5 tech tools I use in my elementary music classroom

Technology has become more prevalent in schools in recent years, with a big uptick due to the pandemic. Teaching online during the pandemic has shown us that high-quality tech tools are out there–but how do we continue to use these resources in our classrooms today?

The creation and use of digital music has also become more common today. How are we exposing our students to creating music through technology? I have found some online music resources that have transformed my teaching as an elementary general music teacher and have provided engaging content for my students.

1. Chrome Music Lab…Read More

Enabling schools to fight COVID-19 with 3D printable respirator masks

pi-top, creators of computing devices that combine digital making, coding, and practical projects, today announced their partnership with Maker Mask. The collaboration comes as a result of both companies’ goal to give teachers, students and makers everywhere the ability to make a positive impact on their communities by 3D printing respirators for those in need.

Schools around the world use pi-top to teach core STEAM skills in coding, robotics and AI. Teaming with Maker Mask, pi-top has released a video content series that teaches 3D printing. Detailed lesson plans on the fundamentals of 3D printing and how to 3D print the Maker Mask can be found on Further, pi-top’s online learning space.

As a response to the desperate need for locally sourced personal protective equipment (PPE), the Maker Mask team has created the first National Institutes of Health (NIH)-approved, open-source 3D printable mask which is available for free download at makermask.com. More than 10,000 makers around the world are using their 3D printers and the Maker Mask design to make protective respirator-style masks at small batch production sites in 145 countries. Printing one of the Maker Mask masks takes about four hours and has the equivalent lifetime use of 300 N95 masks.…Read More

3 keys to cultivating the maker mindset

When we dreamed of starting construction on a space where teachers and students alike could cultivate a maker mindset, our goals went beyond creating a dedicated makerspace. We wanted to empower our community, assure students that they were valued as individuals, and offer them opportunities to develop empathy and agency as problem-finders and creative problem-solvers.

We knew we could accomplish this with a designated space that celebrated creativity, emphasized process over product, and highlighted the importance of reflection. We set out to design a space where students could not only develop a design thinking philosophy, but integrate this maker mindset into their core studies.

Related content: 9 ways schools can create better makerspaces…Read More

Makerspace tips and advice from the front lines

Maker culture is thriving in schools and public libraries across the United States and beyond. From challenges to success stories, no two makerspaces are alike, and maker facilitators have valuable lessons to share. In their recent edWebinar, Michelle Luhtala, library department chair at New Canaan High School in Conn., Ethan Heise, director of MackinMaker, and Heather Lister, professional learning specialist, discussed their experiences with makerspaces and shared advice for those starting their maker education journey.

4 tips from those in the know

  1. Start small. When New Canaan High School started its makerspace journey, Luhtala realized they needed to start with basics like LEGO bricks, markers, and butcher-block paper to maintain a student-centered mindset. Once students began spending more time in the makerspace and expressing interest in using different kinds of materials, storage and organization—including tackle boxes, shelves, labeled bins, and photo albums with pictures displaying materials—became essential.
  2. Ask for assistance from teachers and students. Although you may be the driving force at your school, Lister did not recommend going it alone. With hundreds or even thousands of kids using the library, it doesn’t make sense to design that space without their voice. Have teachers take a level of ownership by getting their input in areas like the furniture design or adding ideas to a Pinterest board. She also added that you should not be too rigid when it comes to your plan. Save yourself stress by staying flexible when plans change, potential new equipment emerges, or old materials don’t work out.
  3. Do not be one-size-fits-all. Heise said it’s a good idea to choose themes (e.g., coding for kids) so you can assess the materials you’ll need. Be sure to check out device compatibility before purchasing any equipment. A needs assessment that encompasses factors like time, size, budget, theme, and location can help you determine how to move forward. Understanding how long different projects will take your students is key to making sure you’re getting the right products into your makerspace.
  4. Be transparent from the start. Getting teachers on board might be a challenge at first, so Lister recommended presenting your ideas at a staff meeting and asking teachers to collaborate on a project they’re already doing. That way, they’ll see that the makerspace is not something additional, but something they can work into an existing project. “You will really start to see the power and creativity that comes out of (having a makerspace) and you’re going to have so many unintended benefits, good consequences that come out of this,” said Lister.
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28 can’t-miss edtech innovations from ISTE 2017

This year’s ISTE Conference was all about technology-charged learning–and from the keynotes and sessions to the fast-paced exhibit hall, the conference’s more than 20,000 attendees (15,000 educators plus expo hall staff) were immersed in just that.

In all, ISTE 2017 produced 159,000 tweets from people across the U.S. and 72 countries. The most popular topics, based on number of sessions, focused on creativity and productivity tools (113), innovative learning environments (108), online tools and resources (82), constructivist learning and the maker movement (77), and programming and robotics (70).

But if you couldn’t make it to San Antonio this year, don’t worry–we’ve got a round-up of some of the newest products and announcements from companies dedicated to tech-enabled learning.…Read More

8 tips to help create and sustain a makerspace

Though makerspaces are becoming more mainstream, creating and maintaining one could overwhelm educators who are starting from scratch.

Aside from the technology tools and other resources that make up the space, it’s wise to have a plan in terms of when students will use the space, how it will be shared, where funding will come from, and how students will demonstrate what they are learning.

A makerspace is loosely defined as an area in which people–in this case, students and educators–use creativity, technology and computing to work on different projects and ideas, said October Smith, the K-12 science coordinator in Lamar Consolidated ISD, during a TCEA 2017 session.…Read More

Dept. of Ed launches makerspace design challenge with $200,000 in prizes

White House competition is giving schools the chance to design and realize the perfect makerspace

A new Department of Education-sponsored challenge is letting high school students design the makerspace of their dreams — with $200,000 going to as many as 10 winning schools to help turn their plans into reality.

The competition, called the Career Technical Education (CTE) Makeover Challenge, was recently announced by Acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr, as he called for the re-authorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which provides more than $1.1 billion for career and technical education programs in grades 7-12 and in post-secondary institutions.

For the challenge, entrants must sketch out their ideal makerspace and make it work within existing space already available. Successful makerspaces will focus not only on the tools (there are no requirements for specific pieces of technology) but on the process of manufacturing, testing, and demonstrating ideas. Part of the challenge will be turning traditional school spaces, such as libraries or classroom, into modern makerspaces, which can be shared by students and staff alike. Students will also need to consider how their model can be scaled and replicated by other schools.…Read More

Editor’s Picks 2015, No. five: Journey to the student-centered makerspace

Explore a collaborative makerspace where students design the space and take charge of their learning

Ed. note: This year the editors selected ten stories we believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016 (look for No. 1 on Dec. 31). The modern makerspace exploded this year, popping up in schools across the country and snagging a spot on the New Media Consortium’s Horizon Report as a trend to watch. In this piece, educator Abbe Waldron takes the concept further, using students to lead the transformation.

makerspace-studentsWhether you know it or not, your students are already making things outside of school. From digital animation and programming to video production and duct tape crafts, it’s surprising the number of outlets students have found to vent their creativity.

So I learned when my school, Wamogo Regional High, decided to harness this expression productively by designing a student-centered makerspace for collaboration, creation, and problem-solving. We wanted a place where students could access materials, equipment and supplies to explore their interests and take on new challenges. And we wanted to create an environment where students could extend their learning, take risks, and build capacity as leaders.…Read More

Making hard programming easier for novice makers

Microcontroller programming is useful but complicated for makers. New tools can make it accessible to all

microcontroller-programmingWhen I designed the curriculum for my middle school Physical Computing course, I envisioned microcontroller programming as the pinnacle of student progress in the course. A microcontroller is essentially a tiny computer on a circuit board. They usually retail for under $50, and they allow students to connect sensors, motors, LEDs, and other electronics connected to IO pins by writing code and uploading their code to the board. Arduinos, Humming Birds, and Raspberry Pis are examples of popular microcontrollers.

I felt that if I could get my students to the point where they could read sensor input from the physical world, process that data on an Arduino board, and execute instructions based on it, they would have developed a great understanding of the fundamentals of the course. I felt that these skills would transfer to nearly any electronics task, and with additional research, my students would be able to invent and build nearly anything they wanted to.

The problem is that microcontroller programming is complicated in several ways. Also, unlike the video game controllers or battery powered cars that students were building earlier in the course, the concept of what an Arduino board is, what it does, and why they should care, is completely foreign to most students.…Read More