Tinkering Fundamentals: Week 2

Tinkering Fundamentals- Week 2 | RenovatedLearning.com

**Tinkering Fundamentals is a massive open online course (MOOC) put on by San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum every summer.  I’m going to be chronicling my six weeks with this course here so you can learn along with me.  See Week One reflections here**

Thoughts on Readings

This week’s readings focused on the beautiful art of Shih Chieh Huang.  He creates amazing living sculptures out of circuits, plastic and found objects.  Check out this TED talk to learn more about his work.  It made me think about how I want to expose my students more to the intersection of art and STEM.  Making flows so perfectly into creative, artistic expression, and I want my students to see the beauty that can come from tinkering and asking questions.

Weekly Hangout

This week’s hangout focused on Tinkering Journals and there were a lot of great ideas about visual thinking and the role reflection plays in the learning process.  The facilitators emphasized finding a journaling style that works best for you (and letting your students find theirs) whether it be a physical journal, a digital log or a combination.  One great prompt they suggested was having students write “I used to think ____  but now I think ___”  Even just having students write reflections at the end of an activity on post-it notes can work.  This was something that was lacking in my makerspace last year, and I’m definitely going to be thinking actively about how to bring this reflection piece in.  They also recommended several books that are now on my never-ending to-read list:


I’ve used littleBits and Snap Circuits quite a bit with my students, so I have to admit, I scoffed at the idea of creating “crude” circuit blocks when it first came up.  But I still decided to go for it.

Turns out, I was woefully unprepared.  Since I’m not at work right now (summer off for teachers) I didn’t have access to a hot glue gun, circular saw, or soldering iron.  Several shopping trips later, I finally had what I needed (minus the circular saw, which I would definitely have next time, as hand-sawing sucks).

I only ended up making four circuit blocks and it literally took me hours to get them done.  My soldering was sloppy, there was bits of hot glue all over, the edges of the boards weren’t perfectly sanded.  But when I got that LED to light up, that switch to work, and that buzzer to go off, I was jumping up and down excited.  And it got me thinking again about how important going through the process is, what a deep satisfaction there is in making something from scratch, even if it is “just” an overheated battery pack that lights up a bulb.

And while I will still always turn to littleBits when I want fast prototyping of an idea, there is a great value in going through this exercise of creating a circuit from scratch.  I think this exercise could be an extremely valuable one for my students.  Not only could I potentially let them take their circuits home, but it will give them a greater appreciation and wonder of the other tools that we use.

My students have scoffed at me before when I’ve gotten them started on new ideas.  But when they power through it and try it anyway, they’re having fun in no time.  I should do better to remember this myself when it comes to my own learning and growth.

My circuit blocks in all their beautiful, messy glory

My circuit blocks in all their beautiful, messy glory

Link Round-Up: 8-2-15


*Welcome to Link Round-up.  As I read blogs, peruse Twitter, and save things to Diigo, I come across a lot of great resources that I think others would benefit from.  This post is my place to bring together some of my favorite finds and share them with you.  Enjoy!*

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Making Doesn’t Have An Age Limit

Making doesn't have an age limit | RenovatedLearning.com

“Makerspaces are too complicated for elementary students.  You can only get in depth with middle and high school students”

“High schoolers are too jaded for making.  They’ll roll their eyes at you if you give them LEGOs”

I’ve heard variations of these criticisms so many times.  Placing some kind of age restriction on when students are capable of/will be interested in making seems to be one of the most popular excuses educators have for not even considering creating a Maker environment in their school.

We need to smash these notions and assumptions.  That creativity is tied to a certain age group.  That we outgrow our desire for play.  That young children aren’t capable of serious making.  That adults will never have an interest in expressing themselves.

Me circa 1997.

Me circa 1997.

I loved making as a child, though I never thought of myself as a “Maker”, since that wasn’t really a term yet.  I would spend hours building cities out of LEGOs, drawing pictures of made-up stories, building forts with pillows and blankets.  No one told me that I wasn’t old enough or smart enough to do these things, I just did them because I loved them.  As I got older, I found other ways that I enjoyed making, like sewing, knitting, photography and graphic design.  I can spend hours pouring over the layout of my website or planning out my next sewing project.  No one has told me that I’m too old to be creative now.

The Art of the Brick at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

The Art of the Brick at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia

Artists are Makers.  Would anyone dare tell Nathan Sawaya, creator of The Art of the Brick, that he’s too old to build with LEGOs?  So why do we assume that our high school students will not be interested in them?  Making and Art are beautifully intertwined, and most would agree that art is not limited to one particular age.  Creating music is making.  Writing a story is making.  Painting a mural is making.  There is so much care and thought and beauty that goes into making something by hand.  How dare we devalue that by saying it should be restrict to a certain age in our lives.

My parents and grandparents - part of a generation of Makers

My parents and grandparents – part of a generation of Makers

My grandparents were a part of the Greatest Generation.   They struggled to survive during the Great Depression and lived through the hardships of World War II.  They were Makers by necessity.  Both of my grandmothers sewed and mended, cooked and baked, made toys for their children.  Even when it wasn’t a necessity anymore, I can remember my grandparents taking pleasure in making things.  My paternal grandparents would always make crafts for their church’s craft bazaar.  My grandmother would sew aprons and create beautiful objects with yarn.  My grandfather would create little dogs out of discarded golf balls he found on the golf course.  He also created his own DIY worm bins to keep his garden healthy.  No one told them they were too old for making.

As the great Dale Dougherty says, “We are born Makers”.  If you’ve never watched the above video before, stop what you’re doing right now and take twelve minutes out of your day to watch it.  He gives an amazing overview of the beauty and whimsy of making and how we are all makers.

There is no such thing as being too young or too old for making.  There are no age limits on being a Maker.  There is no grade level restriction for creativity.  We are all Makers.

Tinkering Fundamentals: Week 1 Reflections


Tinkering Fundamentals: Week 1 | RenovatedLearning.com

**Tinkering Fundamentals is a massive open online course (MOOC) put on by San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum every summer.  I’m going to be chronicling my six weeks with this course here so you can learn along with me**

Note: The course is still just in week one, so it’s not too late to jump in :)

Last summer, I heard about the Tinkering Fundamentals MOOC from my friend Colleen Graves, but the timing just didn’t work out for me.  I signed up with them to be notified of the next course offering, and it just started up on July 22.  Even though I started my school’s Makerspace back in January 2014, I often don’t end up having time to really tinker myself or explore new projects.  I’m excited to take the next six weeks to delve into topics that I’ve only scratched the surface of, like sewn circuits, paper circuits and scribbling machines.  Each week of the course, I’ll be posting things I’ve learned, links to resources and reflections on that week’s activities.  It’s sure to be a lot of fun :)

Check out this excerpt from the course description:

In this course, we won’t just show you how we develop tinkering activities; we’ll also delve into why. We’ll focus on three important aspects: activity design around specific materials, facilitation strategies, and environmental organization. We’ll also share some guiding principles and learning indicators we’ve developed that can help you integrate tinkering into your elementary and middle-school science program. Whether you’re new to making or a seasoned tinkerer, we hope this course will help you take the next step!

~Mike Petrich, Karen WIlkinson, Luigi Anzivino

Thoughts on Readings

This week’s reading assignment was an excerpt from The Art of Tinkering(pgs 6-13) and chapter 2 from Invent To Learn.  I had already read both, but went back and re-read them again, and I was struck by just how impactful tinkering is on our students’ learning.  Both readings were chocked full of fantastic definitions of and reflection on what tinkering is.  Check these out:

“Tinkering is the essential art of composing and decomposing physical things to suit a variety of purposes – from practical to whimsical.” ~Dale Dougherty

Reflecting on how exploring and making as kids shaped them, Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich stated:

“We were given permission to get messy, find out for ourselves, and try out crazy ideas just for the sake of experience – and allowed to get lost in the woods and in our own imaginations.”

Invent To Learn is essential reading for anyone interested in Makerspaces and Maker Education.  In chapter two, Syvlia Martinez and Gary Stager cover the basics of constructionism and tinkering.  Here’s my favorite takeaways from this chapter:

“Tinkering is a uniquely human activity, combining social and creative forces that encompass play and learning.”

“Creating a learning environment that deliberately breaks this teacher-as-manager focus is difficult, yet necessary.  It requires a new teacher mindset and also requires giving students explicit permission to do things differently.”

Weekly Hangout

This week’s Hangout focused on creative reuse and scavenging.  There were so many great ideas discussed, so make sure you check out the video below.  So many educators that I talk to lament that they have no budget to start a Makerspace, but this week’s Hangout looks at creative ways to source materials that can cost little to no money.

One idea that I’m definitely implementing when I get back is a donation bin for clean recyclables.  They show an example of one that lists all the types of supplies accepted (plastic bottles, strawberry baskets, egg cartons, etc) and places this in front of a donation bin where community members can bring items.  An important aspect of a donation bin is also to make sure you have a place to store supplies, and I’ve got lots of storage bins in our Maker Room.  This can double as an excellent advocacy tool for a Makerspace and a great way to get supplies.

Weekly Activities

This week’s discussion activity was to talk about your favorite tool.  It’s so fun to see all the variety of tools that everyone loves – some are kitchen tools, some construction, some crafting.  I kind of cheated with my response: everything in my sewing corner.

My favorite tool: My sewing corner

Here’s what I wrote about it on the discussion board:

I realize that I’m totally cheating here, but one thing I love about my sewing corner is how all the tools and materials are organized to be right at my fingertips.  I’ve been sewing since I was a teenager and it remains one of my favorite ways to make things.  That sewing machine in particular is probably my favorite tool, because it belonged to my grandmother.  Everytime I make something with it, I think of her :)

I can already tell that I’m going to get a ton of great ideas from this course.  Let the tinkering begin!

*What is your definition of tinkering?  Share in the comments, and let’s get the conversation going*


Link Round-Up: 7-26-15


*Welcome to Link Round-up.  As I read blogs, peruse Twitter, and save things to Diigo, I come across a lot of great resources that I think others would benefit from.  This post is my place to bring together some of my favorite finds and share them with you.  Enjoy!*

You make do with what you have, get creative, and repurpose existing materials to MAKE making happen in your classroom. ~Krissy Vensodale @Venspired

Makerspaces can be the spot that encourages a whole new generation of creative minds to explore and solve the big problems. It gives students a chance to see what they can do when they aren’t limited by four multiple choice answers. Creativity is a valuable resource — and a makerspace is the perfect tool to enhance and harness it. ~ Nicholas Provenzano @thenerdyteacher

“Students are drawn to spaces that are open, inviting and stimulating: spaces where they become fully engaged in the conversation and in the excitement of sharing new ideas”(JISC).


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Calling all LEGO Walls

Calling all LEGO walls!

Ever since I built the Epic LEGO wall at Stewart last year, I’ve heard from so many people who’ve used the tutorial I created to create all sorts of LEGO walls in their spaces – from giant ones like mine to individual plates glued onto columns and everything in between.  I’d love to do a round-up of all the amazing variety of LEGO walls to help inspire others.

If you’ve created a LEGO wall at your school, please send me a picture and a link if you have one.  I’d love to share what you’ve made :)

You can tweet me pics @DianaLRendina or e-mail them to me.  Let the awesome sharing of LEGO walls begin :)

Building Curriculum Connections Into Makerspaces

Building Curriculum Connections into

With the craziness of ISTE and everything else this summer, I completely forgot to post a link to this article I wrote for Florida Media Quarterly.  I’m often asked about how to build curriculum connections into Makerspaces, and in this article I go into detail about some of the ways I have done that at Stewart.

Check out pages 15-18 here to read my article.

#EdCampLdrFL Reflections

#EdCampLdrFL Reflections


One week ago, I attended EdCamp Leadership Florida in Melbourne, FL.  After the overwhelming hugeness of ISTE, it was great to spend a day with fellow Florida educators in a place where deeper conversations and connections could happen.  It was great to reconnect with friends like Jerry Blumgarten, Susan Bearden, Jennifer Williams, Tammy NeilJerry Swiatek  and Tanya Avrith.  And I met a lot of other awesome Florida educators for the first time like Bryan Miller, Douglas Konopelko, and Gordon Shupe.  If you aren’t already, make sure you follow all of these awesome people :)

I got to participate in lively and interesting discussions about Makerspaces, Periscope and Voxer, and rebranding digital citizenship.  The Smackdown offered up tons of new tools to try out. (click the links to see my notes).  We had an impromptu lunch-time planning discussion about EdCamp Tampa Bay.  There were selfies, lots of resource sharing, and opportunities for in-depth one-on-one discussions about our passions and concerns in education.

The day flew by so fast, that I hardly took any photos.  So instead, I decided to curate tweets from throughout the day to give you a picture of what it was like.  Enjoy :)

The Day in Tweets



Reflecting on ISTE 2015

Reflecting on ISTE 2015 | RenovatedLearning.com

I can’t believe it’s already been over two weeks since ISTE 2015 wrapped up!  For me, the conference was a whirlwind of connecting with my network of friends in real life, presenting, catching sessions, roaming the vendor hall and trying to be in the moment.  It was an amazing experience and I’m still processing it.  Rather than give you a day-by-day rundown of what I did, I’ve decided to organize my reflections into the four most important aspects of ISTE for me.


Presenting my poster session on started a makerspace – Photo by Tiffany Whitehead


A huge part of ISTE for me was the opportunity to share about my work and to help others on their Maker journeys.  I presented three times at ISTE: a poster session and two panel sessions.  It was exhausting, but it gave me the opportunity to meet and speak with so many people.  I had a little bit of trepidation about presenting a poster session, as it isn’t really my learning style, but I’m glad for the experience.  I was able to talk and share with over 200 people throughout my poster session.  Some of the interactions were very brief (grabbing a business card and flyer on the go) while others stayed longer and asked many questions about my experience starting a Makerspace.  It did feel like I had to repeat myself a lot, specifically about when my students use the space (this will be a blog post soon).

I really enjoyed the two panel sessions.  There was such a fantastic variety of perspectives and experiences in both panels, and I feel like this gave our audience a fantastic overview of the Maker Movement in education and makerspaces in libraries.  Knights of Make-a-lot was tons of fun.  I’ve connected with Josh, Nathan and Laura many times on Twitter before, but this was the first time that we all met face to face.  It was definitely eclectic and entertaining; we had a blast.  The Librarians Network forum was great because we had a full gamut of experiences – elementary librarian, middle school librarian, public librarian and admin.  Check out my presentation page for the slides and resources.

Also in the interest of sharing, I learned how to share Evernote documents during ISTE.  Here’s my notes from the sessions I attended:

Photo by Sue Levine

Community Networking Fair.  Photo by Sue Levine


Getting to see my Twitter and blog friends in person is one of the main reasons I attend conferences.  It’s so much for to hangout IRL with all the amazing educators and friends that I usually online interact with online.  One of the best parts about conferences like this is that there’s also opportunities to meet new people as well.  I love that ISTE makes for organic networking opportunities.  Networking always used to seem like such a sleazy concept to me, but I’ve come to embrace it as a great way to meet people, share about my work, and learn from theirs.

This was the first time I also had complete strangers come up to me and tell me that they love my blog.  I’m so flattered and honored that this space can serve as an inspiration and resource for other educators, although I have to admit, I feel a bit awkward in the face of recognition.  I’m still working on moving past that discomfort.

Reading Terminal - ate lunch here almost every day

Reading Terminal – ate lunch here almost every day


Conferences like this make for an excellent opportunity to explore new ideas.  I tried out some sessions on a whim and got a lot out of them.  I spent some time in the vendor hall and got to learn about some new products and services that I might like to try out at my school.

I also love the opportunity to explore a new city.  This was my first time in Philadelphia, and I fell in love.  I stayed a little off the beaten path, about a twenty minute walk from the convention center.  I took a different route each day so that I could see more of the city.  On days when there was some free time, I got to explore some of the local sites.  I’m not a big fan of super touristy stuff (the Liberty Bell was a letdown, and Benjamin Franklin’s tomb is just a marble slab), but I had a lot of fun exploring local parks, taking in historic architecture, and trying out local flavors.  I also got the opportunity to hang out with friends and check out The Art of the Brick at the Franklin Institute, which was an amazing exhibition of LEGO art.

The Knights of Make-a-lot panel

The Knights of Make-a-lot panel. Photo by Okle Miller


While ISTE was definitely amazing this year, as I’ve been reflecting on it, I’ve come up with some things I was to do differently next time.  I want to make more time to develop deeper connections with people.  While there were some people that I got to hang out a lot with, many times it was just a quick selfie and a brief chat.  I want to make more time to really get to know people, have lunch with them, sit down somewhere quiet and talk.

I don’t think I’ll do a poster session again.  While I’m glad for the experience, most of the interactions felt shallow, and I felt like I could have helped people more with a different format.  I’m thinking about maybe doing an Ignite talk or a concurrent session (or both) next year.

Finally, this year really taught me that making time to eat and rest are vital.  I took much better care of myself this year than I did last year, making sure that I got enough food to eat and enough sleep.  That did mean cutting short some social interactions and missing some sessions, but I was able to be more fully present because of it.

Did you go to ISTE 2015? What were your major takeaways?

ISTE 2015 Link Round-up

ISTE 2015 Link Round-up | RenovatedLearning.com

I’m getting on a plane in just a few days to head up to Philadelphia and I have a feeling that many of the other educators getting ready to go to ISTE are getting super excited too.

There’ve been a lot of great posts lately about getting ready for ISTE – sessions to check out, things to pack, etc.  I jumped into the fray too with my 10 Tips for Surviving and Thriving at Conferences and My Plans for ISTE 2015 posts. To make life easier for all of us, I decided to create a post rounding up all of these great links so that we can all be extra prepared for ISTE.  I am a scout-master’s daughter after all :)

  • ISTE Convention – discoverPHL.com: Discover Philadelphia curated all kinds of great resources and info about the city.  Plenty of ideas for places to eat, things to see, etc.
  • Tech 4 Ed: Tips for ISTE Newbies:  This post is from last year, but the information is timeless.  Lots of great tips for those new to large conferences (and good reminders for conference veterans too)