First Attempt in Learning (FAIL)

Day in and day out, there are problems that pop up in our school day…  students aren’t getting along on the playground, the copy machine is jammed, a student misses the bus.  As teachers, solving problems is part of the job.  But, what about those problems that are bigger than us?  What about those problems that are… dare I say… wicked?

What is a Wicked Problem?

“Wicked problems, they argue, cannot be solved in a traditional linear fashion because the problem definition itself evolves as new solutions are considered and/or implemented” (Koehler & Mishra, 2008).  Wicked problems are not the ones that can be brainstormed and solved like regular problems, because the wicked problem is always changing.  Wicked problems are a bit more complicated.  “Solutions to wicked problems are often difficult to realize (or maybe even recognize) because of complex interdependencies among a large number of contextually bound variables” (Koehler & Mishra, 2008).

Our Wicked Problem

A group of my MAET colleagues and I were given the task to learn about a wicked problem in education.  We were all interested in allowing failure to be as powerful a learning mode as success.  So, what’s the problem?


Failure Picktochart

Failing at something and learning from that failure is a powerful way to learn.  In fact, many careers are encouraging people to fail.  “We need digital age learners to be comfortable with failure.  And we need learners who know how to fail better” (Long, 2012).  All other avenues are encouraging people to take risks, fail, and learn from that… except for schools.

Our Process

It’s easy to want to immediately jump into creating a solution.  However, that’s exactly what we did not do.  What we did first was try to understand the problem.

My teammates and I started out by asking questions about our problem.  As Warren Berger states in A More Beautiful Question, “Question-storming can be more realistic and achievable than brainstorming.  Instead of hoping that you’ll emerge from a meeting with ‘the answer’ (which almost never happens and thus leaves people feeling frustrated), the goal is to come out of it with a few promising and powerful questions—which is likely to provide a sense of direction and momentum” (2016, p. 154).  We did just that.

After we came up with some questions, we took on the viewpoints of other people involved in this problem.  We looked at failure as a learning mode through the eyes of a parent, an administrator, a policy maker, and a student.  We tried to understand the problem and how it may impact others differently.

We also consulted our Personal Learning Networks (PLN) to get their attitudes and viewpoints on learning from failure.  Our results were similar to what we anticipated, and solidified some of the viewpoints we had on why failure as a learning mode is such a wicked problem.

Our Solutions

Taking everything we had researched and discovered into consideration, we came up with some questions that would help drive our solutions: What if we created a culture in our classrooms where failure is okay? What if teachers explicitly taught that failure is a beneficial part of the learning process?

While we know that the solutions we have come up with may not be perfect, we know that they are a start to moving in a different direction.  We have created a presentation which includes our problem, the data we collected from other teachers, as well as our suggestions for solutions to this wicked problem.

WPPScan the QR code to view our presentation.  If that doesn’t work, click here.



Knowing what I know now, I plan to go into this upcoming school year with a changed mindset.  Even when I think about myself personally, I can be afraid of failure as well.  However, when it comes to our learners, “…when learning a new concept and its associated procedures, we seem to learn better from our own failed solutions…” (Kapur, 2014).  My plan is to start off the school year creating the culture in my classroom where failure is okay, and encouraged.  I want my students to feel comfortable trying new things and not being afraid to fall, because that’s how they learn best.  Taking one small step in the right direction and starting by changing the culture in my classroom, makes this problem feel tiny less wicked.



Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Ed.),Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) (pp. 3–29). New York: Routledge.

Long, C. (2012, February). Teach Your Students to Fail Better with … Retrieved August 16, 2017, from ISTE article.pdf

Kapur, M. (2014). Productive Failure in Learning Math. Cognitive Science: A Multidisciplinary Journal. Retrieved August 16, 2017, from

Berger, W. (2016). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.


MAKING Creativity

This summer, I listened to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk for the first time.  I know, I know, I’m a little late to the game with that one… but they say better late than never, right?

sir kr
Attending Sir Ken Robinson‘s presentation at #MACUL17

I was given the absolute pleasure of seeing Sir Ken Robinson speak in March at the MACUL conference, where his mixture of humor and wisdom got me fired up and inspired to keep doing what I’m doing… because it matters.  After watching his TED talk, the same type of fire was ignited inside of me. 

In his TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson is passionate about creativity.  He’s so passionate about creativity that he shares his reasoning behind why he thinks school is killing that creativity.  And I have to say… I agree with him.

He says some pretty powerful statements in his discussion, such as:

“All kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them pretty ruthlessly” (Robinson, 2005).

“We are educating people out of our creativities” (Robinson, 2005).

“We don’t grow into creativity. We grow out of it.  Or rather, we get educated out of it” (Robinson, 2005).

Sir Ken Robinson is saying that we don’t put as much of an emphasis on letting children be creative, as we do in the academic areas.  He states that, “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy. And we should treat it with the same status” (Robinson, 2005).  Think about it.  There are more careers in this world besides crunching numbers and writing articles.  While those careers are important and needed, math and literacy get a lot more screen time in school than creativity does.

So… how can we let students get their creativity on?

One suggestion I have is: Makerspaces.  

Makerspaces are not the only way by any means to let students flex their creativity muscles at school.  However, with all of the reading and experimenting I’ve been doing with Makerspaces, I feel it’s a strong solution in allowing students to be creative.

When I was at MACUL in March, I attended a session on Makerspaces.  To be quite honest with you, I left the session feeling a little frustrated.  The presenter was great, so that’s not the reason why. But, I found myself wanting more of a definition and more of a structure to Makerspaces.  I knew that kids got to make stuff, but I didn’t understand the logistics, how it relates to the content, and the benefit of doing them.  I received a nice wake-up call when I found out that that’s the beauty of Makerspaces: there is no definition, and there is no structure.  Kids (and adults too!) get to make.  They get to be… you guessed it… creative.

However, if you’re like me 6 months ago and want a little more of a concrete idea of maker spaces, I will let the experts fill you in.  “Makerspaces are informal sites for creative production in art, science, and engineering where people of all ages blend digital and physical technologies to explore ideas, learn technical skills, and create new products” (Sheridan, Halverson, Litts, Brahms, Jacobs-Priebe, Owens, 2014).   Through maker spaces, makers get more out of it than just an opportunity to be creative.  “Being a maker in these spaces involves participating in a space with diverse tools, materials, and processes; finding problems and projects to work on; iterating through designs; becoming a member of a community; taking on leadership and teaching roles as needs; and sharing creations and skills with a wider world” (Sheridan et al., 2014). These are skills that go way beyond the classroom.  These skills will make students not only productive, but innovative adults as they grow. 

I’m going to leave you with the same words Sir Ken Robinson leaves his TED talk. 

“…the only way we’ll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being so they can face this future.  By the way, we may not see this future, but they will.  And our job is to make something of it” (Robinson, 2005).



Robinson, K. (n.d.). Do Schools Kill Creativity? Speech presented at TED Talk. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from

Sheridan, K. Halverson, E.R., Litts, B.K., Brahms, L, Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T. (2014) Learning in the making: A comparative case-study of three maker spaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505-565.

On Your Marks… Get Set… PLAY!

“How do we make school more like play?”

This was the question posed by Ben Rimes, the keynote speaker at STEAMLab 2017.  The wheels in my head immediately began spinning as I was curious to know more about what he meant.

Rimes had us describe play.  We said things like:






After some brainstorming, Rimes gave us a few definitions which made the wheels in my head go into overdrive.  He explained that play was “the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles” (Rimes, 2017).  He went on to say that work was “the voluntary attempt to overcome necessary obstacles” (Rimes, 2017).  Finally, he said that often times school is “the involuntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles” (Rimes, 2017).  Ouch.  I can confidently say that that is not exactly the type of experience I’m going for in my classroom.

So again… How do we make school more like play?

One example that Rimes gave was his video story problems.  Basically, as he’s out in the real world, he stops and starts to film himself posing some sort of question to his students using the setting around him (below is an example of one of his videos from his YouTube channel).  As he was sharing this example, I was thinking about my second-grade students.  I knew that if I started playing a video of myself in the middle of Target asking if I had enough money to buy these shoes, my students would be enamored.  Showing the real-world application of what they’re learning makes it relevant.  Seeing their teacher in an environment outside of what they’re used to is fun and engaging.  Plus, I think my second graders still think I live at school so what a fun way to blow their minds!

Toward the end of his presentation, Rimes had us get into groups and complete a Quickfire challenge.  Our challenge was to create a free-standing structure that would hold our “water” (it was really a small bouncy ball).  The structure had to be at least 12 inches tall, we couldn’t attach anything to the table, we could only use the materials in the provided envelope, and we had 20 minutes to complete the challenge.  With a few guidelines, Rimes was able to create an activity that was fun, engaging, gave us freedom to create what we wanted, was social because we were working with a group, and allowed us to use our imaginations… all of the things that we said characterized play.


So, what did we learn from this?

First of all, we had to be able to measure, since one of the guidelines was that it had to be 12 inches tall.  We had to be problem solvers when our structure wouldn’t stay standing.  We had to be critical thinkers when figuring out what materials to use and to make sure we didn’t waste everything at once.  We had to be able to communicate and collaborate with one another in order to meet the rules of the structure.  “Other schools are integrating aspects of design thinking and playfulness into the curriculum, providing time during the day or during a unit for this kind of free exploration” (Hertz, 2012).

What we did with our quickfire is something that Rimes calls serious play.  He explained to us that serious play is “play with a purpose and intention that goes beyond having fun” (Rimes, 2017).  Building our structure for our Quickfire challenge was not only fun, but it was intentional.  As Rimes says, “Serious play is the essence of innovation” (2017).

Once our 20 minutes to create was up, we didn’t pack up our materials and go home.  What we did next is the most pivotal part of serious play: reflection.  “Effective reflection is key to making playful, steam, and maker learning successful in the classroom” (Rimes, 2017).  Not only did we reflect on our planning process and completion of the task, but we discussed our teamwork, communication, and creativity.  We celebrated the things that went well.  We were honest about the things we would do differently in the future.  We spoke to the new things we learned from this experience.

Ben Rimes has truly inspired me.  I am happy to say… I am serious about play.



Rimes, B. (2017, July 19). Address presented at STEAMlab 17 in Michigan, Lansing.

Hertz, M. B. (2012, November 06). Creating Makerspaces in Schools. Retrieved August 14, 2017, from

Beautiful Questions = Beautiful Solutions

If anyone has spent more than 10 minutes with a small child, you are well aware that they ask what feels like a million questions.

“We’re going to the grocery store.”


“To get some more milk.”


“Because we ran out of milk so we need to get more.”


“So you can have milk with your cereal tomorrow morning.”


And the questions go on and on and on.

I hope you’re nodding your head in agreement with how real of a situation this is.  However, those kids are really onto something with this questioning thing.

In Warren Berger’s book, A More Beautiful Question, he states that, “You can attempt to adjust the way you look at the world so that your perspective more closely aligns with that of a curious child” (2016, p. 75).  We start out as young children being curious of any and everything around us, but as we get older, the questioning seems to take a sharp decline.  “Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. By middle school, they’ve pretty much stopped asking” (Berger, 2016, p. 44).  If we’ve stopped asking by middle school, imagine the lack of questions running through our heads and out of our mouths as we are in our workplaces as adults.


A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger


However, it’s important that we continue to question just like we would if we were four years old.  In fact, asking those “How?”, “What if?”, and “Why?” questions can lead to solutions to those tough problems you’re pressed to solve.  Especially as teachers and in our practices, there are many wicked problems that could possibly have solutions a lot closer if we stepped back and asked some of those tough questions.

Let me tell you why.

To start off, by stepping back and asking those “How?”, “What if?”, and “Why?” questions, the conversation about change can start.  If you’re looking to find a solution, it sounds like some changes need to be made.  “Increasingly businesses must tackle more sophisticated open questions (Why? What if? How?) to thrive in an environment that demands a clearer sense of purpose, a vision for the future, and an appetite for change” (Berger, 2016, p. 138).  Although Berger is talking about businesses in this particular sense, thinking about it from an education standpoint, those “How?”, “What if?”, and “Why?” questions could surely serve the same purpose.

Typically, when trying to find the solution to a problem in the workplace or in the classroom, it takes more than one person to come up with something that pleases everyone.  When I come across a problem in my classroom, rarely do I ever try to come up with a solution on my own.  I’m always popping my head into my teammate’s classrooms asking their opinions on what I should do next.

“This math lesson really tanked.  How did it go for you? What should I do differently next time?”

“I’m having a hard time making this exciting.  What do you think I should do?”

“Can I ask your opinion on something?”

For those little day to day problems that pop up, I rely on those around me to help push my thinking and give me a perspective I hadn’t thought of. “Collaborative thinking in problem solving is essential because it brings together multiple viewpoints and diverse backgrounds.” (Berger, 2016, p. 153) Collaboration goes a long way, especially with trying to make progress on those bigger issues.

In A More Beautiful Question, Berger is a fan of collaborating to come up with a solution, but he says instead of brainstorming ideas in those big meetings, we should be question-storming.  “Question-storming can be more realistic and achievable than brainstorming.  Instead of hoping that you’ll emerge from a meeting with ‘the answer’ (which almost never happens and thus leaves people feeling frustrated), the goal is to come out of it with a few promising and powerful questions—which is likely to provide a sense of direction and momentum” (Berger, 2016, p. 154).  One person’s question on the topic most likely will inspire another question on the topic, and the ball will continue to roll.

If someone were to tell me that answering a question with more questions would help get to a solution, I would think they were crazy.  However, I think these kids (and Warren Berger) are onto something here.  Don’t you?



Berger, W. (2016). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.


Colors, Light, and Seating… Oh my!

Every teacher can probably relate.  You get hired in your district, go through the onboarding process, and the first question that crosses your mind is, “When can I get into my classroom?”

Setting up a classroom for the new school year is one of the fun and exciting parts of being a teacher.  It’s a fresh start year after year, and you get to make your classroom your own.  Personally, I don’t even start school for another three weeks, and I’ve been in about three times already to organize and set up a few things.

I’ve always known that the environment and feel of a classroom plays an important role in not only my day, but my students’ day.  However, what I didn’t know was the science behind classroom environment… until now.  Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, and Kobbacy state that “classroom design could be attributed to a 25% impact, positive or negative, on a student’s progress over the course of an academic year” (2013).  Classroom design is something that should not be taken lightly, because it really does make an impact on our students.

One of our tasks this week was to redesign our ideal classroom environment based off of what we’ve read from The Third Teacher+.  If you have never heard of The Third Teacher+ (which I hadn’t before this week), I would highly recommend checking it out before you head in to set up your classroom for this new school year because I can’t even begin to explain how inspired I am!

As I was doing some reading on classroom designs this week, I learned so much about the WHY behind your environmental design.  Your classroom shouldn’t be just a classroom, but a learning experience.  There are a few factors to keep in mind when creating your learning environment. “Six of the design parameters–color, choice, complexity, flexibility, connection, and light–had a significant effect on learning” (Barrett et al., 2013).

As I designed my ideal space, my main goal was to create a place that was student-centered.  I thought a lot about the set up of the tables and chairs in order to create a space that encourages collaboration, discussion, and community.  I wanted to be sure that students were able to sit together, but that the set up could be moved quickly and easily when needed.  It is important that “the teacher can easily change the space configuration” (Barrett et al., 2013).  With this thought in mind, I decided to use round tables on wheels, and office chairs that are on wheels for students to easily move and swivel in.

Screenshot (2)
An overview of my ideal classroom space. I used round tables and chairs on wheels to allow for flexibility in the furniture set-up.


In my actual classroom, I am fortunate enough to have two large windows that let in a lot of natural light.  I personally love having the blinds open and letting the sun shine in.  As an adult, it makes my mood better and I feel that the natural light makes the space feel better.

For students, there are some definite effects on their learning when the natural light is shining in.  Barrett, Zhang, Moffat and Kobbacy found in their study the importance that the “classroom receives natural light from more than one orientation. And (or) natural light can penetrate into the south windows” (2013).  Knowing this, I created large windows in my ideal space that would allow for a lot of natural light to come in.  I also added some pillows and cushions to the window ledges to allow for some flexible seating that students can use to read and complete classwork.

Screenshot (4)
Large windows allow for a lot of natural light to come in. I’ve also added pillows and cushion to the ledges to allow for flexible seating.


As a primary teacher, it can be easy to get a bit carried away at times with creating things that are cute and colorful.  I love fun colors, and I quickly realized how much of a role color can play in a learning environment.  “Complexity and color both have to do with providing an ample amount of visual stimulation for students in the classroom” (Barrett et al., 2013).

Too many colors can easily overstimulate a child, so the experts state that “warm colour is welcomed in senior grade’s classrooms while cool colour in junior grades, as long as it is bright” (Barrett et al., 2013).  I took this idea and ran with it.  In my ideal classroom, I decided to use a bright blue color on two of the walls.  I thought that the blue would be a nice, cool color, but that the brightness of the blue would be good for my 2nd grade minds.

Screenshot (5)
The blue wall is a cool color that is also bright for my primary students. On this particular wall, I added a large white board and a meeting space for collaborative learning.
Screenshot (3)
On this wall, I added a couch for more flexible seating. I also added another table on wheels that students could freely move around the room, as well as a bulletin board for students to use to help make the space their own.


When creating this ideal space, I wanted it to feel less like a typical classroom, and more like a cozy learning space.  I am a firm believer that students spend more time in their week at school than they do at their homes, so I want to make a space that they can productively learn and feel comfortable in.  Although dreaming up my ideal space was fun, the excitement is spilling out of me as I think about all of the ideas I’m going to actually do.  The mindfulness is real.



Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi:

Building My Shelves and My Confidence

Big news… The industrial pipe shelves are officially done!

If you haven’t been along for the ride that has been creating my industrial pipe shelves, check out my last blog post to catch up.  As you may have picked up from my last post, when I first started this project I was feeling frustrated and not confident that I could even finish.

Now? I feel like I could tackle anything.

In order to create my industrial pipe shelves, I had to use a few tools that I had never touched before.  By jumping in and giving it a try, I realized that I need to approach challenging things with a different mindset.  Through this project, and other MAET projects, I’ve realized that I preach to my students about having a growth mindset and not being afraid to fail.  However, when it comes to myself, I don’t often take my own advice.

To say I was terrified to use a miter saw, electric sander, and wood stain was an understatement.  These tools and products are all things that I’ve seen my mom and dad use throughout the years, but never ever felt that I could use them to create something.  However, knowing that this project needed to get done and that I was the one that needed to do it made me jump in a little faster than I typically would have.

Speaking of my mom and dad, my parents are VERY handy people.  They have renovated their own home, along with helping my brother renovate his, and everything they touch turns out beautifully.  So, you may imagine how challenging it was not being able to ask them to show me or explain how to do something. “The meaning of ‘knowing’ has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it” (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).  I learned more than I could have ever imagined by actually doing what I learned.  Instead of being able to rely on my parents to show me how something was done, I had to find the information myself, and implement it myself.  I feel like I learned more by finding it and using it than I would have had I been shown.  It was a little strange using the internet as my teacher, but I loved that I could watch an example, and re-watch when I felt I needed a little more guidance.  Before I explain my step-by-step process of creating my shelves, I have to give my internet teachers a little shout out.

First and foremost, my inspiration for the whole project came from Joanna Gaines’ blog At Home.

I learned how to cut my PVC Pipes with a Miter Saw from DIY Chad on YouTube.

I watched Bruce Johnson sand and stain wood on YouTube as well. (And I’m glad I did because I would NEVER have known that you’re supposed to wipe the stain off!)

I hope that I can be someone else’s internet teacher when it comes to creating industrial pipe shelves (on a budget too!).  So, I have created a video showing step-by-step what I did to create my shelves.

Action Steps

Click on the link for my printable Google Doc detailing each step on how I created my industrial pipe shelves!

Unfortunately, I have not moved into my new place yet so the shelves have not officially been hung up. But, they are ready when the time comes! I can’t wait to brag to all of my guests that those shelves were hand-crafted by yours truly.  Stay tuned for the updated photos of my hung shelves with décor on them!

My planned out industrial pipe shelves, complete with measurements.

If I can do this, so can you! My words of advice to the next person tackling industrial pipe shelves, or any new project, is to jump right in and try these new things you’ve never done before. You’ll be surprised with what you can do. I’m so glad that I was able to get out of my own head and get to work on this project. The finished product is better than I ever could have imagined.


Read Part 1 and Part 2 of my Industrial Pipe Shelf journey!


Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington: National Academy Press.


Looking Through My MAET Lens

Planning a lesson using my MAET Lense required me to think a little differently than I usually do.  I typically do try to plan lessons that are engaging, collaborative, and hands-on.  However, incorporating more technology than I normally do had me think with a different mindset.  Although a bit uncomfortable at first, this mindset is one that I plan to continue to use when planning my future lessons.

The practice that I am referring to is called TPACK.  “If educators are to repurpose tools and integrate them into their teaching, they require a specific kind of knowledge that we call technological pedagogical and content knowledge (TPACK)” (Mishra & Koehler, 2009).  TPACK is a part of this MAET Lens that I am looking through.  TPACK is all about connecting your technological knowledge, content knowledge (the subject you’re teaching), and pedagogical knowledge (how you teach it).

Let me give you a bit of a glimpse into my thought process when planning my introductory lesson to a 2nd grade social studies lesson about communities.

In the book I’m currently reading, A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger, he discusses the Right Question Institute’s “Question Formulating Technique”.  The rules are simple, “write each question down, don’t debate or try to answer questions, just keep AMBQtrying to think of more questions” (Berger, 2016, p. 61).  Basically, students come up with as many questions as possible that is in regards to the topic (which staying on the topic can sometimes be challenging for 2nd grade students!).  The point is to question and not to answer.

The reasoning behind starting my unit this way is because “in this class, and in others where the Right Question Institute’s technique has been tried, a high level of engagement among students has been observed” (Berger, 2016, p. 62).  Since this lesson is intended for the beginning of the unit, I wanted to give students an opportunity to get all of their initial thoughts and questions out there.  I felt that by giving them the opportunity to question, it would help make them excited to answer those questions through their learning in this unit.

After getting our questions about the content out there, I wanted to introduce the vocabulary of urban, suburban, and rural communities.  I decided to do that through a YouTube video because I liked the idea of giving student the opportunity to see real-life visuals of what these communities look like.  Since the video is a bit long, I have decided to chunk it by having students turn and talk to one another after each community is introduced.  This not only helps to chunk the video, but helps to keep kids engaged and share their thinking with another classmate.

In order to make student thinking even more visible, students will work with a partner to create a Popplet for either an urban, suburban, or rural community.  I chose Popplet to use because it is extremely user-friendly, and especially easy for kids to use.  Since this program allows student to make a mind map, I felt it would be an appropriate tool to use for mapping out what each community might look like.  The program allows students to use pictures or text to organize their ideas.  This is what I want them to do when it comes to thinking about the characteristics of a particular community.  Using Popplet is a great way to incorporate technology in a practical way when it comes to this lesson.


popplet 1
A Popplet example from


Like anything else that’s new, it takes time to become good.  When it comes to using my MAET Lens, including everything I’ve learned about TPACK, the more I use it, the better I’ll become.  The same goes for you, and my hope is that my lesson plan is a helpful tool to help you look through these lenses too.



Berger, W. (2016). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2009). Too Cool for School? No Way! International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved August 4, 2017.

DIY Project Update

If you’re just joining me for the first time, or if you have other things going on and can’t remember what my last blog post on this topic was about, I will give you a bit of a refresher before I continue with my progress.

For my Master’s program, we were assigned the Networked Learning Project (NLP).  The point of this project is to pick something that you don’t know how to do, do some research on how to do it, and record your progress along the way.  I decided to create Industrial Pipe Shelves for the new condo that I am purchasing.  I was originally inspired by this picture from Joanna Gaines’ blog, At Home, and wanted to recreate the shelving unit.

My inspiration for my industrial pipe shelves from Joanna Gaines’ blog, At Home.

Now that you’re up to speed on what I’m doing, I’ll bring you up to speed on how it’s going.

With my Joanna Gaines photo and supply list in hand, I went to Lowe’s earlier this week to do some supply shopping.  When I got to the plumbing aisle to pick out my pipes, my vision changed very quickly.

I marched right up to the black pipes, just like in the picture, and stopped in my tracks when I saw the price of ONE pipe.  My jaw just about hit the floor when I saw that I would have to pay $9.58 for one of the pipes I needed, and the supply list called for about 12 different sizes of pipes.  Not to mention all of the connectors and flanges I’d need in order to put the unit together.  I’m sure it’s no surprise, but a teacher that just finished up her second year of teaching is not working with an unlimited budget.  When I did a quick estimation in my head, all of supplies would probably cost me about $350.  I just couldn’t rationalize spending that amount of money.

I’m not even going to act like I had a good attitude about my findings.  I was frustrated and didn’t know what I was going to do.  I felt defeated and considered just scrapping this whole idea, emailing my instructors, and telling them that I was going to start over with a whole new idea.

I knew that starting over would probably be worse than finding some other materials to use.  So, I dragged my feet over to the next aisle, where I found some PVC pipes that cost $2.10 each.  After looking at some of the pipes and coming up with a new plan, I decided to load up my cart with PVC supplies.  Still not thrilled with my Plan B, I decided to buy some metallic black spray paint that looks very similar to the color of the pipes I was originally looking at.  Even as I’m sitting here writing this now, I’m not totally convinced that my shelves will look as good with my spray-painted PVC pipes, but I’m going to give it my best try.

After I found my pipes, I had to go to the lumber section to find some wood for the actual shelves.  I found a 96-inch-long piece of wood that I decided I would cut into three shelves.  Since it didn’t make sense to purchase two of the 96-inch-long pieces of wood to get the four shelves like in the picture, I decided to modify my design again, and create a shelving unit with three shelves.

At Lowe’s, they have a wood cutting service. I had them cut my big piece of wood into shelf-sizes.

When all was said and done, I spent about $50 on all my supplies.  To me, much better than the projected $350.

The biggest challenge for me thus far, has been the planning process of this project.  I’m doing something I’ve never done before, so the fact that the supplies didn’t work out the way I had originally planned really threw me off.  After I calmed my frustrations and sat down to think it through, I created a plan and feel better with going forward.

My modified plan that I based off of the plan on Joanna Gaines’, At Home.

Resources and Next Steps

I have been using the Joanna Gaines, At Home, as a guide for modifying my design.  I drew up a new plan for myself, and feel confident in what I’m doing now that I have measurements to go off of.

I watched a YouTube video called How to cut PVC piping using a miter saw.  My dad has a miter saw that he let me use, so I learned how to cut my pipes into the sizes I needed.

I’ve also come up with my next steps:

  • Assemble the PVC pipes into the unit
  • Spray paint the pipes
  • Stain the wood shelves
  • Put the wood onto the pipes and attach to the wall

My nerves have calmed now that I know what’s coming next.   I feel ready to get my hands dirty and to learn from this experience.  “The newcomer has an action to take in the experience, has clear goals, and has a clear sense of what counts as success” (Gee, 2013).  My goals are clear and completing each step is a success.  I can’t wait see what else I learn.

Read Part 1 and Part 3 of my Industrial Pipe Shelf journey!



Gee, J. P. (2013). Digital Media and Learning: A Prospective Retrospective. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from

All photos on this page were taken by me.

The True Story of the Maker Faire

We have to do WHAT?

Let me set up the scene for you.  I’m sitting in Day 2 of my in-person classes for my Master’s.  Still a bit unsure of how things work and still not even confident in everybody’s names in the room.  Suddenly, we’re told…

All eight of you are going to plan a Maker Faire.  It will be next Thursday.”

You could feel the overall confusion in the room.  I had a tiny understanding of the maker movement, so I could assume what a Maker Faire was, but didn’t know where to even begin planning an event that would be held in nine days with eight people I had just met the day before.

Before I continue, if you’re like me and are not totally sure what the maker movement is, I am happy to give a little insight.  “The maker movement refers broadly to the growing number of people who are engaged in the creative production of artifacts in their daily lives who find physical and digital forums to share their processes and products with others” (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014).  With that being said, the Maker Faire encompasses this idea of making.

If I’m completely honest with you, I had trouble with the definition being so broad.  I wanted a more concrete definition of WHAT a Maker Faire exactly was.  Now that I’ve learned more about it, I think I’m finally okay with the idea that it is such a vague idea because making can be whatever you want it to be.  Even the experts leave it pretty open-ended.  “Making refers to a set of activities that can be designed with a variety of learning goals in mind” (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014).


A sign I made directing participants throughout the Maker Faire (Photo taken by Mary Wever)


The Planning Process

Now that it’s over and I am looking back on the Maker Faire, I’m proud of how it turned out.  I do feel like if I were to do it again, I would do some things differently now that I know more of what to expect.  In my opinion, I do feel that the planning process could have gone a little better, but it also could have gone way worse.

Let’s talk about the planning of the whole Faire first.  Since there were eight people planning it, there were a lot of ideas.  In retrospect, if I were to plan an event at my school or for my family, I would probably be planning with one or two other people.  With eight people, there were a lot of hands on deck.  Which sometimes was awesome, and other times a bit frustrating.  It seemed like everyone was willing to pitch in and take a task, which was great.  However, when we would spend tons of time talking about an action and not actually doing it, it felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen.

Planning my booth, The Three Little Pigs Challenge, with my partner Laura was great.  We had great communication, we both have a similar work ethic, and it never felt like one person was doing more than the other.  We were both very open-minded about the whole thing, so it was easy to make changes and bring up other suggestions.  I felt confident and proud of what we came up with, and I had a lot of fun working with her too.  I do feel that since it was only two of us, it was easier to make decisions and to really think through the logistics of our booth.  Check out our planning document to learn more about what our Three Little Pigs Challenge was, and how we planned it out.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Bringing it Back to the Classroom

Looking at the maker movement from a teaching perspective, I feel that there is great value in making.  Allowing students to make gives them the freedom to unleash their creativity, use their hands, problem solve and work together.  “Bringing the maker movement into the education conversation has the potential to transform how we understand ‘what counts’ as learning, as a learner, and as a learning environment” (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014).  By allowing students to be makers in the classroom, they are learning more than they ever could through just the curriculum.  Students are also learning real-world skills that continue on outside of the classroom.

Our class had been reading and discussing the maker movement, but actually being a part of the Maker Faire made me that much more excited to bring it into my classroom.  Last year, I had my students do a few STEM challenges inconsistently throughout the year.  The more I’m reading about it and actually doing them, I feel that my mindset is changing and I’m jumping on the maker train.  The excitement is erupting out of me when I think about all the amazing things my students will come up with.  Watching some of the kids that came through our booth during the Maker Faire, seeing them communicating, collaborating, troubleshooting, and being creative really solidified any doubts I had about doing this in my classroom.

My first piece of advice to anybody wanting to replicate our activity (check out our lesson plan for step-by-step instruction) would be to think through and test everything first.  Laura and I had originally over-complicated our materials.  By thinking it through and testing out what we had planned, we realized that it would be too difficult to manage.  Which brings me to my next piece of advice: be flexible.  After realizing what we had was too much, we both looked at each other and said almost simultaneously, “We need to change this.”  It’s okay if your plan changes along the way.  Lastly, I would say to have an open mind and have fun with it.  Some of the people that came through created designs that I never would have even thought of.  Personally, I learned a lot from their creations, and based off the of conversations and interactions I observed, they learned a lot from each other.

Making, creating, conversing, trouble-shooting, having fun.  What more could you ask for?

Sharable Resources:

Planning Document

Lesson Plan



Halverson, E. R., & Sheridan, K. M. (2014). The Maker Movement in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 495-503. Retrieved July 20, 2017.

Don’t Get Hit by the Bus

When I decided to pursue my Master’s degree in Educational Technology, I found that when I shared the news with the people around me, that I received more “push back” than I would have ever anticipated.  Family members and colleagues were proud and excited for me that I was furthering my education, but many of them had questions about the focus of my studies.

“Well what are you going to do with that?”

“Does that mean you’re trying to get out of the classroom?”

“How are you planning on using that?”

To answer these questions briefly, I can confidently say that I’m going to do a lot with it, my plans are to stay in the classroom, and I’m going to use this degree in many many ways.

However, this wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I just stopped right there, so let me elaborate.

In my opinion, the world is way more different than it ever has been in the past.  With the way that technology is moving, the world looks differently than it did when I was a kid in the 90s, when I was in middle school in the early 2000s, and when I was a high school senior in 2010.  Not to sound like a crabby old lady, but when I was the age of the students I teach, I didn’t really even know what the internet was.  Now?  “Students in the K-12 system have never known a world without the Internet” (Richardson, 2013).

These students are growing up in a world where everything they need to know can be searched on the device in their pocket.  These students have the resources they need to find any information they could want to know at home, but those same resources are stripped from them at school.  “They expect to use their technology to get their answers…except in school. In school, we ask them all sorts of questions that they could answer with their phones or laptops, but we don’t let them” (Richardson, 2013).  For these reasons, we need to evaluate the ways we use technology in our classrooms.

These students sitting in our classrooms today are not the same kids sitting in classrooms 10 years ago.  I would know, I was one of those students.  Ten years ago, I was a high school freshman.  We had a computer lab that my teacher would take a class trip to so we could type our papers.  When we were assigned video projects, I had to ask my dad to help me record on his camcorder.  I had a flip phone and an iPod Nano in my backpack.  Take a look in any classroom today and you will most likely see Chromebooks or iPads, Elmo projectors and Smartboards.  Technology is at our fingertips in 2017, and it doesn’t seem like it’s slowing down anytime soon.

To answer the question of why I decided to pursue this Educational Technology degree, the times are changing and we have to change with them.  Kids are not the same as they were 10 years ago, so we can’t expect school to look like it did 10 years ago.  The world doesn’t look like it did 10 years ago.  “If we continue to see schools as the place where our children go to master a narrow list of content, knowledge and skills that were originally defined almost 150 years ago, we risk putting those kids out into the world with little idea of how to take advantage of the explosion of learning opportunities that now exist” (Richardson, 2013).

So… what now? Richardson says, “I think the first step is that educators have to reexamine their own learning practice and move toward becoming more networked and connected themselves” (2013).  For me, learning more about the technology world and how to bring it into my classroom is my first step.  I need to connect with my students in this world that they are already so connected to themselves.  As an educator, I’m realizing more and more that being open minded and willing to take risks is key in evolving yourself.  A simple mindset shift can go a long way.

At the end of last summer, I remember hearing someone at a PD session say, “These kids are coming whether you like it or not.  So, you either get on the bus, or you get hit by it.”  I feel that saying holds true in this situation too.  These kids are coming to our classes more and more connected to their world each year.  So, you either become more and more disconnected with them, or you embrace and roll with it.

I don’t know about you… but me?  I’m already waiting at the bus stop.

123/365 Stuck behind a bus




Richardson, W. (2013, February 17). Why School? TED ebook author rethinks education when information is everywhere. Retrieved July 19, 2017, from

Images: iPod Nano


Bus Stop