Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Stop listening to that inner voice that says "I'm not creative"

There is not much I remember about second grade, but there is one remarkably vivid memory that sticks with me.  I'm not sure why I remember this above other parts of second grade, but for some reason I still remember Sister Edmund telling me that I could only 'move my lips' when we sang during our first communion.  I was too short to move out of the front row, so I had to look like I was singing even though I was not 'good enough' to actually sing! 

That memory came back again today as I watched Tom Murray's Leadership minute.
When Tom starts the video and calls himself "not creative", I wanted to reach out to him and say - STOP, TOM! Too many teachers are saying that - and saying that in front of kids! 


Thankfully, this was just a lead into  @thetechrabbi  saying exactly that!  Rabbi Michael Cohen defines creativity as

 "how you think and see the world... and when you think and are more aware of connections of how things can be used together for a greater good ..." 

I still remember the EXACT moment when I shook that inner voice and started to see myself as a creative person. 

I was hanging out along Lake Champlain with my son, Adam, decompressing after a long day leading professional development with a group of teachers in my rural Vermont community. Adam had just graduated college and was setting forth into the world with a B.A. in music. I had asked him to lead a workshop on some music tools for educators in my summer institute.  As we reflected on the day, and on life in general and what was next for him, he turned to me and said

"I wonder what my life would have been like if I had a normal mom"
I laughed and then the light bulb came on - perhaps I did contribute to your creative lifestyle by modeling creativity in how I approach life.  Maybe, you did not get your musical talent from me, kiddo, but maybe you got something from me that helped you be so successful as a creative! And then I started to think about all the ways I was creative that had nothing to do with skills in art and music.  And like @thetechrabbi said above, most of them had to do with how I see the world, and how I saw connections between things that were less than obvious, and how I was able to take risk and try things where I might fail. 

Most educators do this EVERY day! They are some of the most creative people I know.  Yet, I still hear pre-service and in-service teachers say "I'm not really that creative".  These are the same educators who are designing lessons that will contribute to the creation of the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.   One of the the Transferrable Skills Vermont educators are expected to help their students meet is "Creative and Practical Problem Solving".  

Let us all stop listening to that inner voice that tells you that we are not creative -- and please stop saying it in front of kids and colleagues.  Let's rejoice in the way, we as educators, are constantly making connections between unlike objects and concepts to help our students learn.  And, let's make sure we model  CREATIVITY for our students as well as help them discover how they are creative.

That inner voice will resurface, especially when you surround yourself with skilled artists and musicians.   You'll have to remind yourself of HOW YOU ARE CREATIVE, TOO!  
I have to remind myself of that often, as I sit and listen to these two young men.  (warning #proudmamamoment) 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Inspired by Innovation Center at St. Vrain Schools #STVRAINSTORM

Many of you know that each Fall, we  leave Vermont  in our 1983 bus (BELLA) in search of inspiration, creativity and creative convergences.  This weekend, I flew out to Denver to  join Craig and Bella who had left a few weeks earlier. The bus was parked between Denver and Boulder waiting for me to join them before we journeyed towards the Southwest.  Due to some unfavorable weather patterns, we decided to stay in Denver a few extra days.  This gave us time to follow up on a tip, we got from Shelby at Sparkfun, that there was some really cool stuff happening in the St. Vrain Valley School District.

 So we scraped the ice off the car and went to check it out for our selves.
We were not disappointed! 

Upon arrival at the Innovation Center of St. Vrain Schools, we were greeted by Colin Rickman @mrcolinrickman who gave us a tour of all the learning spaces in the building from the well equipped labs and future ready classrooms, to small nooks eloquently designed to provide spaces that met the needs of all types of learners.   Everywhere we looked we saw unique spaces, from nooks and corners to escape with your computer and conduct independent research to collaboration  booths with whiteboards or monitors to airplay your computer screen. 

The building also had beautifully designed spaces for
both small group and large group presentations.
The Ptich room includes a conference style table which seats about 20 and is the home
of many design team pitches as well as in house meetings. 

This open presentation space is used for school, as well as  community events. 

Sliding garage doors that also transformed into tables and whiteboards.

Lockers that serve as whiteboards.

Creative thought and design thinking opportunities everywhere.

Need a whiteboard or a table for designing thinking? They've got your covered either way!

Visiting on a day when students and faculty are out of the building a a bit of a bummer, but the blessing in disguise is that we got to freely walk in and out of high tech classrooms in awe by opportunities in both tools and programming available to the students of St. Vrain.

The absence of students today gave us freedom to walk in and out of many classrooms.

Robotics competition spaces

soldering stations with fume extraction

one of several laser cutters in the building

Heavy duty vinyl cutters

And for your SERIOUS 3D printing needs

with the Lulzbot factory nearby we were not surprised by the Taz 3D printers

heat press

fabrication tools from laser cutters to 3D printers and more

large format printers

wash stations for easy clean up of you or your 3D prints

Whoa! an underwater robotic fish tank!

and with Thanksgiving around the corner, every turkey needs a rescue drone!

Towards the end of our tour, we walked into a room labeled "makerspace" filled with accessible materials for all ages. The room had an outside entrance next to a place where a bus could easily drop off students from area schools to come and create, make, and learn.  For those of you who are curious about materials organized in other makerspaces -- check out these clearly labeled bins! 

And your gotta have 
popup green screen tools

duct tape

and legos!

We saw lots of evidence of Design Thinking throughout the space

A few other locked classrooms and spaces gave us insight into the breadth and depth of learning opportunities for St. Vrain students included the biotech lab and multimedia rooms as we walked by.

Unfortunately the St. Vrain Schools mobile bus we had hoped to see was not parked nearby, 
but then again neither was ours!
So we'll have so experience it through TWITTER until we come back into town!

The Future-Ready Innovation Lab
The ST. VRAINNOVATION Future-Ready Innovation Lab is a cutting-edge mobile innovation center in a mobile, highlighting the best of public education in

So instead of Colin, Craig, and I exchanged stories of how our respective mobile makerspaces got started and how we use them to engage teachers and students to create, make, and learn! 

The only other thing that could have made the visit better was to come on a day when students were in the building! Meanwhile, @techsavvygirl will  keep an eye out for them on Twitter  @ICSVVSD 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Framing the Conversation Around Makerspaces at Create Make Learn Summer Institute

Framing the Conversation Around Makerspaces at Create Make Learn Summer Institute

The 2019 Create Make Learn Summer Institute will be an opportunity to engage in conversations around makerspaces as we create, make, and learn all week.  We'll use the following questions to frame our conversation around creating, making, and learning. 

The earlier conversations on this topic are usually focused around the WHAT questions.     Just exactly WHAT is a maker space?  I was once sitting across the desk from a principal who shared that she  had just googled "makerspaces' during our conversation so she would know what we are talking about.    The term Makerspaces conjures up different images in almost everybody who uses it.  Personally I like to use Space for Creating and Making  as a way to shake preconceptions that come with the term Makerspace.   A makerspace can be many different things to each of us.  It can have all types of tools, supplies, and equipment.   We've traveled to many makerspaces across the country and have yet to find any two alike. 

We have visited many different Makerspaces in our bus, and each of them have different tools and take on different formats.  As we explore WHAT a makerspace can be and WHAT it can have in it,  I hope to introduce  a few different configurations of makerspaces,  each with their own unique sets of tools and supplies.   
We have visited many different Makerspaces in our bus, and each of them have different tools and take on different formats.  This week, each of us can share our experiences with different configurations of makerspaces, each with their own unique sets of tools and supplies. 

Another area that many want to talk about is HOW do people MAKE?  There are so many different ways to approach making. This week, we will explore different types of makes that you might see in a makerspace. This could range from a skill building make to a quirky expression of self.  I look forward to exploring  some of the common types of makes as we share our stories of making and experience creating and making together this week. 

Probably one of the most important questions is the WHY question.  Simon Sinek encourages us to KNOW OUR WHY! And while I agree that knowing your why is one of the most important things you can talk about in the conversation about makerspaces,  it is NOT necessarily the first question you need to find the answers to.  Sometimes you just need to start Making!  And the more you make the more you will be able to articulate your why.  Too many people think that you have to know your why BEFORE you move forward.  I think knowing your why is a process and sometimes you just have to LAUNCH and the clarity about WHY will happen as you reflect on your process.  It's sort of like playing with Legos - sometimes you hands know before your mind knows what it is building.  As we gain clarity about our WHY, we should also consider how we will assess whether we are hitting the target.  This week's institute will include some timely conversations around Assessment and how to approach (or not approach) assessment in our creating, making, and learning process. 

 The WHO questions are not always obvious.  But they are important ones.  Without explicit attention to the WHO questions, you might accidentally end up creating a space that is not inclusive.  Unfortunately that is a challenging condition to remedy.  There are several ways to talk about WHO is making in your makerspace, and making sure that you have someone on your team who wears an equity lens in your conversations about making is helpful.

These conversations are not linear or hierarchal.  So don't expect a recipe or a step by step guide. We'll weave in and out of of these conversations and this framework is meant to to get the gears turning helping to  frame our conversations around making in education.