My STEM Units

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This Isn't Your Grandma's Library Anymore


That used to be the only sound you would hear in the library.  People were spread out at tables, reading independently.  Quietly.

That's not the story anymore.

If you step into a library now, chances are the shelves are only half full.  That's not because librarians don't love books.  Because, they do.  It's because libraries are changing to meet the demands of their citizens.  Many readers are looking for eBooks.  Libraries can offer eBooks without taking up shelf space.  So, what to do with that shelf space?

Maker Space!

Buzzzzzzzzz!  Ding!!!!!!!!  Whizzzzzzzzz!  Whirrrrrrr!  This is the sound you will hear from library Maker Spaces now.

MakerSpace, MakerLab, FabLab, TinkerLab, HackerSpaces, HackerLabs, TechShop, InventSpace.  Perhaps you have heard one of these terms.  Although they each specialize in something different, they are essentially the same.
 "During the past year, makerspaces have been gaining traction in libraries. A makerspace is a place where people come together to design and build projects. Makerspaces typically provide access to materials, tools, and technologies to allow for hands-on exploration and participatory learning. They are occasionally referred to as fablabs, hackerspaces or tech shops. Makerspaces emerged around 2005 as an offshoot of the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) movement. A makerspace often includes a 3-D printer, digital media and fabrication software, tools for welding, woodworking, and soldering, traditional arts and crafts supplies, and other electronics. However, makerspaces are defined not by specific equipment but by a guiding purpose to provide people with a place to experiment, create, and learn..~ Fisher ES. Makerspaces move into academic libraries. ACRL TechConnect blog.

Mesa ThinkSpot
Another change is the layout of the library itself.  Students used to read in isolation or at a table with high walls.  Now, many libraries are creating rooms for collaboration.  Walls are whiteboard material and students can share ideas and collaborate on projects.  Rectangular tables are being replaced with round tables.  Discussion and conversation is encouraged nowadays.  This isn't your grandma's library anymore.

Why all the interest in MakerSpaces?

Born with the DIY movement, today's youth don't want to consume technology, they want to produce it.  They don't want to view videos, they want to make their own.  Well, I take that back. They do watch videos, to learn from them.  If they want to drywall their house, they don't necessarily hire a contractor. They watch a YouTube tutorial.  If they want to make a new Lego creation, they might watch a few tutorials, experiment on their own, and then film their own tutorial on how to do a "better" Lego creation.  And it isn't all fluff.  If you watch the tutorials with a teacher's eye, you will see Bold Beginnings, transitions, Exciting Endings.  They know who their audience is and they talk directly to them.  These are skills we teachers have worked on for years in the classroom.  One paragraph for your intro.  Three paragraphs for your body.....Students are not merely satisfied with turning in a paper for the teacher's eyes only.  They want to share with a global audience.

Let me share a story.  A new version of Minecraft came out over the weekend.  I was eager to tell my son, thinking he would want to play immediately to see what the new version could do.  What did he do?  The first words out of his mouth were, "Mom!  Can I borrow your camera to make a tutorial of the new version?!"  He hadn't even seen the new version yet!  However, that is their first inclination.  If you haven't been privy to Minecraft tutorials (or any tutorials for that matter), search for them on YouTube.  It will blow you away. And some of them are under 8 years old!

The same goes for apps.  Millennials don't want to play apps.  They want to create them.  This is precisely why creative spaces are so popular now.

Who is doing Library Maker Spaces?

This summer, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Hi-TEC conference in Chicago.  However, even though I was hundreds of miles from the office, I still had a deadline and had to run to the public library for some books.  Oh my stars!
This one library MakerSpace had 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, a computerized weaver, 
a wood engraver, laptop stations, and a huge collaborative workspace.
Chicago Maker Lab

Mesa ThinkSpot

The Mesa ThinkSpot, located at the Red Mountain Library, offers patrons access to a green screen, video editing equipment, Lego courses, coding, and more!  Watch this video:

A quick peek at just their August calendar shows that they are 
"creating innovation through community collaboration".

I could go on and on about libraries-turned-maker-spaces.  But, it's more fun to discover on your own.  Does your library have space devoted to collaboration, exploration, creation?  Haven't been to your library in awhile?  September is Library Card Sign-Up Month.  I encourage you to take your students, children, grandchildren to the local library.

***The Maker Movement***

If you are interested in reading more about the Maker Movement, ISTE, the International Society of Technology in Education, has written a few articles on the subject. The Maker Movement, a Learning Revolution

A search in Google also produces many such articles.

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Journey North" But Not Before You Head South First

IMG_0010This is a guest post by Alicia Jimenez, who writes about integrating Educational Technology at Tech Ready Team.  

Two third grade teachers in the Whiteriver Unified School District completed a project called Journey North.  Lisa Marchetti and Jenn Eagle inspired their students to study the migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly.  They participated in Journey North, a program that has citizen scientists track butterfly migration to and from Mexico in the fall and spring as they explore the monarch butterfly's life cycle, ecology, habitat, and conservation needs.

IMG_0018Each student in the class made a life size butterfly and they also made a class butterfly that showed a little of the culture and life of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.  They sent these butterflies along with a letter to Mexico.  They are able to track its migration to Mexico on either the computer or the iPad.

When the butterflies traveled back in the spring, the class' butterflies went to other classes around North America.  We will also get butterflies from other classes in North America.

For more information on the Journey North program (free), click here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

County Fair as STEM Showcase

flickr: Brent Moore cc
County fairs have a lot to offer.  Blue ribbon bunnies.  Tractor races.  Cotton candy.  Ferris wheel.  STEM showcase.  STEM showcase?  Yep, STEM showcase.

You've seen the exhibit halls.  Mom's canned peaches.  Grandma's quilt.  Grandpa's model railroad.  But, what about STEM projects?  Absolutely!

County fairs offer a wonderful opportunity for students to submit their projects.  Exhibit halls have categories for agriculture (STREAM Garden!), crafts, rockets, Legos, most creative use of duct tape (!), and trash to treasure recyclable art.  Some exhibit categories allow for free choice from schools.  Why not use the county fair as a way to showcase your students' projects?!

Depending on your county, winning entries can earn money too.  Usually, it's a small amount, say $10 or so, but it's so rewarding for the kids to see their project on display.  Many county fairs feed into larger state fairs, so student projects might end up going all the way.  Either way, students have an open platform to share their learning and bring community awareness to their projects.

If you are a regular at your county fair, you know what types of exhibits they display.  Work that into your STEM units.  If you don't have time to submit entries for the fair this year, save the projects over summer and submit them next year.

Most county fairs host a website with admission and event information.  They might even offer exhibit information as well.  For instance, our county fair has all the information available here:
Information regarding the exhibit entries starts on page 24.

So, when your students start to talk about the Tilt-a-Whirl, you can ask them to build one out of straws.  When they talk about the midway games, you can ask them about the probability of winning or recreating their own midway games.  Let's use the county fair to showcase their STEM talent.

Infographics for STEM: Part 2

In our last segment on Infographics for STEM, we looked at:

  • what infographics are, 
  • why they are so popular now, 
  • and what they look like in a classroom.  

In this segment, we will look at:
  • more examples of infographics in STEM lessons, including interactive infographics
  • how to use infographics in your classroom
  • professional development opportunities

What does an infographic look like in a classroom?

(If you are viewing this on a mobile device, you may need to click on the images to enlarge them)
In this screenshot, you can see that we are in the infographic lesson for the Solar Energy Unit of our Energy Resources STEM project.  Just as good readers make predictions before they read novels, good readers of infographics scan the text and make predictions.  Since we want to make students aware of their metacognition, we ask them questions about what clues they used.

Look at the Math concept displayed and think of a question that would fit your grade level.  For instance, in this example, I know that this grade level works to the 10,000s place.  I selected the two numbers on the page that stay within that range.

Double dip.  How many Math concepts can you cover with one image?  Common Core, PARCC, and Smarter Balanced all work with progressive questions that build on each other.  Don't be afraid to put multiple questions on one page.

What is an interactive infographic?

In interactive infographic is an infographic that can be manipulated in some way.  Sometimes, just hovering over a section of the image creates a pop-up.  Sometimes, it is hyperlinked to more data.  Let's take a look at an interactive infographic here.  Click on the picture below and explore for a few minutes.
  1. Take a moment to look around the infographic.  It helps if you look in a clockwise motion, starting with the top left corner.  What information will this infographic give you?
  2. Scan your eyes to the top right corner.  What is pictured there?  
  3. Continue to the bottom right corner.  What picture is there?  What information will be there?
  4. Follow this pattern to the bottom left corner.  What can you expect to see there?
  5. Finally, direct your eyes to the middle of the infographic.  What does it say to do next?  
  6. What happened when you clicked one of the circles?

Spend some time with the infographic before you use it with students.  What information do you want them to learn?  Don't be afraid to bring English Language Arts into the conversation too.  In the example above, I used the infographic to reinforce the ELA concept of Greek roots and affixes.  

You can still incorporate Math concepts in an interactive infographic.  You may need to take a screenshot of the infographic to really highlight that section.  In this example, I used the same screenshot for three math questions.  

How do I teach my students to "read" infographics?

It has been said that "a picture is worth a thousand words".  Even if you are not labeled a "visual learner", you have been using your eyes to make sense of the world since infancy.  Fortunately, there are strategies to harness that instinct.  Just as young readers are taught directly how to read a book, 21st century students need to be taught directly how to "read" visual text.
Students don't have to "read" infographics on a computer.  You can print them.  In fact, by printing them and placing them in a page protector, your students can interact with the infographic even more.  I LOVE the ideas presented in this article on  

  • Place a star next to the very first thing that catches your eye.
  • Place a circle around the one word that best describes the topic.
  • Place a square around important quantitative information
  • Draw an arrow to point out the best graphic that helped you to understand the topic.
  • Put a smiley face next to the data source.
  • Draw an arrow showing the best pathway to follow to read all of the important information.
As students become more adept at reading infographics, you can prompt to respond to 6 common questions in a journal or online text:

6 questions

  1. who
  2. what
  3. when
  4. where
  5. why
  6. how

Finally, students should reach a deep level of analysis.

  Ask students to find and analyze an infographic. They should be able to answer the critical thinking questions:

·         Does the infographic cite their sources? and, Are the sources reputable?

·         Is the data relevant?

·         How old is the data?

·         Is there an angle or bias coming through?

·         What is the motive of the organization, person, or group that created the infographic? Is it to educate, entertain, or sell something?

·         Are you being manipulated through the text, colors or graphics?

·         Does the infographic represent an accurate outline of the data?

Where can I learn more about this?

Since visual text is becoming more and more prevalent, professional development opportunities
exist to help teachers.  

 Visual Thinking Strategies offers professional development on how to analyze works of art and other visual text.  With the rise of infographics, there has been an insurgence of webinars on the topic.  You can search directly for infographic webinars.  If you are ready to create your own infographic, you can search YouTube for infographic tutorials.  

Keep the conversation going.  How do you use infographics in your classroom?  What strategies do you use?  Email me directly at . 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Infographics for STEM: Part 1

Infographics might just be a perfect link between all the subjects in STREAM.

Science: Many infographics focus on science concepts.
Technology: Most infographics are found online.  A growing number of infographics are interactive.
Reading: The "reading" of multimedia is encouraged in Common Core Standards.
Art: Infographics are visually appealing and have a great deal of design built into them.
Math: Most infographics have some form of graph or math concept represented.

What is an infographic?

Before we go any further, you may be wondering, "what is an infographic?"  An infographic is information presented visually (info + graph).  Another way to say it is that infographics are a visual representation of data.

This slideshare does a great job of explaining infographics:

Why are infographics so popular now?

Common Core State Standards have perhaps created a perfect opportunity for teachers to bring infographics into the classroom.  "Analyzing text structures is a major theme of the common core literacy standards.   It’s more than just reading in science, it’s looking at data, charts and information presented as pictures." (Biology Corner)
To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and non-print texts in media forms old and new.  (Common Core State Standards)

Common Core Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6–12

5. Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.
7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Despite the arguments of Common Core detractors, what students are “expected to learn” are not facts so much as argumentation, logic and how to vet and interpret informationThe goal of the system is to help students distill the most important pieces of information from any given text and form a conclusion. Allison McCartney

What does this look like in a classroom?

Instead of telling you what infographics look like in a classroom, let's look at an example! (If you are viewing this on a mobile device, you may need to click on the images to enlarge them)

In this screenshot, you can see that we are in the infographic lesson for the Wind Energy Unit of our Energy Resources STEM project.  Just as good readers make predictions before they read novels, good readers of infographics scan the text and make predictions.  Since we want to make students aware of their metacognition, we ask them questions about what clues they used.

Since most infographics include data, writing Math questions is a perfect fit for Math in STEM.  Common Core and the new digital assessments (PARCC and Smarter Balanced) prompt students for more justification of their answers.  Build that in to your use of infographics with prompts such as "why did...?" and "what strategies did you use?".

Infographics typically use multiple types of graphs/charts within the same infographic.  It's a great opportunity to spiral back to prior learning.

This particular infographic included seven (count them, seven!) different graphs/charts.  Analyzing this one infographic could taken an entire class period.  Instead of using worksheets with naked equations, you can use an infographic!  The added benefit is that using an infographic in Math, also uses literacy skills to read about science content by using technology.  (Imagine the possibilities once students begin to create their OWN infographics based on research!)

Subscribe to this blog (on the right) to receive notification when I post the next article in this series, where we will explore:

  • more examples of infographics in STEM lessons, including interactive infographics
  • how to use infographics in your classroom
  • professional development opportunities

Saturday, August 2, 2014

How to Support Your Spouse When They Go Back to School

I smelled the crayons well before I walked into the store.  It must be Back-to-School time in America.

Normally, my posts are for teachers and/or parents. This post is for the spouses of those teachers.

Spouses, we know that you are our biggest supporters.  You listen to us cry when we tell you about "that one student".  You pick up our kids because we will be home late after Parent Teacher Conferences.  You let us question your choices and ask, "was that a good choice?".  You allow our dining room table to be overwhelmed with papers.  We love you and thank you for your support.

Soon, we will be "going back to work" (as if we were ever really "off work").  But, we will be getting our new kids to love up on, reassuring dozens of parents, and reprogramming our bladders.  It's a lot on our bodies.  So, we have compiled a little list of things you could do to support us when we go back to school.

#1.  Shop with us

Malcolm ran around Lakeshore Learning Materials and brought choices to me so that we were not in there for hours... I think that helping to get supplies was helpful. Susana Taylor
flickr photo by ario cc
"Back to School" starts well before the first day with kiddos.  We would really appreciate if you went back to school shopping with us.  If we double up in the Teacher Supply Store, we can get out of there twice as fast.

#2.  Don't look at the bank account

Don't look in the checkbook too closely.  Donna Neil
flickr photo by Ken Teegardin cc
Thank you for helping us select just the right markers and binders.  But, there are some things that we want to buy for our classrooms that we might not tell you about.  For instance, those yards and yards of fabric for our bulletin boards, those lamps to make the room cozy, that amazing rug (gasp!) to encourage reading, and the endless orders on "pay teacher" sites.  Believe us, you really don't want to know how much we spent.

#3.  Decorate with us

Actually spending some time in the classroom helping set up is always a plus!  Annie Kalous
flickr photo by Jennifer Finley cc
Now that we have those awesome school supplies (and yes, we did have to test every single marker), it's time to decorate!  Although we would rather spend our days with you, the reality is that we will be in our classrooms for more hours than we will actually be home.  We would really appreciate it if you would help us set up our home away from home.  "a little higher....a little to the left.....there!  That's where I want the anchor chart."

#4.  Make us breakfast

flickr photo by Dave 77459 cc
We will need that energy to make it through the day.  We will thank you when someone brings a box of donuts and we can honestly say, "No thanks.  I'm full."

#5.  Do the grocery shopping

If he stocked the fridge and pantry with extra healthy food during the week before and the week of the first day, then all the unhealthy choices I tend to make during that time would be counteracted. Like, tons of salad stuff and fresh protein because, you know, it's all drive thru and complimentary pizza.... Sharon Salcido
flickr photo by Ginny cc
Speaking of food, it would also be nice if you did the grocery shopping.  Not the "frozen pizza" kind of shopping (because someone will also bring a box of pizza to the Teacher's Lounge too), but healthy food.  The kind of food that sustains us and will cancel out that cake we will eat in the staff meeting.  I hear that red wine is full of health benefits.

#6.  Don't let us work too long

If after a certain time in the afternoon, say 4:30, he started to pester me with phone calls and texts telling me to leave the workplace, and for that first week of students being there he would promise not to take "in a few minutes" for an answer, then I might keep my sanity for the first week of school.  Sharon Salcido
flickr photo by Dan Klimke cc
If we are honest, we will never be 100% ready.  There is always something that needs to be laminated, something that needs to be stapled, and something that needs to be hot glued (don't ask).  We could stay in our classrooms until the wee hours of the night.  We actually need you to beckon us home when we lose track of time.

#7.  Let us pee in peace

When we get home, please, if you do nothing else, let us make a beeline for the restroom.  Chances are we have held our bladder since 10:00 in the morning, and we probably drank way too much coffee and pop to give us energy.  It will seem like we are hiding from you.  It will seem like we fell in.  Trust us.  It takes a long time to empty a bladder the size of a teacher's.

#8.  Give us a few minutes to decompress

Helping with the kids' homework, paper signing, or just keeping them company. I also love him picking up the kids after school so I can get some alone/quiet time before I reach home to another full house of kids! Michelle Colelay
flickr photo by Amin Sabet cc
We love our jobs.  Don't get us wrong.  But, it's very demanding to wear restrictive clothing, to listen to 25 children talk at once all day long, and to fill out tons and tons of "beginning of the year" forms.  Please let us change into something more comfortable.  Please entertain our children and help fill out their "beginning of the year" forms.

#9.  Make dinner

My husband cooked dinner for years, mostly because he got hungry earlier than I got home!  Lorie Marchant
flickr photo by Molly Sabourin cc
Even if you followed #6, we will probably still get home late.  It would be super amazing if you made dinner the first week of school.  We really don't care if it's lobster tails with drawn butter or simple chicken on the grill.  The fact that we don't have to decide "what's for dinner" that is the real winner here.

#10.  Give us a foot rub

flickr photo by Amy Messere cc
You might think that we sit at our desks and put our feet up while our students read quietly.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  Chances are we walked over one mile, from the copier in our wing to the copier that actually works, only to find that copier with a line a mile long, so we walked back to our classroom.  We walked another mile in our classroom, touching base with students and keeping others on task.

#11.  Listen to us

Listen. Listen. Listen.  Zoe Bole
flickr photo by Julia Benbow cc
We spent all day talking with children.  It would be heavenly to talk with an adult.  Please let us talk about the placement of our mailbox, the tenth time the copier jammed, and our kids students.  But then again, we did spend all day talking with children, we might not want to talk at all.  We might be hoarse by the end of the first week.

#12.  Turn off the TV

flickr photo by Nicole Mays cc
Even if you did all of the above, we will still be exhausted.  Researchers have determined that teachers make between 1200-1500 decisions per day.  That's a lot of brain power.  We're exhausted.  We will probably fall asleep on the couch watching TV.  Please turn off the TV and cover us with a blanket.  We're going to need to rest to do it all over again tomorrow.

****************What would you add to the list?*************
Add a comment below or shoot me an email at .