Sunday, June 17, 2018



WOW! Oh WOW! I thought more than once at the 2018 Make: Maker Faire.

In October I attended my first Maker Faire in the San Mateo, CA. I had no idea how big this maker faire would be. From the moment I got in line and saw/heard some of the creations on the other side of the fence I knew I was in for a treat. 

Being around other folks that enjoy creating and sometimes breaking to create something new was so energizing. Sitting at a picnic table eating lunch on Saturday and having a young lady (8-9 years old) sit across from me that excitingly showed me the robot she had made was a blast.

The first day I skipped the food makers area thinking that would not be interesting. The second day I popped into the building mainly to get out of the sun and was introduced to some amazing innovative food products. 

Here are some of the sites and sounds from the 2018 Maker Faire

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


It's almost midnight, jazz is playing in the background and I'm sitting at my computer because of my 15 minutes of reading before bed has my mind spinning.

I was fortunate to grow up in a home where both parents read. My dad read two newspapers a day and my mother always had a book next to her recliner. She loved westerns and harlequin romance novels. I have never been a fast reader and when I was young I struggled with required reading in school. I could not keep pace with other students and didn't enjoy the material. However, at home, I could not get enough comic books to read. Which lead to reading sci-fi and fantasy novels. I was in college before a professor said he thought I had a mild case of dyslexia and had me tested.

Today I read a lot. A college professor advised a class I once took that is we wanted to be lifelong learns we should always read 15 minutes minimum a day. I took his words to heart. I read way more than 15 minutes most days. I almost always have 2 or 3 books going at the same time. Usually some piece of fiction, something related to education and at times history, political, biography or business book. Most days at lunch you will find me read from my Kindle app on my phone.

So why up late tonight and writing this entry?

I started "Sparks In The Dark" by Todd Nesloney and Travis Crowder tonight.

On page 12 they say the following:
  The current trend is to require students to follow the same reading pace, complete worksheets for arbitrary grades, and respond to questions that do not inspire creative and critical thinking. Completing a worksheet or graphic organizer just to fulfill an assignment does not equate to learning. It only equates to compliance.

They go on to say change is needed. Also, change isn't meant to be easy. If it were, everyone would love and seek out change.


I spent the first 25 years of my career as an educator teaching music. Always encouraging students to read what they were interested in to grow to love reading. Two years ago I made the change to a District Tech TOSA.

Final Act:

As a TOSA I have been working with our Deputy Superintendent on redesigning classrooms to make spaces that are more conducive to collaborative inviting learning spaces. In this process, it has been painful at times talking to teachers about minimizing the stuff in their rooms.

We had conversations over 'you really need 10 filing cabinets?' 'What is in them?' - yep, you guessed it copies of packets of worksheets. I will pause here and say I understand doing worksheets at times but this is a bit extreme.

Another conversation was over how many bookshelves of books are needed in a classroom. When twenty-five percent of some rooms are taken up with bookshelves. In one of the rooms on a second visit, the teacher said I heard you and have weeded my books and taken some bookshelves out. I wanted to make sure the teacher knew I understand the need for having a variety of books in easy reach of students is important. I'm jazzed that this sites library is getting a major overhaul this summer and will also be an inviting place for students in the fall.

This blog has my list of what I have read recently and logged on Goodreads because I do believe it is important for folks to see that as an educator I do read. I might be slower than my colleagues and get a bit frustrated when I'm tired because that is when I have the most trouble with my dyslexia and have to stop reading even when I'm really into a book and sleep.

THANK YOU! Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. for publishing books that inspire me to be a better educator for students!

It is now time to sleep.......

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Great American Read

Watched the premiere episode of PBS's 'The Great American Read' today.

There are 100 books on the list. All of them are fiction. PBS did a survey to create the list of the 100 most popular books. You can find a printable copy of the list here. I have already read 61 of the 100 books on the list. Putting a few of the 39 I have not read on my summer reading list. 

Looking forward to seeing at the end of the summer which book is voted the number 1 in America. Some of the books I have not read since middle school and others have been recent reads for me. 

With that here is my list of books read in 2018 so far.

Vince Flynn - Mitch Rapp Series
  • The Third Option
  • Separation of Power
  • Executive Power
  • Memorial Day
  • Consent to Kill
Work-related books:
  • Culturize: Every Student, Every Day, Whatever It Takes by Jimmy Casas
  • The Four O'Clock Faculty: A RogueGuide to Revolutionizing Professional Development by Rich Czyz
  • Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't by Simon Sinek
  • The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose
  • Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success by John Maxwell
I have a number of books published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. on my summer reading list. Dave has published 50 books and I have read well over half of them. He is currently publishing books faster than I can get through them. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

CUE STEAMpunk: Lab Disc

Guest Post by Karla Orosco

CUE Steampunk: Globisens GenSci Labdisc Blog Entry

Karla Orosco, 7th Grade Science Teacher at Admiral Akers at NAS Lemoore

I checked out the GenSci Labdiscs for my 7th grade NGSS integrated classroom for 2 weeks. My tech department was awesome about quickly loading the Globilab App and away we went. My students downloaded the user's guide and previewed it before I passed out a labdisc to the group. The kit has everything except the pH sensor.

Here is just a preview of what it does:

I really didn’t try to go over each function or feature with the students because part of the excitement was discovering for themselves. I did have to go over the distance tool because that was a little confusing.

I made one student the leader of each group of 5-7 students and that student paired the labdisc to his/her iPad for all the tests. The students took turns using the labdisc and using the iPad to look at the data generated.

It took 3 days for the students to really understand all the functions and learn to use them. I found the Lessons LIbrary Website good but I modified a few to make them work for my class.

One challenge was to make a path from one place on campus to another and find the distance with the Labdisc, write down the path then give to another group and see if they could get the same measurement with written instructions given by the other group. Students had fun with this and enjoyed giving another group a challenge.

I could use these all year alone for the data that is generated by the app and have students work understanding the data that they generated. I wish we spent more time learning the app features in addition to the labdisc features.

Clockwise from upper left: My students measuring distance, taking the temperature of different liquids that I got from a freezer, fridge, room temperature and outside, a student pairing labdisc to her iPad for the day, looking at app data, and taking an external temperature.

There is a learning curve on these devices but if you are flexible with time and lessons this is a powerful scientific and measurement tool.  I plan to try to check out again earlier in the year if possible to go along with my measurement adventures unit. I highly encourage all CUE members to check these out and let students explore with them.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Boldly Go Flexible!!

Classroom Redesign Journey

In 2016 CUE held what was then called Classroom Cribs conference. In 2017 the name changed to CUE BOLD and I attended the first CUE Bold event. In the fall of 2016, I was a newly assigned Instructional Technology TOSA. Having been a music director for 25 years I knew what great innovative music rooms look and feel like. But I did not have a good grasp on what an Innovative Classroom outside the music world looked and felt like. This is where CUE BOLD helped fill the gaps in my knowledge.

The main thing I like about CUE BOLD is that pedagogy is put first. I should stop here and say that BOLD stands for Blended and Online Learning Design! I came back from the Classroom Cribs one-day event excited and ready to start transforming our schools. I meet with my Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent to share what I had learned.

After going to CUE BOLD in 2017 I had a more focused idea of how to move forward in creating flexible learning spaces. After several meetings with our Deputy Superintendent, we developed a plan that went as follows.

We held a series of informal meetings at all five of our campuses (K-12) to talk about and answer questions teachers had about flexible classrooms. Due to the passing of a large bond we had the money in our facilities fund that we could use to start transforming classrooms. Teachers that attended these meetings were then given the opportunity to fill out a Google Survey on their interest in moving forward with redesigning their classroom. In this survey we asked questions like:

What kind of changes would you like to see?
If you had to prioritize one change what would it be?
Thinking about addition but subtraction what would you subtract?

All completed surveys were reviewed and site principals had a chance to way in on which classrooms they would like to see redesigned. Once we had narrowed down how many classrooms and grade levels of these classes we meet with Meteor Education. Meteor helped us define the types of furniture we would put in each classroom.

Our School Board approved the plan we had designed and the purchase order was placed near the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Due to the time needed for furniture to be shipped and arrive we scheduled the install for October 2017 during our Fall break. For phase II we will have the order placed in time for install during the summer but for phase II liked that students started the year with the old and had the room transform physically during the break. Seeing the student's faces and their excitement the first day with the new furniture was priceless!  

I don’t want to fool anyone, it has not been all rosy with the changes made. The new room design has stretched some of our teachers. We have had some failures with desks that have broken and engeryball chairs that students have punchered with pencils. But the benefits far outway the problems. Many of the teachers whose rooms we redesigned have been purging their rooms of items that very easily clutter a classroom. Items such as large teacher desks being replaced by a small workstation, bookcase, and filing cabinets.

Now when I walk in the classrooms that were redesigned you see heightened student engagement, increase in collaborative work and students taking ownership of their learning.

We are not finished as our journey has just begun to shift our classrooms. It has been an exciting journey to BOLDLY GO FLEXIBLE!

Thursday, January 4, 2018


Recently I have seen a number of folks posting on twitter their #OneWord for 2018. I've never been one to make New Year Resolutions. But I decided to pick a word for myself for 2018. What you say is that one word? Well if you didn't guess by the title of this blog, it's TIME.

Why time you may ask? I'm mean come on I have seen folks I know post words like Possibility, Focus, Trust, Purpose, etc. So why TIME?

Simple I wear a lot of hats (TOSA, CTA State Council, TKSCC Chair, CTA/ABC). Each of these requires a commitment of time. Time spent prepping, teaching, leading, planning, etc. But what about myself? Do I deserve Time?

Recently a friend didn't ask me to do a task, instead, she said "Nora, you do it. You don't have kids so you have time." I didn't say it but I thought just because I don't have kids doesn't mean I have time to do what she wanted. I mean I wear a lot of hats and they all require time from me.

The last day of school before our Winter break I attended a meeting with a group of fellow teachers. We meet to create the questions for a survey that we need to give. It took us about 45 minutes to hammer out the questions for our survey and write them down. I had told them after we formulated the questions I would create a Google Form to use for the survey. So after we finished writing down the question one colleague asked when would the survey be ready to send out to everyone. The leader of our group turned to me and said it will be ready tomorrow right? My response was "No". No? The look on several peoples faces was what? See I had plans for Christmas and was leaving the next day for San Francisco and I said I would not even start working on the Google Form until after I returned.

Why did I do this? Because even though I have many hats and spend a large amount of time devoted to them the one thing I have not been doing is scheduling time for me.

If I want to be happy and healthy I have to schedule time for me. Time to recharge my batteries. Time to do things I enjoy. Time to read and not just read books, magazines, and blogs related to my work but time to read for personal pleasure. Time to go to the movies or dinner with friends.

So while I will schedule time for all my hats in 2018 I will also schedule time for me. If you want time for me and there is no time left in the day, week or month then the answer will be no or not now but later.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Goodreads Challenge 2017

Goodreads Reading Challenge 2017

Here is my list of books read in 2017:

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy #1) by Kim Stanley Robinson

George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King

Lead Like A Pirate by Shelley Burgess & Beth Houf

Jim Henson Biography by Brian Jones

Shift This! by Joy Kirr

Dark Money by Jane Mayer

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

The Intercept by Dick Wolf

Assessments That Matters: Using Technology to Personalize Learning by Kim Meldrum

The Snowden Files by Luke Harding

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Hacking Leadership by Joe Sanfelippo and Tony Sinanis

Marvel Comics The Untold Story by Sean Howe

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Program by Urban Meyer

Auggie & Me by RJ Palacio

Plaster City by Johnny Shaw

Term Limits by Vince Flynn

Grit by Angela Duckworth

American Assassin by Vince Flynn

Social LEADia by Jennifer Casa-Todd

Artemis by Andy Weir

Kill Shot by Vince Flynn

Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn