Summer Post #5

I started putting together a Micro:Bit based drone called Air:Bit. I think it’s great that companies and people are incorporating a Micro:Bit into their projects.

It’s like the Volkswagen of microprocessors.

It’s functional and provides everything necessary to get started with physical computing in a form factor that’s not going to easily fail and leave you in the middle of a project.

The Air:Bit incorporates two Micro:Bits as well as their own board that attaches to one of the Micro:Bits.

I assembled the components and now I need to work on the code using

Summer Post #4

Outputting for a Cricut Maker machine from Scratch coding

The girls have been working on creating stories in Scratch through an online summer coding class I signed them up for. So I thought for a change I’d work on helping them in coding shapes and printing out the results on our Cricut vinyl cutter.

Using the Super Scratch book as a start, I decided to try teaching them the X and Y coordinates in Scratch and to use the pentool.

After the experience with Scratch, I’m also tempted to have them work on one of the Turtle Art coding environments. They are still block based and I think drawing is easier and there are more options for easily exploring modifying forms.

I also set up a special Seesaw class just for the girls to share what they did over the summer and for me to share links when I need to.

They shared the links to their Scratch project on Seesaw. We then loaded the page, ran the code, and then saved the output of the images by doing a screen capture on the iPad and then importing the image into Cricut Studio.

Summer Post #3

Lego is still a creative outlet for me as an adult.

One of the projects I’d been wanting to do with my summer vacation has been to play with Lego.

Using the spreadsheet that Yoshihito Isogawa @isogawastudio ‘s and provides I had spent a considerable amount of time tracking down the pieces necessary to construct all the possible combinations of machines.

Power Function Machines and Mechanisms.

I’ve been trying to do at least one construction each day (only 2 days so far).

I also have been interested in creating simple Lego machines and sound machines with peg boards that are laser cut out of wood.

Unfortunately, the Adobe Illustrator file they attached wouldn’t open in Inkscape so I spent a large amount of time trying to open the file.

I finally decided to create my own grid and learned about some Lego dimensions along the way.

I started with the actual stud to stud measurement

and realized that the pegboard model I had skipped studs.

Needless to say, I was able to laser cut what I needed and spent some time playing and experimenting. There was also a healthy amount of math needed along the way.

Summer Post #2

I’ve been interested in how information can be posted and shared from sensors and I worked on posting to my Adafruit IO dashboard. I used a board and activity that incorporated Arduino and modified the code to have both Fahrenheit and Celsius. These activities are fun to do but are taking away from doing the same thing but with Circuit Python which is a goal this summer.

I wonder if it’s possible for students and teachers to share information beyond what is seen in Zoom with something like a dashboard.

Now that I have the circuit working and prototyped I wondered if I could find a use for it. We have been raising some chicks and the temperature was important so I begin looking for a container. I found a way of creating a 3D printed box using an OpenSCAD file that allows for changing the dimensions and the openings for power cables. There is a Thingiverse tool which connects to an OpenSCAD file but I ended up downloading the app so I could change the panels.

Summer Post #1

I will never finish the summer todo list.

As soon as my last day of teaching or my work happens I feel as if I’m enjoying one of my favorite times of year. It’s June, but the summer solstice hasn’t happened yet. The days are still increasing in length and the sun hasn’t reached it’s farthest climb up in the northern hemisphere and a position farthest from earth. undefinedIt’s always a couple weeks that I give myself to settle down and focus on what interests me and I never grow tired of experiencing this window of time. But I always try to make up for lost time after a long school year when I have to give to our teachers what they need. So this year was different and stressful and full of sometimes overwhelming experiences. And some of the things that are important to me don’t seem important to a large group of the people I work with.

At a certain point I was hoping that topics that teachers won’t let go like grades, unintegrated subjects, unauthentic learning and control would fall by the wayside. The hope was that an understanding that they’re not as important as other needs (SEL/recess being first).

Instead I think that this summer is for some districts and educators about reclaiming some not so good habits that public education has fallen into.

Kids will need recess more than ever when returning to school post-coronavirus

http://Kids will need recess more than ever when returning to school post-coronavirus

My mom used to say that “my eyes are were bigger than my stomach,” and that’s how I feel about all that I hope to accomplish during my summer vacation. It started with some time with my daughters as all vacations should.

We started with a little bit of Makey Makey Bananas

When they are ready we’ll move to other possibilities.

Beyond Pianos

I grew up on space sticks and Tang.

When I entered the world, space was full of promise. Four days after I was born Yuri Gagarin completed the first human-crewed space flight circumnavigating the earth. Less than one month later Alan Shepard participated in the first US manned space flight. It all became a male-dominated science and engineering achievement one after the other.

0069 tang_suit_1971

There’s another history that many people are beginning to see uncovered that goes back to even earlier STEM achievements than astronauts gender, but I thought of this the other day when space suits and the  came up.

Infographic: Number of Female NASA Astronauts Rises | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista 

Everything I experienced was through men’s eyes, and yet with my daughters in mind, I look for the Herstory that is yet to be told with NASA, Spaceflight, and computers.

Ultra-reliable software design


A book I’ve read many times to my daughters.

How about beginning with Margaret Hamilton the lead Apollo flight software designer on the Apollo Guidance Computer. I wonder if a male had been a lead designer if the same considerations and breakthroughs would have happened.

 said Dr. Paul Curto, the NASA technologist who nominated her for the award. “Her concepts of asynchronous software, priority scheduling, end-to-end testing, and man-in-the-loop decision capability, such as priority displays, became the foundation for ultra-reliable software design.”

So now all the source code is available on GitHub, and there are several interesting implications with this.

Below is a software simulator of the result of her lead on the Apollo Guidance Computer software. It uses verbs nouns and numbers.

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The computer (or rather the software in it) was smart enough to recognize that it was being asked to perform more tasks than it should be performing. It then sent out an alarm, which meant to the astronaut, I’m overloaded with more tasks than I should be doing at this time and I’m going to keep only the more important tasks; i.e., the ones needed for landing … Actually, the computer was programmed to do more than recognize error conditions. A complete set of recovery programs was incorporated into the software. The software’s action, in this case, was to eliminate lower priority tasks and re-establish the more important ones … If the computer hadn’t recognized this problem and taken recovery action, I doubt if Apollo 11 would have been the successful moon landing it was.[28]

— Letter from Margaret H. Hamilton, Director of Apollo Flight Computer Programming MIT Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Massachusetts[29], titled “Computer Got Loaded”, published in Datamation, March 1, 1971

Go to the simulator at

You can use try some of the codes the astronauts used to call up the software routines:

Some Examples Codes:

  • Test the DSKY lamps (digits and indicators) by entering VERB 3 5 ENTR .
  • Try VERB 1 6 NOUN 6 5 ENTR . This command monitors the current time. The lower 5-digit display shows seconds, the middle one minutes and the topmost one hours elapsed since AGC powered up.
  • Start program P00, the idle program, by entering VERB 3 7 ENTR 0 0 ENTR .
  • Enter VERB 9 1 ENTR . It shows the checksum of the first bank of the fixed memory (the so-called core-ropes in AGC terminology). The fixed memory is divided into 38 banks, each containing 1024 (1K) 15-bits words. The top 5-digit display shows the checksum in octal, which should be either the bank number or its 1-complement (e.g., for bank 3 either a value of 00003 or 77774 is acceptable). The middle row is the bank number and the third row is a bugger word appended to the end of each bank to make the checksum the correct value. By entering VERB 3 3 ENTR or pressing PRO , you can get the statistics for the next bank.
  • Let’s try some spaceflight related programs! Enter VERB 0 6 NOUN 6 2 ENTR . It shows the current velocity (top row), altitude rate (middle row) and altitude (bottom row). Unfortunately, we are not going to space today, so all three show 00000 and will continue to do so. During an actual launch (or a simulated one), they would update with current values. If instead of Verb 06, we use Verb 16, the same values are shown and updated constantly until a different command is entered. In fact, this program was used during the boost phase of Saturn V launches to allow astronauts monitor the progress of the launch vehicle.




Why shouldn’t we imagine a woman behind the reflective helmet shield?

Embed from Getty Images

A Teacher with Daughters

I came across a set of images that caught my eye on my Twitter feeds. I tried to follow the trail back, and the Twitter search #itwasneveradress wasn’t stopping and led me back to 2015 to a STEAM conference. I guess I had missed this before. I have in the past looked at universal graphics with keener interest for what they show us about ourselves. How can one image possibly be representative for all?

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I followed the stream and it led me to a series of further images and ideas.

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I decided to create an activity for my daughters. I thought they could draw or decorate the images with the same lens for altering the image.

And even the idea of whether to make a dark blue image on white or a white image on dark blue threw me. It was a knot of the practical how to add content, to what do I want to represent the image I wanted them to start with. I settled for both.

I realized that the two images were slightly different. Should the head be connected to the body? What Am I changing by using the image with the head detached from the body? Could such a simple change be connected with the objectifying of a women’s body? What’s to be done when I see my daughters adopting looks and types of clothing that perpetuate images that I don’t want my daughters to be overly influenced by. I don’t trust the updated new skins toy companies are producing that are overlaying on top of old images.

I can’t necessarily afford special clothing to counteract stereotypes. To subvert somehow the male gaze. Where exactly do I stand on the princess images?

As I put the activity together, it got me thinking about my final social studies unit for my teaching credential. I created it with a partner and had scanned the pages before I tossed the several inch thick document. At the time, I used glued paper images and cut with scissors excerpts with handwritten bibliographic notes and documentation. How differently I would do this now.

There I zeroed in on Bloomers and Bloomerism. The alternative to the many pounds of materials and constricting type of dress that many women in certain parts of the United States had to endure.

I started looking at the photos, maps, illustrations, photos, and artwork.

It felt strikingly similar to so many things I’m confronting now.

Flags do have important meaning, and no one has sole rights or ownership to them

There are many different ways to depict us with data, as opinion and beliefs change and develop.

Why was there East Coast resistance? Were western states more progressive?

And then I started to think about the core people and how I would like my daughters to relate to these important people — Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of them and is where all my focus comes back to when I think of important words to think about and consider. I hope to pass to my daughters these positive role models. We’ve been reading Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, and I’m glad many of these people’s stories are told within the pages.

A set of quotes, all from one section of Solitude of Self, a speech given when Stanton was seventy-six years old before the House Judiciary Committee and the National American convention, and that’s all I need:

“Just so with woman. The education that will fit her to discharge the duties in the largest sphere of human usefulness, will best fit her for whatever special work she may be compelled to do.

“The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body: for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage , of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear; is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life.”

“No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone and for safety in an emergency they must know something of the laws of navigation”

She looks so intentional and alive to me in the pictures I’d copied. She looks like a contemporary only this is nearly 170 years ago.

And it was so much more . . .

The cartoon with the “gesture dismissively” feels like something from now. Where the face to face confrontations polarizes the feelings of many. Yet at that time with all the work for the amendments and all the opposition, we got it right! Whether the same is happening now is up to us, isn’t it?

With our responsibility to be citizens, is it that much more complex now then it was then?

Have we lost the ability to agree to disagree, or was it similar back then.

A chance to listen to others no matter if the individual is not expressing how we think or feel.

I know what team I want to be on when all is said and done. But I would want to wear pants. Doesn’t a dress preclude and influence the thoughts needed in order to take actions from a person doing so?

What was the most important part of this story? Susan B. Anthony knew.

She outlasted so many of her contemporaries and saw the passing of earlier important amendments, yet she didn’t get to see the 19th amendment’s passage. What must have been going through her mind with this staged photo? She always seems to look like she had a laser focus to stare down the immensity of the task and to bear down and see through the many decades of hard work ahead. This photo of her sitting at her desk looks like she’s immersed in a paper-based Facebook including the wall and desk, and letters sent by mail to maintain the relationships along with intimate portraits carefully photographed. She knew that the people she shared the story of women’s suffrage with were the most important part of the journey.

I hope my daughters’ own journeys are filled with people who help them look with amazement at the world for all the possibilities that exist and are made possible by the amazing people who came before.

The Bibliography that follows is haphazardly organized with duplications, and I’m sure there are better sources of information from this assignment from 20 years ago. I’m so happy that much of the information is online and accessible.

The Lexicographic Nightmare


Why is innovation in education so crucial today?

I had to promise myself as I wrote this post that I wasn’t going to have a negative outcome or perspective. I’m sure other teachers in #IMMOOC are thankful for these online opportunities to share their thoughts and be inspired. I’m also sure I’m like others, who still see a minority of the teachers in their district participating outside them in such an online forum or who would use words such as imperative or crucial when talking about the need for change or innovation.

There are so many questions that come to mind when trying to answer the question we have been tasked with for our #IMMOOC blog prompt. As Jo Boaler was sharing her difficult path to achieving what she has with her books and her inspirational lessons for students in Youcubed, I was struck by how we all seem to have to overcome colleagues around us who either disagree with the need for innovation or even worse are indifferent. I think that we live and work in a confusing and challenging system in education. We can’t even agree on the meaning and defining of key terms. The lexicon that we start from in education such as teacher, learner, knowledge, and preparation has become politicized and redefined to the point where it becomes more divisive to discuss the very words that describe us.

What is a teacher?

Thinking of what it means to be a teacher, it is hard to believe that there are still those that expect the teacher to be a transmitter of knowledge and for whom the lecture model is still relevant. And there are those of us think the opposite is true and who see our role as a facilitator, and think that the minimizing of direct instruction to allow for students to build their understanding by actively choosing and filtering information that is relevant for them is the best way to “teach” our students. Thinking of these distinctions in relations such as whether you are Behaviorist or a Constructivist carry with them too much abstraction and seem remote from the day to day functioning of a classroom. That being said, how do we explain that for example at one 5th grade classroom you will see a teacher asking her students to memorize the 50 states names and capitals and the testing of them multiple times with multiple choice or fill in the blank questions, with a final research report, which merely asks students to restate in their own words what they read from a few websites versus a totally different experience happening for a 5th grade class next door. Next door a teacher may have his or her students creating a virtual field trip and asks the students to plan a vacation across the US incorporating math, science, and language arts, which allows students to choose a variety of experiences and ways to present the information. One group of students may be able to recall by memory a name connected to another name, while another group of students may have learned skills for finding, filtering information based on relevance and interest to the choices previously made. A teacher should optimize, enhance, challenge, nurture, empower their students to be curious, engaged, love learning and driven to better understand the world around them. Innovative ways to teach must continue to be available for those that truly understand what is required of a teacher today.

We can’t agree on what is learning or what a learner is?

We still have some teachers who don’t understand depths of knowledge and who are rewarded for their students performing well on standardized tests. They think a student writing correct answers on tests and worksheets still shows understanding. What they don’t realize is that given a new context, the chances are that these same students would struggle with applying, synthesizing or judging the concepts they supposedly have mastered. They also don’t understand that the skills we don’t test for such as the ability to collaborate, create, problem solve, empathize, and think outside the box should be prioritized over memorization and simple comprehension.

What makes a good test?

We know that these days everything we do is supposedly supported by data, big data. The problem is is that certain types of tests are easier to capture data from than others. Computer adaptive tests are changing this landscape, but much of what we desire involving performance tasks and higher levels of thinking have to be scored by hand. Even a lot of the tech tools that are considered innovative and an easier way to capture data rely on multiple choice type questions that a machine can score. We should be asking in many instances why we need tests at all?

So if the definitions of key terms that we use daily with our colleagues or the district where we teach are so open to interpretation then it’s easy to see that innovation in education is critical, but change is not going to be widespread or extensive without choice.

Choice comes before change.

I always think that for the students educational experience to truly be relevant and meaningful that the hierarchy within a school district which begins with the superintendent needs to change. That the superintendent needs to change his/her relationship with the instructional directors. That the instructional directors need to change their relationship with the coaches or coordinators who create the professional development for the teachers. And if this structure is altered to empower teachers then the teachers will have choice in order to have a chance to do something amazing with their students. Couros even point this out in the introduction this week, that teachers need to break the rules sometimes in order to be innovative with their students. The mind numbing professional development meetings in which teachers are checking emails and not paying attention and for which there is a person standing in front of them talking ad nauseum about some irrelevant requirement or instructional material needs to go away. Meetings should focus on innovative choices a teacher can make that involve professional growth for the teacher and an amazing experience for the students.

Words are not the only way we communicate and understand the world.

Today in my position as tech coach I worry a lot now that with the use of technology has become for many teachers merely a substituting of one set of tools for another. Gary Stager in a recent post challenged the widespread use of Chromebooks as a primary student tool. Teachers seem to love Chromebooks because it works so well with the Google suite of productivity tools that are at heart presentations of primarily words. Chromebooks work well until tasked with trying to process video, compile a complex coded program, create a 3D design for printing, or mix a multiple track sound track in a multimedia project. All the alternative ways that students can communicate such as using visual thinking incorporating coding or video are subsumed under poor processing power. I think it is wrong to give our students a “junior” version of a computer that reinforces that a word processor is the best way to make meaning and show understanding of the world.

The best teachers shield their students.

Sadly, as adults we are continuously aware about what is wrong with the educational system we have to work in. A teacher has to make a choice that they will protect their students from the mind numbing lessons, standards, and testing which could rip out of the heart of a classroom all the curiosity, meaningfulness, and opportunities for empowerment that the teacher tries to give his or her students.

I will forever cheer and praise those teachers for whom taking a workshop or class such as IMOOC is imperative!

So why is innovation in education so crucial today?

Our language to share meaning is breaking down. Isn’t it curious that we’ve discarded cursive, that, thankfully, we don’t have computer labs whose sole purpose for some teachers was to teach typing. That the use of notebooks is being embraced not because it’s about writing by hand, but of how information is better processed by the brain and retained. Not only are notebooks to store information with words, but also to create visual representations such as sketchnotes to take notes and process information. We’ve come this far, and now it’s time to go where the outcomes are obscured. We can’t go back and even the certainty of the words that our profession uses to define itself is no longer possible to fall back on.

Without innovation we allow the deterioration of meaningful learning and relevancy for our students. We would support those in education who trivialize and make secondary in their lives the sacred work we have been entrusted with. We reinforce the notion that the status quo is acceptable and that mediocrity doesn’t harm or hold back our students. We have one way forward and that is through innovation.

Genius Hour and Student Voice


When thinking about a learner focussed classroom, the activity called Genius Hour is frequently mentioned. Genius Hour encapsulates a way to begin individualizing our student’s learning, and to do so in a project type of environment.

What is Genius Hour?

As we know, there are many ways to be innovative in solving problems in the world. Many companies have realized that as their employees have been given responsibilities for their positions their total skills, abilities, and interests are not always part of their job. The same is true for our students in which we have a set of lessons and activities that we ask them to do and yet there always seems to be those students who appear to have interests that they are passionate about that can’t seem to be incorporated into the day to day work. To solve this problem, companies such as Google, created what they called the 20% time policy. This policy allowed employees to devote 20% of their work day to projects that the employee would most benefit Google. Shifting this concept over to education the idea becomes one in which the student is allowed to work on something they are passionate about that would most benefit their own learning. As A.J. Juliana points out:

“Genius Hour is a time given to students in classrooms around the world to work on inquiry-driven and passion-based projects that are built on intrinsic motivation.”

During the projects students explore their creativity, develop habits for learning, and gain experiences that connect directly to fostering growth mindsets. The best projects also incorporate ways to improve or help the lives of others in the world.

You will see Genius Hour referred to as the 20% project time, passion project, mastery hour, wonder workshop, and innovation hour.

What are some key classroom management needs?

There are many resources to read and glean information as you’ll see below on the Padlet. The key to having a successful Genius Hour in the classroom is to:

  1. Begin by connecting students to their passion, or what they want to learn about.
  2. Have a clear essential question that requires students to research, process, and filter information to gain an understanding in their topic.
  3. Set clear milestones or goals along the way. Students should understand the sequence of steps to follow.
  4. Have a shared classroom tool for students to reflect on what they are learning during each step of their journey and what they will do next.
  5. Give students time at the end to create a presentation of what they learned and what they did.

Here’s a Padlet with links to get started and learn more about Genius Hour.

Made with Padlet


Here’s a Genius Hour Hyperdoc presentation for students to get them started and keep track of their project..

Paul Solarz, author of Learn like a Pirate has several posts, here and here on getting started with Genius Hour.

CUSD 5th grade teacher Alyssa Gularte has had her students doing Genius Hour for several years. Here are some examples from her students’ 2016 and 2017 blogs.

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Raspberry Pi Academy

I can’t believe it’s already been a few weeks since I attended the first Raspberry Pi Academy in Mountain View, CA. The organization and structure of the weekend really help IMG_0030take my understanding to the next level. The experience was everything I had hoped and more. The team really helped us the teachers now as learners begin seeing through a hands on experience the value of using such a device to involve our students in critical thinking and problem solving.

IMG_0040At the first session we were encouraged to fail by Carrie Anne Philbin @MissPhilbin author of an important book for learning the Raspberry Pi called Adventures in Learning Raspberry Pi.

From that point on I knew that we would have an interesting time of learning. I also felt supported to be a learner and not have the pressure of being graded or have to worry that my understanding of Raspberry Pi would be judged.

IMG_0048My first experience was to use Scratch to make an LED light and blink at various rates and intensities. This wasn’t so difficult and everyone in the room was able to succeed.

Later on we would slowly get into more advanced concepts and that’s where my failure rate increased but at the same time the level of support from people in the room increased to ensure that I was able to do whatever the activity that was asked of us.

After a few rotations I was paired with a partner and we IMG_0062were tasked with creating something that involved a motor and other materials that were available. We were
able to make a version of the toy eight-ball where a person would ask a question and receive a random answer.

By the end of the first day I was quite exhausted but excited by what I had learned.

All the educators did a brainstorm on things they were interesting in learning more about using post-its on a whiteboard and these were later organized for the next day.IMG_0067

The next day we were given several presentations and then we were given a further set of instructions to help us complete our final project. I decided that I wanted to do a weather station using a Raspberry Pi Sense Hat that we had learned to use a short time before.

I followed several online sets of instructions and even with no real Python coding experience was able to get the readings and display them on the Sense Hat as well as send them to my Twitter account.

If someone had asked me at the beginning of the weekend if I would have been able to do such feats with the Raspberry Pi, Python programming, and a Sense Hat I would have told them they were wrong, but there it was.IMG_0076

And at the end of the day I was a certified Raspberry Pi Educator 🙂

Make sure to check the latest listings to see if there is a Pi Academy  or check#picademy on twitter in your area. In fact as I write this there are still openings in the next USA Pi Academy. Make sure to apply now today March 25th is the deadline. I guarantee you will have one of those life changing and amazing experiences.

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