Save the Dates! #FETC, #bigmakerbookclub, #SXSWedu, Pinecrest Innovation Institute


Creative Commons photo from Dafne Cholet.

I’ve got lots of great events just around the corner! I had to write up a post so you can save the dates for all of these upcoming events in 2017 (and to keep track of all of the links for myself!)

Makey Makey Jedi Interview: January 11th, 2017

This Makey Makey Jedi interview will be hosted by Tom Heck, and we’ll discuss how I use Makey Makey in the library, Makey Makey Poetry, and questions from other Makey Makey advocates. You are welcome to join live on January 11th, 2017 at 4 pm CST or watch here afterwards.

#Bigmakerbookclub GHO: January 19th, 2017

Cassie Janda and Karyn Lewis were excellent moderators in leading some Twitter slowchat discussions around the #bigmakerbook. To end the book club and start the new year, I’ll be chatting with readers and makers via Google Hangouts on January 19, 2017 at 7 pm CST.  

Sign up here to get access to the Hangout link! You’ll have time to share projects you made from our book and ask burning questions.



FETC: January 26th, 2017

During FETCDiana Rendina and I will be leading a workshop based on the book we just finished writing with Aaron Graves, Challenge- Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace. Come learn with us on January 26th from 11am to 1:30 pm.

SXSWedu: March 6-9, 2017

Core Convo

I’m so stoked (and honored) to be leading a core convo with Makey Makey inventor Jay Silver. We’ll be chatting with YOU about increasing the rate of Invention Literacy.

Our session summary: 

Enjoy a casual chat with the co-inventor of Makey Makey (Jay Silver) and Maker Enthusiast/Teacher Librarian (Colleen Graves) about the importance of Invention Literacy as a missing literacy in education. As Jay defines it, “Invention literacy is the ability to read and write human made stuff, from toasters to apps.” We believe it is important to teach our students how the world works. In this core convo, we will discuss how to increase invention literacy on your campus by helping students “learn to read and write the world they live in.”

SXSWedu Mentor

Plus, I’ll be available for as a maker mentor in a mentor session . Come chat with me if you are interested in a one on one convo about starting your own makerspace, bringing creativity into the classroom, or you just wanna chat about making stuff.

My mentor summary:

Talk to me about:
– As a mentor, I can empower other educators to begin their own makerspace journeys. I can discuss startup resources to complement maker supplies based on interested topics like: coding/programming, robotics, invention, circuitry, and digital fabrication.
– As a creative educator, I can help others bring creativity into classrooms, library programming, and daily lesson planning.
– As a maker, I can discuss gaining creative confidence and emboldening students to believe that they can have an idea and find a way to make it come to life and change our world.

Pinecrest Innovation Institute: June 7-9, 2016

This summer I’ll be leading a pre-conference workshop with maker extraordinaire Josh Burker at the Pinecrest Innovation Institute.

Josh and I will be mashing up our maker ideas together for a rad pre-conference session. Participants will explore the possibilities in this interactive workshop by creating Makey Makey switches, tinkering with marble walls, crafting paper circuits, taking apart items for re-invention, and experimenting with wind tunnels.

I’ll also be Keynoting my ideas on “Making and Literacy” during this amazing institute.

Registration is open for all. Register to attend here




What a Makerspace can mean for the Writing Classroom -Takeaways from NWP Annual Meeting

colleengravesposts (8).pngSession Info

In our interactive session for “Makerspace in the Library: What it means for your Classroom,” we really let our participants drive the learning.

We started out with an introduction for each expert presenter (here is our slidedeck with presenter info and resources we referred to during the session.) Then the rest of the learning was hashed out through lively table discussions.

Other Workshop Leaders:

  • Buffy Hamilton, Title I Writing teacher, former librarian; Atlanta, GA
  • Zach Duensing, Nashville Public Library
  • Valerie Jopeck, Elementary Library Education Specialist, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
  • K-Fai Steele, Program Associate, National Writing Project



We asked our participants some simple questions to help divide our learning up into different themes.  (Thanks for these guiding questions, K-fai!)

  • Why are you interested in makerspaces?
  • What questions do you have?
  • How have you connected (or not) with them?

Our writers wrote ideas on Post-its and then we divided these post-its into overarching themes.


Emerging Themes

It quickly became evident that our communal thinking could be divided up as:

  • Support: How do I go about starting this?
  • Whole School Curriculum Ties
  • Community
  • Writing and Making (and how it could tie to research and inquiry)

Each presenter took a table and we dug deeper into the conversation.

Community and Whole School Curriculum Ties

Valerie and Buffy’s table really thought about creating school and district cultures that led to making. They discussed “student generated content that educators could share with stakeholders via social media and online platforms.” They also stressed the importance of leveraging community and creating inclusive spaces.  One of my favorite suggestions was the idea of holding different types of “Large Scale Events” like:

  • Family Nights
  • Maker Faire
  • Showcase
  • Exhibition
  • “Girls Stem Nights”

Writing and Making

My table discussed how we can embrace making as writing teachers. One of the biggest a-has at our table was a great idea sparked by Valerie’s statement during her intro, “What you call editing, we call iteration.” My table quickly got to work discussing how many steps in the making process parallel with the writing process.


  • Brainstorming>Sketching/Research
  • Rough Draft> Prototype
  • Editing> Iteration
  • Revision> Debugging
  • Final Product >Invention

What I loved about this conversation was the idea that many of us stay in this constant conversation of creating rough drafts and making revisions when writing. Just as many maker projects stay heavily embedded in research and iterations.  Many times in both forms, not all of projects end up as final drafts (i.e. inventions!) But as one of my table members said, “Just the idea that writing is making lends to teaching the materiality of writing and focuses on collaboration in such a multi-model context.  This allows students to reflect, grow, persevere, and re-vision their work.”

We also discussed the importance of revision and debugging as a group project. That many times in the “real world” this revision is done in a collaborative nature.  We bring our busted prototypes out to others and ask, “How can we make this better?”

What makes this conversation even more important, is that lately many of us in the maker movement have been stressing the importance of process over product. The real learning happens during the process of making, not looking at a final invention. Sometimes, our student’s final invention is just a cardboard tube with a strawberry container on top. It looks like trash, but to the eye of the inventor, it’s a magnificent bird feeder. (Thanks to my own kid for this anecdote!) The real meaning students get from making is in the process. Not the product.  A 3D printed object isn’t the learning, the student designing a 3D model in software is where the real learning takes place. Although, after printing their first iteration, they might realize they need to revise their design (i.e. debug) so that their 3D printed object comes out as one piece, can stand up, or whatever flaw they realize after printing a prototype. The 3D printed object helps them see how to revise their design before printing another iteration.  As my table mates pointed out, this stage of drafting (prototyping) and editing (creating iterations) is about composing and decision making.


Reflection as Process

Another huge aha for my table was the idea that writing a reflection about the writing process is difficult. However, when students write a reflection after making, reflecting is easier because of the deep thinking that occurs during the process of making. One table member said, “Could we use this idea of reflective writing after making to help give our students the taxonomy for reflecting on their writing process? Will there be a transference of learning?”  During our share out, another participant noted that “reflection is based on awareness and when students are making with their hands they are hyper aware of their actions (vs when they are writing.)”

Collectively we decided that “reflective writing post making is much richer and that we could use maker journals as a place to help capture this learning.”

Making as Procedural Writing

Another favorite aha moment was when someone said, “No one sat down and wrote a cookbook, they cooked a lot first!” So if we decide as teachers to incorporate procedural writing with our makers, we have to let them make a lot BEFORE we ask them to attempt writing out their steps for procedural writing.

More Big Ideas from Learners

Power of Play: “Making gives us the ability to reseat the role of writing outside of our normal writing assignments. It allows us to take apart writing.”

Engagement: “(It) Provides interest-driven learning experiences for students” and “Students construct knowledge and really take ownership of new learning.”

Change: “Making represents a shift from formalism to constructivism. One of the few recent trends in education that does so.” and “A makerspace breaks out of traditional education.”

Interdisciplinary: “Making is a vehicle to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration between teachers and learning for students.”

Real World: “We want to link our makerspace / innovation space to Problem Based Learning to respond to community and real world concerns through STEAM partnerships.”

Final Takeaways

I was honored to be invited and to be among such an all star panel of librarians! It was such a great session and I loved being surrounded by teachers who see the connection between making and literacy. Plus, I adored discovering together how the processes of making and writing mirror each other and discussing how the conversation between making and writing can help our students grow in both areas. I also realized I need to make time to come to the National Writing Project Meeting EVERY YEAR! What a great group of educators!

How about you? How do you see the connection between making and writing?