#ISTE 2017 – Tips and Tricks

Colleengraves.org (2)

ISTE is just around the corner, and it’s in Texas this year! I loved Nicholas Provenzano’s post about ISTE tips, so I thought I’d share a few of my own.

  1. Bring a re-usable water bottle. Texas is HOT in the summer, ya’ll. Most conference centers have water inside, but if you bring your own bottle, you can refill it and take it with you on your walk back to the hotel.
  2. Make a plan. Pick sessions (and back up sessions) ahead of time. Be flexible about running to a different session at the last minute, but you really need to pick some “must attend” sessions before you even leave home. (See this helpful ISTElib guide if you are feeling a tad overwhelmed.)
  3. Visit the Playgrounds! The playground sessions are super fun and mostly not run by vendors. Play with gadgets and concepts and move on when you are ready. (Plan these too, they change up by time and by day! I missed the STEAMPUNK playground last year and I’m still sad about it.)
  4. Attend workshops. They might seem pricey, but most workshops come with free SWAG. (And if they don’t, you’ll still get your money’s worth in learning.) I’m pretty excited to help Jie Qi with this paper circuit workshop.
  5. Stay and play! If you attend a maker session and it is hands-on…. STAY AND MAKE STUFF! The best way to learn about maker education is to immerse yourself in it. I love attending hands on sessions and learning with my peers. In fact, I’m pretty stoked about attending a #computationaltinkering workshop with the infamous Tinkering Studio peeps and Mitch Resnick. (#makered #fangirling)
  6. Say hi to tweeps! If you see someone you follow on Twitter, don’t be afraid to say hello. It might seem weird, but it is actually fun to meet your tweeps face to face.
  7. Sign up for evening parties. Don’t go overboard, but sign up for fun parties/dinners/drinks/etc. (Like maybe this Maker Ed one on Monday night…. ) Networking is one of THE BEST things about ISTE.
  8. Eat tacos. Eat tacos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. REPEAT. In Texas we take our tacos seriously. And don’t ask for Tabasco sauce. Just. Don’t. (Salsa and Sriracha are acceptable Texas taco accoutrements.)
  9. Take breaks. Don’t overdo it. Take sit down breaks to catch up on social media, or just chill for a bit. ISTE is HUGE and there are so many people. It can seem really overwhelming. So ask a friend to go get an iced coffee and chill on the riverwalk for awhile.
  10. Visit the Alamo! Take an afternoon, go visit the Alamo, check out other cool San Antonio stuff (list one or list two), and save your river-walking for the evening when it’s not as hot outside.

Did I forget something? Post your own suggestions for surviving ISTE  (or attending sessions) in the comments.

See you in San Antonio!

Invention Literacy Research Project -2nd Iteration – Post One

Colleengraves.org (6).png

I’m excited to be starting the second version of the Invention Literacy Research project this year with a second English Language Arts teacher! If you are new to the blog, here are some links to last year’s PBL:

Invention Literacy 2016

2nd Iteration

Making Something

To intro the project this year, we had sophomores follow the instructions from The Big Book of Makerspace Projects and make kazoos. Mrs. Melvin and I thought about having them make the LED bookmarks, but we really wanted them to make something simple. We were surprised to find that these teenagers REALLY ENJOYED making and playing kazoos!

Making kazoos with sophomores ! Surprisingly engaging for #teens! #rhs

A post shared by colleengraves.org (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

Exploring Something

After our kazoo making bonanza, we shared some videos on Invention Literacy and talked with students about how they could make anything they wanted and their only constraints are the materials we have available in the library and time! (We told them we didn’t want anyone going out to buy anything for this project, because we want them to re-use materials that are normally thought of as trash.) However, before deciding on what they wanted to invent, I wanted to try a different material exploration than last year.

Planning with a new teacher means that we are modifying this project to meet the needs of these new learners. While Mrs. Melvin and I were thinking through ideas for her students, we agreed to let students explore materials before deciding on an invention. (This idea sprang from my exploration of cardboard at a SXSWedu session led by Erin Riley, Christa Flores, Sean Justice, and Patrick Benfield.) Last year, Mrs. Feranda and I had students create Makey Makey poetry, work through littleBits challenges, and think aloud on Jay’s Invention Literacy Medium post as an entry point to the project.  So this year, instead of guiding their explorations, Mrs. Melvin and I wanted to attempt letting students choose a material to explore via this Googledoc. This worked great for some classes, but not so well for others. Some of our students really needed to decide on an invention before exploring materials.  (If only there were some way our schools could better support exploration before inventing as well as exploring materials during inventing!)

Exploring materials for #inventionliteracy project! #rhs #libraries #bestdayever Cardboard resource from Erin Riley!

A post shared by colleengraves.org (@makerteacherlibrarian) on

Researching Something

For the classes that really struggled with material exploration, Mrs. Melvin created an awesome checklist and had them start researching both invention ideas and the history of the invention they wanted to re-create.

Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 4.32.40 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-25 at 4.33.00 PM

Her students were already familiar with color-coded Cornell notes for researching, so these bright colorful research notes in the Googledoc were easy to use for research!

One thing we both agreed on about our students ability to research is that they sometimes struggle with finding really good information on crowd-sourced sites like Youtube and Instructables. Our teens tend to gravitate toward the highest views rather than the best content. So we gave them a list of questions to ask as they were researching. These questions range from checking on the crowd-sourcer: “How can I tell who this person is? What qualifications do they have?” to self-assessment questions like: “Can I replicate this? Do I have the skills to accomplish this project? Do I need to gain new skills? Or find another way to do this?” ( These questions are based on information from the  Challenge Based Learning  book I co-wrote with Aaron Graves and Diana Rendina.)

Some of our students also seemed to want more help on garnering ideas and finding ideas to hack. So I made this quick list of great crowdsourced sites that students could search through by material or by invention idea.

Crowdsourced sites for sparking ideas and inventions

Learning Something

During student’s first round of prototyping, I had to share a lot of examples of some ideas to frontload ideas for some students. I had so many kids wanting to sew circuits and make paper circuits, but they all wanted to be able to turn their creations off and on. So I showed some students the concept behind making a switch with alligator clips and tin foil.

Other students were self guided in their research on how to make things. Some students really got into the LEGO books by Isogawa, lots of kids used the #bigmakerbook,  and other kids found inspiration in the Chibitronics Circuit Sticker notebook (and of course they scoured Youtube.) But a lot of kids just built and tested to see if they could get working prototypes.

So many kids wanted inventive switches, that I realized I needed to make a tangible example. I saw a similar switch in the Tinkering Studio Sewing Circuit guide, but the picture wasn’t enough, my students needed an example they could examine. This has been quite a handy example to have around, it even helped some boys figure out how to make a switch for their recycled bottle car!

One of the best things to happen during prototyping is that Mrs. Melvin told students, “If you can’t find something, figure out what else you can use to make the same idea.” The kids are now getting really inventive and into tinkering to figure things out.

I can’t wait to share their prototype progress in the next post!