Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Don't vote for Hilary because she's a woman.

I beat my first boy when I was four years old. And, I liked it. I broke my first bones to a boy when I was eight years old. And, I felt tougher. I was beaten by my first boy when I was ten years old. And, I was humiliated.

For over 30 years, I separated myself from boys. As a runner, I competed in girls' divisions. When I became a district technology director, I applauded myself for being a woman in a "man's world." But, it wasn't until I reached 30 years old that I stopped competing against "boys" and distinguishing myself from them.

I've thought of myself feminist all my life. And, many of my friends and colleagues will disagree with me for the words that follow, but I urge you to listen and listen carefully.

Last night, I watched as the Democratic National Committee nominated Hilary Clinton as their nominee for the 2016 presidency. It was and will always be a historical moment. However, it was the video and words that followed that aggravated my feminist thoughts.

As a struggling candidate in a struggling election season, Mrs. Clinton's team has struggled to find ways to make her more appealing. That was...until last night. Immediately, social media lit up with pictures, quotes, and videos highlighting Hilary as a woman. "We should vote for her because she is the first woman" were both words written and implied messages.

But, stop right there.

We want to vote for Mrs. Clinton because she is a woman? Just as, we want to vote for Mr. Trump because he is a white man (with hair that has its own personality). Is it not the same rationale?

When President Obama was elected, many turned out to vote because it was historical...because he was the first African American to potentially take office.

The historical benefits must be a bonus, not the reason for voting.

Mrs. Clinton has been critiqued and nominated as a woman since she first hit the spotlight.

As a child, I watched as her appearance was mocked and insulted while she served as First Lady. When President B. Clinton's cheating scandals came into view, she was further insulted - as a woman not able to to "keep her man."

Now, when she moves into her own leadership role, she is reduced to being a woman again. We can make her a mark of achievement for our children. We can aspire to produce more girls in positions of leadership. We can continue to raise that "glass ceiling." But, we cannot make her being a woman another reason for voting. Will she be a role model for our girls? Perhaps. But, that is not the reason for voting for her. An argument could be made that a white father could be a role model for our boys, but that, too, is not a reason for voting.

We also cannot reduce women's issues to just abortion. Women's issues are more than just abortion. Likewise, abortion should not be a "you're with us or you're against us" issue. This is a multifaceted issue. We should not scrutinize women for being against abortion just as we do not need to criticize a mother for being for abortion. We reduce women to stand-alone issues when we do this. We distinguish them. We separate them.

Let's unit women around all issues - not just the ones we think pertain to women or the ones we think a woman should vote for in a certain way. To say a woman can only vote one way for an issue is an insult to the diversity that is womanhood.

We also need not vote for a candidate solely on an issue that we think pertains to women. Just as we should not vote for any candidate based upon a single issue that we think pertains to our gender, sexuality, race, religion, and so forth. Let's vote united. Let's be united.

Women are more than abortion and child care. They are leaders. They are mothers. They are artists. They are friends. They are us. But, being a woman is not qualification enough. It's what you do with your womanhood.

Let's rejoice that the "glass ceiling" has been raised (it's not fully lifted), but let's move forward. Let's not lower the glass ceiling by reducing Mrs. Clinton's qualifications for presidency to being a woman. Being a woman, being African American, being White, being Christian, etc. are not qualifications. Let's celebrate her in the way we would celebrate a typical white male presidency candidate.

I continue to work for women, for girls, to break the glass ceiling. I continue to fight to get more women into tech fields. But, being a woman is never enough qualification just as being a man is not enough. It's who you are.

Someday, I hope Martin Luther King Jr.'s words will ring true: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!"

So, too, I hope women will not be judged by their gender, but by the content of their character. Gender will no longer be a voting factor or an exclusive club.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

How much is your life worth?

I found myself asking this question this week after a series of health costs that have exceeded my income.

I have health care coverage. I have dental, vision, car, renter's, pet, and life. I am an insured person. I have a salaried job that puts me in the middle-class income scale. I also consult and teach fitness classes. I have never worked less than two jobs simultaneously since I graduated college over 10 years ago.

Despite the fact that I earn more money than over half of the population and that I am insured, I am unable to pay for my health costs.

Recently, my ear issues (I was diagnosed with Meniere's Disease over six years ago) became unbearable. In fact, they caused me endless bills, missed flights, and daily nausea and vommitting since they began over three weeks ago. Because of this and their threat on my ability to consult, to travel, to drive, and to function normally, health care is a necessity.

Yet, despite this necessity, I question how "bad" is too bad to bear to avoid the rising costs.

This is not a question I should ever have to ask. But, I'm asking it now and I've asked it before. How many health issues must I cast aside, hoping that they do not cost me my life and happiness? How many others face this question? Why are insured, middle-class individuals asking this same question?

Yesterday, I completed vestibular testing for my ears. When I went to check out, the assistant said "that will be $600. Would you like to pay by check or card?" I was caught off-guard. She said $600 in the same tone she would say a "$25 copay." I wondered if these amounts were routine for her. She did not give me a summary of the costs - only the total.

Compare this to the automotive industry: Your car breaks down so you take it into the shop. They give you an itemized quote PRIOR to completing work on your vehicle. You have the option to continue with the costs or take it elsewhere, knowing your car WILL get fixed.

Within the health care industry, there is no itemized quote PRIOR to procedures. And, you don't have an option to take the imaginary quote to another doctor. It's your health - you want to get it fixed. You need to get it fixed.

Have a car is a necessity, but it's not the same as your life. Why are we given more options for payment when dealing with a car than when dealing with our health?

Why does an hour's worth of tests - that include ear plugs and glasses - cost $600 AFTER insurance? Why does an MRI cost a patient over $1600 AFTER insurance.

The problem is two-fold: Why does insurance cost so much and cover so little? And, why are these costs so high to begin with?

How much is your health worth? How much is your life worth?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Becoming a cycling or spinning instructor...

Nearly ten years ago, after my running days started to diminish due to injuries, I took my first indoor cycling class. As a competitive runner (I was heavy in the national scene from the age of 6-7 years old), I was drawn to cycling. And, cycling seemed drawn to me.

Around the same time, I picked up outdoor cycling with a cycle-cross bike. Though, I admit that I have never used it for its full abilities.

I started my cycling classes at Wilson's Fitness in Columbia, MO. At the time, classes were 45 minutes or 60 minutes, with the longer classes being extensions of the 45 minute classes. My first instructor - Carla - was an immediate inspiration. She did themed rides. One week, we'd ride through Ireland with Irish music set to scenes of the Irish countryside. The next week, we'd ride the beaches and hills of the California coast. She changed the music each week - at least several songs. She was fun. She was challenging. She remembered people. She took musical requests. Class was a family. There were regulars and it developed into a community. After my first week of classes, I knew I wanted to provide this same experience to others later.

For several years, I attended a variety of spin/cycling classes at Wilson's Fitness. Some instructors were more challenging than others. Some had us do a lot of standing. Some kept us in the saddle. Each class was unique to the instructor and I liked that. That was the appeal.

Then, I took an RPM class at Gold's Gym. Initially, I didn't enjoy it. It felt like it didn't challenge me as much as my other classes. The music didn't resonate with me. So, I didn't touch an RPM class again for a few more years. I took classes at the YMCA and was met with fair reviews. I didn't come in with high expectations, but did enjoy the diversity in music.

But, then, out of necessity, Gold's Gym became my only viable option for classes. This time, when I tried a RPM class, I loved it. I was challenged. And, that's when I realized it would be about the instructor with the RPM method. The music was the same from class to class, but not the instructors. It was heavily dependent upon a quality instructor. And, currently, I have my go-to instructor. She's challenging. She remembers us each by name. She has regulars. It's a small community. She's fit. She only does moves on the bike the benefit the outdoor cyclist in  me.

So, after a ten year journey of cycling, spin, and RPM classes, I saw a special to take a 6-week cycling training course at Resolute Fitness in Austin, TX (meeting twice a week for 3 hours a 6 hours just of training a week). A few years ago, I had looked into a certification course, but could not find anything offered nearby. So, when I saw it located locally, I jumped at the opportunity.

I'll also admit that I had steered away from the boutique cycling studios that were growing in larger, urban areas around the U.S.

When I first stepped foot into Resolute, I realized it was one of these boutique cycling studios. You could only were bike cleats on their bikes and all bikes had weighted fly wheels. If you did not have shoes, you could rent shoes for $3 a class. For $3 a class, you could also rent yoga mats for their yoga classes.

In my years at Gold's and Wilson's, I had become oblivious to another  movement in the cycling industry - one much more commercial and one with a heavy dance and entertainment value.

This was my largest takeaway during my 6 week journey from cycling student to instructor.

After my experience, I felt compelled to assist others in this journey - both the realities, the benefits, and the considerations.

So, first - the course: The cycling training course was 6 weeks with twice-a-week meetings of 3 hours a piece. In addition the the two days a week of training, we had to attend an additional 12 cycling classes, two of which had to be done outside of the Resolute Fitness Studio. The price was about $400, which seemed fairly comparable to other courses. At the end of the course, it was implied we could audition for cycling jobs at the studio.

Second - the content: We spent time each class practice teaching. This was a learning curve. The hardest part was the amount of time that went into planning the songs, but more on that later.

Third - the class design: Our first class was an actual class so we could observe and participate. I immediately realized the class was heavy on rhythm. In my time focusing on RPM, I did not realize how many boutique studios like Soul Cycle had emerged. All of these are heavy on beat and dance. In fact, the primary quality studios like those desire is an entertainer, someone who can ride the beat. The class included "jumps" for several songs and one weight song for a 40 minute ride, with five minutes for stretching.

Fourth - the assessment: Throughout the 6 weeks, we gradually taught more songs for our fellow instructors-in-training, leading up to a buddy ride. The buddy rides were a typical class split among three instructors-in-training. Each person took a section of the ride - beginning, middle, or end. After the buddy rides, we each received written feedback. After the smaller class rides, we received verbal feedback from classmates and from our teacher. And, at the end of the course, we received AAPE certification.

The auditions: On our last class day, our teacher went through various tips for getting into the industry. We were told to send an email to her and we would schedule an audition. She also told us to try places that "fit us."

That's where the fun began and that's where this blog post stemmed.

After our last class, two of the ten students were approached to teach. And, only one of the ten students was allowed to audition. This created controversy and "bad blood" between many of the students and the teacher.

  • Most boutique studios like Resolute guarantee auditions to their students after completing the course. We were not given that same guarantee so, many were out of a lot of money since other studios expect you to earn certification through them or have experience. This is something many of us did NOT know. 
  • Our feedback throughout the course never indicated we were not ready. In fact, the feedback was only positive. Mine, in particular, offered no ways to improve. So, when I asked for an audition and was told she "didn't feel as though I was ready to audition at this time. Try again in 6 months." While I am fine with rejection, the issue is in the feedback. If I was not ready, my feedback certainly did not indicate that. And, if I could try again in 6 months, what would suddenly make me ready then without feedback? It gave the impression that I should not try again. And, while I have no intent to do this, more accurate feedback would be helpful. It felt as though the course was offered to say we did something, but leave us with nothing - a money steal-er. So, be sure you check with this throughout your course. 

So, what to look for:

  • Class style - first of all, what type of class do you like? Personally, I believe indoor cycling should be just that - indoor cycling. I understand the need to appease all audience with more "entertaining" classes, but it should also be our job to give students quality fitness instruction. In our Resolute classes, we were doing weights and jumps. In the book, Keeping it Real, the author, Sage, suggests that indoor cycling should be about increasing the power output. When you add in jumps and weights, you decrease power and you increase the risk of injury. Plus, you decrease the number of calories burned. Pay attention the the temperature of the studio or class. Many boutiques like Soul Cycle raise the temperature to give off the appearance you are burning more calories than you actually are. Bottom line - know what you like and what you believe in.
  • Auditions - are you guaranteed one? Ask this before you commit. If you are not, you may want to follow-up with questions regarding the type of certification you'll receive. If the certification is just for that studio, that may be a risky monetary investment. 
  • The atmosphere - check this out before you commit. I wish I had done this and I'm ashamed to admit I did not and many of my peers did not. If you want to learn, you need to be at a place you have chosen and you understand. 
  • Time - How much time do you need to invest in this?
  • Music - each place has their own rules and feelings about the type of music you choose. Know this information upfront.

The largest learning curve comes in the form of pairing songs with workouts. Every studio is different in this. Some use the music as motivation do their workouts while others ride specifically to those beats. If it is the latter, you will need to spend time figuring out what those beats are and what workouts go with those songs. This is where the bulk of my time is spent. As a participant, you underestimate how much time is spent with songs. 

Would I take the class again? Not sure. I am thankful I was able to land a cycling job and a gym where I am comfortable. Did that class help me get that job? I don't know. It did help me get more comfortable teaching and, for that, I'm thankful. It did, unfortunately, teach me several things - like jumps and weights - I want to unlearn. So, if I were to take it again, I'd want to do better research on classes that support the type of teacher I am. 

So, who are you as a cycling student? Who are you as a cycling teacher? What do you like? And, where do you like? Go there. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Brownout - it's a real thing

This post was originally posted in Literacy 2.0 blog.

This week's #youredustory topic: what's your biggest challenge as an educator? As a person?

I purposely wrote this topic because we often forget one another's struggles. We become observed in our own struggles. We hide our own challenges. We don't post the full picture.

So, this week is a chance to be authentic and to provide support for those in your educator community or greater community.

Last year, I read an article about brownout and I instantly connected with it. It's something many of us have or have experienced it in the past. You may even know someone who's dealt with it.

For me, the realization was embarrassing. And, I felt alone in that feeling.

I was still the same self I knew - I worked hard and I would not settle for failure. Sure, I'd fail. But, I'd never let that be my resting place. When I admitted I was suffering from brownout, I felt like I was quitting; like I wasn't giving my  best effort. And, I was embarrassed by that. I was comparing what was really happening with my views of how I should be behaving. And, that's a hard comparison to hold.

I found myself trying to compete with everyone and everything. It was less about learning and more about competing. And, after a while, that is overwhelming. I came home and continued to work. I never unplugged.

There is no one way to suffer from brownout. For me, I didn't give up my other loves. I felt more compelled than ever to continue them. In fact, I felt stressed to make sure I found time for them. If I didn't have time to paint, I felt stressed. If I didn't have time to visit my family, I felt stressed. If I had to do work when I got home, I felt stressed. I felt I couldn't escape being stressed.

Brownout can be about the job, but it's usually something larger. For me, it was a reminder that I have many ambitions that I want to pursue. And, that is my stress-er. My own drive for success has the potential to drive me to brownout.

And, it did. I can't pinpoint a particular day, but I know the time when I stopped feeling joy from the things that I did to make me happy.

At the time, I felt alone in my struggles. As an active sharer and participant on Google + and Twitter, I was sucked into the "echo chamber." I only saw the great things everyone else was doing or trying to do. I wanted to do it all as well, but yet, struggled to find the joy I found on their social media faces. I found that, while we are great at sharing ideas, we struggle in sharing our struggles.

It wasn't until I read a blog from The Nerdy Teacher, who opened up about his depression, that I realized other successful educators have struggles. It wasn't until I opened up about my own frustrations that I found others - many others - who shared in my journey.

We ask students to reflect on their online self vs. their real self, but, as educators, we do not always do this. I looked at my online self and realized others would never know I struggled with brownout. So, here I am - sharing and hoping others will too.

I also recognize that my personality is prone to brownout. I'm ambitions. I'm competitive. I want to learn more. I want to do more. I want to be more. But, at the end of the day, that can be stressing. It can also be taking work home and letting it consume your time. And, this is the number one factor leading to brownout. For me, I have to continuously check myself. It will never be as simple as "don't do too much." But, it is possible. And I also recognize that many highly successful people have these same qualities. It's what drives you and burns you.

So, I challenge you to take a moment to reflect on your online self. Who are you? Do you represent the real you? Do you find yourself competing with others online? Do you want to try everything?

While these qualities make use better, they also can lead us to brownout. you (from "Are You Suffering From Brownout":

  • Work long hours, but without any real interest in your job? Is work a dull slog and does it lack intellectual challenge or stimulation.
  • Feel as if you never really finish tasks? There’s always more to do.
  • No longer know where your career is going?
  • Pour cold water on other people’s ideas?
  • Use any excuse not to show up? A headache becomes a migraine and a cold is always flu.
  • Check emails when you get up in the morning and in bed before you to sleep? Glued to your Smartphone? 
  • Feel out of shape, eat junk food, lack sleep?
  • Feel you’ve lost your sense of humor and tend towards passive aggressiveness and surliness. 
  • Come home late to watch TV and show little interest in your spouse and children? Friendships have withered on the vine and outside interests have been forgotten.
  • Feel you're boss is moody and unpredictable (though you don't hate your boss)? You never know whether they’ll like or hate a given piece of work.

When I answered these questions, I found myself answering "yes" to many. I felt like I never finished any tasks. In many ways, I still do. So, this year, I've made a goal to finish what I started - this includes all of the crafts, cleaning, etc. And, you know what? I feel accomplished in that. I finished a quilt I started four years earlier. Not only did I feel accomplished, but I spent time doing an activity I enjoyed. A win-win.

If you found yourself answering "yes" to any of the questions or if you feel exhausted right now (let's face it - who doesn't?) My advice to you:

  1. Be a full person online. You don't have to share every personal struggle. However, you should represent both sides to your story. For instance, if you share that you did an awesome maker unit, share where that unit fits into the larger picture. What challenges did you face along the way? What challenges do you still face? I know I'm guilty of this as well - especially in my personal life. We see the highlights. 
  2. Don't compare yourself to others online. Remember - you  see the highlights so don't live the highlight reel. Use what you see and read as inspiration but remember that you are only seeing a slice of their story. Keep yourself grounded in those around you.
  3. Remember what you value and don't lose sight of it. At the end of a hard day, it can be exhausting and difficult to be positive to those around you. And, that's okay. But, don't forget what you value. Make time for it. Schedule it if you need to, but don't miss out. And, if finding time for it is stressing you, reevaluate your tasks and priorities. What are you doing that you can drop?
  4. Leave your Smartphone and devices behind. This one is very challenging for me. I'm in the edtech industry (or whatever we want to call it now)! But, the phone becomes a clutch. I find myself checking my emails when I first wake up and before I close my eyes at night. I find myself feeling anxiety over notifications. I find myself using it to avoid awkward social situations - to get out of having to have a real conversation. It gets more attention than some I love the most. Don't love your Smartphone. Use it as a tool to spend more time with those you love. It's that distinction that makes all the difference. 
  5. Exercise. Those who know me probably think this is easy for me to say because I do workout excessively. I know this. But, I love it. The more difficult the workout, the happier I am. You don't have to be a workout nut like me to exercise. The point is you should make time for it each day. This is not only because it is essential to health, but because it is rejuvenating. I started taking short walks outside periodically throughout the day and, gradually, it made me look forward to each day a little more (especially when I find myself dreading the coming days).
I spend a lot of time teaching digital citizenship to tweens and teens, but not enough to my peers. We need to support one another - especially in the area of showing our authentic selves. 

Be authentic. Be you. Be okay with you. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rag quilts - how I completed my first one, four years later

Four years ago, I decided I'd make my then, soon-to-be born niece, a rag quilt from all of the scraps of my childhood. I did not have a sewing machine at a time so, I cut up all of the squares for the front, the insert cushion, and the fleece backing. I pinned each together, laid them out in a pattern I liked, and then, bagged them in plastic bags by row.

I read a tutorial at the time that said to sew an 'X' through each set of squares - the rag, the padding, and the backing. I made it through half a row and then, did not touch it for another four years. I managed to move the bags through three moves and a new sewing machine.

But, this year, I decided to finish the projects I had started. The first project - my rag quilt.

In opening the bags, I realized several things:

1. I made the squares too small
2. I cut the padding to large
3. I should not have used felt for a backing if I wanted it to "rag up"

Despite these realizations, I decided to go ahead with the project, knowing what to do differently in the future.

I cut my squares 3 inches by 3 inches. In most tutorials I've read, they cut them at least 6 inches by 6 inches. This leaves you ample room for mistakes and it allows you less square sewing. I also cut my padding the the same width and length as the rags and the backing. Don't do this. Cut your padding squares so they are about an inch shorter on both the width and the length. If you don't, they will be part of the fray and it's not as clean that way. I also used a real soft black felt for the back. While this feels nice, it misses the rag quilt feel. So, if you're wanting the traditional look, use flannel or a cotton fabric.

Since I found a variety of tutorials written by master "sewers," I thought I'd write one from the perspective of a first-time sewer and a first-time rag quilt maker.

So, how do you start?

  1. Pick out some large pieces of fabric - old shirts, family scraps, etc. - that you can cut into squares.
  2. Buy quilt backing.
  3. Pick out some large pieces of fabric that you can use as backing. Remember - if you use fleece, it will not fray, so pick a fabric that will fray. It can all be one solid color (I chose black) or they can be multiple colors. 
Once you have picked out your fabric, it's time to do some cutting. Decide upon the size of your quilt. I scoped Pinterest for sizing charts. I also discovered that it's best to keep each square about 6 inches by 6 inches. 

I am not a perfectionist when it comes to sewing so I pinned the three layers together - rag on top, followed by batting, and then the backing. I realized later that I had to cut the fabric more even so I cut it without a ruler. Not best practice, but with the backing, all stuck together so it cut evenly. Be sure you have a quality pair of sewing scissors on hand.

Next, it's time to sew an X through the four corners of the three-layer square. I've read various accounts on how to do this, but decided to sew it all the way through the end. Since mine layers were very thick, I had some problems with the sewing machine. This is another reason to really consider your layers. Fleece proved to be a little too thick. However, I made it work. Also, check the quality of thread. I bought thread that said it was for machine embroidery, but it got tangled repeatedly in the bobbin. In fact, it got so tangled, it doubled or tripled the time it would take to work on this quilt. Thread is very important.

Repeat sewing the Xs for all squares. After I sewed a row of squares, I laid them on a bed in the order I wanted them to appear. You can choose to have a definite pattern or scatter them. I scattered them. Continue laying them row-by-row on a flat surface in an undisturbed area until you have all of the rows. Then, grab one row at a time (I stacked each square on top of the other in the same order so I could sew them together more easily).

It's time to sew together the rows. Grab your furthest square to the left and the square to its right. Keep the left square face up and place the right square on its back, underneath of the left square. Then, sew along the right edge - top to bottom. I used about a 1/2 inch allowance, but that is up to you. Whatever you choose, be sure to use the same allowance throughout your quilt.

When you have sewed the first two squares together, you will continue to sew the remaining squares together in that row. After you have finished sewing the row together, place the completed row back with the others. Then, grab the next row and repeat until you have reached the end of your rows. Your squares will begin to look like this.

Once you have sewn together all of the squares, it's time to sew the rows together. Grab the first two rows and pin them together. It's very important to line square for square. I discovered that some of my squares were not the same size (due to my lack of precision) so, I still pinned them as if they were and scrunched the larger ones to fit the smaller ones. Just as you placed the top square over the flipped second square, you'll do the same with the rows. Place the top row right-side up and the second row upside down (back to back) and sew along the bottom/right edge. Before you start sewing, open up the the flaps so they are pinned down as you sew. You want to sew over the flattened flaps.

Your masterpiece will start to look more finished at this point and, luckily, you are almost done!

Now, for the final steps! It's time to sew around the border of the quilt. Use the same allowance as you did for the other sections. I did 1/2 inches for each other piece so I left 1/2 inch allowance around the rest of the quilt.

Once you are done sewing your border, it's time to cut! Use a good pair of sewing scissors and cut every flap you can find. My hand was sore after this, but it was worth it. The smaller the distance between your cuts, the more the fray at the end. Sadly, since I used fleece, mine did not really fray. Though, it still has a nice effect.

Then, it's time to wash and dry your quilt. This will give it that rag look with frayed edges. I washed the quilt on a gentle cycle with no fabric softener and only a little bit of detergent. I also washed it with three towels. this will ensure the towels absorb the frays and threads that are made. After the wash cycle, I put it in the dryer with the same towels to further absorb the threads.

And, now for your finished product.

I'm excited to make many more now that I know to not use fleece and to cut larger squares and...use better thread!

You can check out some of my other products at Enjoy!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Crafting crates: Part 1 - the Doodle Crate

A year ago, my boyfriend showed me this thing called a "loot crate." It was love at first sight. The thought of receiving monthly kits to keep you energized is brilliant. The only thing that can be a catch for some (especially teacher budgets like mine) is the price tag. And, while it is not steep, it does have a cost. So, for that reason, I withheld making any purchases.

However, recently, my boyfriend shared a YouTube series with me called "Smarter Everyday." As an educator, I enjoy the quick segments, humor, and intellectual growth. At the end of the episode, the show's creator featured Kiwi Crate. Immediately, my attention was perked. Another crate? Say what? And, better yet, if you clicked on his link, you would receive a trial month for free (while plus $4.95 shipping & handling). As an aside, when I signed up for a trial, it did get my credit card info, so I will have to remember to cancel if I can't afford or if I don't like. Though I understand the business of it, it is a drawback for some. After the first month, it is $19.95 a month for each crate. Though, if you go to Kiwi Crate, you can get it for $16.95 a month if you pay upfront. In the end, the price is roughly the same.

There are four crates to choose from - koala, kiwi, doodle, and tinker. Koala and kiwi are for younger children, but the doodle and tinker crates are for "children" ages 9 and up. So, I signed us up for one of each - a tinker and a doodle.

(Example crates you can get with a Doodle Crate subscription)

Now, I'm perfectly capable of searching Pinterest and starting these ideas on my own (and as any of my close friends can tell you, I do). However, the simplicity and consistency of the crates have huge appeal. Imagine making your own in your classroom - having a surprise monthly crate to challenge your creativity.

So, I signed up for both the doodle and tinker crates. When you love making as much as I do, it's hard to choose. Then, I began the waiting process. When you first subscribe, the crate ships within approximately 3 business days of your purchase. Afterwards, your crate will arrive mid-month for every following month. Since you are required to create an account, you can login to your account at anytime to view the status of your order. I also discovered it's a way of finding the specific type of crate you'll be receiving. For instance, it shows that I'll be getting the drawbot for my Tinker Crate. And, it was correct!


Approximately one week after I signed up for my creates, they arrived on my front porch!

When I first had the revelation to blog about my crates, I didn't account for the time to create. Foolish me! So, this is part one of two on the kits. The focus: the Doodle Crate.

Since the Doodle Crate arrived two days before my Tinker Crate, it was a natural choice to start work on the Doodle Crate.

I opened my box and discovered a pamphlet on what I would be making and how I could make it. I also found carefully packaged items to use in my creation process. And, I discovered the box itself works as an awesome canvas for creating.

This month's focus is on crafting your own pencils and pencil holders. It came fully stocked with paint, two types of paint brushes, two packages of paper clay, gloss finish, glue, paper for pencils, and colored led. Oh, and a tutorial book!

Another look at all of the goodies!

Next up - creating. I decided to make the pencils first since I knew I'd get messy with the clay. The creating of the pencils was rather simple. However, the creation process was great for stimulating ideas.

To begin, lay out piece of paper and fold it one inch from the bottom.

Then, put a line of glue along that line (unfold first).

And, place the led on top of the line of glue.

Roll the paper over the led and crease a hard line around the led.

Finally, repeat gluing and rolling the paper until you reach the end and place a final line of glue.

Allow to dry - about an hour - and then, you can sharpen the pencils in the accompanying sharpener. This is where I was unable to follow. I found the sharpener did not sharpen the pencils the way the pamphlet showed. So, I'm going to go back to this and try again, as all makers do.

I also decided to dip my pencil ends in colors to correspond with the led, per the pamphlet's suggestion.

Next up  - the clay sculpting process. Though I create all the time, it had been a while since I used paper clay. I discovered I used too much water. I also morphed my creatures into fantasy characters since they did not appear the same as their lovely drawings. This, too, is part of the maker process - remember the process and not just the product.

I failed to document the creation process since my hands were fully covered in clay. However, remember to keep a tower and cup of water nearby. The pamphlet covers this as well.

After you finish creating your two figurines (or, you could do one large one - I wish I had) and punching in holes to use as a pencil holder, you have to let your clay dry overnight. Mine was so wet, I let it dry two days.

Then, you can paint. The paint dried in under 30 minutes. Finally, coat your figurines in the supplied gloss for a clean finish.

With all things maker, it's important to document your creative process. It's never just about the product. The product is a fun gift at the end, but it is not the most important thing. Challenge your students to document their work!

Since I have not tried my Tinker Crate yet, I don't have a preference. I do believe they target different skills. This targets the creative process. While, Tinker Crate is more problem-solving. If you can, I'd suggest doing both!  You can also go onto the Kiwi Crate Website for suggestions on ideas to try and ways to do these on your own.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pursuing Positivity

Don't sext. Don't put revealing photos of yourself online. Don't friend those you don't know. Don't post anything you wouldn't want your grandma to see.

The list goes on. We're full of the "don'ts," but we should be promoting the "dos." We should pursue positivity. We should challenge students to do positive work online. 

The truth is we all do the "don'ts" online. I still keep my phone on and next to me while I sleep - a major "don't." At times, I feel anxious if I haven't checked my phone for notifications. And, I know not to do this. 

It isn't that we want to do the "don'ts." We know it's not right, yet, we still do it because it's easy and we aren't faced with alternatives. We are not educated on the positive uses of the online world. These are the alternatives.

So, let's educate. Let's pursue positivity. Let's create. And, let's share.

Step 1: Start with a simple brainstorm

Recently, I met with seventh and eighth grade students to brainstorm a positive online presence. We used Google Docs so students could type simultaneously and all ideas could be present whether or not they are verbalized. 

I challenge you to challenge your students or children to discuss orally and in writing.

Ask them:

1. What makes a positive online presence (POP)?

2. What are examples of positive online presences at [your school]? 

3. What are examples of positive online presences outside of [your school]? (Start a list for students so they can visualize what POPs look like. This is the list I started for students.)
4. What types of positive online presences would you like to see at [your school]? 
5. What platforms work best for positive online presences at [your school]? (Provide students with a few examples to help them get started. Then, ask them to think deeper.)

  • Examples: app creation, Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/SnapChat, blog, Website…
6. What are the obstacles/negative sides of those positive online presences? (Challenge students to consider all populations and their obstacles. For instance, will males feel as open to be express positive images on Instagram as females?)
  • Consider all students - what will we use and what helps us?
7. What will we create today? (Challenge students to work together to create one for the school and then, if they'd also like to create one on their own, they can.)
  • You can create individually as well, but today we will create one for the school
8. How will we continue this and ensure it stays positive? (This is the most important question - how will you ensure longevity and monitor negative infringement?)

9. Other thoughts? 

Allow for all opinions. Redirect those who fall off-task. Check out our first brainstorming session

Step 2: Small group discussion

Quickly break into groups of 2-3 students. Challenge them to brainstorm positive online presences they would like to create. Ask them to think of:

  • a name for the online presence (some said "Meet the Spar-dashians" since we are the Spartans)
  • who is the audience
  • what is the purpose
  • what is the content
  • how can we be sure it stays positive
  • how can we ensure all are represented 
Due to time limitations, students received only 20 minutes for this process. However, this can be stretched longer. We resorted to traditional pencil and paper to reiterate positive behavior in all media. 

Some examples:

Step 3: Draw it out

Due to time restraints, I was not able to include this important step in all classes. After students map out the outline of their "POPs," ask them to draw a sample of the product. If it is an app, what will the home screen look like? If it's a Website, what will it look like. 

This does not need to be a full storyboard. Rather, the intent is to get students to refine their ideas.

Next, we will begin the creation, sharing, and maintenance of the "POPs." We must decide how to fit in the creation. When will we find time in the schedule? Who will be part of this - will we include all students are just some? 

Step 5: Creation is equally as important as brainstorming. 

Step 6: Sharing.  Sharing instills intrinsic motivation. We like to see our work get attention. Share the "POPs" in a way students receive some attention and others see positive work showcased. We need to bring attention to positive behavior. 

Step 7: Maintenance. Maintain the positive presence. Will this product stay with students, the school? 

Stay tuned for follow-up on the final three steps when we meet again.