Networked Learning Post #4: Final Reflection

For my Networked Learning Project (NLP) I chose to create a hand carved wooden chess set. The task is not simple. It is time consuming. I want to give the final product to my father, who taught me how to play chess when I was younger. To begin I did research on woodcarving, I looked up chess forums, and I researched how-to videos on YouTube. (these steps are outlined and documented in previous NLP posts within my blog). I was able to formulate a plan of attack and set up a method that included all of the things I learned by building a digital network. Without the insight of my learning network I would have been guessing and working on a trial and error basis. By creating a learning network I was able to skip the hardship of failing and starting over and over. The elements of my network streamlined my busy work and I was able to carve the set with a detailed plan. I spent plenty of time creating my plan which will be seen in the first part of the video below. However, carving an entire chess set is more than a few weeks work for a single father of two (like myself!). I truly want to present a carefully crafted final product to my father, not a rushed unpolished chess set that will be set aside. That being said, I have not completed the ENTIRE set and I will probably spend a couple of months continuing to  carve the chess set. I have finished the two main pieces.  I am sure my father will be grateful that his son worked hard to create something he will never forget.

Below you will find a video that I produced to show the thought process that went on during the creation of my NLP. It also shows the steps that I took to learn about carving a wooden chess set. The video will show actual footage of me working to create the KING and QUEEN pieces. Enjoy!


Maker Activity #3

After engaging in Maker Education for the past few weeks, I can see how my understanding and cognition of Maker design has evolved. From being interested in what a Raspberry Pi can do to completely repurposing the device in order to build a collaborative community that will enhance student learning, Maker Education has taken hold as an educational tool I will use for years to come. To see the evolution of my Maker Kit click on the following links. Maker Activity #1,  Maker Activity #2,  Maker Activity UDL.

I teach at an urban high school. Our education atmosphere is traditional. Student enroll in classes, learn vocabulary, take notes, read textbooks, and take tests. Students learn to  remember information until they are tested, then discard the knowledge after the test. If a student does not pass a test or complete assignments they fail. Once a student fails enough tests they are force to repeat the class. Often times students fail more than one class resulting in repeating the entire grade level. This is often the case at my school. I believe that allowing students to suffer the consequences of achieving a lower grade for having missed an assignment or failed to prepare adequately for a test may actually benefit them in the long-run. However, school policy doesn’t accommodate failure as a learning tool. It seems that schools prefer to teach, teach, teach, test. Students have no idea if they are on the right track because they are assessed at the END of the lesson. If errors are made somewhere in the unit, students don’t get a chance to find out until they are tested. It is an endless cycle.

In order to “change the game” I will implement Maker Education into my classroom. One specific way I will apply the idea of Maker design is by having students observe crime scenes. I usually give students step-by-step directions on how to observe and document a crime scene. If they miss a step I mark them down. They do not really learn how to do it on there own, they simply recall information that I told them is important. This year I will simply give them a staged crime scene to consider. Using there own ideas/tools I will have them document the crime scene how they think best using any thing they want (cell phones, drawings, pictures). Similar to my Maker experience I will slowly guide them to see how what they are doing is either working or not working. I will constantly be evaluating them and show them what errors they have made. I will then ask students how they could fix their errors and have them correct the problem. The result will be that my students actually taught themselves, through trial and error. Instead of giving up because they got something incorrect, students will be allowed to build on their error and come up with the right answer with out the fear of failing. Instead of recalling info. then discarding after evaluation students will remember the process because they created the process.

The Maker process described above along with the Maker activity lesson plan I created during my MAET classes this summer at MSU (see the Maker links in the first paragraph) will give me a good start to introducing Maker Education to my students. The lessons are on pace with my curriculum and fit in with forensic science objectives. Both lessons will be effective and by having students participate in Maker based activities will add value to their education.

Here is a video discussing the importance of Maker Education. The video is about 30 minutes long, but it is extremely interesting and anyone that is fed up with the “standard” direction that education is taking should watch the video.

2011 Maker Faire

Technology Integration Survey Results

The questions that I posted in my survey where:

1) How are you currently using technologies in your classroom?

2) How or in what ways would you like to change or improve the technologies that you implement?

3) What type of technology-focused professional development would you find most useful?

I was unable to get responses back from a number of my peers. I had to connect with colleagues that I work with in the Lansing School District in order to get a feeling on how technology is being used in the classroom. The answer to question one was almost all the same across the board. Educators are using technologies as the had previously used other classroom tools. It seems that the technologies are simply digitized versions of the old tools. For example, whiteboards are a digitization of the blackboard. Instead of chalk, my peers use a digital pen. The whiteboards present in the classrooms in my district are amazing technologies. There are literally thousands of ways to use the technology. websites like offers many ways to incorporate the whiteboard into the classroom. That being said, educators that I surveyed use it for one thing, a digitized blackboard.

I decided to ask my peers how they would like to implement the technology in greater detail. The general answer I got was that educators want to utilize all of the features the the whiteboard has to offer. The actual technology did not need to be changed, rather its use was what concerned my peers. Everyone I interviewed was over 50 years old. The unfamiliarity with how to use the new tech is the main reason that  the whiteboard is being used solely as an extension of the traditional chalky blackboard.

For the reason stated above my peers expressed that  PD based on usage of the whiteboard is necessary if the technology is to become more effective in it’s use. Our district purchased the equipment and installed it in the classroom, but never showed anyone how to use it. People need to learn step-by-step how to use new technology before implementing all of the features of the tech. My peers indicated that professional development on how to use the whiteboard for more than digitization would be useful.

Over all I noticed that many of my peers simple use technology to digitize tools of the past. Instead of learning the ins and outs of the tech, they just turned the device on and got to work digitizing . Perhaps if educators were trained on technologies prior to implementation they would be more than just a digital substitute for past practices.

Networked Learning Post

For my networked learning project (NLP) I have decided to learn how to carve a chess set by hand. In my first NLP post (view HERE) I decided to create a wooden chess set that I will hand-carve out of wood. In my second NLP post (view HERE) I outlined tools and resources that I will be using to complete my project. Carving a chess set is more difficult than it looks. It was important to me that I incorporate numerous resources to ensure my success. By searching and participating in wood-carving discussion forums I was able to find a process that will allow me to complete my project without wasting time and money. I also used YouTube to find videos that will walk me through creating my chess set step-by-step. In this post I will detail the actual steps that I will be taking to create my NPL.

I wanted to brain storm ideas and steps that need to be taken to carve a chess set. I created a diagram at which outlines the necessary components that will be used to bring my NLP to life. Below is a screen shot of the popplet diagram that I created. If you click on the picture you will be linked to the presentation where you can view the information.

Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 5.38.06 PM

Step 1:

Choosing the right wood. There are a number of different woods that carvers use. Much of the hardwoods used in carving are used by more experienced carvers. I was able to find four different types of wood that would work for my NLP. After researching each wood and asking members of a wood carving forum for advice I settled on using basswood for my project. Basswood is easy to shape and is recommended by my sources as a perfect wood for beginning carvers.

Step 2:

Choosing the right tools. I though that I would just go the the store and buy a pocket knife to use for shaping my chess pieces. I did not know how many different wood carving tools were available. I found that many websites and forums suggest numerous types of chisels and wood carving knofes. Some tools were for shaping and some were for detailing. I have been whittling sticks with a pocket knife since I was a child. I loved using a pocket knife to sharpen and shape sticks. Looking at the wood shaping tools I began to feel very confused. Each tool is for a specific type of carving. I would have had to watch a “how to” video on each of the tools just to figure out how to use them.  The wood carving tools look so strange to me that I decided I would stick to original idea of buying a pocket knife. Pocket knives are familiar to me and I am comfortable shaping wood with them. For this NLP I decided to use a sharp, small knife that I bought at the local PX Army surplus store.

Step 3:

Deciding what the chess pieces will look like. There are all sorts of measurements and professional opinions on how chess pieces should be measured to exact standards. I do not need my pieces to meet international chess association standards. This project will be a gift for my father not used in professional competition. The measurements do not matter to me. All I need to do is be sure that the pawns are the shortest and the king and queen are the tallest. Deciding what I want my chess pieces to look like was required more research. My father is a large, bearded, motorcycle riding madman. I think that carving pieces that look like warriors or vikings would be a great idea. However, I have never carved a viking or a warrior out of wood. Considering that this is the first time I have carved something from wood I decided to make my pieces of look like some sort of scary creature; half viking and half warrior.

Step 4:

Choosing a location to work. Online wood carving shops are exquisite. Tools hanging everywhere, exotic woods leaned against the wall, and of course giant table saws sitting in the midst of it all. I do not have access to such a shop. I could use my garage or my backyard. However, I will be in Florida during the final stages of my NLP. That means that I will have to carve the chess set out of local materials in a local location. I am going to be carving on the beach on the Atlantic Ocean. It is outdoors and  I can work in peace without jeopardizing the safety of others.

Now that I have outlined the steps and the process that I will use it is time to get to work. I will locate my materials and follow this post step-by step in order to complete my NLP. My idea, my resources and my plan have all come together. In my next post on my NLP I will show a video of the entire process, ending with a completed hand carved wooden chess set.

Using Technologies to Support Students’ Special Learning Needs: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder


ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral condition that makes focusing on everyday requests and routines challenging (ADHD, 2013). High school students with ADHD often have trouble staying focused in class. Staying focused is not the only problem ADHD students have at school. Many characteristics come together to create the “perfect emotional storm” in young students diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Students with ADHD are defiant, unable to fit in socially, and are often characterized as aggressive. They may be talkative in class, fidgety, and confrontational when presented with changes to environment. ADHD can make organization and learning especially challenging. The disability has a direct effect on educational attainment. Studies have shown that high school academic achievement  is the number one factor in post-secondary achievement. Students with ADHD are failing at the secondary level and this is causing long term problems for young people living with this disorder (Kuriyan, 2013).

I teach secondary science. The school I teach at is called Everett High School. It is locate in inner-city Lansing, MI. Our school is a Title II school, which means that over 75% of our students are classified as low-income by the federal government. There are a wide range of issues at my school that make teaching challenging. My classroom has enough desks and chairs for 35 students. However, enrollment in my science classes have created a physical overload of students. The average number of students enrolled in my course is 38 students. That means that I have to locate extra desks to cram into my classroom. ALL of the students are loud, all of the students are disruptive. Often times when I attempt to focus a talkative student I am met with the response “I have ADHD so I can’t help it.” Every class period, every day, every year, more and more disruptive students claim to have ADHD. We are allowed access to student IEP’s (which detail student learning disabilities) and the results are almost always conclusive to ADHD. I am alarmed by the rising number of young people that are diagnosed as ADHD. Sadly, the diagnosis is so common that it is a regular excuse for poor behavior and bad grades.The apparent rise in the prevalence of ADHD highlights several shortcomings in the way that not only ADHD, but mental health issues in general, are diagnosed and treated in the United States (CNN, 2013). I found an interesting video on YouTube that discusses the issue.

What this data means to me is that I need to incorporate resources that can help me meet the challenges presented by the large number of ADHD students in my classroom. ADHD is here to stay and has become commonplace in education. It is time to look at solutions that will allow educators to reach students with learning disabilities such as ADHD. There are numerous technologies that are being used in my classroom. I have an interactive whiteboard, a powerpoint projector, a microphone/speaker surround sound system, and I even have a small budget that I can use to purchase new adaptive technologies for my classroom. The technologies are used for daily lessons and are a great tool to aid the delivery of the science content that I teach. However, I have yet to adapt my technologies in order to facilitate  learning for students with disabilities like ADHD. Using technology to reach students with ADHD is important because it allows all of my students to stay on pace with their studies. Comprehension increases when students can pay attention (Nowacek, 2007). Modification of content delivery and repurposing technology is essential to ensure ADHD students do not fall behind.

Integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), as well as regular use of other software and gadgets can be helpful when trying to ensure cognitive learning. ADHD students prefer to read short texts, watch short videos, and listen to short narrated texts (Solomonidou, 2004). I teach science so the main issues that I need technology to assist me with are reading (the textbook I use is somewhat challenging) and writing (proper mechanics are missing).

Helping my ADHD students remain focused while reading the textbook is a struggle. Using audio technology may improve comprehension and fluency (Stanberry, 2009). Audio copies of textbooks are available for schools to purchase. I did some research online through my textbook’s publishing company (Pearson) and found that they, and most publishers, offer options to purchase audio copies of textbooks. Educators can also contact the publishing company’s local representative for information on how to obtain audio versions of textbooks. Audio representation of the text can be heard through head phones and my students can ensure that they comprehend the text. Speech synthesizers/screen reader systems can display and read aloud text that is on a computer screen. Anything that is typed by the student, scanned, or printed online can be read aloud to the students. This would benefit my ADHD students because my classroom utilizes computers and the Internet to complete course work throughout the semester. The following websites contain speech synthesizers/screen reader systems for purchase: Aspire Reader 4.0,  ClassMate Reader, and Read & Write Gold.

Looking at the education system today I see thousands of young students across the country that need help learning. Organization and concentration are key components to success. Students suffering from ADHD are not learning the skills that they need to become productive members of society. Our students look to us as educators to solve their educational needs. One way to solve these problems is to the repurpose technologies in our classrooms. Using the technologies presented in this post I feel confident that I can reach all of the students in my classroom regardless of the learning disabilities that are presented on a daily basis.

ADHD . (n.d.). American Psychological Association (APA) . Retrieved July 19, 2013, from

Kuriyan, A. B., Pelham, W. E., Molina, B. S., G., Waschbusch, D. A., Gnagy, E. M., . . . Kent, K. M. (2013). Young adult educational and vocational outcomes of children diagnosed with ADHD. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 41(1), 27-41. doi: Retrieved from MSU Libraries Online.

Nowacek, E. Jane; Mamlin, Nancy. Preventing School Failure 51.3 (Spring 2007): 28-35.  Retrieved from MSU Libraries Online.

Solomonidou, C., Garagouni-Areou, F., & Zafiropoulou, M. (2004). Information and communication technologies (ICT) and pupils with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms: Do the software and the instruction method affect their behavior? Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13(2), 109-128. Retrieved from Retrieved from MSU Libraries Online.

Stanberry, K., Raskind, M. H., Ph.D.., & 2009., C. (n.d.). The Best Software and Gadgets for ADHD Students : ES Learning Support. ES Learning Support. Retrieved July 19, 2013, from

Understanding the rise in ADHD diagnoses – (n.d). Retrieved July 19, 2013, from


Wicked Problem: Failure as a Learning Mode

 2013 NMC Horizon Project Summit Communiqué

“Learning is all about risk, but learning institutions are anything but risk tolerant. There are good reasons for that, except when it comes to learning. We deceive students when we do not make it clear that not all knowledge is absolute. Truth is the result of generations of exploration, of refinement, of pushing the boundaries of our experience.Truth builds on failure as much as success, but failure is anathema to today’s learning institutions. We must instill in students the drive to learn, and to help them see the vital role of failure in discovery. We need to expect our halls of learning to question their own processes and strategies, and their own success. We measure things, but spend little time on understanding what we should be measuring. We know great innovation always comes from the refinement of an initial idea, but we teach in and administer schools as if there are absolute certainties that we must never question. How can we ensure that the next series of great discoveries will be made? That is a challenge whose dimensions and starting places are elusive enough to be considered a truly wicked problem.”
Check out our Wicked Problem VoiceThread:

Rebecca, Lauren, Kate and I began to our to address our wicked problem of practice by taking a look at the above quote from the 2013 NMC Horizon Report.We divided and conquered with our research as we looked for answers to define our problem of practice, find examples of how it is wicked, looked for people who have addressed this problem and then determine our best recommendations.

Through our research and own experience, we have determined that most teachers realize that failing is a natural part of learning but do not necessarily foster an environment that students are comfortable taking risks. I began my own research diving into what makes this problem so wicked. Why is something that has been determined common knowledge (failure is part of learning) not being practiced in our schools?

I researched some of the reasons that our problem is especially wicked. I found that using failure as a learning mode is difficult because of standardized testing and how it is linked to evaluation. School district funding is tied to test results. If students do not meet education standards on tests the district loses funding. Poor test results have caused schools to hire emergency managers and in some extreme cases even had to shut down. Administrators and teachers can be replaced if scores are low. Tying standardized test scores to funding and jobs is a dangerous game. Instead of focusing on learning and innovation, educators have shifted towards “teaching to the test” in order to protect their jobs. While it is known that innovation and failure can lead to great new discoveries, schools are not in the position to accommodate  students that risk failure. Often times it is a struggle for educators to remain on pace and complete teaching the subject matter while also making time to study for standardized tests. At my school the entire month of March is set aside for ACT testing and the Michigan Merit Exam. There is no month set aside to promote innovation. How will the next generation of great discoveries be made if students do not learn how to innovate and build from failure? Standardized testing is here to stay. Simply wishing that they would go away or pretending that they do not exists is not an option. Educators need to find solutions that can embrace both standardized testing and innovation. Failing to learn how to incorporate either one is a disservice to students. Both are components of education in the 21st century and it is up to classroom teachers to lead the way. These are some of the things that make failure as a learning mode is such a wicked problem. Below is a Popplet that I created using that illustrates our wicked problem of practice. Please click on the image below to link to and view the popplet. 

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 8.43.23 PM

We also had a related article for some of our required reading from class called “Teach Your Students to Fail Better with Design Thinking”. This article speaks of our intense desire for all students to always succeed at all costs in education. However, we are preparing our students for a future that has many unknowns and our students need skills that enable them to fail but learn and improve from their failure.

All references are listed in our VoiceThread above.

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Maker #1: UDL Revised


This post will apply Universal Design for Learning framework to my Maker 2 lesson plan. My Maker 2 lesson plan is called Outside Interaction with Skype in the Classroom: Forensic Science Interview. The lesson provides an innovative way to apply Raspberry Pi and Skype technologies to a forensic science classroom. The link to the lesson is HERE. While the lesson is innovative it is not inclusive. The lesson plan does not accommodate all levels of learners present in my classroom. This post will use UDL framework to modify my forensic science Maker 2 lesson plan so that it delivers the content to all of the students in my class.

Students learn at different rates. I teach forensic science. The class is targeted for high school seniors with three years of science experience. While all of the students are seniors, student skill levels varies. There are English Language Learners, students with learning disabilities (emotionally impaired, cognitively impaired), and on top of that my classroom is overloaded by 4 students (38 students total). In order for my Maker 2 lesson plan to be successful UDL principles need to be applied. The following post will contain a revised lesson plan for my Maker 2 lesson using UDL framework.

Here is a fun video that quickly explains Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Outside Interaction with Skype in the Classroom: Forensic Science Interview: REVISED MAKER 2 LESSON PLAN

**my classroom is equip with a voice enhancing microphone that I will use to convey this lesson to auditory learners, the lesson plan will be projected on the overhead screen and handed out as a hard copy to ensure students get multiple means of representation.


Studies show that when teachers use multiple methods to explore students’ use of mobile learning it affects their motivation to learn. Research states that the personalization of learning created by mobile learning devices extends learning beyond the classroom. It also suggests that students show increased motivation due to mobile device use which leads to increases in the quality and quantity of student work (Kratcoski, 2005).


1. Review student skill level and language level of the class. Partner students with high cognitive skill ability with students that are at a developmental level. All English Language Learners should be pared with students possessing strong language comprehension and cognition.

2. Students are to be assigned a forensic science topic from the textbook to discuss with interviewee. Students need to locate contact information and contact a law enforcement professional of their choosing to schedule an interview date/time.

3. Complete Maker Activity #1: Thrifting. This will guide you on how to transform your Raspberry Pi pocket PC into a mobile learning device. Each student should test their device’s connections prior to the live Skype interview time.

4. Have students log-on to and create a user account (with consent from parent).

5. Have students pre-write 10 interview questions. Students need to access the website and use the site to ensure professional language within their question structure.

6. Arrange a meeting time with a criminal profiler working with a police department or a federal agency such as the F.B.I. Contacts can be made by visiting law enforcement websites and emailing the proper personnel.

 *Note: Have the discussion topic worked out with the criminal profiler and leave time for student interaction. Prepare a back up list of questions in case students do not ask any.


Maker Activity #1: Thrifting mobile learning device

Internet connection

Skype account

Access to PaperRater website

Interview questions


Students will look at the advantages of using Skype to connect digitally to primary resources. Students will learn how to effectively implement mobile learning technology as a useful learning tool. Students will gain first hand knowledge about the forensic science  profession of criminal profiling.


1. Students will prepare their mobile learning device according to directions in Maker Activity #1: Thrifting. **Have students reflect on a time when they connected a gaming device or a DVD to a television to activate background knowledge prior to preparing their mobile learning device.

2. Students will prepare interview questions to ask the criminal profiler. Questions will be viewed on prior to being used in actual interview.

3. Students will connect to Skype via mobile learning device and participate in an online interview with a professional criminal profiler.

4. Students will record their observations and answer the questions posted below.

 Reflection Questions:

Q1: How effective was your mobile learning device at connecting to the Skype interview?

Q2: How has this lesson changed your view on the profession of criminal profiling?

Q3: What are three things that you learned about criminal profiling during this interview?

Q4: Has using your mobile learning device increased your desire to want to learn about this topic? Why or why not?


Formative: During the lesson listen for any questions that show that students are confused about the criminal profiler’s responses or if there are any issues with the application of the mobile learning device technologies.

Summative: Go over each student’s reflection questions at the end of class. Ask follow up questions during the next class period. Have student groups create an expression of comprehension using a voice recording, poster board representation, power point presentation, or a written essay. The representation will be used to assess if lesson objectives were met.

Reflection on Maker #1: UDL Revised:

To reflect on how UDL has impacted my Maker 2 lesson plan design I will discuss to modifications that I made to my lesson. I will also discuss parts of my lesson plan that already incorporated UDL prior to modification.

The Maker 2 lesson plan was designed as a hardcopy handout. I decided to include a side note (**)  that addresses the multiple ways students comprehend learning assignments according to UDL guidelines. The lesson deals with student community outreach. The persons that my students will be communicating with are professionals in the field of law enforcement. The original lesson did not provide the tools students need to   ensure professionalism in their work. Students wrote out several questions to ask the interviewee. I applied UDL framework to this part of the lesson by helping students clarify sentence structure. A great tool that I introduced is called Paper Rater. It is a UDL tool that will offer writing suggestions and correct grammar. This way students will be provided with options for improving the language of their interview questions. To promote understanding across the different comprehension levels in my classroom I added a requirement that highly cognitive students be paired with developing students/ELL students. The connection of the Raspberry Pi device requires students to activate prior knowledge. I used UDL framework and modified my lesson plan by adding a step where students reflect on the last time that they connected a media device to a TV. Many students own Playstation/Xbox gaming devices. Having them reflect on prior knowledge will help ensure successful connection of the device. UDL framework calls for providing multiple means for expression. Originally the lesson plan assessment only included answering four questions. Applying UDL, I modified the assessment to include a broader spectrum of expression. Visual representations including  choice of poster board visuals, voice threads, and others were added to the lesson. The lesson already embraced the UDL concept regarding expression and communication. Using Skype to connect to professionals to enforce information learned is in line with UDL guidelines.

Over all I feel that my lesson is will reach more of my students than it would have if left in its original state. By modifying my Maker 2 lesson plan I have added value to it for my students. All levels of student skill are accounted for in the revised lesson plan. Knowing that the UDL guidelines can be apply to my classroom gives me hope that I can modify more lesson plans and accommodate all of the students that I teach.


Kratcoski, A., Swan, K., Unger, D., & van ‘t Hooft, M. (2005). Uses and effects of mobile computing devices in K-8 classrooms. Journal of Research on Technology in Education38(1), 99+. Retrieved from

“REFLECTIONS OF MY LIFE” THE MARMALADE ~ 1969 – original recording ~ HQ AUDIO – YouTube. (n.d.). YouTube. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from

Skype Interview Lesson Plan – Jennifer Mayes. (n.d.). UR Instructional Tech Integration. Retrieved July 3, 2013, from

 Universal Design for Learning – and beyond! – YouTube. (n.d.). YouTube. Retrieved July 16, 2013, from