Friday, December 2, 2016

#STEAM Education and Innovation

I had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago to participate in an exciting event at the Riverview Intermediate Unit (IU6) in Clarion, PA. This event, the Innovation Playground, brought together many area educators, students, parents, and technology in one place to showcase the innovative uses of this technology. Throughout the evening, there were robots zipping around the room, news broadcasts being created, iPad apps and accessories being showcased, and a DJI Phantom Drone on display. There truly was something for everyone and I am honored to have been a participant, along with my daughter and a friend of the family, as we manned the Makey Makey Booth.

Makey Makey: What is it?

Makey Makey Unboxed
My daughter bought her Makey Makey this past summer with money she had received for her birthday. As a fan of technology and a believer in it's power, I was thrilled that she wanted to buy this device. Out of the box, you find the Makey Makey, a mess of wires with alligator clips on both ends, a USB cord, and project ideas. By design, one end of the cords connect to holes in the Makey Makey while the other end connects to a conductive item/substance. Once plugged in to the computer, it is viewed as an external keyboard allowing it to be used to control programs and operations. As for use, the only limit is your creativity!

The Ultimate STEAM Project

My daughter wanted to do something awesome with her Makey Makey. After unboxing it, we played around with some of the gimmicky applications - banana piano, play-dough game controller, etc. - but it was obvious that we needed to take it a step further. Her goal was to have fun; my goal was to showcase the educational power of this little device. It is safe to say we both got what we wanted.
After some brainstorming, she decided she wanted to take the Makey Makey guitar project idea from the packaged materials and make it awesome, so that's exactly what we did and in the process, we created the ultimate STEAM project!

  • Science - The project required my daughter to consider electrical currents and the materials best suited to conduct those currents in this guitar made out of cardboard. She decided to use paper fasteners, aluminum foil, copper wire, and LOTS of duck tape! 
  • Technology - The Makey Makey, a computer, and some basic programming carried out in Scratch. . . . need I say more???
  • Engineering - After some initial internet research, she decided to model her cardboard electric guitar after the Fender Stratocaster. This required her to carefully draw the neck and body, cut out the various pieces, and assemble everything for the final product. Some modifications were made along the way, resulting in a fairly solid musical instrument.
  • Arts - This project required her to tap her artsy side. She decorated the body of guitar with her favorite patterned duct tapes, painted the neck of the guitar, and even explore the various notes she would utilize in Garageband as she composed her music. Anyone who says the arts don't belong in STEM projects are sadly mistaken. STEAM all the way!!!
  • Mathematics - She very carefully measured the spacing of the frets for her guitar along with the holes needed to insert the paper fasteners and aluminum foil. Additionally, she was required to measure and cut various lengths of copper wire to run from the frets to the Makey-Makey. Math skills were definitely tested!
The final result was an awesome cardboard electric guitar that tapped each of the skill sets listed above. She had a blast making it and I was thrilled to see the educational potential of the Makey Makey. Finally, to see her so thrilled to share her creation and the process with the visitors to the Innovation Playground was amazing. My student was genuinely excited about learning. Win.

What's Next?

The only limit is my daughter's imagination! I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. 😀

Would you like to play with the Makey Makey? My daughter has already stated that I am welcome to bring the device to school for other kids to experience. If interested, let me know and I'll bring it in! Interested in bringing more STEAM Projects into your classroom to energize your classroom and inspire true learning in your students? I've recently discovered some awesome resources that I'd love to share, so just let me know! 



Thursday, November 3, 2016

Computer Science Education Week

One of the joys of my position as Technology Coach in the district is working with students across all grade levels and assisting teachers with the integration of technology. I have found that the students truly enjoy the time they spend with electronic devices in school. As always, it is important that we do not use technology for the sake of using technology, but make sure that the technology is truly adding to the learning experience of our students. Computer Science Education Week is approaching in December, providing students and teachers an opportunity to integrate technology in a fun, creative, engaging, and meaningful way in the classroom.

Computer Science Education Week was a huge success in FASD last December. This week of celebrating and integrating Computer Science in our classrooms saw over 500 FASD students grades K-8 experience an Hour of Code, with many writing their first-ever lines of computer code. Students were utilizing math, reading, thinking, and reasoning skills to solve coding puzzles and to create their own original games! These activities were highly educational and fun for all involved. In addition to participation in the Hour of Code, the 6th grade classes at Sandycreek Elementary School took the challenge to move beyond the hour of code and I had the privilege of leading those students on an almost weekly basis through the content of a coding course from

Computer Science Education Week will be celebrated this year the week of December 5-11. I would love nothing more than to see this program continue to grow in our district. As I offered last year, I am more than willing and able to conduct these Hour of Code sessions in your classrooms. I will work with your schedule to see that every student in FASD has a chance to explore the exciting world of Computer Science. Furthermore, I would very much like to see our students moving beyond the hour of code by completing lessons within the curriculum. Again, these are lessons that I will gladly come in and teach for you as often as you would like. By providing our students with these opportunities, we are providing them with practical applications of the math, reading, and thinking skills we spend so much time teaching in the classroom and, ultimately, building a foundation for future success in our tech-driven world.

Interested in conducting an Hour of Code session with your students? Let me know by scheduling an appointment via the app on the left. Want to go beyond the hour of code and conduct more regular coding lessons in your classroom? Let me know that as well. I look forward to hearing from you and making this year's Computer Science Education Week a meaningful and successful event for the teachers and students of FASD.



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A New Take On Some Old Tech.

Welcome to my first post of the 2016-2017 school year! This one is going to be a little different than some of my previous posts in that I'm not focusing on new and emerging technologies. Instead, I am taking a fresh look at some old technology - the Spreadsheet.

So, many of you have known me in FASD as a teacher for going on 13 years. What many of you do not know, however, is that teaching was not always my career path. When I entered college as a freshman at the University of Tulsa, I had set in my mind that I was going to be an accountant for a large company and make a life in the business world. My accounting major had me taking many interesting business classes, including a class that focused on the use of computers and technology in the business world. It was in this class that I was first introduced to HTML coding, databases, and spreadsheets. 

Fast forward 18 years and I am still using this technology, but in the realm of public education. I am still intrigued by coding and have set a goal for myself that I will become proficient in at least one of the many programming languages in the near future. Databases, whether I take the time to recognize it or not, are a major part of my life. For example, any time I do any internet shopping and I am setting filters in order to locate specific products, I am using a database. A spreadsheet, however, is one of those pieces of technology that I do not often use, but think I, and our students, need to use more of!

As a computer teacher in FMS, I used to implement a rather extensive unit that had my students tracking the stock market, researching, and reporting on a major company in which the students "invested" a portion of their money. The students would track their investments over a six week period and their numbers were recorded in a rather complex spreadsheet. I can honestly say these students were amazed by their creations year after year. We would spend two weeks building the spreadsheets, entering formulas and functions all over the place. If you've ever built a spreadsheet that included functions and formulas, you likely know that you will see error codes all over the sheet(s) until you start entering numbers into the cells. This always led to some confusion on the part of the students, but the minute they placed their first number in the cell and that one number triggered changes across several other columns and sheets, you'd think they had learned the best magic trick in the world - one of those "Ah-Ha Moments" we long for!

Why all of this talk about spreadsheets? Simply because I think this old piece of technology presents many practical applications across the curriculum. For example:
  • Science Classrooms - Use a spreadsheet to record measurements and observations during an experiment. Data can then be analyzed, charted, sorted, and more in order for students to identify patterns, form conclusions, target areas for improvement in future experimentation, etc.
  • Mathematics Classrooms - Use spreadsheets to show the relationships between different types of data representations, such as tables, equations, and graphs ( It is extremely helpful to see how a change to one representation leads to change in the other representations.
  • Social Studies - In this election season, students could be charting predicted Electoral College votes for each of the presidential candidates, allowing for students to predict the outcome of the election. Perhaps your class is studying potential media bias. A spreadsheet would be a great place to record links to news articles that might help to show media bias does or does not exist.
  • ELA Classrooms - Studying an author's use of various literary devices? Students could record examples of the various literary devices, along with page and/or chapter references, and an explanation of the meaning of the text and/or the author's reason for using the device.
  • Art Classrooms - Borrowing from Alice Keeler's wonderful Teacher Tech blog, students can use spreadsheets to create pixel art. With a couple of programming steps, students can take an image they've created on graph paper and transform it into an image reminiscent of the old 8-bit video game artwork seen in games like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Minecraft. Lots of fun!
  • Family and Consumer Science Classrooms - There is perhaps nothing more important for financial success than a budget. Students could prepare a spreadsheet that can track income and expenses and allow them to clearly see where their money is going. This is a powerful tool!
These are just a few ideas for incorporating spreadsheets in the classroom. If you'd like to sit down and make a specific plan for incorporating this old, yet powerful, piece of technology, schedule an appointment via that link on the left! I am available for brainstorming, planning, co-teaching, etc. and would love to work with you! Please take a moment to complete the brief survey below.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Looking Back. . . Moving Forward

Looking Back

As hard as it is to believe, my 12th year in education is rapidly coming to an end. It has been a year of growth and change in my professional life. Thanks in large part to the willingness and cooperation of the teachers and administrators with whom I work, I've had the opportunity to pursue several personal interests and bring them to the students of Franklin Area School District.

  • ROBOTICS - FASD has laid the ground work for a robotics program that will reach students in elementary school tech clubs all the way to high school technology classes. 
  • CODING - More FASD students are being exposed to coding skills than ever before - some through the Hour of Code and others by working through curriculum from and in working with Scratch, Alice, and similar programs. 
  • AUGMENTED REALITY - The hallways of Franklin Middle School and Victory Elementary have now become more interactive with the inclusion of augmented reality features. 
  • 3D PRINTING - This emerging technology is working its way into many different subject areas in our schools. The district has purchased several 3D printers, making this technology more readily available than ever before to the teachers of our district.
  • SHARING IN THE PROFESSIONAL COMMUNITY - I was thrilled to present at PETE&C with Jeffrey Fonzo and Dr. Samantha Fecich concerning our use of augmented reality technology in our schools. Even more exciting was seeing Jackie Thurau and Kim Shirey, along with several Sandycreek Elementary 4th grade students, sharing their use of 3D printing at the 2016 STEAM Showcase in Meadville in April.  
These are just a few of the ed. tech. highlights from the 2015-2016 school year. I'm looking forward to working with more teachers in the implementation of technology in the classroom when we return in the fall. I firmly believe that the tools available to teachers will truly make our jobs easier, freeing up more time to actually teach and these same tools will lead to higher levels of student engagement and excitement than we've ever seen before.

Moving Ahead

As I usually do when the end of the school year is so close, I'm thinking about what this summer has in store for me. Looking ahead, it should be jam packed with fun and education. Here's the current agenda.
  • VACATION - I'll be traveling for the first time to the Outer Banks in just a couple of weeks. I am blessed to be vacationing with my family along with some of our closest friends.
  • CODING - The incredible Grove City Community Library has agreed to allow me to host a Coding Club for the children of Grove City beginning June 20. This club will be divided into two different age groups and will run from 10-11am and 11:30-12:30pm every Monday until July 25. Should be lots of fun! For more information on this and other exciting children's programs being offered this summer, check the library website!
  • READING - In addition to reading the latest Brad Thor novel, I'm looking forward to participating in a book study with my colleagues of Central Elementary as we read and discuss Teach Like a Pirate. I've heard great things about this book and look forward to checking it out for myself!
  • FAMILY TIME - I always look forward to the time I'll get to spend with my kids. Last year, my two oldest and I worked through Project #1 in the fantastic book Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred as we created Lock and Latch Treasure Chests. I can't wait to develop some soldering skills as we complete the switchbox project!
  • SWIMMING - My family basically lives at the Memorial Park Pool each afternoon of the summer. A good friend and I will actually be starting a blog about the time we spend with our kids at the pool each day and other random adventures we may take - golfing, hiking, #DDT (Dunkin Donut Tuesdays - it's a thing!), etc. Please follow our journey by clicking here!
Any big summer plans? Leave a comment below!

As always, it is a pleasure working with each and every one of you. Have a wonderful summer!



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Welcome To The Fonshow!

About a year ago, I sent a mailing that focused on an emerging technology known as Augmented Reality. In it, I discussed real-world examples of AR experiences, an app that can be used by teachers and students to develop and view AR experiences, as well as an AR project being developed by myself, Jeff Fonzo, and (Grove City College Professor) Dr. Samantha Fecich. I'm pleased to say that this project has finally been rolled out for many of our elementary students and it's safe to say the project was an absolute success.

Project Details

Fifth and sixth grade participants in Victory Elementary's Art and Tech Clubs had a hand in making this project a reality. Art Club students worked diligently to recreate a number of classic paintings along with a few original creations based on specific artistic styles. Tech Club students conducted research that focused on the specific artists, artistic styles, and other interesting information pertaining to these paintings. With that research, they scripted and recorded a video narration and applied this narration to a short educational video created in iMovie. Using the Aurasma Studio website, these videos were attached to trigger images - images that launch the augmentation - within our Aurasma channel - The Fonshow Network. Short quizzes, based on the videos and created with Google Forms, were attached to the end of the video to check student knowledge and understanding. In all, about 35% of Victory's 5th and 6th grade students had a hand in the creation of this project.

Armed with tablets loaded with the Aurasma app and working in teams of 5-6 students, the gallery walk began. As groups scanned a painting, watched the video, and correctly answered the quiz questions, they were given clues as to the placement of the next painting. The clues eventually led the students back to the art room where their walk began.

Check out the slideshow below for a glimpse at this awesome project!

Activity Observations:
  • Students were highly engaged and genuinely excited during this activity, racing from painting to painting.
  • Students worked very well together in their small groups.
  • All groups successfully completed the activity within the 1-hour time frame.
Student Reflections:
  • What are your thoughts about this activity?
    • It was fun.
    • The artists enjoyed viewing the videos that were based on their paintings.
    • They learned some new things.
  • How can we (the teachers) make this activity better?
    • Have more paintings and AR experiences created!
    • Start each group at a different location, rather than the staggered start at the same location.
  • In what other subjects and how could your teachers use Augmented Reality activities?
    • Phys. Ed - created station-based activities where students would scan pictures to see a particular skill demonstrated. They would then have to master that skill.
    • Library - book reports
    • Bonus activities based on student interests
Augmented Reality is an emerging and developing technology. As the technology develops the possible applications will grow. Educationally, this technology has the potential to truly enhance what we are already doing in our classrooms and bring the curriculum to life in ways that simply weren't possible in the not too distant past. If you'd like to create an AR experience for your class, let's talk! Schedule an appointment via the link on the left.



Monday, March 21, 2016

Printing In The 3rd Dimension

My son is very much into the Jurassic Park movie series. I have seen all of them previously, but the experience of watching them again with my son is amazing. Watching them again all these years later has allowed me to notice some things that I had not previously paid attention to. Specifically, I was thrilled, while watching the third installment in the series, to see the archaeologists using a "Rapid Prototyping Machine" to produce a working 3D model of a velociraptor resonating chamber. The reason for my excitement? This was a real-world use of 3D printing technology.
The 3D printing technology in this film from 2001 has grown and expanded quite rapidly in recent years. The manufacturing industry routinely uses this technology to create samples and models; the medical industry is using "Bio Ink" to print human skin, ears, and kidneys, as well as more affordable prosthetic limbs; sugars and other food substances are being utilized to print intricate candies, cakes, and piping designs impossible to create by hand; for better or worse, the technology is being used to print working firearms; desktop 3D printers are becoming increasingly affordable, allowing for schools and tinkerers to have easy access to the technology. The future of 3D printing technology is wide open and we should see some amazing uses going forward.

For those that don't know, FASD is blessed to have THREE of these 3D printers available for use! If you would like to learn more about how you might utilize 3D printing in your classroom, let's talk! The actual printing process is as simple as me bringing the printer to your classroom, downloading your designs, and getting the process started!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dare To Innovate

I recently had the privilege of attending the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo & Conference (PETE&C) in Hershey, PA. I have been extremely blessed to have attended this conference three years running. Each year, I return from this event with a renewed passion for teaching and with exciting new ideas to implement in the classroom. If you've never had the opportunity, or if you've passed on the opportunity, to attend this conference, I would encourage all of my colleagues in FASD to seek the opportunity to attend and prepare to be changed - there is truly something for everyone.

In addition to the renewal and ideas I received from this year's conference, I was challenged in ways I did not foresee. The Day 2 Keynote was delivered by an innovator in education that I've followed on Twitter for some time: George Couros. I've been a huge fan of his fresh approach to educational issues and of his embrace of technology in education. I walked away from his keynote inspired in ways I haven't experienced in quite a long time. His topic? The innovator's mindset.

  • What does it mean to innovate?
  • What is "success"?
  • What are we doing to inspire the innovator's mindset in our students?
  • Why is a pencil considered "crucial" for education while technology is viewed as a reward? 
  • Would I want to spend a whole day learning in my classroom?

These are just a handful of questions I've been pondering since this speech. Innovation is never easy - in fact, I'd say it's pretty scary. To break from the routine - the norm - to try something fresh and different that many of your peers may not understand and/or support is an intimidating prospect. But at it's very core, innovation is the disruption of routine! Embracing technology in our classrooms may very well be the spark that ignites a revolution of innovation in our classrooms that disrupts our routine! Might it be uncomfortable in the short term? Definitely! Might technology change how we do what we do? Absolutely! Might technology bring the world to our students and inspire them in ways we've never seen? You better believe it!

I'm not here to suggest that technology is always the answer, but technology in the hands of an excellent teacher is an amazing tool! FASD has no shortage of excellent teachers. How are our excellent teachers leveraging the power of technology in the classroom? Maybe you are one of these excellent teachers who just doesn't quite know where to begin with technology in the classroom - it makes you uncomfortable or it is too big of a disruption to the routine - and that's ok. I'm here to encourage and assist with the implementation of new and exciting tools and strategies in our classrooms. Let's get together to brainstorm, to plan, to teach, and to leverage the power available to us! Let's spark the revolution! Let's be the change!

Dare to innovate,