What Does Your PLN Look Like? Here’s Mine:

What does your PLN look like?  I took advantage of the tool, Popplet, to create a visual mindmap of my PLN.  The product is below (by the way, the photo below is me with one of my favorite colleagues, Dr. Lisa Hervey of the Friday Institute at NC State University (@lisahervey) ):



I created this to harness, through a visual representation, just exactly who I am as a professional learner, and from whom I learn.  If you like what you see, I highly suggest you take advantage of this tool as a way to organize your professional learning.


Redefining and Reforming Our Purpose: Interpreting Gee’s “Institutions and Frozen Thought”

Recently, I spent some time reading James Paul Gee’s The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning (2013).  In reflection, I wrote a short paper on Chapter 10 of the text, entitled “Institutions and Frozen Thought.”  In the paper, I explain that while institutions behave like well-oiled, and their results may be consistently safe and predictable, they no longer have a place in education.  Specifically, I write that “[i]nstitutions are murder to [complex problems] because their static, unchanging processes choke the life and novelty out of the thinkers, movers and shakers in our classrooms as well as our world” (Frye, 2014, p. 1).  Conclusively, I emphasize that to abolish the outdated paradigm of an “institution,” we have to “reexamine the purpose for all of the institutions that we have in education today” (Frye, 2014, p. 2).  To read the full white paper, click here.  Any and all feedback and commentary is openly welcomed.

Tag Poppin’, 3D Printing, and Repurposing for the Classroom

This week, I ventured out into the Hickory community to our local thrift stores in search of an item that I could repurpose.  I did not come to this point without a fair bit of hard planning and thinking, though.

I will admit that I struggled a bit through the brainstorming process.  To explain, the maker kit that I am using is a 3D Printer by Makerbot–click here to see what the printer looks like when it is set up.

Thankfully, one of the teachers from the other high school in our district (where I completed my student teaching experience) raised the funds through DonorsChoose a while back to provide their students with access to Maker technology.  After confirming with Mr. Dixon (@moriartytth) about whether or not I could use the printer, I started brainstorming about the possibilities of items that I could repurpose.  Unlike a Makey Makey or other interactive Maker Kit, the 3D Printer creates items you design that remain static.  Admittedly, though I came into the activity with the understanding that technologies have been around for centuries and certainly don’t have to involve technological interaction with an item to be an “educational technology,” this was foreign territory for me–but I welcomed the challenge.

At first, I thought that I might take a cookie sheet I found and repurpose it as a tic-tac-toe board of activities that could be used in my classroom, but this seemed like too much of a copout for this assignment.  It would be just as simple to achieve the same end by going to the dollar store and purchasing a tic-tac-toe board with pieces.  So, desperate to wrap my mind around how I was going to repurpose an item with a 3D printer for use in my high school English class, I e-mailed Professor White, who so graciously gave me some excellent ideas and helped me to redesign my thinking.  One of her ideas, related to printing a QR code, did not work because of the amount of resources we had to print the size needed for the project I had in mind at the time.

After some thinking about what I am teaching right now with colleagues (@CrossonEdu, @cindygeddes and @carolinablondie), and what I had a need for in my upcoming lessons, I decided to let the waves of the thrift store hit me as I looked through a new lens.

I'm gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket...

I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket…

Amidst all of this, I found a gem: this clock.


Now, what would I do with a clock, you might ask?  Well, after reflecting on my needs for the last few weeks of my classes, I focused on a couple of lessons I am teaching regarding the concept of time.  For a secondary English course, a clock is chock-full with symbolism.  On the promise of later explanation, you should know that I decided to gut the clock–quite literally.

The idea that I decided to move forward with involved the printing of a sundial. There will be an elaboration further into the post regarding my choice, but for now, yes–I designed and 3D printed a sundial.

Makerbot printing the Sundial.

Makerbot printing the Sundial.

Here are instructions for how you can do this, too:

1) Since the printer is a MakerBot, I used the accompanying software for design, Makerware.  You should make sure that you download this software on your computer before you proceed any further.

2) After downloading the software, play with it.  Attempt to design something simple at first–perhaps a ball, or a square, or something of that nature.  After playing with Makerware, I took to Thingiverse to seek out some templates that I could modify to create the sundial.  It may take some time to find what you are looking for; for me, it took about thirty minutes to find a model that I wanted to redesign.  Click here for a basic video tutorial on how to use Makerware and Thingiverse.

Here is an example of what the software looks like (and what the sundial should look like).

Here is an example of what the software looks like (and what the sundial should look like).

3) After you have tweaked the sundial to your liking (this took me about an hour and a half), export the file onto an SD card (click here for a video tutorial on exporting the files from MakerWare).

4) Insert the SD card into the printer, and follow the instructions on the printer to select the file from the card and begin printing.  It will take approximately 100 minutes to print completely.

5) Once the sundial has printed, take a standard clock and unscrew the back.


6) Remove the clock itself, and take the glass/plastic cover out of the frame.

7) Take a set of pliers and unscrew the minute and hour hands from the battery pack on the back from the clock.


8) Once this is done, screw the clock itself back into place.

9) Take the sundial and apply hot glue.  Press the sundial down onto the center of the clock.  It should look like this:


Once you have the sundial clock, of course, you will need the rationale: As I review for end-of-year assessments with my classes, I am revisiting poetry to reinforce close reading skills with my students.  Two of the anchor texts that I am using for this unit are the poem “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and “The Sun-Dial at Wells College” by Henry Van Dyke.  In the first poem, Shelley’s focal point is that nothing mortal can outlast the decaying powers of the sands of time.  Hearkening back to the ages that this poem describes, time was reflected using sundials that utilized shadows cast by the sun.  Shockingly enough, many of my students did not even know what a sundial was before having it explained to them.  This poem will serve as a great introduction to the second anchor text, Van Dyke’s poem.

Additionally, Van Dyke’s poem explicitly discusses the sundial’s literary merit.  One of the things that my students need some reinforcement on are the close reading skills that they will need for their end of course assessments.  Specifically, they need some help being able to identify symbols and analyze their greater impact on the holistic meaning of texts.  The sundial is perfect reinforcement for this idea, because it can be analyzed in its tangible form to make it easier for students to translate their literal interpretations into metaphorical ones (where the poem comes in).  This is one of the major learning goals I have for my students for the rest of the semester.  The 3D printer has also made it possible to access a real, working sundial, because we do not have a life-size one nearby, and it is just as functional as a conventional one.  To see the lesson activity that details how the sundial will be used, please click this link.

Demonstrating the Power of Networked Learning – Post #1

This week, I begin a journey.  This is a journey where I set out to prove, in cooperation with colleagues in the Michigan State University Educational Technology program, that it is possible to learn new skills and hone existing ones using nothing but the Internet.

It is undeniable that connected and interactive learning experiences are the best and most authentic ones, and that learning does not have to take place solely in the four walls of the classroom; in fact, I believe that it should be discouraged.  In this spirit, I am going to spend the next few weeks attempting to teach myself how to do something that I have always wanted to do: learn to play a song on the guitar.

Me in high school, demonstrating my single-chord mastery.

Me in high school, demonstrating my single-chord mastery.

I have always been heavily involved in music (my strengths are vocal–click here to see a song I covered last year), and even attempted to learn to play several instruments along the way, but I have never had the time to commit to learning how to play an instrument.

The catch to this challenge is that I will be doing this using nothing but YouTube tutorials and online help forums.  By the end, my hope is that I will have proven the collaborative teaching power of social media and Internet.  Over the course of the project, I will be posting updates that are photos, video clips, and a summative video to demonstrate my learning for you all.

I have already done some research this week on YouTube.  While spending time looking for things that I can use to learn, I have been thinking about the song that I would like to play.  Following are some excellent videos I’ve found to jumpstart my learning:


Play TEN guitar songs with two EASY chords! | Beginner’s First Guitar Lesson


Learn How to Play Easy Beginner Acoustic Guitar Songs


Play 10 Songs with 4 Chords


Stay tuned for more updates as the journey progresses!


Using Kahoot! to Tackle Problems of Practice

After spending some time this week reflecting on problems of practice my own secondary English classroom, I decided to seek out a solution to an ill-structured problem of mine: encouraging all students to be collaboratively engaged.  While tools like Google Drive are excellent collaborative mediums, it is difficult to monitor every student’s participation in a classroom of 35+.

The tool I see as providing a solution to my problem is Kahoot!.  This tool uses the principles of gamification to structure itself, and I believe it may serve as a solution to maximized engagement in the secondary classroom.  For further explanation regarding the problem and an overview of the tool’s benefits, please follow this link to view my screencast.  Any and all feedback is more than welcomed!

Learning Beyond Memory

What is learning?  In one of my graduate courses in the Educational Technology program at Michigan State University, I wrote an essay that explores this question deeply, related to understanding and conceptual change.  The essay is situated around a reading of How People Learn by Bransford, Brown & Cocking (2000).  You can read the full essay by following this link.  

In my essay, I argue that authentic learning experiences are based upon experience, not rote memory; specifically, I emphasize that learning is change.  Additionally, I discuss the importance of deep learning with regard to becoming a content-expert (this can be achieved through the TPACK model).  Furthermore, I argue for the importance of studying learning in a technology integration course because of the profound cognitive impact that we can have on students through this understanding.  I would welcome any and all comments–discussion and reflection is more than encouraged!

What happens when you mix Mozilla Popcorn Maker and gamification?

The answer is simple.

Dale Dougherty, widely known in the educational community as the spearhead of the Maker Movement, remarks that every person on the planet has the skills and fortitude to be a maker.  “We’re born makers.  We have this ability to make things, to grasp things with our hands . . . We don’t just live, but we make.  We create things . . .” (Dougherty, 2011).

As Gabe Zichermann cites in his interview with Wamda (2013), “gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems.  It’s most importantly a kind of process where we think about how we make things in the world more engaging, more fun, more meaningful.”  By definition, gamification lends itself well (metacognitively speaking) to the ideas behind remixing and the Maker Movement–making things more meaningful, fun and engaging through the use of different processes and ideas in new contexts.

In this remix, I took liberties with media to create a short informational video for those already somewhat familiar with the concept.  I took a video that explained the concept and layered elements, such as Wikipedia, visual supplements (examples of tools that put the concept of gamification into action).  I used the pop-up speech and thought bubble feature to add another layer of analysis to the Zichermann’s informational musings, providing applications for use and thought for its purpose in the classroom environment.  I also make visual references through videos, such as the Kahoot! example, to illustrate the principles of gamification in action (such as Patrick Koning on the Kahoot! leaderboard).

The remix allows for a sort of multimodality that advances the concept in ways that normal communications, such as reading and writing from paper, cannot touch.  Click here to view my remix on gamification.

Sources Cited:

Dougherty, D.  (2011, January).  Dale Dougherty:  We are makers [Video file]. 

          Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/dale_dougherty_we_are_makers

Koning, Patrick. (2014). Kahoot! quiz over disk management. Retrieved 17 May 2014, from


Mystic_Roots.  (2014).  The legend of zelda remixed [Audio file].  Retrieved

          from https://soundcloud.com/mystic_roots/the-legend-of-zelda-remixed?butteruid=1400456713896

Hotsuma, Nelo.  (2012, May 28).  Advances in mechanics [Digital image].  Retrieved

from https://www.flickr.com/photos/63122283@N06/8059920609/in/photolist-8o4cG5-9WweNw-9WtoF2-doagYm-bJfEhT-dhecAr-6R9Bt-8ugGQs-871brw-6sS3F-6sS3y-5xSfp7-d9zTZs-d7hCNQ-2cVMeU-7KE7wk-dhdZzo-azbCu3-dhe11A-dhe2mQ-dhdYZZ-dhdXsK-dhdYem-dhdZpZ-5di6N-ac55u-94aCXi-35gr1v-ndCCp3-5xSfjy-5xSfg9-5xMSuz-5xSfvA-5xMRUK-5xSfdW-7NmPL7-954113-jFnakD-6ca94-68CwEw-86NhTY-5zXYDM-aCRMLq-5r1A6o-bRcm6P-dwN9Vh-9mUttE-99DT2s-83x7vY-6MZr4u

Ratliff, Charles Alan. (2012). The art of video games: advances in mechanics. Retrieved 17 May 2014,

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BjqzEiE78o&feature=youtube_gdata&butteruid=1400459423072

Wamda. (2013). Tips for startups on gamification: a chat with Gabe Zichermann [Wamda TV]. Retrieved 16 May 2014,

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_-ULrhjuDY

Wikipedia. (2000). Gamification – wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved 16 May 2014, from