Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Beauty in Diversity

I've been extra busy lately pulling together a media show for a charity my Dad works for called the Race Relations and Diversity Task Force. Every year the RRDTF puts on a breakfast honoring diversity champions. These champions are people in their organizations (schools, businesses, non-profits) that work tirelessly to bridge the distances between us. I can't share with you the entire program I put together, but below are the quotes and pictures I assembled. Enjoy. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Girl EmPower, Not Just for Chicks

Girl emPower
I must be wearing my lucky pants today because I am in the right place at the right time. Everyday I get to work with incredibly cool people, one of which is my colleague Denise Phelps. Denise is one of those teachers that kids remember for the rest of their lives as someone who made them feel heard and seen and who made them realize their power and worth. She must have done the same for her daughter Laura Phelps because she and her partner Andrew Cavanagh just won the Presidents' Equal Futures Challenge Notable App for Girl emPower . The app is designed to help inspire civic leadership in girls. Perhaps an unintended bonus outcome you get from using the app is the realization that inequality in government is still appallingly present! (For Example, there are 435 seats in congress yet women only occupy 81 of them. There are 100 senators and yet only 18 are female.)

But let's focus on the positive and this very righteous app, shall we? What does Girl emPower  feature? Well, your journey starts with a map of the US. You can hone in on women representatives from various states and read their bios, find out about the issues that inspire them, and read their recent Tweets.

You can easily locate and contact your own representatives by inputting your zip code into the connect section. 

The Watch tab of Girl emPower connects you to the recent US government You Tube uploads on the latest hot button issues. At this writing there are press conferences on the Boston Marathon Bombings and Gun Violence featured into Girl emPower's feed.

The Learn section will show you How a Bill Becomes a Law through a nifty, interactive, graphic organizer. Girl emPower gives you Fun Facts about the government and how it works in a flip book. IMHO, the best part of the whole shooting match is the In Their Own Words section. Laura and Andrew curated oodles of video clips of phenomenal femmes talking about what it means to be a woman leader and why it is crucial we work toward equal representation. 

The last stop on Girl emPower lets you quiz yourself on what you learned about the US Government. 

I am going to throw down a challenge here and ask parents and educators not only of girls but of boys as well to have them explore Girl emPower.   Until our young men learn to admire strong, female heroes and role models, there will be no lasting equality. 

Watch below as The Man himself, President Barack Obama announces this noble, brave, and free app. 


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Build Books Like A Boss

One of my esteemed colleagues sent me on a quest recently to find an iPad Book Creation App that will allow no limits on uploads, embed video and audio files, and generate and share QR Codes. We also thought it would be handy if the App could integrate with Google Docs.  No small task right? Turns out there is just such an iPad app called Creative Book Builder. I learned all about it from Jeremy Brueck on his excellent blog Raised Digital. So, as with all quests I came home with more treasure than anticipated. Not only did I learn of a better book creation app than the one I previously recommended but I can now follow a terrific new blog. Win. Win.

You can use Creative Book Builder in a variety of ways in the educational setting. Obviously you can create your own textbooks and stories. It offers a simple way to assemble professional looking student portfolios. Because of the easy integration of Google Docs classes can work on collaborative projects and publish their findings as a whole. There are other book building apps out there but I know of no other app that does all the things that Creative Book Builder does. It also exports to a variety of sources to make sharing simple and easy. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

3D Sweet

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Oliver Quinlan:
Want to hold in your hands the visions you see in your head? 3D Printers let you do just that...after a very, very long time. Magic happens but 3D printers require the patience of trees.

My favorite part of Ironman is when Tony Stark is in his lab bossing around robots and manipulating objects he invents in mid air. I want my own form of Jarvis. A 3D printer is a step toward realizing that fantasy.

This summer I plan to attend a class to learn how build my own 3D printer along with a colleague at Michigan Tech. Here's the skinny on that.  Maybe your school can afford a 3D printer. More likely they can't. However, that doesn't mean you can't design 3D objects and see them.

Here are good resources for 3D printing:

The 3D Printer Experience   This site is home to many different kinds and sizes of 3D printers. It has design tutorials on the site. You can scan and print a 3D version of your head using your cell phone camera. They have a design app as well.

AutoDesk 123D Printing Services  will let students design models  with online tools by dragging pieces together. Their models can then be sent to 123D Make and printed. Students can construct their models without a 3D printer.

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo by Detlef Schobert:
Mission Street Manufacturing is focused on making 3D printing more affordable and accessible for all. 

The Following are sites focused on design for 3D printing. They are pretty nifty:



Makerbot Thingverse

Freedom of Creation


Monday, April 8, 2013 Visual Awesomeness

There is a new service out there called It is sort of like Padlet (formerlyWallwisher) meets Pinterest. If you are one of those visual thinkers who likes to organize and sort with pictures rather than word lists, this is a tool for you. Before all the snazzy gadgets, I was the kind of geek that would post ideas and important papers on cork boards and move them around. I also like to brainstorm ala Dr. House on white board. allows you to do this digitally. What is better is that you can invite others and work on boards collaboratively yet keep those collaborators and your work exclusive and secret until you are ready to share with the world. not only allows you to post websites, videos, pictures, and published content, you can also import your cloud services like Google Drive and at that to the mix. This makes a natural tool for schools. Once you create a board you can then turn it into a presentation! Voila!

This is a screenshot from a Mural. ly I am putting together to build our STEM/STEAM curriculum here at GPA. You can see the toolbar on the left and the navigation tool on the right. Below the picture is a short introductory video with a sexy voice over.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Join the Moby Fan Club

In the title of this post I refer to the orange robot, not the singer songwriter or the great white whale. Moby the singer is cool too but this is about one of the oldest and best technology integration resources in education, BrainPOP. Surely you already know what BrainPOP is but did you know you can become a BrainPop Educator? I would like to encourage you to sign up if you haven't already. It is free even if your district or school does not belong to BrainPOP. One of the reasons BrainPop has remained current and relevant is that it listens to teachers and constantly evolves.

For those folks not in the know BrainPOP and its babies, BrainPOP Jr. (For Grades K-3) and BrainPOP ESL, are standards aligned, entertaining, informational videos on most important topics in the K-12 curriculum. The videos are brief, to the point, and use an Abbott and Costello format with Tim (a sharp young man) explaining things to Moby (a silly and none too bright robot.) They usually start with a question in a fan letter and end with some kind of a joke. Each video has follow up quizzes that can be taken in a variety of ways. There are additional fun features like comics, experiments with Bob the Lab Rat and more. Last year, BrainPop added Game Up. They partnered with some of the best educational game sites on the Internet, like the Jason Learning, to align game based learning with their videos and quizzes.

So why become a BrainPop Educator? Because every month they will email you their newest offerings. They offer free professional development webinars. You have access to free standards based, core curriculum aligned lesson plans. A recent feature added is the Make a Quiz Generator. You get badges and embed codes for your classroom website. They have graphic organizers, activity pages, and Interactive White Board resources for you to use as well. It is a Las Vegas Style learning buffet.

The latest offering from BrainPop is a video on Ethics. It clearly explains what ethics are and why they aren't always so clear. BrainPop Jr. features a terrific video on Chief Joseph. Every month BrainPop has a theme and most relate to your well known classroom themes. April has Earth Day and on BrainPop it is Earth Awareness month. Throughout the month they will highlight the videos that relate to this theme and offer some for free on a rotating basis.

Photo Credit: "
Finally, if do not have access to a subscription to BrainPop and you would like one, BrainPOP posts funding sources and research they proves its success in the Educator's section. Either you can fund your own classroom or you will have an aresonal of research driven data to present to your administrators to show them what a valuable asset BrainPOP is to any school.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Nerd Herd and Tattle Box Tales

The Nerd Herd at Cobo by Megan Black
Kevin Honeycutt kicked off the MACUL 2013 conference by challenging all of us to tell our story. He said, "We (educators) are dying of humble. We are so busy helping kids that we don't feel we have time to tell our story. Other people are doing it for us and they are getting it wrong." Telling our story, promoting the work we do, was reiterated time and again at nearly every presentation I attended. All three of the keynotes at #MACUL13; Kevin Honeycutt, Adam Bellow, and Steve Dembo were on point, inspirational, funny, and poignant. All tell a great tale. My gratitude for having sat in their presence among like minded/hearted others is immense. 

Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian, calls us, affectionately, the nerd herd. Incidentally, she championed story telling as well. However her focus, at least in the presentation I saw, was on telling the story of libraries and librarians. She challenged book lovers, in this age of budgetary cuts, to unite under one banner and promote the importance of having a trained expert on staff dedicated to the modeling and teaching of all forms of literacy.  

My spot is in the school library. I call it my spot and not my desk or office because it is simply a chair and a couple of drawers at a lovely platform in an expansive room of beauty and community scholarship. I am not the librarian. Nor could I hold a candle to the generous, mighty woman that runs the library at Grosse Pointe Academy. Jane is indeed humble. I am not sure others notice the careful thought and quiet passion she puts into her work. She reads. She organizes. She listens. She has the uncanny ability to match the right book to the right kid. To my great fortune, Jane is rooted and wise. Not sure how I could have managed this year without her to talk me out of a tree or two. I love to listen to her read and it is clear the kids do too. But I digress. 

Personally, I'm more at home in the hype girl position, telling the story of others, giving my students the credit. Likewise are most educators. Teachers will not sit, or use the bathroom, or drink water so that they can go without using the bathroom.  They will survive on stolen nibbles from recycled snack bags so that they can return messages or xerox or laminate during the 20 minutes allotted for lunch. Non-Believers think school personnel only work from 8-3 and get the summers off. No, from 8 to 3 is the time most adults who work schools deny every bodily function in order to serve. The rest of the waking day is spent planning, reflecting, problem solving, grading, and holding the ginormous weight of the responsibility of every child in their care. And when a student of theirs accomplishes a great task or is recognized for their growth and character, most of the educators I know will deflect or deny their own contribution and shine the light right back on the student and their parents. That's the way they roll.

So, while I don't feel comfortable sharing my successes, I promise to work on that, in the meantime, I love a humorous anecdote. The Tattle Box was a classroom management strategy I put into place to keep my sanity. It paid off in unexpected ways.  The purpose was to let kids state their truth but also make certain it was important before I took time out of the rest of the learning to address it. They wrote down their beef and I dutifully read them at the end of each day. The hidden treasure was this, kids are hysterical. These are a few that earned me a free adult beverage in the past. The names have been changed and the spelling upgraded to protect the innocent.  

"Hector burped in my face. And it smelled…..And he laughed." 

"Amber S keeps using the word marvelous over and over again even though it is really annoying and she calls me SeƱor Smarty Pants and I DO NOT LIKE THAT ONE TINY BIT." (Yes, that's right, all capitals and each word was underlined.) By the way, Amber S (not her real name) racked up a whopping 412 tattles that year. She still holds the record.  She was a fantastically talented button pusher. 

This next one was sweet. "QuVon called you white, Ms. Black!!!!! (I am) But I told him you jus' light skinned." (I can't tell you how honored this made me feel.) 

And my personal favorite of all time tattle must have taken place in the boys bathroom. It went like this, "Miguel and Oscar peed on our shoes. On purpose. They were holding their privates like pistols and told us to pick up our feet and dance." Ah...I miss the Tattle Box. 

This is a link to Kevin's Keynote Address at MACUL. It cannot be embedded but you can stream it and it is well wroth the time. It is titled "Launch Me" and it is just the rocket fuel you need to get through to Summer. (Currently the video is not playing but there is a work order in to fix it. Try book marking it and coming back later. I promise it is worth it.)