Summer is quickly coming to an end. As the years go by, summer gets faster and faster. It seems to be traveling at the speed of light.

For those in the classroom, it is time to start getting ready and prepare for the first day of school. Maybe some of you have been working in your rooms and on lessons already. So have I. But the first preparation I make isn’t in my room or looking over lessons. My first preparation is to pray for all of the kids. Like so many of you, I teach many broken boys and girls. I pray that while they are at school and in my classroom they will find a safe, loving environment to learn, grow and be themselves.

No matter which child walks through our door remember “broken crayons still color!”

Don’t give up on them. Speak life by the way you encourage and love each child you encounter this year. Teaching is a tough profession, but we have such an awesome opportunity to build up and make a difference in the lives of children.

Take a minute and read and listen to the words from Speak Life by TobyMac.

Some days life feels perfect
Other days, it just ain’t workin’
The good, the bad, the right, the wrong
And everything in between

Yo it’s crazy, amazing
We can turn our heart through the words we say
Mountains crumble with every syllable
Hope can live or die

So speak life, speak life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak life, speak life
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why
Look into the eyes of the broken hearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh

Some days the tongue gets twisted
Other day my thoughts just fall apart
I do, I don’t, I will, I won’t
It’s like I’m drowning in the deep

Well, it’s crazy to imagine
Words from my lips as the arms of compassion
Mountains crumble with every syllable
Hope can live or die

So speak life, speak life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak life, speak life
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why
Look into the eyes of the broken hearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh

Lift your head a little higher
Spread the love like fire
Hope will fall like rain
When you speak life with the words you say
Raise your thoughts a little higher
Use your words to inspire
Joy will fall like rain when you speak life with the things you say

Lift your head a little higher
Spread the love like fire
Hope will fall like rain
When you speak life with the words you say

So speak life, speak life
To the deadest darkest night
Speak life, speak life
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why
Look into the eyes of the broken hearted
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope
You speak love, you speak
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh

You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh
You speak life, oh oh oh oh oh

Some days life feels perfect


Make an difference this year and speak life.


Last Thursday and Friday I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a training session called Picademy. For those who have not heard of Picademy, it is the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s free face-to-face training program that aims to support educators throughout their digital making and computing journey.

If you have not heard of a Raspberry Pi you must have been living under a rock for the past 5+ years. The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer that costs $35. (You still have to provide a micro SD card, power plug, keyboard, mouse and monitor.)(If you run the Raspberry Pi headless [without a monitor using another computer to run using VNC], you don’t need the keyboard, mouse or monitor.) It is a fully functional computer running a version of Linux called Raspbian.

During the two days of the Picademy we were trained on using the Raspberry Pi. The training focused on digital making utilizing the Pi as a tool or material in the project we were making. I’m not sure if you caught what I just said. The Pi computer is just one of the many materials we used in our digital making.

Too often in schools we use technology to be able to say we used technology. We assign digital worksheets and call it technology integration. We spend thousands of dollars on 1:1 initiatives only to have students completing the same types of assignments as before.

Digital making utilizes many materials and the Pi or other tech device is just one of the materials required to build the project. What is essential to digital making is student choice. Giving the students the choice of what to build. The Picademy facilitators gave us a choice in what project we wanted to create. We all brainstormed ideas. There were many ideas, most of which were a solution to a problem or a need in our various schools, classrooms and maker spaces. One of my favorites was the exit ticket machine. The group created a program and a graphical user interface (GUI) to ask students a question. The students stepped up to the machine and pressed a button that corresponded with their answer. It tallied the results for the teacher to quickly collect.

My group started with my idea in building a robot. I wanted to see if we could build a low cost robot that would be affordable to my students. The PiRover is pictured to the left. I had a need and my group worked to find a solution to the need.

Digital making is about students (not teachers) coming up with a solution to a problem or need and creating the solution. This is real world problem solving. The learning potential in digital making is massive.

The proof of potential learning is that every single team at the Picademy built something they had not built before. We all had to spend the 2 and a half hours learning. We had to find the information we needed to complete our projects. The facilitators were there for help, just like we are for our students. There were times that the facilitators did not have the answer. They only had suggestions or hits that might work or might lead us to our solution.

In addition to learning and practicing digital making, we were encouraged and given permission to fail. That isn’t something you usually hear. I tell my robotics students on the first day of class that they will fail more times that they will succeed. That is part of life. Think about how many inventors failed over and over again before the invention worked.

Overall, Picademy invited us to take on a maker mindset. Digital making requires a shift in how we teach. It changes the our role as teacher and the student’s role in learning. This maker mindset is where real world collides with the educational institution.

I guess what I am saying is Picademy was life changing. Life changing for me, my students and those who I can drag along with me.


Find your passion

I am super excited to have the opportunity to be a part of Picademy this July. I have wanted to attend for years and it finally is close enough and the logistics worked out to make it a possibility.

But that isn’t what this post is about. Well not exactly. Recently those facilitating the Picademy workshop created a Google Group for those of us attending the training together. (There are lots of dates. You can go to the page here.) The one thing that I found in each introductory post was PASSION. You can tell from the way everyone introduced themselves that they are passionate about what they do. We all work with students in some way. AND we are passionate about teaching them physical computing.

I think to fully engage your students in ANY course or subject, you must bring passion for what it is you are teaching. Back when I taught elementary school I was self contained. I hated teaching writing. Probably because I felt so inadequate as a writer myself. To bring passion to the writing, I turned the personal narrative that I had to assign them into a time of  personal reflection. I demonstrated by telling them about the time I had surgery on my esophagus due to a swallowing disorder. I went through a tough 6 months of illness because I could barely swallow any food. The students saw the passion and gave way more effort to their writing than before I chose to demonstrate with my story of illness.

I think to truly be effective teachers we need to bring our passion. This has to come from within. Kids can pick up on your true passion or when you are faking. After reading the introductions of those attending Picademy with me, I can tell no one is faking. That is why they are making a difference in their schools and classrooms.

Find your PASSION and share it!


I am TIRED and it is WORTH it!

As we finish up yet another school year I want to applaud all of you teachers for using your super power to help children young and old find their passion and potential.

Your super power is stopping bullying, waiting to go to the bathroom for hours, disciplining, loving every child, being compassionate, feeding the hungry, and so many other parts of the teaching profession that we GET to do each and every day.

You are a super hero! You could have been so many things, but you didn’t. You CHOSE to become a TEACHER!

I saw this video on Facebook. Take the time to watch the video all the way through.

Teaching is Tiring! (and worth it)

Dear teachers,Thank you. Enjoy your Winter Break.

Posted by The Epic Classroom on Sunday, May 21, 2017


I am TIRED, and it is WORTH IT!





Physical computing

Last month I completed a four week online course called Teaching Physical Computing with Raspberry Pi and Python. What a fantastic course. If you are looking for a way to do more making in your classroom, I highly recommend this course. Some highlights were:

– learning to program in Python
– learning to connect and program LEDs and buttons to the Raspberry Pi
– ideas shared by other educators
– spending time with my daughter

I will try to briefly explain the highlights.

Using the Raspberry Pi, which I have used before, I learned how to use Python programming instead of relying on Scratch. Scratch works great, but I was looking to learn a more robust programming language. I found that Python isn’t that hard. There are syntax to remember, but it seems very easy to use.

The Raspberry Pi has a series of pins called GPIO pins. This allows the user to attach various components to the Raspberry Pi. Keeping the level at a beginner, we connected LEDs and buttons. We learned how to turn on and off LEDs and how to control the LED with the button. We even made our own button and made a high tech whoopee cushion. This is where it got really fun. My 9 year old had a blast doing this with me.

I also learned a great deal from ideas and comments left by the other teachers taking the course. Part of the course asks for integration ideas. I loved the dialog between us.

Lastly, the course was quite engaging. My 9 year old didn’t want to stop. She and I made some extra activities since she didn’t want to fun to end.

Now all I need are some supplies and Raspberry Pis so I can teach this to my own students.

Check it out: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/physical-computing-raspberry-pi-python/



Changing the future

As I reflect on a day spent reviewing and evaluating Educator Initiative Grants funded by the GAR Foundation, I realized that I wasn’t just reading, reviewing and evaluating grant proposals submitted by teachers and schools across the county, I was helping to decide how children are going to be impacted not just next year but many years to come.

We on the team take our role as evaluator very seriously. We work to recommend funding for the best and most impactful proposals. But with that realization on how children are impacted year after year, I couldn’t help but think about how the GAR Foundation has changed the face of my classroom.

A few years ago I had this crazy idea to offer robotics courses to eighth graders. It is hard to do this without a robot. Through a grant funded by GAR, I was able to get two sets of robots and some incredible professional development. This started my interest in teaching more computer science skills to my students. The confidence that being awarded the funds gave me was a springboard into a change in what and how I teach. Now I have two different courses spanning not just eighth graders, but encompassing students from eighth grade to seniors.

It didn’t stop there. Because my administrators have seen how teaching computer science principals through the use of robots is so impactful, they have supported other ideas and projects. Some of those have been supported through GAR in the way of other grants I have written and some funded by the district.

As I finished reflecting on that long day, I was thankful for the GAR Foundation. They are improving the lives of children in Summit County through education and opportunities. Without the GAR Foundation, the future in Summit County wouldn’t be so bright!



Making America Great Again!

This past Friday we inaugurated a new President. Whether you are happy or not with who the President of the United States is doesn’t matter. This isn’t a political post. What this post is about is how to REALLY make America Great Again!

As many Americans, I have thought a great deal about the slogans the Presidential candidates used over the past two years. I think we all have it wrong. We are looking to a person to make the United States of America the country we want it to be. We need to be looking in the mirror. We need to look inside and ask our selves, “How can I make America great again?”

This picture was posted on Facebook. I love how this teacher used this moment in history to work to bring out greatness in second graders. Read it all the way through. The teacher doesn’t add his/her opinion on who was elected. He/she talks about how we can make this country and this world a better place.

This image got me thinking about the recent First Lego League competition my team competed. FIRST has core values that the teams are expected to follow. They are:

  • We are a team.
  • We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
  • We know our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers; we learn together.
  • We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
  • What we discover is more important than what we win.
  • We share our experiences with others.
  • We display Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition® in everything we do.
  • We have FUN!

Notice that all of the core values are working together and being kind. FIRST uses the terms Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition. (Click on the terms to see the meaning.) Both are all about being kind and working together. That is what I truly love about the FLL tournaments. (The bracelets shown above are handed out when a student or coach displays either Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition. I am honored to wear the one that I earned at the last tournament. One boy from my team also was given a bracelet. It reminds us that we need to work together and be kind.

FIRST is leading the way to show children and adults that there is a better way. And that way is learning and growing together through being kind and working together. What a wonderful world this would be if we all showed some Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition.

American can only be great if we make it that way! Thank you Kid President for this tweet, “We need everybody to be awesome to everybody. But… not everybody will do that. Thankfully there’s you. You can do that. Go be you.”

Go be you and let’s ALL make America Great Again!


FLL District Tournament

SMH_286Our FLL Animal Allies season is over. We gave it our best shot, but came up short at the University of Akron FLL District Tournament. I am so proud of the team. We managed to score our highest score in the Robot Games. It was our highest possible score with what we programmed our robot to complete. The team was so excited. We also scored much higher on our Core Values judging. Best of all we had a BLAST!

If you have been thinking of creating a team I have just one thing to say. DO IT. Create a team and sign up.

I enjoyed the entire season. I admit that I was a stressed out mess during the judging. These kids worked so hard and I wanted the best for them.

In the end it all payed off. We won a Judges Award. We got to go home with a trophy to display with many others trophies from various teams from the school over the years. For a rookie team, these kids exceeded my expectations.

I can’t wait until next season. I think I’m hooked.

FLL Regional Tournament

img_4354This past weekend my team, the RoboTigers, competed at the NEOFRA Warren Delphi First Lego League Regional Tournament. I must first say that the team of people who run this particular event hit a homerun! The event was incredible. Everyone was very professional and well prepared.

With that said, if you are thinking about starting a FLL team, here are some things that I learned after my first competition.

  1. Be prepared for a LONG day. (The day was great and busy, but long.)
  2. You get way more points for your presentations than you do for the robot games. (You do have to score high enough in the robot games to move on, but having the highest score doesn’t guarantee you move on to regionals.)
  3. You really need to do well on ALL of the presentations. We focused more on the research project. The other presentations (Core Values and Robot Design) are very important also.

Overall we did great. We didn’t have the highest score, but we were in the top 7 and advanced on to the regionals next month. For a first year team of 4-5 graders who have never programmed a robot before, we did incredible. I am so proud of them!

If you are thinking about starting a team, GO FOR IT! It was a BLAST!


robotigerSo a few months have gone by and we have been busy. So busy I haven’t posted about our process. Sorry! I am finding out there are lots to do before our competition on December 10.

If you are considering starting a team I HIGHLY suggest you find yourself a mentor or join an established team with an experienced coach.

Although I did have a coach from another team to ask questions of, I didn’t realize just how much you have to do. I knew about the robot competition and the project, but didn’t realize you have to know and demonstrate how you meet the FLL Core Values. I didn’t realize all the paperwork involved.

With that said, this wouldn’t stop me from continuing to coach a FLL team. I know now that much of the work needs to start day 1 instead of a month before competition.

Overall, the experience was good. One of the Core Values is “We know our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers; we learn together.” That includes the FLL competition process. The students and I learned a great deal and had a lot of fun in the process.