Meeting of the Minds: ReMaking high school classrooms

Traditional classrooms have fallen out of favor across America. Educators, students, parents, and administrators all know there is SOMETHING that must be done differently, but they are unsure of where to start & where to begin.

We have to


The #makered & maker education movement is an excellent place to start. There are many aspects to developing a Maker movement, whether that starts with your class, your students, or eventually your school. Incorporating the ideas of the Maker movement to a larger forum such as an entire school requires innovation on a wider-scale.

Here is an infographic I put together of why I think high schools should embrace the Maker movement along with predictions as to what a #MakerEd classroom, school, and student could be like. Take a look and give me your feedback!


Altman, Mitch. “Makerspace Urbana” [Image file]

DMCA. “Thinking Allowed” [Image file].

Halverson, Erica Rosenfeld;Sheridan, Kimberly M. (2014). The Maker Movement in Education. Harvard Educational Review; Winter 2014; 84, 4; ProQuest pg. 495-501.

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. Retrieved from /content/SS15/CEP/811/SS15-CEP-811-733-97EFZZ-EL-14-204/Sheridanetal_ComparativeCaseStudyofThreeMakerSpaces_2014.pdf

Stager, Gary. (2014) What’s the Maker Movement and Why Should I Care? Scholastic Administr@tor Magazine; Winter 2014. Retrieved from

Stewart, Louise. Maker Movement Reinvents Education. (2014) Newsweek; September 2014. Retrieved from

Wikipedia Commons. “Think Outside the Box” [Image file].


Different Places, Different Spaces

This week my task was to redesign my learning space to better optimize student learning and incorporate the pedagogy of modern education design and learning. First, an introduction to my current space. I am fortunate to work in a space with some design elements of 21st century learning. My school’s hybrid learning workspace (heretofore referred to as the “lab”) does not reflect the usual classroom setup. In the main lab (which is the size of 2-3 traditional classrooms), instead of rows of desks there is an L-shaped arrangement of computers, two flanking low bookshelves, and several modular tables that can be rearranged along with a whiteboard and materials cabinet. This type of learning environment reflects the advantages of collaborative learning and connectivity (Thompson, 2014 p. 21) however, there are missed opportunities for building an even better learning environment.

I used SketchUp Make to image a reinvention of this blended learning space.

Revamped Learning Lab

The first change is with the walls & lighting. Currently in our lab, all of the wall space is completely blank and there are just overhead fluorescent lights. The biggest change in my redesign is to add paint, the Alliance for Excellent Education relates “Classroom colors should be warm and calming; not overstimulating and distracting.” Right now our walls are sterile and generic white. The 2013 Barrett, Zhang, Moffat & Kobbacy study also shared that color and light (among other factors) had a statistically significant effect on student performance. I added a few lamps to add softer light since there is no way to add more natural light into the space. According to the ideas of The Third Teacher, learning spaces should also display student learning, both past and present in order to track progress. Right now the accomplishments are only celebrated in our virtual environment – viewed only by that student and no one else. My redesign adds these display opportunities.

The second change is with the tables and workspace. Instead of just using bland modular tables with sterile student chairs, I want to incorporate a combination of workspaces including whiteboard tables, higher tables with stools, and comfy chairs.  As Michael Posner writes, “Simply put, the brain likes novelty, new things” (Persaud, 2014 p. 1).

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Some of these tables are converted to whiteboard tables for increased collaboration. Having convertible seating and workspace will allow for students to arrange the workspace for their needs much like their personalized learning in our school. Echoes teacher and design consultant (as well Michigan Ed Voices fellow alongside me) Erin Klein, “flexible seating arrangements…allow for easy transitions will serve students today and in the future” (Thompson, 2014 p. 19).

The third change is with an essential part of our learning environment – our computers. Instead of utilizing desktops, my new design has bookshelves filled with different tech devices. Again, having portable tech tools would allow for greater personalization of the space. Plus the choices in tech tools and seating involve student decisions in the classroom’s functionality too.

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For each change I need resources necessary to carry out my vision. First, with regards to painting & lighting, the cost would be thousands of dollars (particularly for the paint), but the cost would come down considerably if we organized the staff and student volunteers to do it all ourselves. I looked up whiteboard paint and a set of DIY instructions for how I could transform some of our modular tables into them. The paint is approximately $275/gallon. The new tech tools would not necessarily be purchased all at once, but phased in over time as devices age out. Currently we are needing to purchasing laptops or Chromebooks, after so getting different tech devices would line up with our existing technology budget. I just requested a new Chromebook through a grant that was approximately $300 dollars and we would need around 30-50 to fully supply our lab space which could approximately $9000.

The classrooms of the future are exciting, collaborative, and engaging places to learn from. I am excited to see if my school can continue to make good decisions to get to better space and design choices for student learning.


OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. Retrieved from

Persaud, Ramona. (2014). Why Learning Space Matters. Retrieved from

Thompson, Greg. (2014). 4 Keys to Designing the Classroom of the Future. THE Journal. Retrieved from

Thrifting Thresholds

Last week I discussed my initial embrace of the maker movement and how it debunks many of the fears people have about technology. The maker movement embraces connectedness, physical activity, and imagination in ways that people feared were long-lost with the advancements in technology. However, this week it wasn’t about just talking about the maker movement it was actually becoming a part of it.

I have to admit – at first I was completely clueless as to where to begin. I received my Makey Makey kit and was shocked to discover it was just a little box with basic instructions. I felt extremely inadequate – like I’d missed the novel that should go along with this little tool! However, the internet had a plethora of ideas. With the framework of a high school social studies assignment in mind, I researched Makey Makey ideas. However, most of the Makey ideas I found centered around geography or maps & navigation. Although these ideas were fun and enjoyable to look at – they didn’t really strike at the higher-level order creativity I was looking for to adopt in a high school class. Then I started thinking about what class I teach. I work in a hybrid teacher leadership role at my blended learning school program (instruction can be blended and personalized in a mixture of F2F and online learning). We have a series of interdisciplinary workshops where students can earn credit. One such workshop is taught by me (the only class I teach & I teach it 2x per week) – the Big History Project*Teaching Big History.

*Full disclosure – I also blog about my experiences teaching Big History on the BHP website.

The Big History Project looks at how there were thresholds of increasing complexity that spawned the modern world we had today. Instead of teaching about world history in the same manner that it is usually taught (somewhere around the Incans or maybe Mesopotamia), BHP starts with the Big Bang and shows how and why people are in the areas that they are and where the real world’s history begins. I decided to do my Makey Makey Project centering around the 8 thresholds of Big History as defined by the Big History Project.  Even though I knew the thresholds were going to be my topic, I still wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, especially because I needed to incorporate the “found materials” part of the assignment. Then, it struck me!

idea-light-bulb-clip-art-black-and-white-MTLEnkBTaI always love the part of teaching where students have to justify their choices. It is part of how I have always taught & it is a part of BHP. Students can pick anything they want as long as they justify it. That is the spirit of my Makey Makey project as well. I picked 8 items that I chose to represent each of the 8 thresholds in BHP. This selection of found objects as well as justification of how they represent each threshold will be a part of my Maker lesson plan for BHP.

Here are some selections of items I used to represent each of the thresholds (the complete threshold with each item is present in the video).

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I also used the Soundplant program to create keyboard triggers that would play when someone touched the item. I plan on requiring more elaborate explanations than what you see here.

So here’s a video glimpse of what I came up with


Watch my blog in the coming weeks to track my progress in making this demo into a lesson plan that the BHP community can use and give me any feedback for improving this prototype.