work until you work out what can work.

Constructive learning is contemplation.

Constructive learning is working things out with someone you could not possibly work things out with because you can’t possibly get along with that person because they are an enemy, your enemy –  but, because you had a common goal, an intriguing goal that happened to use your strengths in an unexpected way – you now share a successful experience.

Constructive learning is working on something intriguing enough and important enough (to you) that you stick with it and work through what is hard with materials and people and ideas for long enough to find success.

Constructive learning is making connections.

Constructive learning is learning about just what you had in mind to learn about. You developed the thinking about how to learn what you wanted to learn about. You put together the materials required – Tried it, proved it to yourself. Done. Next.

Constructive learning is just doing something, anything almost, that seems to have even a whiff of possibility – sometimes it just works.

Constructive learning is seeking out those you would really like to work with because you have a good sense that you are kin in your thinking and interest – if the right problem is taken on kismet can happen – but so can disappointment.

Constructive learning is re-doing it because now we see how it could be really great.

Constructive learning is starting to make one thing, but then realizing it would make a better other thing. So you make the other thing instead.

Constructive learning is everything fell apart. The group, what we were trying to do, the idea, and it’s best to just walk away.

Constructive learning is everything fell apart. The group, what we were trying to do, the idea, but now we’ve had time and we are enthusiastic about it again.

Constructive learning is finding out that someone you thought was cool, was someone to be around – isn’t.

Constructive learning is learning that that jerk, that idiot, that ugly person!  – isn’t.

Constructive learning is planning a constructive learning experience and watching what you hoped would happen, happen – but also all the great stuff you didn’t really plan to happen, that happens.

Constructive learning is the kids that never got it until they had a chance to do it this way.

Constructive learning is more than the above –  it is a passion.

Learning is messy!

Posted in Education, Inclusion, Messy Learning, Project Based | 2 Comments

A Whole ‘Lotta Shaking Goin’ On

I recently happened across this piece I wrote in 2002 for a writing class, in fact my Northern Nevada Writing Project class,  about my experiences during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and its aftermath. (Side note – Corbett Harrison who is co- genius behind was one of my instructors)

I was teaching 6th grade in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time of the earthquake. I was home in the East Bay getting ready to watch a World Series game, but my wife of 2 months was on the 38th floor of an office building in downtown San Francisco. Today, October 17, 2013, is the 24th anniversary of that event, so I thought it fitting to post this today. A bit different from most posts here. Think how different this experience would be today with changes in technology.

A Whole ‘Lotta Shaking Goin’ On

         I settled into the couch, a crisp fall apple clenched in my teeth, and with a quick double poke on the remote I turned the TV on and selected the World Series channel. Nancy wouldn’t even start her ninety-minute commute home for another half-hour, so I could relax, watch some of the game and still have plenty of time to prepare dinner.

         As the game coverage faded in on the set, I took my first bite of apple and immediately felt strangely disconnected and disoriented. The feeling only lasted a second or two but when my senses realigned, I realized I was experiencing an earthquake. A constant shaking sensation like traveling over slightly uneven pavement was joined by intermittent sharp bumps. My eye caught a hanging light fixture swaying so it almost smacked the ceiling. Dishes rattled and clanked in the kitchen. A splashing sound had me glance outside at the source. The top two feet of water from the swimming pool was being sloshed out onto the surrounding deck and plants.

         Car alarms sounded, windows rattled and the whole townhouse moaned. Then stillness. No pictures had fallen, or walls cracked. No dishes had fallen out of cupboards, no apparent damage. The quake had lasted about 15 seconds, but it seemed much longer.

         “This is great!” I thought. “Many of my students must have felt that! What a great discussion we can have tomorrow. What did they feel? Did they follow the earthquake procedures we’d covered? Had they watched the news to find out the Richter scale reading of the….wait a minute. If that quake was epicentered near here then no big deal – but if that was centered far away that was a big quake!”

         It was then that I noticed the TV was dark. I got up and confirmed the power was off. I dashed to the garage and turned the car radio on… nothing but static…bad sign. The garage light came on. I ran back into the house, turned the downstairs TV on and flipped through the channels of static until I found Channel 5 in San Francisco had a station identifier on. I bounded upstairs, shoved a blank tape into the VCR in our bedroom and pushed record. “This way I’ll get a tape of how they deal with an emergency,” I reasoned.

         I returned to the living room to find channel 5 coming on live. Dave McEllhatten appeared from a darkened newsroom looking flustered but talking calmly. “You felt it,” he reported, “and it was a big one, or at least the biggest one I’ve felt.” He explained they were on generator power, hence the dim lights, and that they would get us information as quickly as they could.

Seeing the newsroom intact made me feel better since Nancy’s office was on the 38th floor of a building  just across town from there.

Within 5 minutes I was seeing scenes of a bridge collapse, which initially they reported as the Carquinez Bridge, but was really the Bay Bridge, and smoke pouring from a collapsed freeway and buildings here and there.

But what I also saw was not much other damage. I tried the phone but it was dead. I figured the only way Nancy would still be in her office was if everything was OK anyhow. 

I walked through our townhouse to inspect for damage but found none.

Now I got antsy. “Is there something I should do?” I thought. “But what? Getting in my car was the wrong thing to do – and where would I go? The bridge was down and finding Nancy would be next to impossible.”

         “The last Bart train is out of the tube which is good news,” Dave reported, “and no more trains will be running until they can check the tube for damage.” “No Bart!? But that’s Nancy’s way home,” I moaned.

Now there were scenes from San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Cruz of building collapses and fires. Then a report came from The Marina section of San Francisco that showed apartment buildings off their foundations, on fire and a general chaos of people shouting, sirens blaring and bleeding people being carried off in stretchers.

I tried the phone again…nothing. I hung it up only to have it almost immediately ring. I answered and heard a strange voice speaking in Spanish. I answered in my best college Spanish but as soon as they heard my voice they hung up. So the phones were working!

I hung up and tried the phone…nothing. As I held the phone in my hand thinking about what to do next I heard the dial tone click on. “Great it works!” I thought, “But who to phone?” I tried Nancy’s office but the call didn’t go through.

My Mom answered my next call on the second ring. My parents only lived about 4 miles from me. Mom informed me that she had not heard from my sister who worked in the same building as Nancy. We reassured each other that they were probably fine and hung up so as not to tie up the phone line during an emergency.

Now the reports from the TV were coming in fast and furious. Scenes from Candlestick Park where the World Series had been cancelled, and then from the Cypress Freeway that led onto the Bay Bridge came reports that the upper deck of the freeway had collapsed onto the lower deck, a gruesome image to be sure.

I decided to try the phone again. It had by now been about 2 hours since the quake and it was dark. I reasoned that Nancy may have gone to her sister’s apartment in San Francisco. Before I could get to the phone, it rang. It was my Mother telling me that Nancy was all right. She had met up with my sister and they had hired a limo to take them and another woman to Nancy’s sister’s apartment.

I called Nancy. It took several minutes but the call went through. Nancy said they were hunched over a transistor radio with a dying battery, trying to hear what was going on. Helicopters were landing and taking off from the park next door, ferrying National Guardsmen around the city. Otherwise, she said it was pitch black and eerily quiet.

She explained that she had had to walk down 38 flights of stairs after the quake and that she had picked up some pieces of her building that had crumbled on the ground in case I wanted to show my class. I filled her in on what I knew and that she could probably catch a ferryboat home the next day. Knowing we were each all right, we hung up.

Soon afterwards I got several calls from friends and relatives from other states checking on us, asking me what I knew, and could I contact someone they couldn’t and let them know if they were OK. This took some time, but I found out in doing so that my phone service was working better than seemingly anywhere in the Bay Area. I was able to get through every time and get back to people and let them know things were fine.

About 9:00pm Nancy’s boss called to see if everything was OK and report that she knew Nancy was fine. She was calling from the office! She had no lights but the phone worked so she was calling employees’ families and letting them know how things were.

“Um, they’re reporting that there might be large aftershocks, Laurie!” I reported, “don’t you think you might want to get off the 38th floor!?” In true type A personality fashion she assured me she was fine. Her husband was driving the 80 or so miles from their house in the East Bay to come down the peninsula and across the Golden Gate Bridge to get her. The bridge was closed but might reopen.

“Laurie, they’re saying on the news that they really don’t want people coming into the city right now. Maybe you should get out of there and get to Laura’s house (Nancy’s sister),” I suggested.” She’d have none of that. She had more calls to make so she signed off.

Tim was knocking on the door soon after Laurie hung up. Tim was Nancy’s sister’s husband, and he worked on this side of the Bay Bridge so he couldn’t go home. I filled him in on what I knew and we stayed up pretty late and watched TV.

I was struck by the fact that when you watched the network coverage that most of the country was seeing you were led to believe that the Bay Area was decimated. While in truth the damage was mainly concentrated in isolated pockets. The Marina section of San Francisco where some of the most severe damage had occurred, was built on sand that had been dredged in and filled an area that used to be part of the Bay. The sand had “liquefied” during the quake and that had caused foundations to fail and buildings to collapse.

The rush of adrenaline from an evening of excitement made it hard to go to sleep, and yet I knew that 5:30am was fast approaching and tomorrow would be a big day at school. We were warned that some students might be traumatized and that we should be on the lookout for any students that might need help coping.

The stories from my students the next day ranged from those that hadn’t felt anything to the soccer players that ended up on the ground riding out the shaking. I got letters from a few parents thanking me for the earthquake preparedness unit we were doing. They noted sons or daughters that were usually helpless that put water in the tub in case the water went out and questioned whether they should turn off the gas in case the pipes had ruptured. Easily the toughest story to hear was from a girl in my class who reported to us that her father, an Oakland fireman, had not come home and her mom was certain he was working on the freeway trying to save those trapped in their cars under the concrete. They finally heard from him a day and a half later, and indeed he was part of the crew that was cutting through concrete and pulling out survivors and non-survivors. He later confided to me that he would never be able to fully talk to his own kids about what he had done and seen during that time. I guessed that he may have been one of the firemen who had to literally cut through a woman’s dead body to save the life of her four year old son who had been trapped for 3 days next to his dead mother.

Nancy got home that afternoon after a ferry trip and a ride to her car with someone. We regaled each other with our survival stories for a few hours. A week later building engineers reported that the Speare Street Tower where Nancy worked swayed six feet in both directions during the quake, which is exactly what it was designed to do.

Nancy went to bed early since she hadn’t slept much the night before. I settled onto the couch to watch a rehash of the day’s events, but a lump in the cushion prevented me from being comfortable. In between the cushions was the apple I had taken one bite out of when the quake struck the evening before. The other side looked OK – So I munched on it as I relived the last 24 hours with Channel 5.



Learning is messy!

Posted in Brian Crosby, Literacy, Messy Learning | 2 Comments

Tales Out of School

In my travels I’ve recently heard some interesting, if not disheartening tales.

Several teachers I met shared being at a school board meeting where a school board member told about visiting middle and high schools and being appalled at seeing students using smart phones in the hallways and hearing how occasionally teachers have to ask students to put their phones away in class. Also he has heard stories about students accessing inappropriate sites on their phones. His plan is to change school district policy so that the first time a student has a phone out in class for any reason, the teacher is to confiscate the phone for a day. On the second occurrence however, the teacher is to confiscate the phone and then break it in front of the student and the class as a punishment and vivid reminder of how important the no phone policy is.

It was pointed out to the school board member that A) That put teachers in a very untenable position. B) It put teachers, the school and the school district in a position to be sued. C) It might be against the law to break something as punishment … and there were other issues and concerns raised. The school board member vows to look into it.

Another situation involves a teacher sharing at a training how she loved the new district online grade book program. She really liked how, even though she did not have a school district iPad, she could access the online program on her smartphone and that enabled her to input grades and notes while she was interacting with students in reading groups and other situations. She explained that she had been trained to do the same on paper, this took no more time to input AND it meant she didn’t have to take the time to transfer the data from paper to the program later on a computer. It saved her time and was more efficient. Other teachers nodded their heads and took notes about what they thought was a great idea.

Sitting by this teacher in the training were several district administrators. They questioned if the smartphone was hers or the school district’s. She explained that of course it was her phone. They admonished her and explained they would look the other way “this time” – but that technically they could “write her up” for going against school district policy. She was NOT to use her own device to input grades or access the online grading system. She asked if it was OK to take home her school laptop and input grades from home, and the answer was of course since it was a school district computer. She informed them that even though she used her phone that at no time were the grades actually “on her phone” but only on “the cloud”or internet, so she was not sure how that was against policy. They admonished her again and informed her that she was never to do that again!

Wow! We have a long way to go!

Learning is messy!

Posted in Change, Education, Student Access, Teacher Access, Technology | 1 Comment