Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Presentation Week

I've been teaching for nine years in New Jersey and I am blessed.  Even though teachers are much maligned as being selfish, lazy and basically unfit to teach our children, I do not see it.  I don't say this lightly as I have experience the business management side of life also.  There are bad seeds in all professions but those bad seeds do not define the profession.  Unfortunately for teachers, we are paid by the taxpayer; the taxpayer who believes they know how to teach better than the classroom teacher - you know - we all went to school so we are experts.
Atlantic City Convention Center

In New Jersey we as teachers are given an amazing opportunity the first week of November.  The NJEA teacher convention.  It's not a great opportunity because we aren't teaching, it is a great opportunity to hone our craft of teaching, without taking the time out of the class.
Nine years ago, 2 months into my first teaching position, I entered a professional development workshop on teaching Financial Literacy.  My life changed.  In that one, 1 1/2 hour workshop I learned more than a book could have taught me.  The ideas I took away that I could easily implement into my classroom were priceless.  The cost of the workshop - FREE!  Learning from your peers was something that ignited a spark.

So this year I am wearing a different hat; I am a presenter.  I have the honor of presenting 3 different times at the convention.

Presenting for the New Jersey Cooperative Education Association I will offer "To Market, To Market", an overview of teaching the entrepreneurial skill sets of creativity through Project Based Learning.  This will give the participants some hands-on experiences that can be integrated into teaching creativity - a 21st Century Life Skill that is cited a necessary for success in the future.    Enjoy playing the Market Game developed for the PBS show "To Market, To Market to buy a Fat Pig"  Game designed by Jared Weinstock of Drexel University (my alma mater! go Dragons!)

 In High Tech Hall, with informal drop in sessions I will be sharing two different Web 2.0 tools that can be used by many educators.
Mindomo.com - a mindmap tool that includes presentation and collaboration elements.  This tool keeps evolving, with so many ways to put it to use in the classroom and life in general - check it out - there is a free version with limited features.

ChooseMyPlate.gov is another tool that I will present.  This government site offers a glimpse into the Dietary Guidelines recommended by the USDA.  There are many wonderful tools that can be incorporated into many different classrooms, at all different levels.

So, I am not taking a vacation.  I am working hard at making sure the presentations are useful to the teachers who attend.  I've come a long way since I walked into the convention 9 years ago and am truly blessed to have this opportunity.  I know that teachers throughout the country would love the opportunity.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

System Malfunction

I have been so consumed with the writing of my research paper that I have neglected this blog for awhile.  It is time now to rectify that.  The goal of this blog is to identify methods that can integrate technology with the practical world in which we live.  Although I focus much on textiles, and the process of making while using the technological tools available, I think it is important to identify why technology has been created.
I believe that all the technological processes and tools are there to create an ease of completion in whatever task that needs to be done.
            With that being said, I had the opportunity this month to discover the potential of serious malfunctions with technology as it is seen by the consumer.
             As a consumer who has had a tremendous number of years in the field of customer service, I try to be a patient customer.  This was not the case this month as I attempted to purchase 2 chairs.

After waiting for 8 weeks to have the custom designed chairs delivered; they were.  The fabric was right, yet both chairs had recliner mechanism issues, padding issues and general poor workmanship.  After following the "corporate" policies; sending out a repairman after two weeks waiting it was determined that the cost of repairing the chairs would be over and above the cost of replacing.  But wait - the Michigan office needs to send paperwork - even though it is in the computer to allow for a re-selection - Never mind that the customer is in the store, ready to do so.  Oh, you decide you want a floor sample - well, we need to wait for the supervisor in Michigan (who won't be in for two days) to contact the Store Manager (who is scheduled off two days from now), it is because we need to make sure the "Inventory" department is correct.

So how about we "problem solve" here - the customer is willing to take a different chair, out of the clearance selection, off the floor in two of the local stores.  The customer is willing to deliver back to the store the two damaged chairs.  The customer is willing to change the design of her room, so that the problem and sale can be complete within four months of paying cash for the chairs.

* Response - but the computer system isn't set up for that!  The inventory system will be all messed up!

Note to retailers:  You will not be in business without your customers.

Thank goodness, after me being more patient than I ever thought possible, I was able to convince Kathy, the Store Manager of LaZBoy Gallery, Turnersville, NJ that policies are there to create a system, but that sometimes exceptions and good old common sense needs to be put into practice.  Don't let a computer system run the show - that would take the human element out of a creative career opportunity.

Now the company went from an unhappy customer to one who is at least satisfied.  Not exactly exuberantly happy, but at least the chairs are working, and satisfy my needs.

The point of this post - remember your ultimate goal when utilizing technology and systems.  They should not be the defining answer to all situations.  Make the system work for you!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Family and Consumer Science in the news...

So last week Dan Abrams on Good Morning America, part of the Jury's Out segment commented that parents should teach their children "Home Ec".  Jury's Out - Bring Back Home Ec?

So many responses came in supporting "Home Ec" - known as Family and Consumer Science, thank you very much, led to Dan Abrams visiting Belleville, New Jersey where he got to spend a class period in "Intro to Culinary".  He was a student in the class with 15 students, taught by "J" one of many FCS teachers in New Jersey, AAFCS member and an FCCLA adviser.

Yeah J! Thanks for representing us.  I am sure that he had his eyes opened as to how it's not just "cooking", but that the essential skills of life are all intertwined.

So everyone - tune in to "Good Morning America" tomorrow morning, the segment is due to be aired!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bring Back Home Ec?

If you have ever read this blog you know that I am a proponent of Family and Consumer Science Education in the United States, and around the world.  Sometimes it becomes very frustrating as it seems that the only people listening are those with "skin in the game", those of us who still have the joy and honor of teaching this fabulous, interdisciplinary curriculum.  But this week there were two great examples of others commenting and debating on the merits of the discipline.

On September 20, 2013, the Wall Street Journal, opinion section offered an editorial by Christine Grow-Loh and the benefits of compulsory Home Economics education in Japan and how her child benefited and blossomed.  Who Says Home-Ec Isn't a Core Subject?

This article led to a short, 2 minute debate on the benefits of "Home Ec" on Good Morning America, Bring Back Home Ec?  It's the first two minute of the "Jury's Out" section.  Having someone that is as respected as Robin Roberts support the field is great.

Aside from the great media press the highlight of the week came in class yesterday.  I work diligently to help students develop habits that demonstrate wise resource management.  As we were beginning our sewing project - making a toy - I explained the requirements of the project.  They are to keep a record of the resources that are being used to create the toy.  After determining the cost of the toy (based upon materials cost list) students are to price the toy to sell with the goal of making a profit.  Out of the blue a 13 year old boy states:

"This is why we did the toilet paper activity - It's all about the resources!  We don't have unlimited stuff to use!"

It has been a great week!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Learning Walk... through the piles.

As I spent much of my summer consuming and making through the #clmooc, I was fascinated by several postings of the "Learning Walk".  I believe that truly observing what is around you can certainly increase your understanding of the environment you are part of.  Maybe it is the "Slow down and take time to smell the roses" mentality a learning walk inspires.

Much of my summer was spent literally running around the tri-state area, fulfilling my family obligations of moving, while also driving to the Jersey Shore daily to work the Extended School Year.  It did not leave much time for my own personal "walking" time, but I was determined to create a modified "Walk".

Driving past a pile of logs inspired me - How many piles can I find represented during my summer?  With my camera in hand, I would stop traffic just to get a picture.
Enjoy Piles of the Summer:

Make your own slideshow at Animoto.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Envisioning the Future through TeachMeetNJ

Thursday I have the opportunity to present my experience with The Connected Learning MOOC through the National Writers Project - experienceing a Summer of Making at TeachMeetNJ an unconference of educators being held at Richard Stockton College, Galloway, New Jersey.

In the spirit of "making" I "made" a Prezi presentation that overviews the 6 Cycles of the MOOC.
The experience I had was so positive I wanted to share it with fellow educators.  The spirit of making is alive throughout the educational community, spreading to students around the world.

Friday, August 16, 2013

MAKING the summer away...

As I sit here posting in the middle of August, I find it hard to believe that the summer is almost gone.
So many projects came home from school the end of June, ready to be completed by Labor Day and the beginning of the new school year.  Those projects are still awaiting completion - I will assume that I will get down to true business within the next few days.  I know I have to in order to feel ready to take on the new school year.

I reflect back onto what was have accomplished:

  •  Successful trip to Nashville, TN with FCCLA - 3 Silver awards for my fabulous middle school students!
  • Another Extended School Year program with the amazing special needs students at Southern Regional.  A great student produced play on the importance of Decision Making - something we all need to practice daily.
  •  Participation and completion of the #clmooc - Making Learning Connected through the National Writing Project.  I had so many "Makes" I can't remember them all.  Currently planning on how I can integrate these into my curriculum - the students will love them, just hope there is enough time to complete them all in my short, quarterly courses.
  •  Packing, Moving and Unpacking of hundreds of boxes as we moved the parental unit into an amazing retirement community.  They are having fun, but I truly do not want to see another moving box for years!
  • Transcribing my Great-Great Grandmothers correspondence from 1899-1919.  I learned so much about her life, her dreams and fears, and the issues that were faced by women of that era.  Not much has changed!
  • Competed the braided rug - Shades of the Sea - that I began back in March.  This rug has been a calming project, as I watched it grow from strips of wool to a 5 ft x 4 ft rug.  It is estimated that a braided rug takes 8 hours for 1 ft of braiding to be accomplished - so my 20 sq ft rug represents 160 hours of work!

So as the summer comes to an end, I guess I MADE some headway.  Now on to finish those last few projects:

Lesson Plans
Moving daughter # 2
FCCLA planning for next year
Research for capstone
clean the "project cave"
etc, etc...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Connecting it all together

The summer has been full, sometime disjointed, but I think at this point I can begin to tie it all together.  The tools that I have learned are now becoming tools included in my lesson planning for the upcoming school year - hoping that I can pull off a year of connected learning where my students truly find the tools that will help them best meet their objectives.

Connected Learning

Using this infographic, look at what can be accomplished.  Get out of your comfort zone and try it!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Math... Crochet... Environment...

During the "Summer of Making" I have been experimenting with the concept of "Making" with the skills that I have as well as learning new skills.  Being part of the NWP #clmooc (connected learning mooc) I have been challenged to look at my world through new eyes.  I have a tremendous passion for making with my hands, using a variety of craft techniques to create useful items.
       This summer though introduced me to the "Coral Reef" project; the modeling of the Hyperbolic Geometric principle - replicated through the nature of how coral reefs grow.  I have been fascinated with reefs since my first snorkeling experience at Catalina Island, CA back in 1979; so the connection between them and my crafting skills makes me Happy-Happy. Now I am no mathematician, but having the ability to model it with a skill I possess excited me.  After viewing this video I had a need to learn how to do this:

In my typical fashion I begin a search through all my normal resources for patterns - an Voila!  Line Brand Yarns posts the basic directions to create these coral reefs.  For those of you who are lost in the video, without truly getting the directions, follow the Lion Brand link and have fun!
4 Basic Patterns: Ruffle, Circle, Cylinder and Corkscrew
        I have found a link for connecting my Family & Consumer Science curriculum: Textile Arts & Science connected to the Mathematical Principles that are important in STE(A)M education.  
My learning continues - stay posted as I expect my reef to grow - next research is into the colors of the sea and the reef below.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hacking ... a new term for upcycling?

I found this week fun, as I attempted to create a "hacked" toy into something useful.  Even though I love to have fun, I have to find a way that whatever I create can be used... I think it is that nasty work ethic my parents instilled in me.  So after digging around Goodwill for small, cheap toys I was able to make myself a hacked pencil holder.  What makes it so much fun are the small characters that are smiling at me, holding my business cards and post-it notes. 
Check out the process:   Completed #ToyHack 

Thanks for all your support after my first animoto with my unfinished and uninspired productivity that had nothing to do with toys, and all as a teaser... Thank you Jesus!

This led me to thinking about how this "hacking" experience can be brought to my classroom this fall as I followed discussions and postings about hacking games.  I think my students will have a tremendous time hacking board games for originality.  I can't wait to see how they share.

I've tried so much this week,  creating a meme for hacking:
This caused me some soul searching as I had to edit my words (something I find difficult).  How could I create a meme that represented the curriculum I teach - cooking is the ultimate HACK!

Not only did I do the Hack, post animoto, and create a Meme, I also participated in my first Twitter Chat using TweetDeck.  Wow, what a productive first week of summer!

My thoughts are going a million miles per hour, as I prepare to take a group of 3 middle school students to the annual FCCLA (Family, Careers and Community Leaders of America) National Leadership Conference in Nashville, TN.  There we will compete in several events but one is certainly a HACKING event.  Take a pair of Khaki pants and turn them into something different, and create a marketing and feasibility plan around the new product(s).  This must be based upon a perceived need, solving a societal problem.  The problem here is the overabundance of unused clothing and textile products that are filling our landfills.

I have seen so many great new tools that I will have to explore in the coming weeks, yet I feel I will only touch upon a few.  My goal is for my students to become more connected before, during and after their projects.  I thank all of the members of  CLMooc for the inspiration.  I can't wait to see what I attempt, fail, and then succeed at!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

ToyHack complete

Lost in a bin at GOODWILL
ToyHack complete

I had fun with this project and really think it will be incorporated into my classes next fall.  I am so excited to be teaching in our MAXTAP program, a STEAM class for teacher selected students.  Through project based learning students will have the opportunity to experience learning the way they learn best.  This will be my first experience with this population, so I am sure I will learn as much as they will.  Units will involve Personal Learning Styles, Forensics and Investigation, Robotics (LEGO) and Sustainable Architecture.

This #toyhack experience will enable them to develop their creative skills as an introduction to the forensics unit.

Adding the pieces and waiting for glue to dry.
A completed project - Hacked, but not useless.

Monday, June 24, 2013

#CLMOOC and Connecting this summer

This summer is one of connections as well as changes, but all that hopefully result in great things.

As I begin the summer after a long hiatus of posting, I thought what better way than learning how we can connect the learning our students need to master.  So I will be mastering this through #CLmooc a connected learning MOOC through the National Writing Project.  Now I am certainly not a writer, but who knows, it is never too late to learn.  Already I have created a "Make" with Vizify, profiling my social media usage.   Since I found that I have really segregated my life with my social media usage, I created an additional Introduction page.  This time on About.me.  There are many more I will attempt, but these made my first week of summer focused.

The change is coming as we help my parents transition from a 4 bedroom home of 35 years into the most amazing retirement community in Lancaster, PA.  Of course, I am realizing that my mother has no spatial concept; she is having issues parting with anything.  But this is a process, hard on all involved, but having healthy parents in their 80's is a blessing.  The highlights of my creativity during one of the first stages of the process is pictured below:

So in the theme of my blog; all elements of our lives will be patched together, making a whole usable piece of art or work.  My life will continue to be pieced together, making me a versatile, flexible and passionate creator.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2013 has dawned

Wow, it is hard to believe that I have not posted in so many months. It reminds me about how time really does move quicker the older we get, but really this is just so ridiculous!

I am planning to take this blog on a different direction; using it to feature some of my creative products, my feelings as I muddle through this school year trying to find ways to help develop a love of learning in my middle school students, and overall views of life as I observe life revolving around me.

Since August so much has changed in the state of New Jersey.  The school year began with changes in teacher evaluation, standards for testing, and overall teacher distrust. (That is an editorial remark based upon the perception of a current teacher - so if I offend anyone, my opinion is just my opinion)
I came into the year with so many new ideas for my students, and for the most part they have been enthusiastically embraced. 

The biggest change though came on October 29, 2012 when Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast of the United States, directly onto Long Beach Island where so many of my students and colleagues live.  Wow, how priorities and life has changed.  As my students continue to make sense of all the changes; addresses, needs & wants, and basic life experiences, we continue to teach to the best of our abilities, showing caring through fundraising, gift giving and overall generosity.  If you want to help with the continuing rebuilding, Jetty tee-shirts - hurricane sandy relief are doing great things in Ocean County, New Jersey.

So as I enter 2013 my goal is to continue teaching in a creative manner, build my etsy shop Suzinstitches to give me an outlet for my creative juices.  The Masters of Instructional Technology program continues, so having a creative outlet will certainly help keep the stress levels down.