Library Research and an Updated Squishy Circuits Project

After completing my maker kit project with Squishy Circuits and writing a lesson plan that was both content- and collaboration- based, it was time to contextualize the project with the analysis of two peer-reviewed, scholarly research articles. The task was to be completed using the expansive MSU Library education division. I began by examining the research guide and watching the Fast Track to to Library Research I and II videos, which were very clear and informative. I watched them first on their own for an overview, and then bounced between the videos and my own library screen to improve my facility with the library site. Using the Getting Started Guides was especially helpful for this process. The video instructor reminded me how important research questions are, so, with consideration for my maker kit project, I began to narrow my focus on learning theories to write a few questions of my own.

Initially, when I wrote the Squishy Circuits lesson plan, I knew I wanted to make the aims two-fold; I wanted students to achieve goals in science content and processes, as well as in cooperative, collaborative learning. I have long embraced social constructivism; my classroom, a coach-teaching inclusion environment servicing students with three academic qualifying areas, as well as students with advanced learning profiles, and many more students with disparate needs, demands it. Additionally, further reflection on both the assignment this week as well as the overall play- and exploration-based nature of the MAET program dictated that I would highlight the element of play in my lesson and revisions. Upon reviewing the Learning Theory Cmap, I decided that experiential learning and social constructivism were most applicable to my Squishy Circuits lesson plan and would, therefore, become my focus.

I contacted Jill Morningstar at MSU and she provided me with some help getting started with research. I selected two articles: “The Importance of Self-Directed Play” (Schwartzmueller & Rinaldo, 2013) and “An Educational Psychology Success Story: Social Interdependence Theory and Cooperative Learning” (Johnson & Johnson, 2009). During a critical reading of each article, I found that the former largely supported my pedagogical decisions and the latter informed what would become my revisions.

Given that I wanted my students to embrace play as part of the creative and problem-solving process, the first article proved highly relevant. One of the very first lines resonated specifically with me in light of my maker lesson plan, regarding the American excess of standards-based education: “This overemphasis on accountability has resulted in a paradigmatic shift away from experiential learning; student-centered instruction has been supplanted by curriculum-based evaluation” (Schwartzmueller & Rinaldo, 2013, p. 1). Furthermore, Schwartzmueller and Rinaldo state that “play allows the child to learn by trial and error, and heights mental dexterity and flexibility'” (p. 2). Reflecting on my own process through the design of the Squishy Lamp lesson, it was clear that trial and error had been my dominating experience! Gauging my level of efficacy from almost nil at the beginning to increased confidence, I realized I wanted my students to benefit from a similar experience, which is the reason I minimized my own direct instruction in my lesson plan.

I decided, however, that the conferring portion -in which students would be building their integrated circuits and I would be monitoring and coaching- of the lesson needed a bit more clarification based on Schwartzmueller and Rinaldo’s instruction that “The educator first should observe the child at play and then provide constructive intervention toward a learning objective– whether in the form of questioning, suggesting, modeling, participating, or the creation of cooperative groups” (p. 4). Even though self-directed play occurs with greater frequency in the earliest learners, I began to see that there is no reason that I cannot incorporate play-based elements for my third graders.  I had designed the lesson with this intention; however,  the plethora of teacher interactions listed in the article encouraged me to add further verbiage to the teacher interaction portion.

Given that I work in a building with more than 50% free- and reduced-lunch eligibility, I was further convinced by Schwatzmueller and Rinaldo: “While children who come from advantaged backgrounds may not need much guidance, those from disadvantaged backgrounds may require higher levels of intervention from the educator” (p. 4). Overall, I was largely affirmed by Schwartzmueller and Rinaldo in my decision to make this lesson play-based and exploratory;  After all, students who engage with this type of learning “attain a depth of understanding that serves them for years to come– beyond the short-sighted goal of passing the next test” (p. 5). This type of nuanced understanding is certainly what I was driving at during the initial writing of my lesson plan.

The second article by Johnson and Johnson supported both the social interdependence theory as well as cooperative learning, both of which were central to the design of the Squishy Circuits plan (2013). I was less familiar with these theories, however, so I was able to glean several helpful ideas from Johnson and Johnson. I learned that a key component of social interdependence is positive interdependence which “exists when there is a positive correlation among individuals’ goal attainments; individuals perceive that they can attain their goals only if the other individuals with whom they are cooperatively linked attain their goals” (Johnson & Johnson, 2013, p. 2).

While my original thought was that students would glean valuable collaborative skills from working on this project in teams, the following statement by Johnson and Johnson gave me pause: “There is evidence that group membership in and of itself is not sufficient to produce higher achievement…Knowing that one’s performance affects the success of group mates seems to create responsibility forces that increase one’s efforts to achieve” (p. 3). Where I had previously planned to simply use table groups, I decided to pre-assign mixed-ability groups. Johnson and Johnson also note that “As a group size increases, individual members tend to communicate less frequently, which may reduce the amount of information utilized in arriving at a decision” (p. 4). Since my table groups are typically built of five or six students, I reduced the group size to three or four group members to facilitate clearer communication and effective collaboration. I also added communication goals to my essential questions.

Further informing my revision of the lesson parameters was the juxtaposition of the pedagogical methods of cooperation and competition Johnson and Johnson offered: “Working cooperatively with peers and valuing cooperation result in greater psychological health than do competing with peers or working independently… cooperativeness is positively related to emotional maturity, well-adjusted social relations, strong personal identity, ability to cope with adversity, social competencies, basic trust and optimism about people, self-confidence, independence and autonomy, higher self-esteem, and increased perspective taking skills” (p. 372). That extensive list of benefits was hard to  ignore!  Granted that the competitive element of my lesson came after all of the experimentation and creation, I began to re-evaluate the necessity of competition at all. Pedagogically, was there really a need for it? Why couldn’t my lesson be revised to keep inquiry at the center, to make the focus the proverbial journey instead of the destination? Pedagogical choices like this are central to the effectiveness of instructional: “A teacher with deep pedagogical knowledge understands how students construct knowledge, acquire skills, and develop habits of mind and positive dispositions toward learning” (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1027). Making the decision to eliminate the later use of the device in a competitive format for students in favor opening the creative process up for further investigation resulting in elevated scientific -and cooperative- understanding was an easy one, a decision I feel would result in more complex investigation of both the light and sound aspects of the Squishy Circuits.

To increase the cognitive load for students, (as well as the number of opportunities for collaboration), and to increase the level of complexity in the task, I elected to include a buzzer as one of the project criteria. A quick tutorial of the metal grinder from my dad’s workshop reduced the brushed finished on the metal and made the conductive material more accessible for students. Moreover, shifting the focus from product to the process would free students’ cognitive space to focus on the collaborative aspects of the project, as well.

My final revisions to the lesson plan arose from Johnson and Johnson’s emphasis assertion that students require explicit instruction in teamwork skills: “Unskilled group members cannot cooperate effectively. Effective cooperation is based on skilled team work as well as task work. Students, therefore, must be taught the interpersonal and small-group skills needed for high quality cooperation” (p. 369).  Additionally, to receive the lesson’s highest benefits, students must engage in group processing, which “occurs when group members (a) reflect on which member actions were helpful and unhelpful and (b) make decisions about which actions to continue or change” (Johnson & Johnson, p. 369). Mishra and Koehler explain that “the TPCK approach helps us identify important components of teacher knowledge that are relevant to the thoughtful integration of technology in education” (p. 1044) and one of the most important components for me is the inclusion of students with special needs. Johnson and Johnson described one study in which “more positive relationships developed between participants who were disabled when they were taught social skills and were engaged in group processing” (p. 369). With this revelation, I elected to include an initial mini-lesson on group processing and teamwork skills, as well as opportunities for reflection, specifically “3-5 minute focused discussions before and after a lecture and 2-3 minute turn-to-your-partner discussions” (Johnson & Johnson, p. 374).

Weighing the intentionality of the decisions I made during the initial writing of the lesson with the revisions in content and pedagogical complexity informed by close reading of recent research, I see the strength of integrating technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. I feel I have developed a final project that is research-based, strong in content, and bolstered by TPACK concepts, which will be engaging, productive and fun for students.

Read the revised lesson plan here in Google Drive (revisions done in blue).

View the video in which I explain my thinking behind some of these revisions on YouTube:



Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2009). An educational psychology success story: Social interdependence theory and cooperative learning. Educational Researcher, 38(5), 365-379. Retrieved from

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledgeTeachers College Record, 108 (6), 1017-1054.

Schwarzmueller, G., & Rinaldo, V. (2013). The importance of self-directed play. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 49(1), 37-41. Retrieved from


Beware the Unbalanced InfoDiet

Reflecting upon my information diet this week, I soon recognized the affinity spaces impacting my thinking, specifically the content, individuals, and organizations that related primarily only to each other. Recognizing a need to challenge my thinking, I aspired to balance my infodiet with the help of not just three new feeds, but three resources: peers, content, and something I’ll call “risky” organizations.


Seeking new thinking creates a ripple effect.

When I am struggling with aspects of instruction or motivation at work, or I simply need a change in perspective, I know who to contact. I tweeted three teachers from other grade levels in my district, as well as our associate superintendent, asking who they might recommend to push my thinking on Twitter. I also reviewed those they follow for ideas. Adding an Arlington fifth grade math teacher and the founder of a radical learning blog – individuals followed by those who I can depend on to push my own thinking- will, I believe, stretch me further via a ripple effect: one thought-provoking idea can spur along others.

I also sought to broaden my content horizons. As we so often do upon reviewing the past, I began to notice a trend: most of my feeds were geared primarily toward my major affinity spaces: technology integration and literacy development. I also had a number of greater-scale education organizations on my feed, such as Edutopia and ASCD. While these are both great resources, I know math is a growth area for me, so I decided to seek math-focused Tweeters to follow, in hopes of opening my thinking toward math practices implementation. Minutes after I began following NCTM and Republic of Math, “YummyMath” began following me! At the time of this writing, I don’t know much about YummyMath, but I certainly aim to add to my infodiet using creator Brian Marks‘s expertise, especially given the fact that he has over 13,700 followers. His adding me in such quick succession to my attempts to balance my infodiet with some quality math resources was quite an epic moment in PLN development.

To really push my boundaries,  I also considered organizations with which I might fundamentally disagree but nevertheless might offer something to learn, as most education colleagues do.  Upworthy founder and self-professed progressive Eli Pariser says: “I’ve always gone out of my way to meet conservatives..I like to hear what they have to say…I like learning a thing or two,” and discusses the need for the internet to “show us things that are uncomfortable, challenging, or important” (Pariser, 2013). I found his words insightful as I attempted to evaluate my own “filter bubbles,” searching for those that would stretch my thinking.

Exploring organizations like Teach for America and StudentsFirst was a huge cognitive shift for me. I wanted to be aware of Pariser’s observation that “The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see” (Pariser, 2013). I felt a strong tension between not wanting to associate myself directly with these organizations and wanting to push myself to seek out the “nuggets” of truth and importance they might offer. As I began to assess this risk, the thought prompted me to wonder: To what degree do we stay reflective by pushing our thinking toward continuous improvement, and at what point do we relent upon reaching frustration level in light of something I’ll call “irreconcilable educational differences”? I do not yet have an answer for that, yet as I do with my students, I leave this as a walkaway question for now with the intent of exploring it further in the future.



Pariser, E. [2011, May 11].  “Beware online ‘filter bubbles.’ ” [YouTube]. TED Talks. Retrieved from



Ripple effect on water: Creative Commons licensing under Attribution 2.0 Generic license.








Why People Are Stupid: Gee and The Anti-Education Era

This week, I read a portion of James Paul Gee’s The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning (preface; chapters 1-3, 7, 10, and 15-16). Gee, a presidential professor at Arizona State University, specializes in digital learning, most notably, gaming as a means to a more applicable, modern approach to education. The areas of focus in his book include reasons homo sapiens fail to thrive in their thinking, or act “stupid,” as well as ways people can overhaul their understanding of learning in order to think intelligently, or become “smart.” While Gee, a self-professed resident of institutional academic culture, can be -at times- heavy-handed in his approach, he also demonstrates vision, advanced understanding, and recognition of the sources of obstacles to becoming smart in this accessible, direct, and appropriately humorous work.

In my response, I will summarize Gee’s position regarding why human beings as a species can be simultaneously advanced and beleaguered in their thinking. I will argue that Gee’s position is, in part, thoroughly justified, and in part flawed, due to an incomplete depiction of the essential components of progressive education. I will amend Gee’s stance and integrate his thinking with my own to offer a modified understanding of what keeps people from being “smart.”

[References included in linked document]


Repurposing with Squishy Circuits

Diving into the goal for the week -to create an activity and design a lesson plan using a maker kit and

items found while thrifting- in truth, I felt overwhelmed. As much as I try to maintain an open mind

about all subjects as both a teacher and a student, science (especially the electrical type) has never been

my forte. I was, I suppose, frightened of the unknown. As a way to monitor both the experience of the

assignment itself, as well as my own reflection upon it, I decided to track my efficacy at each stage of

the process.


On Sunday night, I began to mull over possible goals to be accomplished by my maker kit. Squishy

Circuits, a brilliant and cost-effective product, albeit highly accessible, was still unfamiliar to me.

Could I use the kit as a team-building or collaborative activity? Should I effectively turn students loose

with the materials -once I found them- to create an ill-structured problem, or should I minimize chaos

by providing a well-structured activity? At this point, my efficacy was low with regard to both building

Squishy Circuits and incorporating items from the thrift shop.

On Monday, I spent about five hours exploring and “playing” with Squishy Circuits. Beginning with

the maker website, I pored through numerous documents and tutorials which proved helpful in building

my understanding of the process. Following are the links I found to be of high benefit:

Building Circuits: circuit basics, motor circuit, buzzer circuit, squishy animal, squishy battery
Video Tutorials: how to make conductive dough, how to make insulating dough, circuit basics, LED and calculations, Squishy Circuits and small children, motors, squishy battery, squishy animal
Helpful Results from Curriculum Ideas Search
Curriculum Ideas (document)
UCLA Lesson (document)

Following this online exploration, I continued with a trip to the local Goodwill. In the store, I searched

for both conductive and insulating materials. Upon leaving Goodwill with a collection of small

electronics, ties, and seashells, my efficacy regarding designing a classroom curricular activity using

thrift shop items had improved to an “intermediate” level as my ideas for classroom integration were

beginning to form, but were not yet solidified.



Possible conductor?



Another possible conductor?


A whole shelf of possible conductors!


My helpful assistant (little brother) examines small electronics with me. He rode along to Goodwill.



The total for the purchased items.

Following the Squishy Circuits recipes, I prepared both the conductive and insulating dough and

proceeded to attempt a simple circuit, which proved successful and bolstered my efficacy in creating

slightly more complicated circuits, involving LED’s, buzzers, and a motor.


Squishy Dough:

Blue is conductive and off-white is insulating…insulating was a LOT messier to make- that sugar!

YouTube clips from my own “Squishy Play” (select Videos- there are 12 of them!):


Aspiring higher, I wondered if I might be able to power a small clock or CD player acquired at

Goodwill and design a classroom activity around that. After two hours of trial, error, and repeated

failure, I reached the conclusion that I would need to re-envision my lesson plan. However, I did not

feel as discouraged as I normally would have after encountering frustration level, as I internalized my

learning from last week- that failure is part of the creation process. Indeed, I began to synthesize my

increased efficacy with “squishy circuitry” as well as my science content knowledge and pedagogical

emphasis on student collaboration to determine a new direction.


CD Player

Attempting to use dough to power a personal CD player. I could not complete a full circuit since the

battery configuration is not the same as the Squishy Circuits battery pack.



Working on an insulated dough configuration that might power a flashlight.



The fifth attempt to power this flashlight. Finally created a design that will both complete a circuit and

fit inside the battery chamber.


The same flashlight-attempt circuit powering an LED outside the flashlight. My boyfriend suggested

this trial idea to me and our conjecture is that although the circuit is complete in a stand-alone

environment, the flashlight uses the pressurized end to conduct it, so the design will not turn on the



Armed with my now-high efficacy with basic Squishy Circuits, I deepened by investigation, exploring

properties of conduction and insulation. Following are some helpful references I found:



During a trip to an additional Goodwill store to purchase electricity-conducting items, I

rebuilt some circuits and modified others. One of my most third grade-accessible creations incorporated

a metal candle lamp. Recognizing the value of incorporating both content knowledge and team-
building, I used the lamp idea to connect recently-acquired student knowledge of how light travels with

the LED’s function in a circuit to create the apparatus you will see in my video tutorial. My lesson plan

(available for download at this link:

explains the challenge presented to teams of students, which

involves incorporating the metal lamp into the Squishy Circuit to create a signal device that the teams

will then use to participate in a unit-review game. This process will be especially relevant following

our third grade science unit on light, and will be further applicable when used in future review games,

spiraling back to previously-learned concepts.


While I look forward to modifying and refining my thinking next week, as I reflect on the process,

I recognize the degree to which failure is imminent when, as students and as teachers, we begin

with low efficacy and little schema and attempt to work our way toward high efficacy and complex

understanding. As nonthreatening as it may sound, building a circuit involving found items initially

seemed like an insurmountable task, as I had virtually no prior knowledge. However, monitoring the

process in an Evernote document and tracking my efficacy at each stage actually served to increase that

efficacy to the point at which I could actually create something repurposed and applicable to students.

Note: The visual and multimodal media presented in this post are intended to enhance and complete

the reader’s understanding of multi-faceted process. They are included to contribute to the chronology

of the project and support the text by creating a visual representation, illustrating the journey of

improved efficacy.


Squishy Circuits Signaling Lamp


To use Squishy Circuits to create a signaling device for use in third grade review game, incorporating a metal lamp found while thrifting.


Squishy Circuits Items (Squishy Circuits starter kits -1 per team of 3-4 students- are recommended and will supply all the necessary elements)

Battery pack designed for AA batteries
4 high-quality AA batteries
Small polarized LED’s
Conductive dough (see ingredients in recipe 1)
Insulating dough (see ingredients recipe 2)

Additional Items
Assorted small metal electricity-conducting lamps, bulbs removed
Assorted small metal electricity-conducting candle holders- preferably with metal shades


Step by Step Process (See the how-to video by clicking this link) :

1) Prepare conductive dough (*see link above)

2) Prepare insulating dough (**see link above)

3) Insert 4 AA batteries into Squishy Circuits battery pack. This battery pack will provide 6 volts of power. Be careful not to touch the two wires together.

4) Roll conductive dough into two spheres. The shape is not critical.

5) Keeping battery pack turned off, insert the negative wire into one sphere of dough and the positive wire into another. The more surface area covered on each end of the wire, the stronger the current will flow.

6) Sculpt a layer of insulating dough and place between the mounds of conductive dough to ensure that they do not touch and “short out” the circuit.

7) Roll two long “snakes” (ropes) of conductive dough.

8) Prepare two strips of insulating dough and adhere them firmly, one to each rope of conductive dough.

9) Attach the rope combinations from the base, up the neck of the lamp, to the platform, ensuring that they do not touch each other, and that the insulating side touches the metal neck.

10) Extend the conductive ropes as necessary to touch lamp’s metal platform (the spot where the light bulb or candle would go).

11) Gently separate the legs of the LED; place the short leg into the end of the negative conductive “snake” and the longer leg into the end of the positive conductive “snake.”

12) Turn on the battery pack. If your circuit has not shorted out, it will light up the LED!

Note: If your LED does not light-up, check the following troubleshooting points:

The correct batteries are properly inserted in the battery pack.
The ropes are tightly adhered to the mounds of dough connected to the battery pack. You may want to “squish” these together to ensure their conductivity.
The insulating dough protects the two main mounds of dough from touching.
The “snakes” of dough are insulated from one another.
The ends of the conductive wires are fully adhered to the conductive dough.
The ends of the ropes touching the lamp’s platform are conductive.
The conductive dough does not touch the metal lamp until it reaches the platform.
The LED is touching each side of the conductive circuit.



Johnson, S. and Thomas, A.M. (2011). Using Squishy Circuit technology in the classroom. American Society for Engineering Education. Retrieved from St. Thomas Squishy Circuits website

Kim, G. and Schmitdbauer, M. (2013, July 18). “Maker camp 2013.” [YouTube]. Make. Retrieved from

Mylène. (2012, April 15). “K-12 engineering: squishy circuits tips and tricks.” Shifting Phases. Retrieved from

Dough creatures. ( 2011). PBS: SciGirls. Retrived from PBS Online

Nguyen, C. and Roth-Johnson, P. (2013). “Lesson plan for Squishy Circuits.” Beam UCLA. Retrieved from Beam UCLA website

SquiggleMom. (2013, August 11). “Snake, house.” [YouTube]. Squishy Circuits Projects. Retrieved from

Thomas, A.M. (2011, April 4). “Hands-on science with Squishy Circuits.” [YouTube]. TED Talks. Retrieved from

Todd, Sylvia. (2012, January 17). “Squishy Circuits- Sylvia’s mini maker show.” [YouTube]. Make. Retrieved from

University of St. Thomas. (2011). Squishy circuits. Retrieved from from University of St. Thomas website

Note: The visual and multimodal media presented in this post are intended to enhance and complete the reader’s understanding of multi-faceted process. They are included to contribute to the chronology of the project and support the text by creating a visual representation, illustrating the journey of improved efficacy.

Popcorn Remix

Remixing -the art of combining creative productions and adding new elements to create one’s own project- was the focus of the first week of CEP 811. Since my own classroom is part of a pilot initiative called 21st Century Learning in which students each receive an iPad, I selected 1:1 technology as the focus of my remix. To illustrate the features of this concept, I used Mozilla Popcorn Maker, a media production tool designed for accessible remixing. Using clips from Creative-Commons licensed media as well as the digital embellishments furnished by Popcorn Maker, I remixed a YouTube video into a new product.

At the beginning of his TED@Motor City talk, Dale Dougherty introduces the idea of “making” and uses early television commercials to support his claims that every person can be -and, inherently, is- a maker, and that “making” was formerly a mainstay of American culture and industrialism (Dougherty, 2011). A major question that arose for me during Dougherty’s talk was, If makers used to be integral to the materialization of the American dream, why do so many consider maker culture radical and subversive? I pondered this question as I approached this week’s remixing assignment.

One of my greatest challenges this week was the emphasis on failure as a learning tool. The tension between being a relatively traditionally educated student and striving for progressive problem solving opportunities for my students is a difficult one. I noted that sometimes there seem to be two ways to fail, which I’ll call environmental failures and operator errors. My first ‘environmental failure’ happened as soon as I turned on my computer to begin the remix: my computer turned on, booted up, and immediately shut down. The AC adapter began to beep ominously. After a failed trip to Best Buy and an Amazon Prime overnight order, I restarted the remix. The second type of failure, ‘operator error’ was my lack of facility with Popcorn Maker. During my first attempt, I used a MacBook. The video clip input functioned properly, and while the Popcorn events appeared to function, upon replay, it was clear that they did not embed properly. Without prior knowledge of the program, I did not know it required a PC to perform efficiently, thus entangling me in a failure of operator error.

All told, the project alone (sans the play time required for experience and increased facility with Popcorn Maker) took approximately six hours to complete. I began to empathize with the sentiment of designer and scientist Fernanda Viegas:  “When do you decide that what you have is good enough?” (Eyeo, 2013). Furthermore, while perusing related YouTube videos this week, I discovered Ira Glass has similar insight. Glass discusses ‘the gap’ between creative ability and creative ambition. All involved in the creative process, he says endured a period of time in which “they had good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they thought it should be” and ends the segment by saying, “you just have to fight your way through it, okay?” (Glass, 2013). It seems that frustration with failure throughout the creative process may subvert the desire to engage with making. Makers, it seems, must learn to be tenacious.

As I remixed the 1:1 technology video, I saw potentials for both the grooming of young, new makers, as well as the pitfalls of failure. In my experience, using the 1:1 method allows for the highest level of differentiation in learning, as well as the recognition of each young learner’s own creative abilities. Engaging with the Popcorn project unearthed for me the importance of both opening space for creativity and engineering an environment where failure is neither prohibitive nor unexpected. Indeed, the teaching of new makers requires that failure become an integral part of the creative process. I look forward to embracing this concept with my students in my own classroom.

Discover a few of the hallmarks of 1:1 technology integration in my remix here:



A Day in the Life of an ILS iPad – Immaculata-LaSelle High School: Creative Commons Attribution



Dougherty, D. (2011, January). We are makers. [Presentation]. Talk presented at TED@MotorCity. Detroit, MI. Retrieved from

Eyeo 2013 – Panel: Failing with Style. (n.d.). Vimeo. Retrieved from

Greaves, T.; Hayes, J.; Wilson, L.; Gielniak, M.; & Peterson, R. (2010). The technology factor: nine keys to student achievement and cost-effectiveness. Project Red. Retrieved from

Hodgson, K. (2013, May 12). “Making a popcorn video.” [YouTube]. Teach the Web. Retrieved from

Glass, I. (2009, August 2013). “Storytelling Part 1.” [YouTube]. Public Radio International. Retrieved from

Johnson, D. (2014). 10 questions parents should ask about their children’s 1:1 program. Blue Skunk Blog. Retrieved from

Lessig, L. (2008). Remix: making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. Scribd. Retrieved from

McLeod, S. and Sauers, N. (2012). Effects on student achievement and performance at school. What does the research say about school one-to-one computing initiatives? Retrieved from

Week 1: Well-Structured, Ill-Structured, and Complex Problems

Three ways of identifying problems encountered by both students and teachers in the classroom can be conceptualized as well-structured, ill-structured, and complex (or “wicked”) problems. These three ascend in levels of difficulty and descend in levels of structure, respectively.

Thinking about common obstacles teachers faced, I thought considerably this week about both the difficulty and importance of understanding each student’s levels of proficiency. Nuanced in nature, this information is challenging to collect because each student’s mind can be complicated for teachers to map. Focusing on an ill-structured problem of practice, collecting individual student performance data, a tool called Socrative can be extremely helpful. To explain the benefits of this program, I created a screencast using Jing. Check it out here:



A special welcome to my MAET CEP 811 and 812 communities! I look forward to pushing my thinking and reflecting on my learning and the learning of others using this blog as a forum.


Final CEP 810 Reflection

As I reflect upon the entirety of the the course, three primary concepts surface regarding what I have learned and how my practice will be affected, both as a teacher and as a learner. I feel empowered by the resources, tools, and elements of philosophy I have added to my repertoire through this learning experience.

I continued to be struck by the truth that teaching and learning are collaborative. The task of compiling my professional learning network illuminated the idea for me that resources exist in number to help teachers grow, and grow in little, time-efficient snippets that are therefore attainable and immediately available to put into practice. Organizations such as ISTE, Edutopia, and Edudemic provide accessible research online. Social media platforms like Twitter offer quick yet valuable thoughts for busy professionals. Additionally, creating the PLN helped me identify all of the colleagues in my building, my district, and my graduate program that are available and open to collaboration. With all of these resources in place, I have grown accustomed to tweeting out a question, calling a colleague, or checking an article for innovative ideas that ignite my students’ learning in authentic ways. Recently I wondered how other 1:1 format teachers support parents when they feel low efficacy with their child’s technology. I addressed it on Twitter and then called an instructional coach in another elementary building and within 24 hours, I had received a cache of helpful suggestions which I then offered to parents during conferences the following week. The turnaround time is so minimal that it makes improving my teaching effective and expedient.

Another growth area for me arose out of the new technologies I encountered during the course. Learning how to use an RSS feed helps me keep abreast of highly relevant educational topics that I now have no need to search for, as they are now delivered to me daily through the feed. Using SpringPad as a “mind dump” platform proves especially helpful as I balance the multiplicity of demands being a teacher requires. Gaining facility with Popplet enables me to quickly and effectively illustrate concepts for my students. The idea of repurposing technological tools for education that may not have originally been intended for classroom use, like Popplet, to map students’ thinking is proving powerful for students as it clarifies our collective ideas in a visual way.

As a teacher and as a learner, I can identify ways in which I have improved my practice philosophically as a result of this course. I am more cognizant of my own learning practice, and the work and thought it requires to approach a new skill or concept when both the content and the process are new. In both the networked learning project and the TPACK cooking assignment, I encountered new technologies (utensils, video recording devices, YouTube channels) that required specific procedural knowledge I had not yet required. On top of that, the academic assignments attached to those technologies were also priorities. Each time I began a new task, I had to consider the goal at hand, whether it was slicing a fruit salad -admittedly, not especially academically challenging- or producing a media presentation, but I also needed to acclimate myself to new technology. As a result, I have adjusted my practice as a teacher in that the intention with which I approach technology in my classroom has improved. When I taught my CEP 810 project-based technology lesson plan, I helped students create Need to Know lists for both the content at hand (new knowledge about a caterpillar) and the process of learning that content (accessing technological resources for a purpose), where before I likely would have done only the former. Additionally, my concern for fair use has deepened and my practices regarding searching for images and illustrations to use have tightened based on my new understanding of the philosophy behind Creative Commons licensing.

The major concepts I’m still grappling with are related to how, specifically, I can integrate both authentic project-based learning and networked learning into my teaching. The overarching idea that teaching with technology is both complex and beneficial is evident. The potentials are great when executed successfully, not only for accessing a wide array of sources and experts but also for growing as self-aware, self-directed learners who acquire new learning in context, which I have learned is crucial for student retention of learning. What is challenging for me is the reality that, while third graders are extremely perceptive digital natives, their level of media literacy sophistication is not yet highly developed, and therefore any project-based, process-driven learning requires huge amounts of scaffolding in the areas of informational reading, synthesizing information, evaluating the validity of sources, and increasing independence. Older students possess the skills and maturity to accomplish more, but that doesn’t mean younger students can’t engage on a deep yet developmentally appropriate level. Equipping me with accessible resources, a growing technological toolbox, and a more intentional philosophy of technology integration, CEP 810 has prepared me for further exploration of TPACK concepts related to pedagogy and approach in the teaching of elementary grades as I continue my coursework.

Project-Based LearningSpicy 1

Perhaps most importantly, I have learned that the process of learning is just as critical as the outcome, if not more. The goal is not criteria or scores, but reflection and growth. Learning transfers when we acquire concepts authentically and combine them with our adapted background knowledge.  “One of the earliest studies of expertise demonstrated that the same stimulus is perceived and understood differently, depending on the knowledge that a person brings to the situation,” (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000, p. 32) so as I learn, I create an amalgamation of my past experience and new discoveries. I’m eager to continue to enact these principles moving forward.


Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school (Expanded edition). (pp. 3-78).  Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Retrieved from

Networked Learning Final Reflection

Acquiring a new skill using only YouTube and Google help forums was a challenge, but as I reflect on the learning process for this project, I recognize that one of the assignment’s greatest strengths was that it began with a broad idea that required narrowing further and further in scope as the project continued.

My earliest goal was born of necessity: Learn to use the SMART Board that was at the time, simply taking up space, but could utilized for productive learning. That goal, however, could be interpreted so many ways that I needed to specify in order to measure my progress. When I think about the important principles of learning highlighted in this course, one that stands out is the power of learning in context. Given that criteria, I considered what would be most beneficial to my students and decided to create a formative assessment notebook using SMART Notebook.

To accomplish this goal, I used generic introductory YouTube videos from Fuse School and then shopped the same source and related sources (like Radford EducationEPISDTV, and SMART Classrooms) for skill-based “how-to” videos. I built my background knowledge, learning how to handle the basic hardware. Then I watched videos explaining the advantages of various software features. Finally, I integrated my curricular math knowledge with videos customized for teaching with SMART Notebook to develop the formative assessment notebook, which I can now use to evaluate student understanding expediently and effectively, this year and in future years. The gradual release process was crucial as I watched, paused, attempted the skill, then re-watched to confirm my understanding, and began the next step.

In the future, I intend to use this networked learning process again, specifically to improve my understanding and application of how technology tools can be best implemented in the classroom. With some scaffolding and a menu of source options, I think my third graders could even learn how to best utilize some of the apps on their iPad this way. I think sometimes the YouTube or Google searches we conceptualize as rudimentary or simplistic, can actually be excellent platforms for networked learning, a process which fully engages the learner, provides self-differentiation through a wealth of information and the ability to “rewind” one’s teacher, and creates an environment in which one person can connect to countless experts in order to develop new skills in context.

Cooking with TPACK

A most unusual assignment, Cooking with TPACK involves the connecting the concepts of the TPACK framework, as explained by Kristen Kereluik, Punya Mishra, and Matthew J. Koehler, with completing a task in the kitchen in which repurposing a tool would necessary. The authors posit that teaching effectively with technology “requires teachers’ knowledge not of a specific technology, but rather of the affordances and constraints of technology and how to use technology to facilitate deep, comprehensive learning” (Kereluik, Mishra, & Koehler, 2011). A major theme here is that teachers’ time and energy is better spent exploring the connected nature of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge by repurposing technological tools to support and inspire student learning, rather than simply becoming technologically literate regarding the  ways devices were originally designed to be used.

In the context of this assignment, it is clear the degree to which we undergo a synthesis of thinking as we engage in learning tasks using tools in new ways to support our process. My predetermined bowl and plate were adequate for the task, but the utensil proved a bit more challenging. I began the assignment wishing for more efficient technology, but ended it relatively pleased with the adaptations I made to complete the task. In the same way, “Repurposing technology is possible through melioration, the process of taking ideas from one field and applying to another” (Kereluik, Mishra, & Koehler, 2011). Teaching involves effective technology integration for the purpose of actually supporting student achievement through creation, collaboration, and curation. Clearly expressed, “Technology changes how we teach,” (Mishra, 2012). Knowing which tools to select for which tasks, and how to repurpose them for education are crucial responsibilities for teachers, but also substantial privileges afforded to all those within a learning community.


Kereluik, K., Mishra, P. & Koehler, M.J. (2011). On learning to subvert signs: Literacy, technology and the TPACK framework. The California Reader, 44(2), p13.

Mishra, P. (2012, March 26). 21st Century Learning Conference. Video retrieved from