“Making” a Fire – New ideas shaped by the Maker Movement

As I conclude my journey through Maker education as delivered through Michigan State’s CEP 811 course I felt challenged and inspired by the work that I have done the last couple of months. In order to share this journey with you I sought out another tech tool as a bit of a challenge to myself. I could have brushed off the old Prezi, but I was looking for something different I hadn’t used before. My sister told me to try Biteslide.com so I gave it a whirl. It was a little more elementary than I was looking for, but it gave me a fresh spin on the ideas I wanted to share. Let me know what you think of it as well as my reflections on CEP 811.

Extending Creativity to…Assessment?


When educators and parents talk about what makes children excited about learning, they always talk about these traits of creativity, ingenuity, and innovation. Even though schools are charged with developing and letting students explore their creativity, rarely do we discuss how we should assess these skills. Yet these are the skills that every educator and parent want their students to develop. As an educator charged with the assessment of student learning, I would assess creative problem solving during maker-inspired lessons by making slight changes to what I already do. Although creativity can be assessed, I do not think that the best way of assessing the work is through grades. Instead I would rather report and reflect accurately on what students know and are able to do. Right now the best system I have discovered for honest and accurate assessment/feedback is with standards-based grading and a standards based report card.


My school works collaboratively using the systematic framework of Pearson’s Assessment Literacy project. First, we broke down all of the standards for any course we offer into series of learning targets (always refining!). Each learning target was identified as to having a purpose (knowledge, reasoning, performance, or skill).  This is similar to the “standards map” that was created by Green Street Academy (Isselhardt, 2013, p. 1). We then added target-specific rubrics to the map. In doing so, the work reflected Grant Wiggins who said, “we can do and measure anything” (Wiggins, 2012, p. 1). When assessment is aligned to the target rather than the assignment, it indicates to the student that creativity is valued in this environment. Students do not have to be fixated with some of the notorious elements of rubrics such as “Neatness” or “Participation” or “Follows directions”. In addition, all of the projects are framed as suggested paths. Students then have the freedom to do and create to meet these targets.They also have unlimited options to revise their work or change forms, or even come up with a project of their own that demonstrates the targets – as long as they have a supervising educator. That means students literally can do anything they want to prove they have met the targets. It is freeing as an educator to assess this kind of creative work through the lens of learning targets. It means I do not have to look at 40 carbon copies of the same assignment and it also allows students to access multiple intelligences.

This year as my school’s curriculum coordinator I have been leading the work with regards to rubrics and student feedback. As Wiggins stated without the “right criteria and multiple and varied exemplars” there is a danger that students will feel that rubrics will stifle criteria (Wiggins, 2012 p. 1) so I have been working with my fellow teachers on refining this process to make rubrics as clearly linked as possible to the learning targets.

Even with all the merits to our program’s process and the advantages of standards-based grading and assessment literacy, there are drawbacks to this system as well. As Isselhardt points out, how to best prepare your students when they have difficulty working cooperatively is always a challenge (Isselhardt, 2013 p. 1). The at-risk population I work with have a lifetime of distrust built up from negative interactions with students and peers. It can be tough to break down those barriers. However, I harken back to the thoughts of James Paul Gee in his book The Anti-Education Era where he asks if human minds potentially need “to integrate with tools and other people’s minds to make a mind of minds?” (Gee, 2013 p. 2473). How to better assess the skills of collaboration is the next phase in the assessment process I want to embark on.

idea-light-bulb-clip-art-black-and-white-MTLEnkBTaThe next phase that we are aiming to codify through assessment are students’ social-emotional skills  We want to grow students’ competencies in areas such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving (Gee, 2013 Loc: 2730) and next year I am helping to lead the work on developing a learner profile, projects, and assessment framework. The end result is I hope to lead more groundbreaking work into how to assess the WHOLE student – I think it would make Grant Wiggins proud!


Carroll, Andrew. Information Diet. [Image file]. Retrieved from http://cpaandrew.com/2013/09/27/the-information-diet-a-review/


Gee, James. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. Palgrave Macmillan.

Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/PBL-aligned-to-common-core-eric-isslehardt

Johnson, Clay. Startup Information Diet. [Image file]. Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2012/02/21/startup-information-diet/

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/


Passion, Creativity = Why I do what I do

It may sound trite, it may sound cliche, but the best way I can explain the passion and curiosity I bring to my work as an educator as well as the technologies I use  is with the opening project I remixed for the blended learning program I helped create – The Curiosity Project. . By walking you through some of the highlights of this project, I hope to show you how I am re-imagining education and what I am passionate and curious about in education, schools, and students. Each highlight corresponds to a # on the screenshot I took of the project.

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 8.40.45 PM

#1 – The title of this project reads “Curiosity Project”. It is the first project that every student has to do when they enter our program. It is a full-length, in-depth research project of the likes that many students haven’t ever seen or if they have gave up during the formal process. When I started to design curriculum for our new fledgling program I knew that I wanted students to do an actual formal independent research project, but this project is designed for students to conduct research on a project that they are curious and passionate about. First, because I knew that research and all the associated knowledge and skills with research are crucial for success in a blended personalized learning environment. Second because it starts the promotion of the idea that Thomas L. Friedman shares in his article “It’s the P.Q. and C.Q. as much as the I.Q.”, which is that students need to practice how to be lifelong learners. The at-risk students I worked with think, before they start this project, that school is completely divorced from their reality. They ARE passionate about learning, but they are NOT passionate about school. They see these as two completely separate spheres and I remixed this project to unite them both.

#2 – I opened the project with two quotations to show students that I understand where they are coming from. The first quote says, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” The second quote says, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education”. I wanted students to see that the learning process I was setting them up for. They should see from these that this isn’t a traditional school, nor is this a traditional assignment.

#3 – This information is from the original Curiosity Project which is an open-source Google Doc that was created for elementary students overseas. This highlight shows three technology resources that I have liberal use of in my position as curriculum coordinator. First, open-source materials. I think a strong message I have learned in my CEP classes is that remixing materials is a part of the new Maker environment. I am curious at how to remix materials, knowledge, and processes for students to personalize their education and demonstrate what they know and how they know it. I found this elementary open-source project on the internet and knew I could remix it to suit the purposes for my students. Second, Google Docs. Google Apps for Education have been a godsend to how we have developed our blended learning program.  No longer do our students have to rely on one computer to access the proper word processing or project tools so that various instructors can review their work. They don’t have to carry around flash drives or CDs, instead they have a cloud they can use to access their materials. Third, the LMS that this project is contained on. I looked for a learning management system (LMS) that would give us the ability to assess the learning targets our students were demonstrating progress towards and allow them to submit work to multiple subjects for the same project.  The LMS I recommended to my program director was the Haiku LMS and that was ultimately the one we chose and displays all of our projects.

#4  – This highlight displays the skills students will learn and experience by being active curious learners. I included this list, because it is also my list. It shows how and why I make the choices I do as a teacher leader. It also shows the process I use to make curricular decisions for the students in our program. It makes my thinking visible.

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 9.07.51 PM

#5 – I wanted to show that students are asked to create a project journal. This journal can be handwritten or using an edtech tool. No student has to reflect using the same tool and that is my opinion regarding edtech tools. I am passionate about the creative use of technology in education, but our world is becoming more personalized along with schooling. People are choosing what works best for them and as Friedman wrote the tools you use “are being made obsolete faster”. I am constantly on a quest to expand my knowledge of edtech and how it can be used for my students & staff learning.

#6 – These types of reflective questions are typical of the questions I ask students to ponder throughout their Curiosity Project. I wanted them to really think about the definition of the term “curiosity” and why it is important. This is the initial start to the project so I didn’t want to throw a bunch of questions at them. It is the same way I approach delivering professional development and training to my staff. I start with asking them to reflect and think for themselves first, before applying their knowledge to a greater context.

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 9.17.34 PM

#7&#8 – In these highlights of the Curiosity Project, I asked students to look at others and study how curiosity and passion is used to learn new things. This is akin to Friedman’s charge that in the evolving world, we need to develop more “individual initiative”. That is how and why I have led the charge for the program development that I did. I was passionate that there needed to be better options for learners and I am constantly searching the globe through a plethora of helpful social media tech tools. There are too many to list, but just some that I consult regularly are blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, Google +, etc.) In this particular instance for students I am asking to use Youtube to share in the knowledge of curious learners reflecting on their journeys to develop and explore their passions.

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 9.32.09 PM

#9 – This highlight shows the meat of this project unfolding. Hopefully you could tell from the other highlights that this project is designed to have students study what people do with curiosity and what it means to them. Now they move into designing a curiosity project considering what they are passionate about. This is similar to how I have developed my passions. I helped design my current role in my program and I continue to share about my passion for hybrid leadership roles for educators anywhere I can.

#10 – I am also equally passionate about the role of teacher leadership and how educators can connect with students. An important piece of this project is how much interaction it asks students to do with an advisor (a certified teacher). They have to have a discussion with an adult about their curiosities and passions and use that conversation to help them choose a topic they can develop. The technologies they have for communication are anywhere from Voxer to Twitter to Facebook or any Google tools if they are not face-to-face with that person. The sky is literally the limit! Since I introduced this project I have had students do topics as diverse as the history of rock ‘n roll, why mosquitoes bite, the effects of giant squid attacks, etc. Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 10.29.51 PM

10b. After students select their topic they spend time pondering what they are curious about and exploring their topic in-depth. One of the ways I chose to have them do this was by using the concept maps from Instagrok. This web 2.0 tool creates words and concepts related to a keyword(s) students type in. I used to use other tools until I saw this one presented at a tech conference. Continually revising, changing, and exploring tech tools is another facet of my educational thought leadership. I am constantly seeking out new ways to improve student understanding and engagement and I do not hesitate to fail. Luckily I work with a collaborative team environment where failure and innovation are encouraged as they both benefit each other.

Screen shot 2015-06-30 at 9.32.52 PM

The last highlighted items #11 & #12 both show other elements of curiosity, passion, and leadership that I demonstrate. First, #11 is showing that in this project students will be self-directing their learning, personalizing how they acquire skills and knowledge of research and then sharing that work with an audience. This is exactly what I try to do with my development – show my journey and share that journey. Finally #12 shows that self-direction is prized with this project and a trait of a learner. Because my job is innovative, hybrid, and does not rely on the “system” telling me when to work and stop, people have asked if we take advantage. In fact, the opposite is true, because we have trust and systems of collaboration put in place we all depend and connect with each other to impact student learning and the development of our program. We all created it and we all own it. That trait is what I created this project to help develop. It is lengthy, but it is about the curiosity and passions of students and they have made fantastic work!

As Friedman argues, in the changing world we need intelligence, but we also need creativity and passion (Friedman, 2013, p.1).  I hope that you see through the scope and sequence of this introductory pathway just how passionate and curious I am as both a learner and educator. I am always learning, searching, refining, and communicating in the hopes of creatively disrupting the traditional systems of schooling in the United States. I hope to continue to grow my leadership and create revolutionary systems of education using technology. The adventure has begun!


Friedman, T. L. (2013). It’s the P.Q. and C.Q. as much as the I.Q. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/opinion/friedman-its-pq-and-cq-as-much-as-iq.html?_r=0