#GEGNJ Power Hour 4

Google Classroom

Another Power Hour is in the books! This show was all about firsts. We talked to teachers using Google Classroom and CS First for the first time, and also heard how first time EdTech Coaches are rolling out Google Apps in their district. We learned the first thing we should do after uploading a video to YouTube and how to emulate ThingLink with Google Drawings.

Below is the video of the show and here is the agenda which includes links to the things we discussed.

We start crowdsourcing the agenda two weeks before the show and you can join #GEGNJ here even if you aren’t from New Jersey because not everyone can be perfect. See you for our last show before summer break on June 13th!

Until Next Time,


Teaching Entrepreneurship through the For-Profit MakerSpace


I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship and its related topics. From running a business, to the way money and markets work, to behavioral economics, finance, marketing, and advertising, I find it all to be fascinating. While we now have mandatory finance classes and more business electives for high school students in Jersey, it wasn’t that way when I was there. I think the lack of exposure to entrepreneurship has made my life more difficult. I’ve made a lot of expensive mistakes as I taught myself the hard way about credit cards, balancing checkbooks, budgeting, and mortgages and probably missed out on opportunities like investing in the stock market or starting early on my retirement fund. 

Exposing students to entrepreneurship is more important than ever. In five years, everyone will be treating entrepreneurship with the same reverence currently reserved for STEAM. If you have been following some of the predictions and research about the future of jobs, many jobs, up to 60%, face the possibility of being computerized or automated. Whether this comes to pass or not, and it looks like it will, jobs in management, business, and finance will continue to be in demand and generally safe from the robots. What’s even better, it is only going to get easier and cheaper to start your own business. I want my kids to be ready for the work force of the future and become familiar with entrepreneurial skills sooner, rather than later. I want to do this in the most student-centered, authentic way possible, so… I built them a store. Gizmos is open for business!

Using WordPress, Woocommerce, a few key plug-ins, and advice from my buddy MJ Linane, I’ve built a fully functional online school store! With the setup I’ve created, modeled after Amazon, I’m able to offer every student their own online store. Students will be in charge of every aspect of their store: they can name it, design it, stock products, create coupons, host sales, advertise, and do everything else an entrepreneur needs to do.

Vendor Products

As store admins, Katie and I approve everything students do in their store before it makes it to the live site. Vendors will be able to see a store’s sales through a series of charts and graphs, and each store will be responsible for helping keep the Gizmos book. We will keep the book public for transparency and our wonderful business administrator has agreed to come in every couple weeks and compare her official book with the students’ book. When an order is placed, students will be responsible for all phases of customer service. With this setup, we hope to better engage and motivate our students in learning the STEM skills we offer in our Innovation Lab, entrepreneurship and it’s tangential skills, and teach pride in ownership.

Financial Literacy

The store also helps solve some problems inherent in our (and most) makerspace. Because students have autonomy to choose what they work on in the Innovation Lab (I don’t believe in mandatory fun) and we only see them for an hour each week, finishing projects in the Lab can be hard for my fifth and sixth graders; students often come in wanting to try something else. Giving students the opportunity to sell products will help them see a project through to the end. Additionally, knowing that their may be an end user for their product, students will be more thoughtful to the design thinking process and will iterate more. So far, since I rolled out Gizmos last week, some students have even been designing and tinkering at home so they have more products of better quality for their store. I think it’s working!

Another problem Gizmos helps solve is waste management. Students deconstruct a lot of tech in the Innovation Lab. When finished, the tech was destined for the dump. We didn’t like that, so we we instituted a Parts to Arts Quest (steal them). Students can now upcycle tech and turn it into jewelry, sculptures, or other pieces of art to sell in their store. I’m excited to see less waste and more art in the Innovation Lab now. Further, the store helps me manage the 3D printers. Everyone wants to print, but having 300 stud2016-04-15 13.35.26-1ents printing on machines with a 75% successful print rate… it’s just not possible for everyone to always be printing. Now, students place their 3D designs in their store. If someone buys their design, we print it. This helps determine how and when we use the 3D printers and will hopefully motivate students to spend more time on their 3D designing.

We hope that Gizmos will solve the biggest problem any makerspace faces: funding. Customers will pay real money for student work in Gizmos. We accept checks and have secured an SSL certificate so customers will be able to pay by credit card, debit card, and PayPal by the end of the week. The real money we make will go back into the program. We plan on giving students virtual commission on their sales that they can then use to buy things they want from Gizmos using their credit. With the millions of dollars(!) we plan on making with Gizmos, we hope to do a few things: we hope to become the first self-funded makerspace in the country. We hope to be able to buy more supplies and great stuff for the lab at no cost to the taxpayers. We also hope to get to a point where we are making enough money that we can offer Innovation Scholarships to staff and students, so they can start to bring making where it belongs: the classroom. The makerspace is doomed, after all.

We are in the process of pushing Gizmos into our elementary school and will stay in Beta until the end of the year. We’re having so much fun collaborating with students and staff on Gizmos. Students recommended securing a deal with our awesome art teacher, as they think selling their artwork online would be really cool. I’m sending a team of negotiators to work out the details soon. We also want to sell spirit wear year round, and maybe open up vendor opportunities to school sports teams to sell their swag or even the PTA and other school-focused groups. We want to offer services in the Labs, too. We think services like engraving with the Glowforge we hope to get, iDevice repair, website building, graphic design, computer repair could be beneficial to the community and profitable for the program. We have been tinkering on bikes after school, and our tinkerers are looking to open a full fledged bike shop behind the school named — wait for it — (re)cycle! The possibilities are endless and in just a week, students are starting to realize that. I couldn’t be more excited with the way Gizmos and entrepreneurship is taking our Innovation Lab and STEAM instruction to the next level. Stay tuned!

Until Next Time,


#GEGNJ Power Hour 3

#GEGNJ Power House

#GEGNJ Power Hour

Monday we rolled the credits on another #GEGNJ Power Hour!! We were joined by a student from my school, Fair Haven (He is writing this in third person for me!). He talked about a kid’s point of view of #GAFE. Jeff Bradbury talked about lesson plans on Google Sites, Alyssa Miller talked Digital Portfolios, and Kim Mattina told us about Google Classroom.

Our special guest was Jonathan Rochelle, Director of Product Management for Google Apps for Education. He talked about Google Expeditions and how it came to be, and also gave away some Google Cardboards.
Below is the video of the show and here is the agenda which includes links to the things we discussed. We start crowdsourcing the agenda two weeks before the show and you can join #GEGNJ here even if you aren’t from New Jersey because not everyone can be perfect.

See you on May 9th for the next show!

Until Next Time,


#GEGNJ Power Hour 2

GEGNJAnother #GEGNJ Power Hour is in the books! On this episode of the Google Educators Group: New Jersey Power Hour show we had the amazing Regina Schaffer and her students talk about Google Apps for Education and CS First. We had Tech Specialist Genie Iovino discuss non-linear presentations with Google Slides, Kevin Jarrett discuss his Google Expedition Beta experience, and Jeff Bradbury showed us how to create stop-motion animation and comic books in Google Slides.

Below is the video of the show and here is the agenda which includes links to the things we discussed. We start crowd sourcing the agenda two week before the show and you can join #GEGNJ here even if you aren’t from New Jersey because not everyone can be perfect. The next show will be April 11th at 8pm!


Why Minecraft.

techedupteacherI believe in student-centered learning. Part of student-centered learning is giving students voice and choice in the classroom. A few years ago, back when I was a high school English teacher, students were assigned a culminating project on Romeo and Juliet. Students had to show what they learned during the unit in a medium of their choosing. A student approached me and asked if he could show what he learned using Minecraft. I had no idea what Minecraft was, so after having him explain the game and how he planned to use it, I approved the project. A week later he brought in a video of Minecraft characters acting out his favorite scene from Romeo and Juliet in a gorgeous, block-based Globe theater. This is how I met Minecraft.

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2016 PARCC Test Administrator Guide

Last year, since it was the first time they’d be giving PARCC, I decided to make a screencast for my teachers to show them how to navigate the online testing environment and administer the test to students. I believe sharing is caring, so I put the video on my YouTube channel for any district across the country to use. To my surprise, the video received over 20,000 views! I’ve been getting emails from districts asking if I was making another screencast for 2016 so here it is!

This actually happened a lot last year, so… Disclaimer: I don’t work for PARCC or Pearson or any Department of Education. Please don’t send me anti-PARCC/testing hate mail. I’m just an educator and trying to help educators.

Anyone who wants to can use this video with their teachers is welcome to do so. Good luck, have fun, and if you found the video useful let me know!

In Media Blooms


Unnamed imageTyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die. For a long time though, Tyler and I were best friends. People are always asking, did I know about Tyler Durden. The barrel of the gun pressed against the back of my throat, Tyler says, “We really won’t die.”

  • Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk

For years, Fight Club was my Sophomores’ favorite book. The dystopian, coming-of-age tale about grown men emasculated and enslaved by a society they desperately want to escape appealed to my mostly reluctant readers. 

Fight Club was also part of my larger move toward an engaging, student-centered classroom. Fight Club was the hook I used to engage my students with Transcendentalism and was one of many changes I was making to re-engage my kids with their learning. Other changes included blending and gamifying my classroom, but all was for naught if I didn’t rethink how I was teaching. I wanted to hook them early in a lesson and keep them interested throughout a unit.

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#GEGNJ Power Hour

GEGNJLast night we had our first ever #GEGNJ Power Hour show! I was joined by Google Educator Group: New Jersey co-leaders Kevin Jarrett and Lisa Thumann as well as rock star educators Adam Schoenbart and Daniel Kaufmann. We talked Google updates, tips and tricks, and some great ways we are using GAFE in the classroom. Kevin then led a discussion on Design Thinking and how he is using it in his middle school makerspace. Really great stuff!

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Sometimes A Little EdTech Can Make A Big Difference

disruptI met Melissa Killion at an EdCamp session on the Flipped Classroom two years ago. Afterward, we talked for a while about our experiences on what had been working and what hadn’t in our classrooms. We’ve kept in touch ever since. A couple months ago, I went to Melissa’s school as part of our state’s new innovation initiative. I snuck away from the pack to go visit Melissa and got to see her amazing blended classroom in action. As an iPad school, she had been using Explain Everything to make her videos. I’ve been using Explain Everything for years, and I showed her a neat trick where you can put a video inside of a video. I didn’t think anything of it and until Melissa reached out on Twitter and showed me the amazing way that she had used my trick. I was blown away by what Melissa did and asked her to share it here as an example of transforming the learning experience for a student using edtech. She did one better and included not only her own words, but also asked her student, Anna, and her sign language interpreter to share as well. Check this out!

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Google Drive’s Best Kept Secret

innovationstationsAs I was planning out our Innovation Lab, I knew I wanted my kids to experience the digital arts. Video, photo, and audio editing are important skills our kids should be familiar with. I also know that for the Innovation Lab to remain viable for years to come, I have to keep the cost down; if it’s free, it’s for me.

For photo editing, I knew about GIMP, a free photo editing program similar to Photoshop, and the web-based Pixlr which is even built into Drive (go to Drive, then New, More, Connect more apps, Pixlr). For video editing, the awesome folks a Tech Smith donated Camtasia. It was the audio piece that was tough. I knew I wanted to teach audio editing through podcasting and I knew Audacity was the best, free audio editing program out there. The one area I wasn’t sure how to do for free was the hosting of the podcasts. I didn’t want to pay for a server to host my kids podcasts, so I started to do some research and that’s when I found out Google Drive’s best kept secret: you can turn a Google Drive folder into a makeshift server!

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