Posted in constructivism, edtech, Educational Research, engagement, fab lab, hackerspace, hands-on learning, inspiration, makerspace, professional development, STEAM, students, teaching, Uncategorized

Makerspaces: Tackling the Essential Questions

Sooooo…. I refuse to make excuses. I promised some makerspace-themed posts, and they are/were a little delayed. But here we are nevertheless:

  • Who is a makerspace designed for?
    • I have seen these spaces used for absolutely any age. As long as the materials, tasks, or learning outcomes are developmentally and intellectually appropriate – a makerspace is for anyone!
    • Here are some guiding questions to help tailor the space and content appropriately:
      1. What is the experience you’re trying to create?
      2. What are the learning goals and outcomes you want to achieve in this space?
      3. Who will lead the student experience?
      4. Will you provide students a set curriculum or more open-ended projects
      5. What grade levels will your space target?6.How will students access the space?
      6. How will educators learn how to get the most from the makerspace?
      7. How will you assess the students on their projects?
  • Where are they useful?
    • Makerspaces are perfect for classrooms, schools, libraries, media centers, community centers, museums, public spaces, etc.
    • To put it simply: anywhere people can have access, time, and opportunities is where a makerspace is useful.

More on this topic to come…stay tuned, and Happy Spring!


Posted in blog, constructivism, discovery, engagement, fab lab, hackerspace, hands-on learning, literacy, makerspace, presentation, reading, rigor, STEAM

Make Your Space… A Makerspace!

I’ve been presenting a lot lately about makerspaces (a.k.a hackerspaces, fabrication laboratories, “fab labs,” etc). There is such a breadth and depth of information available about makerspaces, so I’m going to do a “blog series” for the next week or two (depending upon the ideas and questions that flow from the discussion) with ideas, resources, and iterations of makerspaces. If this is of particular interest to you, I encourage you to subscribe to my blog via email. You’ll find the subscribe form on the right hand side.

Some topics/essential questions I will address for you:

  • What exactly is a makerspace?
  • Who is a makerspace designed for?  
  • Where are they useful?
  • What kind of discoveries are possible in a makerspace?
  • What do I need to have one in my classroom, school building, or home to have a makerspace?
  • What instructional considerations should I make sure I’ve made?
  • Is a makerspace about the process, or the product?
  • How do I tie my makerspace project to also promote literacy?

I will also be linking and referencing lots of resources and ideas for your STEAM repertory, as well as makerspace activities. I will be referencing ideas to use from pre-kindergarten, all the way through high school, post-secondary, and even adult participants.

Thanks in advance for coming on this “journey” with me through the ideas of makerspaces. I’m really excited to share more… Stay tuned!

Kirsten 🙂

Posted in 1:1 devices, Apple, Apple devices, Apple Distinguished Educator, Apple Teacher, edtech, educational organizations, Garage Band, iMovie, iPads, Keynote, learning communities, Pages, PLC, professional development, Professional Learning Community, teaching

An Apple… for the Apple Teacher

I’m so proud to share that I recently (since the New Year) became an Apple Teacher. This is one of a few professional goals I set for myself in 2019. I’m now so much more versed in the suite of Apple products I’ve been using for years. I also have so many more ideas for how to engage students by using Keynote, Pages, Garage Band, etc! I’m really looking forward to seeing my students’ demonstration of learning in a sophisticated, and technology-savvy way.

Since I earned this recognition, I’ve now focused my energies on continuing to hone my skills and seek an Apple Distinguished Educator designation. A dear colleague of mine from the PBS Digital Innovator cohort, Don Goble, is an “ADE” and has been encouraging me to apply for years. Luckily, the planets aligned in such a way for this busy, single mom to actually muster a focused, determined application and video.

Using my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air, and desktop mini Mac, my video came together quickly and easily. I was so surprised at how easily I could weave my photos and videos with Keynote and Garage Band. I also employed my indispensable design partner, my sister Kacey, who brought so much knowledge and nuance to fitting all the required video elements in under two minutes flat.

So, now is a waiting game. In the meantime, I’ve watched several submissions on YouTube that earned ADE status. Needless to say, they are phenomenal! At the risk of being vulnerable, I have to say that some are actually intimidating. There are so many great videos – though I do need to be reminded that many of them are from “tech integrators/educators.” I hope they will consider my background in literacy and STEAM as a great compliment to the tech gurus in their midst.

Though the criteria mentioned that the video could be as simple or complex as the applicant wished, I wanted my narrative to be clear and concise. I wanted it to reflect my passion for educating and being involved beyond the classroom. I hope that my video reads sincerity and duende.

If you are on the ADE selection committee, and are reading this, please know that this single mother and hard-working educator would do nothing but her utmost to represent the quality and integrity associated with the Apple name. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy expanding my professional learning community (PLC) by interacting with the @AppleEDU crew and #AppleTeacher community online. I will be wearing the Apple Teacher badge with pride and accomplishment, and looking positively toward what might be ahead for me…

Posted in educational organizations, learning communities, membership, PLC, Professional Learning Community

What Ever Happened to Professional Memberships?

When I went back to school to get my master’s degree, one of the requirements was to join a professional organization related to education. I joined the Niagara Frontier Reading Council, International Literacy Association, Kappa Delta Pi, the PBS Digital Innovators Edmodo group, etc.

professional learning community, or PLC, is a group of educators that meets regularly, shares expertise, and works collaboratively to improve teaching skills and the academic performance of students.

A colleague recently told me that some academic programs no longer require this.  Now, I am sure there are reasonable explanations for this, but the inevitable has happened: some professional communities have seen their membership numbers decline in recent years.

As a delegate to the New York State Reading Association (NYSRA),  this was a topic of great conversation amongst councils across the state: How do we get educators to see the value of membership in our organizations, when they are not obligated to participate?

I must say, I have met some of the most incredible people through my involvement with professional memberships and learning communities (PLC).  I’ve learned so much,  maintained my passion for literacy and educational technology, and  had so many opportunities to demonstrate leadership and enthusiasm for my profession.

If you’re not a member of a professional council/organization, or maybe let your membership lapse – please consider (re)joining. Many councils are in distress, and are perplexed as to how to garner members. I can also attest to the fact that educational affiliations would love to hear your ideas, and areas of interest for programming/outreach.

 If you are a member, please encourage your colleagues to join an organization that is near and dear to them.

One thing to remember: You are an important piece of the puzzle. It wouldn’t exist without you and the other  impassioned, committed, altruistic group of pedagogy-focused individuals. Also, many organizations want new/returning members, and can seem insular. My advice is not to allow a small group intimidate you by being an “insiders club.” They want you and your ideas to make their mission, values, and programming more robust and meaningful!

So, add “join a professional community” to your new year’s resolutions!

If you’d like to collaborate or gain specific ideas on how to garner more members in your PLC, please contact me: I’m happy to help you in any way I can.

Peace and all prosperity for 2019!


Posted in Angela Watson, Anne Podolsky, blog, classroom management, conference, connection, Educational Research, Hannah Putman, Inveterate Teaching, Learning Policy Institute, motivation, National Council on Teacher Quality, Nick Ledyard, PD, Peer-Reviewed Journals, professional development, resources, Student Achievement, Switching Grade Levels, Tara Kini, Teacher Efficacy, Teacher Happiness, teaching

It’s Easy… Just Like Changing Lanes, Right???

Teachers are expected to shift grade levels flawlessly, right, especially inveterate ones. 

Many teachers spend most or all of their careers focused on one grade or area of teaching. As this post and linked research will illustrate, they have a professional advantage in terms of effectiveness, happiness, etc.

As for me, I have been in the realm of teaching for 18 years now. I can honestly say that there is not one grade level that I have not worked with on some level, from preschool to grade 12 in the past 18 years. And truthfully, every grade level has been a pleasure – with its own advantages, disadvantages, and learning experiences.

However, that doesn’t necessarily prepare me for the specific life circumstances of my students, group dynamics, prior learning experiences/environments, ingrained behavior patterns, etc.

As for me, I have now been teaching exclusively in traditional schools for 10 years. Prior to that, I taught dance and yoga in public and private schools, camps, community centers, and independent studios. I was a“guest artist” in performing arts programs in New York City Public Schools, and a choreographer for public middle schools in Westchester County. I led children’s and adult classes in New York City at Broadway Dance Center.

So, pedagogy has been in my repertoire forever, it seems.

Continuously Shifting Gears

But in my current district, I have had three different placements in three years: reading teacher, 3rd gradeENL classroom teacher, and now 1st grade general education classroom teacher. And yes, I feel like my head is spinning with the constant change. I feel as though I’ve handled it as gracefully as I can, but I have definitely had the sense that I am constantly fighting to stay ahead and feel prepared.

Also, the constant shifting of placements and grade levels means constant shifting not just with curricula, but classroom management, positive reinforcements, timing of transitions and attention spans, etc. I’m not going to lie – my second year teaching third grade was exponentially easier than my first. Just when I thought I was going to sail into my third year of 3rd grade feeling less anxious about keeping all the plates spinning in the air, I again got shifted involuntarily. And so now that I’m shifted into primary, there have been some bumps and tweaks in how to approach all aspects of my work.

Current Research

In February 2018, the National Council on Teacher Quality published Hannah Putman, Nick Ledyard’s: Can Moving Teachers Between Grade Levels Actually Hurt Student Learning? And to get straight to their answer: unequivocally yes.

A Meta-Analysis on this Topic

In 2016, Tara Kini and Anne Podolsky of the Learning Policy Institute published a paper on the correlation between teaching experience and teacher effectiveness. The paper, a meta-analysis of 30 peer-reviewed studies in the last 15 years, positively related experience to effectiveness. Teachers tend to gain the most significant increase ineffectiveness in the first period of their careers, but the increase in students’ potential for achievement continues into the second and third decades of a teachers’ careers. (Kini and Podolsky, 2016)

Kini and Podolsky’s meta-analysis confirmed a lot of my feelings this year. Here are their findings:

  1. Teaching experience is positively associated with student achievement gains throughout a teacher’s career.
  2. As teachers gain experience, their students are more likely to do better on other measures of success beyond test scores, such as school attendance.
  3. Teachers make greater gains in their effectiveness when they teach in a supportive and collegial working environment, or accumulate experience in the same grade level, subject, or district.
  4. More experienced teachers confer benefits to their colleagues, their students, and to the school as a whole.  (Kini and Podolsky, 2016)

At the risk of being too frank, here are some thoughts, especially in regards to #3:

  • I feel like I hold myself to a high standard, and am a perfectionist. So my burnout from constant change is increasing, becauseI have such a strong desire to be incredibly good at whatever I do. No one can be “perfect” off the bat at anything. I crave time, support, professional development, camaraderie, and a less-anxious teaching environment.
  • My entire teaching career, I have felt so happy and excited to get up and get to work every day…until recently. I fear my devotion to this profession is going to dwindle quickly if I do not find stability. I am yearning for a consistent placement and hoping that the data continue to support the claims above, so I can use empirical evidence to fight for myself professionally.
  • Primarily because of substitute teacher shortages (is this going on in your district too?), I have been told “NO” to going to conferences and professional development (PD) outside the district. On several occasions. I have been discouraged from going to things, even in the summertime. I’ve been encouraged to rely on the PD that my district offers. You may know that I regularly present at conferences, so this is difficult for me. Especially since conferences are where I can “recharge my teacher batteries.”It is something I need to reinvigorate my ever-shifting practices. (I liken it to taking supplements to enhance performance, or a self-care regimen for invigorated teaching!)


  • I have teachers around me I know I can reach out to, if need be. My neighboring teachers in my hallway are incredible women who repeatedly offer mentorship, exchanging of ideas and resources, etc. I am incredibly grateful for them!
  • I have made a direct, clear communication with my superintendent about wanting to be a great reflection on her district when I am asked to speak at conferences. I feel as though I can reach out to her directly, and that she understands my desire to be a part of the educational community at-large.
  • My current principal (new to our building this year) is open to hearing my thoughts and is receptive to any concerns I voice.He is always willing to find solutions within his capabilities.
  • I have taken it upon myself to create positivity and community in my building, by facilitating a “Morning Mindfulness” before school every Wednesday morning. It is a brief, 10-minute practice to focus on our breath, become present, and approach the day with hope and openness.

Cutting the Slack

On my way to a conference just this past week, I stumbled on a podcast that is becoming a “game-changer” for me. It is the Vibrant, Happy Women Podcast by Dr. Jen Riday. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, but this one speaks to me in a way none of the others I’ve found do. There are different women who are guests on the program, and several talk about the importance of acknowledging that things are not easy, and giving yourself a break.

Now that’s a novel idea! 

So, I know that I must mindfully acknowledge that I am doing the absolute best with the knowledge, training, and resources I have at this moment. And that is enough. At least for now. I cannot keep beating myself down for the ideal in my head I’m not spring-boarding into with each new placement. I also have to give myself credit for being the only adult in the room, when many other teachers have aide support or special education/ENL teachers that push-in during instruction. I’ve been able to evaluate 18 students’ complete literacy profiles (reading level, writing development, spelling inventories, and sight word knowledge) twice so far this year, whilst managing a whole classroom alone, with only partial help on sight word assessments. (Thank you Mrs. Finney! You are a godsend!)

So maybe….just maybe…I’m not doing as badly as I am making it out to be? Regardless, the proof will be in the pudding. I await gains in student achievement, and only then will I know if my instruction has been effective.

Here’s what I’d love to know from you:

  • How do you manage shifts in teaching placements?
  • Disparate ideologies in your professional environment?
  • Feeling like you don’t have a professionally supportive work situation?

I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time… go forth and love what you do despite any obstacles!

Peace and understanding,



PS: You might also want to check out Angela Watson’s website for more on this topic! 

Kini, Tara, and Anne Podolsky . “Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research.”, Learning Policy Institute, June 2016,

National Council on Teacher Quality, ed. “Can Moving Teachers Between
Grade Levels Actually Hurt Student Learning?” February 1, 2018. “Can

Posted in 1:1 devices, backtoschool, balance, behavior, blog, classroom management, Common Core, connection, edtech, engagement, inspiration, iPads, literacy, motivation, reading, students, teaching


So I’ve made a shift. From intermediate to primary education. I stepped into a great first grade team with three incredible teachers. Two have varying levels of special education “consultant teacher” rooms, the other is an ENL/ELL room. My room is general education, first grade. However, the vast majority (13 out of 18 students) are reading at a Fountas & Pinnell/Guided Reading Level “B.” Since my background and passion is literacy, I take this as a formidable, personal challenge. 

If I was continuing in third grade this year, the wheels would have been in motion a lot more reflexively. However, I had to “dust off my first grade mojo” and jump back to primary with both feet. 

Noto Bene: There were a lot of changes district-wide with how classrooms were structured, and many veteran teachers found themselves placed in entirely new grade levels they have never taught in before. I was originally supposed to change buildings AND grade levels, but in the end I was able to shift from the intermediate hallways of my building to the primary building. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit of a scramble to unpack with the amount of changes to my ultimate placement this year, but every day I feel a bit more settled in.

I did one of my student teaching placements in first grade, and always hung onto the materials that my cooperating teacher gave me. Thank goodness! It is like the Holy Grail! I was also fortunate to sit in on a presentation by a former colleague who teaches in a Montessori classroom, to refresh myself on some pedagogical techniques that I can translate to my gen-ed classroom. (More to come on the Montessori ideas later….stay tuned!)

So, I’ve done my running records, sight word assessments, primary spelling inventories, and I’m off to the races! I am slowly guiding my students toward independently accessing educational technology on our 1:1 iPads, and seeing how I can pair up tasks with our New York State first grade curricula. 

So here are my “elite eight” thoughts for my first quarter back, which may . or may not inspire further blog posts:

  1. First graders respond much more to positive behavior management systems. Negative reinforcement directly damages their self-esteem and self-worth.
  2. Walking down the hallway in one straight line can be really hard, especially in the advent of The Floss and The Shoot dances!
  3. I need a tattle monster to take up residence in my classroom.
  4. Flexible seating is really tricky to establish with super-wiggly kiddos.
  5. Parent communication in the primary grades is even more critical for students’ success. Finding the right streams of communication with each parent/family is equally as critical.
  6. STEM/STEAM/STREAM offers engagement that “sage on the stage” pedagogy can’t always offer.
  7. Primary education requires a modicum of cuteness that intermediate-level students don’t subscribe to.
  8. Teacher blogs, Pinterest, and Teachers Pay Teachers have become such fantastic resources for teachers – albeit most are not vetted and one should proceed with caution!

Thanks in advance for coming on this journey with me! Stay tuned for more fun… and as always, please share/follow this blog! Your comments, questions, and discussion ideas are welcome too.


Posted in Uncategorized

If This Xennial Can Do It, So Can You! ;)

I continuously admire other educators’ blogs. They are inviting, colorful, and engaging. So, I decided to delve into the sophisticated world of blogs, web hosting, etc. What a huge learning curve it is! I am now steadfast in my notion that coding and web-based content is an indispensable skill. Therefore, EdTechInspired is shifting from to Who knew there was such a difference… It turns out they are two incredibly different platforms. If you’d like to read more about it, this is a great article that helped me understand the disparities.

In any case, I will be documenting my journey into some deeper re-branding of EdTechInspired, as well as my self-inflicted journey into web design. (Just kidding, I’m thoroughly enjoying this exploration. I get to push myself to be able to offer you more sophisticated material.) Have you ever done web hosting, design, or blogging? How do you best present your own material?

Posted in backtoschool, balance, connection, inspiration, professional development, self-care, teaching, Uncategorized, unplugging, vulnerability

Falling Back, to Reach the Present…

I hope everyone has settled into a great new school year. By now new routines and schedules have been established, new relationships and bonds are beginning to form, and students are beginning to grow under our tutelage.
Fall reminds me of the shedding of last school year, and the beginning of redefining ourselves once more. Not everyone loves autumn, but in Western New York State, we have some of the most beautiful foliage. The air has a crispness to it that seems to break the cycle of a not-so-spectacular summer weather cycle.
New things are seemingly always on the horizon, but lately I’ve really been trying to stop worrying about the past or feeling anxious towards the future. I really want to images-3focus on enjoying the present. Being in the moment is becoming so important to me. Call it “growing up,” but the concept of mindfulness is my unofficial theme for this year… and hopefully for life.
There is this beautiful Lao Tzu quote: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
Isn’t that beautiful? Don’t we all need more peace in our lives? The world outside of ourselves is one thing, but we have the ability to partake in self-care. Moreover, we have a responsibility to make self-care a priority. I always denied that I needed self-care. I convinced myself that being strong and capable meant proving you needed less time for
But how wrong I was. Enjoying the little things, taking moments to breathe and refocus, and shedding the frenetic energy that envelopes us in our quest to “have it all” is more compulsory the “older and wiser” I get.
How about you? How do you rebalance your energy?

Posted in behavior, Brene Brown, brenebrown, Character Education, classroom management, connection, culture, End of the School Year, students, Summer Vacation, teaching, Uncategorized, vulnerability

Angry or Sad?

Anyone suddenly experiencing particularly bad behavior in your classroom???
e056ccd28de3079e1c0b64d71ef689ddThe school psychologist and I had an interesting conversation the other day:

  1. The end of the year is coming.
  2. For some kids in our population, school is the only structure in their lives.
  3. It is also where they are fed, loved, etc.
  4. A lot of kids are anticipating the summer recess as a loss of that structure.
  5. The instability creates a feeling of being upset.
  6. Instead of becoming emotional, students become angry.

The gist: It is easier to be mad than upset.
Here is an article from Psychology Today that outlines these phenomena. As for the classroom, I found the most applicable part to be:

“…just behind the anger that is so evident, and often encouraged, in our lives, are two emotions that are much harder to express: fear and sadness. Both of these very common feelings are seen as weaknesses and are hard to tolerate for long. One way to escape them is to get mad and allocate blame. If we can find a target, we can indulge our outrage and assign responsibility for our misery to someone else. Now we are a victim.”

My belief is that several kids are using this coping mechanism at this point in the school year. However, that does NOT make it okay to be rude, nasty, or mistreat others. My heart hurts when I hear mean things. I take it just as seriously as a lapse in academic performance.
I want my students to take much more away from my classroom than academic knowledge. I want them to be better people because they were in my room.
So how do we, as educators, tackle this? I feel as though addressing this issue is important, beyond classroom management and counting down to the last day of school. Not addressing this specific behavioral phenomena would be a lost opportunity to a monumental “teachable moment.” After all, this is one that a person will experience throughout their lives, right?!

My mom will be the first one to tell you that I was a textbook case of this phenomena. Precisely the week before I would head 330 miles back to my small, liberal arts college in Ohio, I would become easily agitated and incite arguments over the most ridiculous things. 

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was an undergrad that I had it pointed out to me, and was then able to recognize when I was doing it. 

The Solution
IMHO, the solution should involve explicitly teaching students about vulnerability. (Yes, I am a raging Brene Brown fan. If you don’t know her, please take a few moments to acquaint yourself. Here is her first amazing TED talkHere is the follow up TED talk.)
I tell my students that I have been observing an uptick in anger. I tell them that I have been through a lot in my own life, and use the going-back-to-college example.
Anger and sadness are basic feelings. Kids get that. Even younger kids can discuss the differences between being mad and sad.  Giving students permission and opportunities to express their sadness, and vulnerability is another part of it. Whether it be in their writing journals, during reading/writing conferences, during transition times, class discussions, etc.

Do you see this in your classroom? In your life?

How do you handle it? What is your approach?

Thanks for reading all the way to this point. And please feel free to create a dialogue below. 😉

Posted in blog, conference, edtech, engagement, literacy, motivation, Nell K Duke, NFRC, NYSRA, PBL, presentation, professional development, reading, resources, teaching, Uncategorized

Brushes with Greatness…

Wow, it has been far too long since I have added to this educators’ blog. Now I know what my New Year’s Resolution will be!
Let’s catch up, shall we?!
I’ve recently presented with the New York State Reading Association (NYSRA), Niagara Frontier Reading Council, and Diocese of Buffalo. I’ve met so many impassioned educators around me, and made some wonderful professional connections. I was also fortunate to have my administrators attend the 2016 NYSRA conference, where I presented to a standing-room only crowd! I had conference attendees listening from the hallway! It was an incredible honor, and so affirming to the work I do in sharing my love for pedagogy, educational technology, and intrinsic motivation as an educator.

One of the highlights of my fall was meeting THE Nell Duke. She was a keynote speaker during the closing luncheon of NYSRA. Luckily, I had a spot up front and was able to hear her approach to usage of text in project-based learning, as it fits across curricula, and supports literacy skills.
After her keynote, she was gracious enough to let me have a moment with her. Here I was, rubbing elbows with a figurehead in education/literacy research… someone I quoted/referenced in many of my graduate school papers! We even managed a selfie and she asked me to tag her so she could retweet it! (And she did!)
Dr. Nell Duke is definitely someone I look up to as a source of knowledge and inspiration. There are two of her articles that particularly speak to me. One is regarding all the USELESS literacy instruction practices we should abandon. The other is in regards to vetting websites as viable informational text resources.
As a literacy specialist, the former particularly resonates with me. Having students look up words in a dictionary and write them out is a skill they should have, but only if the vocabulary is in their zone of proximal development. I use Words their Way (WtW) to fulfill the phonics/word study component of my Readers Workshop, and differentiate word lists and tasks based upon individual students’ needs.

(And I’d like to shout-out my son’s first grade teacher for giving me a treasure trove of WtW resources beyond the commercial materials!)

There is so much high-quality, research-based, accessible and useful information in Duke’s work. I savor it as much as I can! As a person, I found her so authentic, sincere, and dedicated to making sure the time we are spending with our students is being used as efficiently as possible. I know I have been inspired to use as much of my time in the classroom for instruction, discovery, and growth!
Happy Holidays to all of you. Thank you for continuing to read my blog, and I wish all of you a happy, healthy, productive 2017!
– Kirsten