Wrapping up CEP 811! What’d I get out of it all?


This section of CEP 811 is quickly coming to a close.  During the semester, we were challenged to rethink our approaches and beliefs about teaching and learning.  We delved into investigating teaching our traditional content areas in non-traditional ways utilizing technology.  I have never engaged with some of the technologies that we experimented with this semester.  For instance, I learned to make a digital poster, how to create artifacts utilizing a 3D pen, and learned to work with Evernote. All the while, we thought about and planned for infusing technologies like these in the classroom.

I could easily see having students create digital posters to demonstrate learning or even to teach my students how to utilize Evernote to improve their note taking, organization of resources, and the sharing of information.  With the Maker projects, I found ways to make curriculum more exciting and to expand my students’ experiences with and understandings of technology一from utilizing a 3D pen to create artifacts representing Italian culture to utilizing Makey kits to solve complex problems.  I felt that we were really challenged to “think outside the box.” I have so many new lessons to engage my students in the learning of Italian. I realize more fully now that I have to push my students academically and technologically and that I have to blur the lines between the two in my own thinking and approach to teaching and learning.

Yet, all of this new thinking and inspiration was a bit of a double-edged sword to me.  I think I really realized how the gap between those who have and those who have not has the potential to become an abyss if we as a society do not start valuing education and truly investing in it.  Of course, technology has the potential to close gaps.  One need only look at how the cell phone has changed Africa for an example.

It’s just that, as a public school teacher who’s worked in both wealthy and poor districts, I see what a huge difference there is in access.  My school has roughly fifteen laptop carts and three available computer labs for 150 teachers and 3,500 students, but the laptops were inaccessible all of first semester due to needed maintenance and updates.  In the three computer labs that were available, several had broken screens.  Some had faulty drives, and some needed re-imaging.  Even though we are a Title I school, little money exists for acquiring and learning to incorporate new technologies in our teaching.

Now, when one contrasts this to other schools in the Bay Area that have a 1:1 computer to student ratio, I think the danger of a widening gap starts to come into focus.  Even within a single district, I have seen more affluent schools with much better access to technologies than their counterparts located in economically struggling sections of town.  I worry about my students being able to compete in a global marketplace against students that have had access to so much more on a consistent basis.  Yes, it can be discouraging, but I think my big takeaway from CEP 811 is that I have to advocate for increased spending on and/or access to updated and new technologies for our students. We all have to commit to adequately funding education and the infusing of technologies like Raspberry Pi, Chromebooks, Circuit kits, etc. into our schools and educational institutions at every level一not just for those who already have access but for all students regardless of their SES.

On a final note, I thought that I would repost a video from YouTube here.  It contains interesting and sobering statistics updated for 2017.  You might have seen a video like this before, but even so, it’s worth a rewatch.  I think it kind of sums up the importance of what we’ve been learning about this semester.

Did you know?

Works Cited

A. (2016, September 03). Did You Know (Officially updated for 2017). Retrieved February 28, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u06BXgWbGvA

Free Working Tricks (Publisher?)

Jejimenezlc. (2015, May 26). Free Image on Pixabay – Technology, Background. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from https://pixabay.com/en/technology-background-technological-784046/ [CC0 Public Domain. Free for commercial use. No attribution required]


Assessing creativity


In CEP 811, we have spent substantial time investigating different technologies and how those might be integrated into our own classrooms to deepen student learning and drive student achievement.  We crafted hands-on collaborative lessons and projects utilizing technologies such as remixing video, creating infographics, and experimenting with maker kits. At times, figuring out how to weave new technologies into my lessons as an Italian teacher proved difficult, but these efforts were ultimately worthwhile, as they pushed my thinking as an educator and have inspired me to try new approaches.

This week we were challenged once more, but this time, we were asked to think of how we would assess “creative problem solving during maker-inspired lessons.”  At first blush, this might not seem such a challenging task.  However, assessment is rarely easy, and this is especially true in today’s educational climate in the United States.  Since the advent of federal initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, teachers and students have been under ever increasing pressure to do well on standardized tests.  Because of this, as Gee (2010) noted, teachers and their students are burdened with the yoke of a “skill and drill” approach to teaching and learning.  Gee goes on to state that “standardized skills” can be gotten anywhere and often much cheaper than we can provide here in this country.  For this reason, he predicts that if our citizens are to “survive in a developed country outside of low-level service work, they’re going to have to have innovation and creativity.”  Yet, this begs the question of how teachers and students can assess creative, collaborative, diverse educational endeavors that work against the rote regurgitation of facts.

In the present era of an almost hyper-concern for accountability, I must not only provide quality, actionable, constructive feedback for my students, but I must also have hard data that is as objective as possible to justify my grading to students, parents, and administrators.  Therefore, as an educator charged with the assessment of student learning, I would assess creative problem solving during maker-inspired lessons in the following ways.  First, I would map out my curriculum and coordinate it with the world language content standards. Rather than originating in a skill-and-drill space as it might seem, I believe this process is just as necessary as it was for Isselhardt (2013) and his school in Baltimore.  We as teachers are still responsible to our students, parents, administration, districts, and ultimately the state for meeting (and hopefully exceeding) the expectations they have adopted in terms of standards and benchmarks.  This is also in line with Bransford, Brown & Cocking (2000), “To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application” (p. 16). After I have mapped out what we are expected to learn and be able to do, I would then backward plan each unit. According to Wiggins and McTighe in Understanding by Design (2005), backward planning involves beginning with the end in mind.  I begin by developing and planning the performance task would I want students to be able to perform at the end of a unit,  For example in a unit on foods and restaurants, I would expect students to create a culturally appropriate restaurant dialogue in Italian.  I think about this final assessment and plan my instruction like a road map on how to arrive at that destination. Mapping out what one expects one’s students to be able to do is critical for any assessment. Wiggins and McTighe assert, “Our theory of understanding contends that contextualized application is the appropriate means of evoking and assessing enduring understandings” (p. 152).

At this point, and only at this point, would I begin to think about the actual assessment. This might seem a bit of a circuitous response to how one assesses a creative endeavor; however, this foundational work is both relevant and critical.  A teacher cannot effectively assess work about which s/he has not deep thinking.  We have to prepare ourselves to assess just as we would prepare our students to be assessed in order to avoid confusion and to make our expectations clear.  Students become confused, anxious, and even upset when they do not know what is expected of them.  For this reason, I would involve them in the creation of their own assessment rubric.  Doing so facilitates student investment in the work, and it has the added benefit of giving them a clear understanding of what will be assessed and how.  Naturally, some aspects of a rubric in a language class would have to involve some criteria such as natural, appropriate sounding language in terms of vocabulary and grammar.  This can easily be done by crafting more holistic style grading rubrics such as those utilized in the International Baccalaureate program with a site like Rubistar.4teachers.org.  In addition to these “typical” criteria that the students and I agree upon, we would also fashion a set of expectations around evaluating their creativity in the accomplishment of their performance task.

This aspect of assessment proved most difficult for me. I do not believe as Wiggins (2012) “naysayers” that one cannot assess creativity.  I do believe that it is both purposeful and necessary.  The challenge comes in how one actually evaluates creativity.  Teachers can quickly get into trouble by grading according to subjective rather than objective measures.  Thus far, the best resource I have found for how to evaluate creativity with some measure of objectivity is Wiggins’ own rubric.  The students and I would tweak it slightly to make it a bit more student friendly.  I suspect that asking them to produce something that is “an exquisite blend of the explicit and implicit” might prove difficult for them to wrap their brains around.  In any case, with some work, Wiggins’ rubric would be an exemplary springboard for effectively collaborating with my students on demonstrating how they push themselves creatively.


Works Cited

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.

Gee, James Paul. (2010, July 10). James Paul Gee on Grading with Games. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3pwCD-ey0&feature=youtu.be

Koestler, A. (2013, April 23). Creativity [Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil reside in the same individual. ~ Arthur Koestler]. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/bitesizeinspiration/8674201831

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

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

Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition.  Prentice Hall.  pg 13-33.

Week 6: Maker Education and Infographics!

This week, we were charged with exploring infographics and utilizing them to educate others about the Maker Movement in education.  I really enjoyed this aspect of our work.  I had not ever created something like this before.  It was actually interesting, fun, and relatively intuitive to work with once you get hang of it!  I will definitely utilize this in my own teaching and learning.  I think the students would have a great time demonstrating their learning through the use of infographics.  The biggest challenge I think would be helping them manage their time so that they don’t get lost in all the myriad possibilities (e.g. bells and whistles) like they sometimes do with PowerPoint.

For the purpose of this assignment, I designed my infographic for the educational practitioner new to maker education like I was at the beginning of this course.  I’ve embedded my first infographic below.  Alternatively, you can click here to see my infographic!



The link listed for more information is not clickable on the above image.  I’m including it here fore anyone interested.  Makered.org is a great resource for anyone interested in further exploring Maker Education!

While they are listed on the infographic, I’m also posting my resources here!


Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-465.

Mishra, P., & The Deep-Play Research Group (2012). Rethinking Technology & Creativity in the 21st Century: Crayons are the Future. TechTrends, 56(5), 13-16.

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.

Week 5: Re-imagining Learning Spaces

Currently I teach in a school building that is about ten years old.  My classroom is a large beige box about twenty-five by thirty feet square, and it is filled with forty desks, since I typically have classes of thirty to thirty-five students. As you walk through the door, two large, long whiteboards completely dominate the walls to your right and left.  At the far end of the wall to your right is a taupe colored cabinet that locks.   The wall on the opposite side of the room from the door is dominated by four windows and a wall of low-slung bookcases.  My desk is anchored directly in front of the windows.  The desk is tethered there by a mass of cords and the only control (wall mounted) for the projector, speaker volume, and Elmo. Only the back wall is free of any encumbrance and open to be decorated.  Most of the rooms in my school, with the exception of the science labs, are structured in this manner.  I am sure that this was the result of budgetary decisions, but the influence of thinking bounded in the Industrial Revolution is obvious.  Each room is the same beige cut-out.

As you can see in these pictures from the beginning of the year, the room is very generic, The vertical blinds are broken, and the overhead lighting is standard industrial style fluorescent suspended in the typical drop ceiling. On the one hand, one might think that such a generic space is like a blank canvas, and in many ways it is.  However, I find that the drabness of the colors and the generic nature of the room make me feel completely uninspired, and I am sure the students feel the same way.  Sadly, many of the teachers in my school do little to adorn their rooms.  This added with the fact that the school is one giant, two story, brick building for over 3,500 students only serve to make the environment feel incredibly institutional.  In fact, I often think it looks more like a prison than a school!

Despite the fact that I have been feeling largely discouraged and inconsequential at work lately, the opportunity to redesign my classroom and create a more inspiring place to learn for my students and I inspired me.  First, for more basic, changes.  I would rid the room of desks and replace them with tables that have mark-resistant surfaces.  Tables just lend themselves better to collaborative projects and the sharing of ideas than traditional desks that, to me, seem more isolating. Desks cordon off individual spaces rather than a shared zone for work and creativity.  Imagine how much easier it is for several young minds to crowd around a table instead of a desk that barely has enough room for a textbook and notebook.  Next, I would replace the stationary chairs with comfortable chairs that roll.  While this might become a bit of a classroom management issue (students love to spin!), this would facilitate students being able to move around their tables and to other groups/areas in the room.  To further facilitate movement through the room, I would pull up the carpet and replace it with tiles that I would paint Italian words and pictures on before sealing it to protect it.  In this manner, even the floor could become learning/inspirational creativity space.  I would replace the book cases with cubbies and drawers for storing art projects between classes.  I would also replace the harsh overhead lighting with more Italian inspired fixtures with softer light.   The tables would be arranged in two sets of rows facing each other with a large open center aisle.  This allows me to circulate around the room more easily, and it creates a space for conversations and activities in Italian during class that are readily visible to the majority of students. My desk would be moved to the middle in the back to place me more in the middle as a co-learner rather than the sage on the stage. Finally, to complete the basic changes to the basic functionality of the space, I would have many electrical outlets added throughout the room both on the walls and on possibly on the floors (with covers of course to guard against tripping).  This would facilitate students being able to utilize their own devices as well as variety of artistic and audio-visual equipment (a 3D Doodle pen for example).

In addition to these changes, I would spend much time on the aesthetics of the space.  For instance, I would commission the Art department to create a topper for the cabinet and repaint it to look like the leaning tower of Pisa.  The broken blinds would then be replaced with blackout drapes that can be pulled to let tons of natural light cascade in or drawn for the viewing of video texts. I would then create some conversation spaces in the room by adding some overstuffed chairs and maybe a few beanbags.  This would also help create more of a homey, nesting place for my classes à la The Third Teacher+ (2010).  I would then have the walls repainted in warm tones evocative of Italy.  (A dream would be to commission a trompe l’oeil piece of an Italian scene such as looking out at the Mediterranean from Capri, Cinque Terre, or Venice).  I want to the students to feel like Italy is all around them… to be excited and inspired!  Of course the space above the front white board and the back wall would be decorated with posters of Italian products like cars, fashion, and foods, and scenes from across Italy.  Live plants would be added, as they just seem to lend something to a room.  Something about having living plants in a space makes it feel more homey and nest-like.  Finally, I would remove the second white board and create a kind of classroom graffiti wall/fridge where we could post pictures of us working together as a class, work that we are proud of, and work caught in medias res.


(This is a drawing I made utilizing SketchUp!  to provide a better image of what is in my mind’s eye!  The picture is meant to be a representation of the trompe l’oeil piece I envisioned, and the greens are about as warm as I could get them with the program.  LOL Imagine Italian words painted on the floors as well!)

Obviously, this would be a quite expensive re-imagining of my classroom.  In fact, money would be the greatest obstacle.  I would need new tables and chairs ordered, painting to be done, outlets to be installed, and a graffiti/fridge wall to be created.  I have no idea how much such changes would cost, but I would imagine it would be a few thousand dollars. In a district that cannot seem to afford to fix broken blinds, these changes seem unlikely to transpire.  In addition, the structural changes would need to be done during the summer when the room is not in use, since construction would be involved albeit minimal.  In any case, I believe that the changes that I have suggested would drive creativity, achievement, and collaboration.  As Barrett et al. (2013) explain, “Six of the 10 built environment “design parameters” were identified as being particularly influential in the multi-level linear regression model. Taken together these have been shown to significantly influence pupil progression and to account for a large part of the variability in pupil performance at the class level. The six parameters are colour, choice, connection, complexity, flexibility and light.”  In the meantime, while I am waiting for the federal flood of funds to make this possible, I will do what I can to make the best of the space that we have for learning together.


Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

Heu, J. (2013, May 23). Harbour of Capri [Digital image]. Retrieved February 11, 2017, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Habour_of_Capri.JPG
O’Donnell, Wicklund, Pigozzi, Peterson, Mau, B., & Orr, D. W. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. New York: Abrams.

Week 4: The regions of Italy


For this lesson, I decided to weave California’s World Language Content Standards with the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s Framework for 21st Century Learning.  Since I teach Italian in California, my reason for incorporating the California world language standards is fairly obvious.  This unit is about learning more about the twenty different regions of Italy and how, much like the states here, all these pieces come together as a unified, diverse nation, with a rich history and culture.  Because of this, I decided to focus on the cultural standards.  I am focusing specifically on the following standards:

2.1Demonstrate understanding of the roles that products, practices, and perspectives play in the culture

3.1Use products, practices, and perspectives in culturally appropriate ways.

3.2 Describe similarities and differences in the target cultures and between students’ own cultures.

I decided to weave these together with P21’s framework, because that one is one of the few that I have found that actually mentions world languages.  They explain on their website, “Mastery of fundamental subjects and 21st century themes is essential for students in the 21st century. Disciplines include…World Languages [bold in original text].”  This was so refreshing to me, as world languages are typically largely forgotten in the United States.  For example, world languages are not part of the Common Core Standards.

In any case, I found the framework helpful for looking at how students and their education environment come together.  In the following figure, the rainbow identifies desired student outcomes while the “pools” at the bottom identify the factors that support and make these outcomes achievable.  However, I would like to push P21 a bit further.  P21 explains that “global awareness” is one of their 21st century themes, but I do not think that awareness is enough.  Students must engage with the products, practices, and perspectives of other cultures.  If we stop at awareness, we might wind up with a president that tries to discriminate against an entire religious group.


At this point in the unit, students will have already completed their research and will be working on their presentations.

Materials — Paper, drawing template, 3D pen, plastic filaments, pens/pencils, laptop cart, headphones

Plan –[Directions:  10-15 minutes]

“Today you will begin building your representations of your regions.  As discussed at the outset of this project, you must use the 3D pen to create a visual representation of their region that will be placed in the library for a week before being returned to you.  My intent is to do a bit of bragging about you and all that you have learned.  So remember, plan carefully and put your best foot forward by not giving up when you hit some snares!

First, you will get a laptop and watch at least two the following videos:

What Can the 3Doodler Do? // 3D Printing Pen Review

Scribbling with the Scribbler 3D Printing Pen // Product Review

3Doodler Create Your Own Fun & Easy DIY 3D Art with a 3D Printing Pen! 3D Art with a 3D Printing Pen!

Feel free to explore other RELEVANT videos if something catches your eye, and you want to explore it further.  These videos will give you tips and some out-of-the-box ideas that will really prove helpful.  Remember, that plastic filaments do not grow on trees here in Pittsburg, so be frugal in your use of them.  These videos will help you plan so that your vision comes to fruition.  The Doodlers in these videos work very similarly to ours, and I am here to help you if you have trouble!  Don’t hesitate to ask me questions! Check out my post from last week as well, as you can see my process even though, it turned out looking a bit pitiful.  🙂

[At this point, I would draw their attention to the afore mentioned standards written on the board. ]

Someone read to me the standards we are focusing on today.  [Pause while student/s read them]  Do we understand each of these?  Questions?  [Pause for questions] Now, as you’re working today, keep looking back at these. Is your presentation and representation of your region going to address these standards? I would also answer the following questions to ensure that you are meeting project expectations:

  • What are you going to make to represent your region?
  • Why did you select that?
  • What does it say about the culture of the region you were assigned or Italy as a whole?
  • What about your own culture, does this provide any insight into your own?


  1. You will each get a laptop and headphones on which to watch the videos.  (Remember, I will be circulating, students misusing this opportunity will have their computer taken. (approx. 15-20 minutes).
  2. Once your are done viewing and your computer is returned in good condition, I will give you a 3D pen, and you will be allowed to begin your build. (45-60 min).
  3. You will have the remainder of the period to work on this and a good chunk of tomorrow.
  4. By the end of today, you should be able to answer the aforementioned questions:
  • What are you going to make to represent your region?
  • Why did you select that?
  • What does it say about the culture of the region you were assigned or Italy as a whole?
  • What about your own culture, does this provide any insight into your own?

WARNING:  Students misusing the pens will hand them over, and you will be given an alternative assignment for the rest of the class.

Assessment — One of the typical ways that I assess my students is by circulating and asking probing questions.  For instance for this lesson, I would circulate to the various groups and ask them the questions that I have already posed.  I find that this helps drive home what they need to be doing and what they should be getting out of the assignment.  In addition, I will also be viewing and grading their presentations and builds once they are completed.

Rationale:  In addition to the explanations that I have given up to this point, I believe that this also addresses Wiggins and McTighe’s (2005) model “Understanding by Design,” both the students and I know what goal we are striving for… a deeper understanding of and appreciation for Italy and the rich cultures that call it home as well as what insights we can gain into our own cultures.  As Wiggins and McTighe question, “How, in other words, will students be helped to see by design the purpose of the activity or resource and its helpfulness in meeting specific performance goals?” (17).


California State Board of Education. (2009, January). World Language Content Standards for California Public Schools: Kindergarten through grade twelve. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/worldlanguage2009.pdf
Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (n.d.). Framework for 21st Century Learning – P21. Retrieved February 05, 2017, from http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework
Spackman, I. (2009, January 2). File:Regions of Italy with en-wiki names.png. Retrieved February 4, 2017, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Regions_of_Italy_with_en-wiki_names.png

Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition.  Prentice Hall.  pg 13-33.

Personalized Learning


Differentiated instruction has recently been garnering much attention in public schools.  Because of this, the topic of personalized learning interested me a great deal.  I realize that differentiated instruction and personalized learning are a bit different.  In a nutshell, differentiated instruction is  about adjusting how content is delivered and how students demonstrate mastery based on their individual needs, and individualized instruction adjusts the pace at which students progress through the same material.  According to the School Improvement Network (2015), personalized learning is “the whole enchilada” or stated more clearly, “Differentiated instruction and individualized learning are subsets of personalized learning…”  Therefore, exploration of personalized learning is very beneficial to a deeper, richer understanding of how to tailor the instruction in my classroom to each child.  Doing so sounds wonderful on the surface, but the devil is definitely in the details so to speak.  Trying to tailor instruction to meet the needs of each student in a class can be daunting to say the least.  For instance, I teach classes of thirty-five high school students who range from talented and gifted to those several years behind grade-level expectations, from students with prison ankle bracelets to those enrolled in AP classes.  Personalized learning is not as simple as it sounds, so I am very interested in exploring this topic further.  To this end, I selected two fairly different articles from my research on the subject.

The first article that I chose was “An Operationalized Understanding of Personalized Learning” (Basham, Hall, Carter Jr, & Stahl, 2016).  This article focuses primarily on learning how students with disabilities fair in classrooms utilizing personalized learning as well as how personalized learning is operationalized, or put into action, in the classroom..  Since I teach a large variety of students with special needs, I was especially interested in this aspect of the research.  Basham et al. (2016) conducted fifty different observations during an eighteen month period in an urban district undergoing reforms (121).  The researchers compiled data from their observations to identify how personalized learning was being operationalized in the classroom.  Furthermore, Basham et al compared the growth that “regular” education and special education students made during the the study.  They then used a variety of statistical tests and generalized linear mixed modeling (GLMM) “used to identify the variables that significantly contribute to meeting at least 1-year growth (yes/no), accounting for dependency of observations” (130).

The researchers discovered that personalized learning was operationalized in a number of ways.  For this student, some of the most interesting aspects of these classrooms were that they were consistently “highly self-regulated environments” that relied on “transparent, continual, and actionable data” and that “integrated learner voice” (133-134).  They also noted that these classrooms allowed for multiple paths to demonstrate understanding (134).  These methods describe what many would consider an ideal classroom.  This is further supported by the student data which demonstrated that students with special needs not only did not fall further behind their peers, but they also succeeded.  Basham et al explain, “In fact, there is some indication that learners with disabilities cannot only be successful but thrive in personalized learning environments” (132).  For example, students with disabilities showed higher rates of obtaining 1-year and even 2-year growth than students not in special education (132).

The second article that I selected was “Personalized Workplace Learning: An Exploratory Study on Digital Badging Within a Teacher Professional Development Program” (Gamrat, Zimmerman, Dudek, & Peck, 2014).  This article held particular interest for me, as my academic research interests center on how technology and current education trends impact professional development for teachers.  In this study, thirty-six teachers were involved in a multi-site case study where teachers embarked on what Gamrat et al (2014) termed “Teacher Learning Journeys” or TLJ (1136). Teachers were given access to over sixty online learning modules.  They could earn stamps by successfully completing a module, or they could earn badges by completing “additional reflection and work to connect PD activity content to their workplace” (1142).  Over the course of three months, these 36 teachers earned 133 stamps and 21 badges (1142).  Gamrat et al discovered that teachers utilized their TLJ to engage in professional development that was germane to the success of their students and what they were teaching in their classrooms (1143).  Furthermore, the researchers state, “Teachers used TLJ system flexibility to set personalized PD goals” (1144).  I struggled with envying the opportunity given to these teachers, as I have never been asked what type of professional development I needed.  It has always just been fed to me like some sort of pill which is supposed to cure whatever problems the district thinks its teachers have, but secretly we all know it is just a placebo.

Much of what Culatta said in his TED talk seemed to resonate in these articles.  With Basham et al (2016), one sees that students in both “regular” education and special education not only succeed but can actually thrive in environments where they are more fully engaged in their learning and evaluation.  In Gamrat et al (2014), one sees that teachers (when given the opportunity) will develop meaningful goals and engage in professional development that enriches the instruction in their classrooms.  Gamrat expressed concern that technologies not simply be used to repackage staus quo teaching and learning but to create something new that pushes education out of its box and into the future.  Here, I think we see the realization of his hopes.

However, as mentioned earlier, the old saying that the devil is in the details rings true here as well.  In Basham et al, the entire district was on board and had a central purpose of not just improving but revolutionizing how they were meeting the needs of their students.  Getting an entire district on the same page and going in the same direction is not always so easily accomplished.  Furthermore, the students had incredible access to technology.  Few schools in the United States are able to boast the 1:1 ratio student to personal data device that Culatta envisioned.  In my own school for example, we have three computer labs for 3,500 students and over 150 teachers.  We do have a number of laptop carts, but these were out of commission for the first semester, because they needed “updates.”  Obviously, our technological infrastructure is woefully inadequate.  In Gamrat et al, the teachers were allowed to generate their own professional development goals and pursue their own paths regarding what professional development they engaged in.  As I have alluded to before, having been in teaching since 1998, I can honestly say that professional development has always  been prescribed with little to no flexibility.

Obviously, we have far to go to meet the vision that Culatta thinks has already arrived.  Perhaps it has, but schools have a long way to go to catch up… if that is even possible in a field as rapidly changing as technology. This is where I think that research into Maker Education has true potential.  Often times in education we try so desperately to make big changes overnight when the inertia of something as gargantuan as American public education can rarely be overcome so quickly.  Maker education provides teachers a way to create hands-on highly personalized learning experiences for their students with a bit of effort and faith for very little money.  I am very curious to see how my students would succeed in a classroom environment that is much more self-directed.  Maker Education does seem still to target primarily teachers and students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).  However, with further research, I feel that I could find ways to infuse my lessons more with such opportunities.  Will my students be more successful with a traditional approach to language teaching, or will they achieve higher levels of fluency and intercultural competence through Maker Education?  I think this would be a worthwhile topic for an action research project.  I am interested to see what changes it might bring to teaching and learning in my classroom.


Basham, J. D., Hall, T. E., Carter, R. A., Jr., & Stahl, W. M. (2016). An Operationalized understanding of personalized learning. Journal of special education technology, 31(3), 126-136. doi:10.1177/0162643416660835

Gamrat, C., Zimmerman, H. T., Dudek, J., & Peck, K. (2014). Personalized workplace learning: An exploratory study on digital badging within a teacher professional development program. British journal of technology, 45(6), 1136-1148. doi:10.1111

School Improvement Network. (2015, June 24). Personalized Learning vs. Differentiated Instruction: Understanding the Difference. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from http://www.schoolimprovement.com/personalized-learning-blog/personalized-learning-vs-differentiated-instruction/


This week in CEP811, we were tasked with finding objects to re-purpose and utilize with our maker kit. For my “kit,” I opted to by a 3D Doodle pen.


For an idea of what you can do with the pen click here.

My idea thus far is to have the students learn about different regions of Italy and then to create a symbol for their region with the 3D pen.  For instance, Rome is located in the region of Lazio, and a student might want to use the pen to make a 3D representation of the coliseum. I went around to a thrift store and found some read/write CD’s that I got as well as some tea light holders that I thought might be good “templates” for circles to make the coliseum.


You can just see the tea light holder in front of the pen (It’s purple).  The pink and green circles wrapped in plastic next to the CD are the plastic filaments that the pen (in blue in the foreground) uses.  The other materials were just some other items I thought might come in handy.

I first tried to make the coliseum by making circles with the pen around the tealights.  Then, I attached the circles by making columns of plastic.  I didn’t try just layering circle after circle on top of each other, as the pen did not come with as much of the plastic as I thought.  Therefore, I decided to use the plastic filaments sparingly until I could purchase more.  In any case, this is my first coliseum.


OK, so it looks much more like the start to some messed up drum, but it was my first attempt!   Then I tried to make the leaning tower of Pisa.  Also, not beautiful.  After watching a few more videos though, I noticed that most people seem to first make something flat, and then put it together with something else or just pull it off the paper and put it upright.  I got the idea that I could maybe use the pen to make some trees and the CD’s as a shiny surface representing a lake for the alpine areas of Italy.  The trees came out much better and actually didn’t look too terrible.  I also wrote “Italia” with the pen just  to see how it worked with letters, and that also came out well.  Interestingly, the pen will etch the CD’s a bit, so even if the plastic writing comes off, what was written remains!



How to make a tree!

So, since the monuments didn’t turn out so well.  I thought I’d show you how I did the trees if you wanted to experiment with a 3D pen yourself.

  • First, don’t be afraid of it.  I was a bit nervous, but you have to just dive in and not worry about making mistakes.
  • To get the pen ready, you simply plug the pen in and load the filament in the back.
  • The pen will begin to warm up, and once it reaches temperature, you can use it.  The pen has a little window that shows the temperature, and it has buttons for you to raise or lower the temp.img_4635
  • Next, you push the button on the side, and the pen starts to extrude the plastic.  If you’ve ever used a glue gun, this works almost exactly the same way.  It just has plastic filaments instead of glue!
  • BE CAREFUL!  The tip does get hot just like a glue gun does.  The plastic won’t burn you like the glue, however.
  • Then, you just get busy creating.  You’ll probably want to have some scissors handy.  Every time you stop and pull the pen away, there will be little whispy bits of plastic (or at least there are for me).  They’re very simple and easy to clip off.

You can watch this video of me making my trees and attaching them to the “lake.”  If you can’t get it to load, click here!


I have a lot to learn, but I’m excited by the possibilities!

These pictures and video were included to show the materials that I used as well as my first attempts at making famous Italian landmarks.  While the coliseum did not look how I was hoping, the trees came out much better, and I could see the students utilizing the pen to make interesting representations for their various regions.  Therefore, I included the video so that someone else could follow my process for how I made the trees.