MiddSouth Innovates Issue #1

“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will”–Dylan Klempner

I would like to introduce the first issue of MiddSouth Innovates–my way of sharing innovative practices with my colleagues. As you will see below, I found that smore.com offered the most visually appealing and easily accessible method for sharing these resources. My goal is to send out an issue every other week. This will allow me to collect lesson resources for/from my colleagues and share items that they deem relevant as opposed to ones I feel are important. I hope you enjoy Issue #1. Feedback is always encouraged and welcomed!


MiddSouth Innovates 1

[Note: I apologize for the screenshot and a link. Apparently I can’t embed smore code on a WordPress site because it isn’t whitelisted. Looked great in the editor and then converts it to a link when published.]


Making My First Lightboard

I have tried using If This Then That (IFTTT) several times before and it always seems to fail me. Below is an example of one of those times. I setup an IFTTT to post here when a certain hashtag is used on my Instagram. Apparently, it doesn’t post the picture, just the text, and only in Drafts. I finally found a few minutes to update the blog so here is something from the summer.

So excited to finally get the glass for my light board! Found someone offering a free glass top to a table and I repurposed some LED lights from Ikea. Now I need to build the frame and figure out how to keep it upright.

For those who have never seen this, basically it is a whiteboard where you replace the whiteboard with a piece of glass. A webcam is is setup opposite the teacher to record the lesson and the video is flipped 180° in a video editing software.

The purpose of this is to help teachers make more dynamic instructional videos for their classes. Hopefully this will also help others want to make the leap into Flipping their classes.

Here is a video that explains this more.

#makered #SummerofMaking #makerdads #flipclass #flippedlearning #ifttt

Step 1: Buy the kit

When I first started teaching, I was fortunate to walk into a fully stocked Chemistry classroom. It was a Chemistry teacher’s dream room. Problem was I didn’t know how to use the stuff. Well, I mean I had a degree in Chemistry so I knew how to physically use everything; I didn’t know why I should be using it.

So, I went to the catalog and ordered some kits.

The kits have it all: lab manuals (teacher and student copies), everything pre-measured, all the right equipment, and expected results. Now I just had to photocopy everything (yes, I used to use paper. A LOT!!) and the lab would run itself.

Now that I had experience to guide me, I knew everything I needed for the lab. I found cheaper ways to buy the chemicals, I reused equipment from the kit, and I rewrote the lab sheet to make it work better for my classroom.

The best advice I can give anyone just starting out in teaching or teaching a class they have never bought before: buy the kit first. Let someone else do all the prep work so you can make the activity as meaningful as possible. Then go about making it your own.

Short, concise, and to the point

I’ve mentioned before that I always have trouble finishing blog posts because I can never find that great ending. That one piece of advice that I want you to take away from my story. I have 16 drafts of posts from random ideas currently waiting for that amazing ending. But they aren’t getting finished. If I don’t complete the thought and hit PUBLISH, I’ve lost all momentum.

I starting listening to The Way I Heard It, a podcast by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame. The tagline is “The only podcast for the curious mind, with a short attention span.” And that was it! Not only was I hooked, but I figured out what my problem is. I expect too much of my writing.

So, posts here will be whatever pops in my head. Sometimes they will be long rants. Sometimes they will be random musings. Sometimes, they might just be a picture with a caption. Like I tell my students: be short, concise, and to the point with your ideas.

WordsofAwesome meets Raspberry Pi

About a year ago I had this idea of mounting a monitor outside my room instead of a whiteboard to post my #wordsofawesome on. I didn’t do it because I needed to hook the monitor to a computer and that require long cords, drills, and probably getting permission.

This monitor is hooked up to a Raspberry Pi and is running a @dakboard which is liked to my #wordsofawesome Google Photos album. Now I can update that folder at any time with new quotes and, because the computer will be attached to the back of this monitor, I can mount this monitor anywhere I have power. This will get mounted outside my classroom or office and everyone knows where to find me plus get daily inspiration.
The original project can be found at dakboard.com/blog/diy-wall-display/

17 years and…

DaretoChem logo 2Recently I accepted a position to be the Educational Technology Specialist for my building. Basically I am a tech trainer for both students and teachers. I could be fixing computers, installing software, training teachers on new programs in small settings, teaching tech lessons, running the makerspace, doing mobile maker projects, assisting in Shark-tank style projects, running building PD, teaching administrators how to use their new laptops, problem-solving PowerSchool issues,….and those are just the things I know I will be doing.

And, I will be teaching 1 class which is not Chemistry. It is called Innovation and Design and there will be more to discuss on that topic soon. But, you read that right, no Chemistry. I have been teaching Chemistry for 17 years. Even when I was a District Director of Instruction I still taught 2 classes of Chemistry. I have been doing Chemistry either as a student or a teacher since 1993. And now…nothing.

Everyone asks if I am excited about the new job. Yes, there is no question that I am excited about the challenge this position represents. But, I am scared too. I have always had Chemistry to fall back on. When I was teaching




Research Methods in Applied Science years for the first time, I had no idea what that class would entail, but I had Chemistry as my safety net. When I was a Director, I had no clue what I was doing, but I had Chemistry as my security blanket.

Chemistry will always remain at my core (just like fencing). Every day I tell my students that they must be happy in what they are doing and to pursue their passions. Now it is time for me to do the same.

Yes, and…

I have been thinking a lot about student feedback lately. I have been assigned a new class called Innovation and Design (lots more to come on that topic) and a major part of this class which teaches design thinking will be providing students with meaningful feedback on their ideas and projects. One component that I definitely want to include in all major assessments will be a student feedback component. The problem I have had with this in the past is that students are either overly critical or not critical enough. Comments like ‘great job’ and ‘I really liked it’ give nothing to the presenter other than the audience felt positively about the presentation. Often, kids just don’t want to hurt other kids’ feelings. Totally understand and respect that. But, while a presentation might be good, there is a flaw somewhere–some aspect that could use improvement.

So, here is what I have been thinking. A few years ago, I thought about using certain Improv rules in my class. One that I particularly liked was the ‘Yes, and…’ rule which says that you can never say anything in an Improv skit that ends a conversation. A man offers you milk even though you hate milk, you don’t say no. No ends the conversation. You say, ‘Yes, and do you have some cookies to go along with that?’ Ok, that seems like a silly example. Let me put it in terms of student feedback.

I want to apply this to student feedback. Student A gives a presentation and Student B is responsible for giving feedback. Student B begins with ‘I liked your presentation because…’ and gives one area that was really good with a specific example: ‘your presentation flowed very smoothly and it seemed well-rehearsed.’ Now comes the 1 example of feedback: ‘One area I think you should consider is…’ and again comes the specific feedback–’making better eye contact with your audience. It will help them connect better with you on a personal level and get them more interested in your ideas.’

I think the key to good feedback (and this was said by Dr. Timony at an EdCampPhilly presentation) is that it should be immediate and specific. We must remember that evaluations are the way for us to learn and grow.