Monday, January 30, 2023

Media Making Workshop Series

I'm super excited for my most recent collaboration with Vermont Rural Education Collaborative where we'll be offering a series of three 5-week session giving teachers the opportunity to create confidence with media-making tools as a vehicle for putting UDL and PBL into practice.

Putting UDL and PBL into Practice with Media Making

Design learning experiences that invite students to create their own special effects with videos, produce their own podcast episodes, and author their own interactive e-books. Experience the tools, process, and workflows that provide practical ways to implement elements of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Project Based Learning (PBL) in your instructional design.

Each session of this course will be offered online over 5 weeks with flexible asynchronous and some synchronous lab sessions via Zoom video conferencing offered on Wednesdays starting at 3:30 p.m. The first week starts with a 2-hour synchronous class session, followed by a one hour on-line module. 

  • Session 1: Producing Podcast Episodes with students 
    Feb 8, 15, 22, Mar 1, 8     (Workshop only) $300
  • Session 2 Creating Video Projects with students
    Mar 15, 22, 29, Apr 5, 12  (Workshop only) $300
  • Session 3 Authoring Interactive e-Books with students
    April 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17  (Workshop only) $300
  • Session 1, 2 & 3: Putting UDL and PBL Into Practice With Media Making
    February 8 – May 17
    $825 recertification only  ($75 savings)
    $1245 includes 3 graduate credits from St. Michaels College

More details in the syllabus.

You can also download a PDF flyer to share with friends and colleagues.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

How I introduce Microbits?

 I was recently asked how I introduce a new technology like micro:bits to student, so I thought I might write a blog post with some of my thoughts about this.  

What is the micro:bit you ask? 

officialmicrobit image
The BBC micro:bit is an inexpensive electronic circuit board designed for students to learn electronics and coding. It includes buttons and lights and sensors that lend themselves to creating amazing interactive projects. When a student connects the micro:bit to a computer with a USB cable, they can quickly program the board with new interactions using beginner-friendly code environments, such as Microsoft MakeCode.

Over the past few years, we’ve watched the popularity of micro:bit skyrocket in our educator community. The board’s rugged, yet friendly design holds up to repeated use and the curriculum developed by the Micro:bit Educational Foundation is top-notch and easy to implement.

 I've recently created this graphic to capture my pedagogical approach to learning through creating and making.  The framework has evolved from personal experience with teaching and learning and from the opportunity to learn with and from talented educators over the years. 

The INSPIRE phase is a time to explore something in a way that motivates the learner to create and make something meaningful. It is based on the belief that MOTIVATION is the foundation of all meaningful learning. There are several ways to create an activity that INSPIRES or motivates.   

One way that I introduce the micro:bit is by having students engage in a few rounds of Rock Paper Scissors.  This gets the whole class warmed up and thinking about fun.  It is a game that most learners are already familiar with so it connects to prior knowledge. 

Then I tell them that they are going to learn to create a fun wearable that can be used to play Rock Paper Scissors. 

Once a student is inspired, it is helpful to take some time to create confidence with new tools and processes.  I like to design some skill building sprints to build student confidence with a new tool or skill.

I love to introduce the micro:bit by teaching students how to create a Rock Paper Scissor bracelet.  
Not only does this activity lend itself well to learning to code and transfer data from your computer to the microbit, it also includes an opportunity for creativity in the way you design the bracelet.

I'll never forget the enthusiasm in one fifth grade students who approached me after class and said.  "That was hard.  It made my brain hurt. But I MADE A WEARABLE.  I can't wait to tell my mom." 

I especially like designing activities that lend themselves to cross-curricular integration.   I've picked up a few different books related to Rock Paper Scissors for students to dive into as well as a few web sites like this BBC News article: How to win at rock-paper-scissors

Here are just a few options for curricular integration.

During the Create Confidence phase,  I like to teach students how to learn on their own using the MAKE CODE tutorials. 

I encourage students to go through the DICE tutorial as it has so much potential for enrichment and expansion.  Once they understand how to navigate the various resources at their finger tips, they can  continue to grow their confidence on their own. 

Once students are starting to feel some creative confidence, it is time to challenge them to apply their skills and  MAKE SOMETHING MEANINGFUL. This can take on several forms.  I often refer to this list from a respected colleague, Michael Pope.

When preparing students to be successful in their meaningful project, Michael Pope, not only prepares them with skills using various technology, but he also prepares their mindset to experience the creative process and shares this graphic.

In a recent maker residency,  we offered the following prompt to  guide students into an INQUIRY LEARNING experience connected the EARTH DAY them Protect Our Species.  Students selected an endangered species and used an inquiry framework to complete research on that species. Then we challenged them to use their new micro:bit and coding skills  with the following prompt.

This provided many entry points for students to make something meaningful 
around a curricular theme.
Here are a few videos of students talking about their projects. 

One of the key components to introducing new technology is to use Design Thinking as part of your planning as an educator.  Consider the "humans" you are designing for and their needs.  What are their needs!  Ideate some possibilities!  Then prototype one of your ideas.  A maker residency is one of the ways you might prototype your design as an educator and test the prototype.  Then take the parts that work best and revise the rest. 

And for a peek into the whole design thinking residency we designed check out this video.

My commitment to Design Thinking lead me to Project Invent where we followed a similar approach with high school students using the micro:bit as our technology tool of choice. 

I love working with educators to design integrated thematic units and would welcome the opportunity to help your teachers think through the process (remotely or in real time) 
Contact me at ldelabruere @ gmail

Monday, January 16, 2023

WHY Create Beautiful Works with Media Making Tools


Today's world is filled with rich media --media that is being used to communicate, entertain, and persuade.  It makes sense that we would use it to teach children.  In my French speaking home, we certainly learned to speak English from the media that we watched on our television or the radio shows we listened to. 

I remember that our our high school had a full time audio visual department that rolled video cassette recorders, film strip projectors, and slide projectors with tape recorders into classrooms as instructional tools to help our teachers convey complex ideas.  

But probably the assignment that had the most impact on me in high school was the project we did creating our own multi-media slideshow in our Humanities class. I remember taking photos from books using a copy stand and having those converted to REAL slides that projected on the classroom wall in sync with the tape recorder playing the song "Bus Rider" by The Guess Who. 

Considering that this was in 1973, I would certainly describe my humanities teachers, Noel Ford and Maggie Griffith, as risk takers and  early adopters of educational technology and innovative teaching practices.  As a matter of fact, they are probably the reason I became a teacher.  And it was not because of the technology they used, but because they made me think deeply about everything.  I still refer to that class as my awakening as a learner. 

More than 50 years later, I am still a strong advocate of making media as a way to engage and empower students.  The tools we have to do this with no longer require a special AV room or special staff to roll them into our classroom. Today's tools allow us to design instruction using UDL strategies that allow students multiple modes of expression.  They allow us to provide instructional materials using multiple modes of representation, and they allow teachers to include multiple modes of engagement. 

Today's tools allow us to design instruction using UDL strategies that allow students multiple modes of expression.  They allow us to provide instructional materials using multiple modes of representation, and they allow teachers to include multiple modes of engagement. 

Using today's technology, a teacher can create multiple modes of representation by recording a podcast episode or making a movie that more clearly conveys a complex idea. They can combine the audio and video with text into an interactive e-book that students can access at school, at home, or even while riding the bus home. 

But even more exciting is that students, also, can also make media to create multiple modes of expression as they publish their own podcast, create their own movies, or author their own ebooks using tools that they carry in their pocket. 

And when you combine Universal Design for Learning with Project Based Learning design elements the possibilities for multiple modes of engagement expand even more.  

Media Making tools can provide student choice of several different public products to express their voice.  Students can create public products like Podcast, Videos, or interactive e-Books for authentic audiences.  They can collaborate as teams to dive into a sustained inquiry into a topic that interest them or a challenging problem or question.  The collaborative nature of today's media making tools like WeVideo, Canva, or Book Creator allow students to critique and revise their projects to create  what   Ron Berger calls Beautiful Works. 

But it takes more than digital tools to design powerful learning like those we see in in this Expeditionary Learning Project - Snakes Are Born This Way.  

Learn more about how this second grade classroom worked with  Ron Berger and Steve Seidel to achieve deeper learning goals and meet state standards while creating beautiful works in the form of a music video and interactive ebooks 

Berger: When I say “beautiful work,” people think aesthetically beautiful work. But I also think scientifically beautiful work, mathematically beautiful work—it can be in any field. Sometimes beautiful work is acts of courage and kindness and contribution to the world. Civic action can be beautiful work, artistic expression can be beautiful work, scientific ideas can be beautiful work.

I'm excited for my latest collaboration with Vermont Rural Education Council where educators can gain the creative confidence they need to make media by producing podcast, make movies with green screen and other special effects, and publish interactive e-books and apply their new skills to the design of instructions that uses Universal Design for Learning strategies and design elements for Project Based Learning. 

Monday, December 26, 2022

How Making for Others Contributes to Learning Process

The holiday season often brings the opportunity to MAKE for others.  Traditionally I've made lots of food gifts.  I love baking around the holidays  - especially French Canadian favorites like tortiere (meat pies) and Bouche the Noel.  I've also taken to making ornaments to give to my family.  

Since I especially love learning new tools and processes and I've been a bit obsessed with snowflakes lately, I came up with an ornament idea that involved all of the above. 

The ornament design I was envisioning provided me with the opportunity to learn to use for design as well as how to engrave acrylic using the Cricut Maker.  I also got to pull out my e-textile supplies and experiment with designing switches. 

In my recent experiences creating Code You Can Touch, I've been coding SnowFlakes. My laser cutter is a fun way to turn Code into something I can touch like this LED nightlight. 

 I realize that most schools don't have access to a laser cutter, but many schools have adopted computer controlled cutters like the Cricut Maker - and for those who don't yet - the cost is within reach.  So I purchased the Cricut Engraving tool which I've found for around $20 online and some acrylic blanks.  After watching a few YouTube videos for tips and tricks to engraving acrylic with the Cricut Maker, I  discovered that indeed it is possible to engrave with more accessible tools for schools.  As you might expect, its nowhere near as fast as it is on a laser cutter, but it can be done! 

I used the purple (stickiest mat), taped down by acrylic with blue tape, and changed my CUT line type to ENGRAVE and 20 minutes later I had engraved my first acrylic blank with a snowflake design.  However, I discovered that the engraving of an SVG file only engraves the outline of the graphic, and that was not the result I was looking for.  I wanted the Cricut to engrave inside my graphic.  After a little more research, I learned that using the SLICE feature of the Cricut Design software with a HATCH LINE FILL pattern would make the engraving look solid.  This  video created by Kay from Clever Someday, not only shows you how, but Kay also includes a Cricut Starter project with the line pattern you need for this technique. (look at her show notes in the video description)   It worked perfectly and helped me understand how engraving on acrylic works by scratching lots of lines close together and how to create that effect.  She also has lots of extra resources on her website/blog.

Also on my "To Do" list was to learn to use - a  web based tool I've recently discovered in my search for a tool that students could use on their Chromebooks to design SVG files.   Since Corel's take over of Gravit, I've been trying lots of different workflows and excited to discover not only works on a Chromebook, but that the company is also listening to educators' need for student data privacy agreements. 

I found the interface with Cuttle to be a little less intuitive than I had hoped, but after a little practice with their tutorials, I started to get the hang of their approach and was able to envision a design for my ornaments.  Of course, it helped that Cuttle had a beginning tutorial using SNOWFLAKEs -which I've been obsessed with lately.   The Getting Started  Part 1. and Part 2 were also particularly helpful. 

I must say that my prior limited knowledge with SVG design were both a help and a hindrance and I had bit of trouble wrapping my head around how uses MODIFIERS, but once I started to see how easy it was to  GROUP objects, and add or remove modifiers to the group using the panel on the right side of the screen, I began to really enjoy experimenting with Cuttle.  I still haven't figured out how to vectorize the border of a fat stroke without using the Stacked Layer modifier described above. I'm sure there is a way.  I'll do a different blog post that gets into my learning journey with Cuttle as I continue to learn more.   For now I'll continue to describe my experience designing these ornaments with broad strokes.  More details later, I promise. 

After successfully designing the snowflake from the tutorial and  using boolean operators to add the snowflake stems to a 3 inch circle, I was on my way to create the design I imagined.  Working with white poster board proved to be a great medium for this design. 

As if Cuttle was tuned into my snowflake obsession, they had created this really fun SNOWFLAKE NAME generator tool.    They even used a version of my name as an example (Lucia).  But I quickly started to create a design with the names of my grandchildren.  

Above you can see my first iteration.  After learning how to do a fill pattern for the engraving and how to size and center my SVG file I was engraving with my Cricut maker, I was excited to continue to experiment. 

Soon I discovered that with the right font and by playing around with the parameters of the snowflake name generator tool you could create some really beautiful snowflake designs. 

Above, you can see the SVG file I created for Julian by playing with parameters of  Cuttle's Name Generator  tool laid out on a Hatch Line pattern, ready for slicing in Cricut Design space. 
So much Fun!  

Inspired, I had an idea that required more learning with Cuttle.  What if I could blend the names of Julian's parents in a single ornament.  I knew what I wanted to accomplish, and it took a few tutorials to master the basics of Cuttle so that I had more control  with editing paths to accomplish this - but perseverance, a few more Cuttle tutorials,  and a growth mindset, helped me come close to my vision. 

My vision was to light up the acrylic snowflake name ornaments inside a bigger white snowflake.
For this I dug out my eTextile supplies:  conductive thread, sewable led, alligator clips, coin cell battery and battery holder, Very Skinny needle, and invaluable threader.   

I cut out a circle inside a circle from cardboard, and used conductive thread and a sewable LED. 

The sewable LED's were much brighter than my regular LED's and  created a nice contrast. They also fit snuggly against the edge of the acrylic. The corrugated cardboard provided the perfect channel for the conductive thread to pass through.

With a little experimenting I was able to create the right size hole (2.80 inches) in my snowflake design to glue onto the front and back of my cardboard that held my 3 inch acrylic ornament.

I was pretty excited about the main ornament design.
But then came the biggest challenge, 
how to create an assembly that would allow the ornament to be 
powered and switched off and on. 

My first iteration included sewing a snap onto the battery holder and onto some ribbon.
Unfortunately I did not have cloth ribbon, and this design didn't work so great with the Christmas ribbon laying around my place. 

I had more success experimenting with Cuttle to create different snowflake designs so each ornament could have its own unique snowflake. 

A few days later, I discovered a fabric shop nearby and picked up some cloth ribbon.
I kept experimenting with different designs for the switch and landed on one that seemed to work using Jie Qi's  paper coin cell battery holder.   I wrapped the conductive thread around the copper tape extensions.  I'm thinking it might have worked better with fabric based conductive tape. 

And after several days of making and practicing my growth mindset, I ended up with 4 rather large unique snowflake ornaments for Oliver, Julian, and their parents. 

And in between my ornament making sessions, I found time for some more age appropriate making with Julian and Oliver. 

Throughout the process I kept thinking about the fact that making for someone I loved, really contributed through the perseverance needed to exercise that growth mindset.  Many of us in education are familiar with Carol Dweck's work around Growth Mindset.  Making (especially making for others) is a fabulous way to help students develop that growth mindset.   Throughout my process this holiday, I kept thinking about how my motivation and perseverance were impacted because I was making for others I love and how I've seen this play out in several maker related learning experiences.  

So when you consider your WHY - in designing space for learning through creating and making in our schools,  consider Carol Dweck's research on growth mindset. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

The SnowFlake Challenge - Making an Artifact

If you've been following along with the 3 previous post, you are ready to MAKE SOMETHING fun with your SNOWFLAKE  design. 

In the last post we showed you how to take your Snowflake design from SCRATCH and convert it to an SVG file.

Once you have it as an SVG file you can choose your favorite maker tool to create something meaningful from the design you coded.

Many schools and libraries have electronic cutters like the CRICUT and SILHOUETTE cutter. These can be used to cut paper, vinyl, fabric, and much more.  

This video walks you through the steps you need to use your SNOWFLAKE svg file to create something with an electronic cutter like these ornaments.

I even got to create some new earrings 

on faux Suede cut on the Cricut

using my coded snowflake.

If you have access to a laser cutter, you could cut your design or etch your design on acrylic and insert it into a LED base to create a special night light.   

If you have access to a 3D printer, you can import your SVG file into TinkerCad
Adjust the size and send it to your 3D printer. 

So many possibilities!

And don't forget, you can always submit a photo of your SnowFlake Artifact
to our Code SnowFlake Challenge for a chance to win 
an LED nightlight with your SnowFlake Design.


Saturday, December 10, 2022

The Snowflake Coding Challenge Part 2 of 2

 Yesterday we completed the first 10 of the puzzles in  this lesson teaching Anna and Elsa to create designs with their skates and also teaching the Scratch cat to do the same using SCRATCH.

Today we will continue to grow our confidence with code as we complete the last 10 puzzles of   this  sequence on both and SCRATCH. 

With Puzzle 10, we learned to draw a parallelogram.

In Puzzle 11, we use the REPEAT code block to draw 4 parallelograms evenly spaced apart, turning 90 degrees before drawing the next.  Note that 360 degrees divided by 4 tells us that our angle turn should be 90 degrees. 

Can you make the Scratch cat draw 4 parallelograms evenly spaced apart, turning 90 degrees between each?  Hint: you could use 2 nested blocks to complete this task.

Notice the 2 loops that will be used in this code.  Can you put these 3 code sequences in the right order to complete the design above? 

Give it a try!

Does your CODE look like this? 

In Puzzle 12, we are challenged to create a similar design with 10 parallelograms.  You'll not only need to change the REPEAT, you'll also need to change the number of degrees you turn in between each parallelogram.  (Remember that a circle is 360 degrees)   

Go ahead and try to complete this challenge using the FROZEN tutorial and then code the Scratch cat to also create this design. 

Does your code look like this?

In Puzzle  13,  we learn to draw a circle by drawing one step, turning 1 degree, and repeating that process 360 times.   After completing the FROZEN tutorial, go ahead and code the Scratch Cat to draw a circle. 

Does your Code look like this? 

Puzzle  14 is introduces a very important skill -- Creating a Function!

This  video does a GREAT job explaining why Functions are so important.  After completing Puzzle 14 in the Frozen tutorial,  we'll want to create a similar function in SCRATCH. 

Because Scratch does not have a JUMP command, we will also be creating a function that allows the Scratch cat to jump along with a function that creates a circle. 

Let's get started! 

Learn to use the MY BLOCKS feature in Scratch to create a function and complete the Puzzle14 task.

Watch this video to learn how to create a function in Scratch that will create a circle and a function that will JUMP.

In Puzzle 15 you will use your  newly created Circle Function to create 20 overlapping circles.  After you complete the puzzle in try to code your Scratch Cat to create the same design. 

Does your code look something like this? 

In Puzzle  16, we learn how to make different size circles.

Watch this video from Colleen Lewis to better understand drawing circles in Scratch.  (Note: if the circle is too big and goes outside the canvas, the results are unpredictable and this formulas appears not to work when the sprite draws off the visible screen.

To successfully complete this mini-lesson, you'll need to learn how to add a PARAMETER to your Function using MY BLOCKS.  I created this video to show you how.

Now that you're feeling more confident with using MYBLOCKS in Scratch to create functions,  completing Puzzle 16  should be a breeze.   First try the puzzle, then try to do the same using Scratch.

Does your code look something like this? 

In Puzzle 17 you are challenged to create a pattern with 5 repeating circles of one size and 5 more repeating circles that are smaller.  You'll use the Circle Function you created earlier.   (For a uniform pattern, remember that 360 degrees / 5 is 72 degrees.)
Important Note:  Keep your steps smaller than 2 in Scratch if you want your circle to fit on the canvas. You can try to step 1.5 steps.   If you get circles that don't close, try a smaller step in your move command.

Let's see what pattern you come up with.  Does your code look similar to this? 

During Puzzle 18, you'll actually start to create a snowflake using functions that the folks at have created for you called "Snowflake Branch".  You will take their "SnowFlake Branch" function to create the beginnings of a snowflake.   Watch carefully as the snowflake branch is being drawn and start to think about what code you would use to create that SnowFlake Branch function yourself. 

Before you hop back to Scratch, go ahead and completePuzzle 19 in the lesson.  Look at that beautiful snowflake.  

Are you ready to use Scratch to create your own SnowFlake Branch. 

Let's start with a NEW Scratch Project. 
First SETUP these initial commands that you need at the beginning of your snowflake program. 

If you have not used the SHOW and HIDE commands this would be a good time to drag them out and make them part of your project.  Why not start every program by showing the CAT and ending your program by HIDING the CAT. 
Let's start by creating a very simple branch using code you already know how to use.

The next step is to decide how many times you would like to repeat your pattern to form a Snowflake Branch.  Add the repeat code to accomplish this, then add CODE that brings the Scratch cat back where it started.  Note: the number of times you repeat the pattern impacts the number of degrees you should turn. 

How about creating a JUMPSTEP function that allows you to move the cat without dragging the pen or drawing lines on your canvas. 
This could be helpful to bring the cat  back after each branch is drawn. 
When you are done, compare your code to my code.  Does it look similar?
If not, does it still do the job?

Now that you are getting good at functions, why not move the code you wrote to create your first snowflake branch  and use it as part of a new function  called SNOWFLAKEbranch.  You'll use MYBLOCKS to do this.

Once you have done that, you can use create a snowflake simply by using both the SNOWFLAKEbranch function and the JUMPSTEP function and adding code to turn your cat before it draws a new SnowflakeBranch. 

Here is how I did it.  Does your code look similar? 

Let's make one final touch that will help prepare our snowflake to be cut out of maker tools or  3D printed. generated.   Let's make the branches thicker and darker.   I used BLACK as pen color and 15 as my pen size to get the result below.  
You might be tempted to use a different color, but a black snowflake with thick lines will generate the best CUT when we get to the next step.  

Congratulations, you now have the skills you need to create several different snowflake branches. 

These final steps will result in a SNOWFLAKE svg file that can be used to create a real physical version of  the snowflake you coded.. 

Step 1. Hide the sprite. Then Right Click and SAVE the IMAGE. 
It will be saved in PNG format.  Rename it to make it easier to remember.

2. Navigate to an SVG converter site like and upload your snowflake. 
 Play with the filters until you find one that gives you the desired RESULT. 
 Hit DOWNLOAD  SVG.  It will download to your computer, where you can rename it.

I created a a short video that walks you through these steps. 

Once you have an SVG version of your creation, you can upload it to several maker tools to make something you can 'touch'.   I can't wait to see what you will create with your Code.
In the next post, I'll demonstrate how to upload your SVG into various maker tools so you can 3D print it or cut it from a laser cutter or other computer controlled cutter (i.e. Cricut, Silhouette)

Meanwhile,  you can keep playing with code and putting your new skills to the test by creating new designs.   

And finally in Puzzle 20, you get to design your own creations with code

or head over to Scratch and make your own designs.

After walking down 86th street in Brooklyn, I was inspired to code one of the snowflakes that stood out for me.   Here is the Scratch Project file where you can SEE INSIDE 

If you'd like to share your SnowFlakes with me - 
Fill out the form in the SNOWFLAKE Challenge and I'll add you to a drawing
for an LED nightlight made with your snowflake.