Leading as a Literacy Principal

As an educator, I have always been passionate about literacy and have continued to seek out new learning. My literacy thinking has been refined as I’ve read books by Regie Routman, Donalyn Miller, Boushey and Moser, Richard Allington, Fisher and Frey, and now Jennifer Allen. Becoming a Literacy Leader is a goldmine of a book […]

via Leading as a Reading Principal — Reading By Example


Understanding Diversity Through Makerspace

Makerspace environments not only foster innovation, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving, activities strongly support cognitive pluralism and serves as a platform to create unity in diverse education systems. Leaders in education must begin to recognize that learners may have different cognitive architectures, therefore being disposed to reason differently or form and revise beliefs and desires differently (“Cognitive pluralism – Oxford Reference”, 2017). In other words, learning is not a standardized process. Yes, it is important to measure progress, but we must recognize the process of doing so is much more complicated than just charting a biased data set. As Time magazine’s Rana Foroohar (2016) correctly points out, “big data comes with the biases of its creators.”

Makerspace Encourages Communication, Discourse, and Conflict Resolution

Makerspaces serve to promote a stronger cultural understanding through the art of making. Community discourse encourages an exchange of cultural perspectives. As each learner attempts to apply the design process of a makerspace project based learning activity, students share research perspectives, debate on approaches, learn about other cultural perspectives, design an make an artifact within a community, and receive feedback from peers. If teachers encourage a written reflection about the process of making after makerspace, students can learn conflict resolution skill sets, a vital 21st century skill. Johnson, Johnson, and Tjoosvoid (2006) describe strategies to encourage skilled disagreement.  When students participate in claim evidence reasoning activities, “students learn that criticizing an idea is not criticizing those who propose ideas-that their worth as human beings is separate from their ideas” (Koppelman, 2014, p. 60).


Makerspaces Encourage Self-Confidence for Diverse Students

We know attitudes can influence success or failure in learning. Learning may not happen easily unless students have positive attitudes toward learning the content. Makerspaces using a four station approach, in which students solve the problem as an artist, journalist, scientist, or engineer, may offer the ability for diverse students to select a comfortable and safe approach toward learning. This multicultural approach serves to not only improve the attitude toward learning, but provides a strategy to improve the self-efficacy of diverse students.



Cognitive pluralism – Oxford Reference. (2017). Oxfordreference.com. Retrieved 14 September 2017, from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095622312.

Foroohar, R. (2017). Big Data Comes With the Biases of Its Creators. Time.com. Retrieved 14 September 2017, from http://time.com/4477557/big-data-biases/.

Koppelman, K. L. (2014). Understanding human differences: Multicultural education for a diverse America (4th ed.). Pearson.

Johnson, D.W., Johson, R.T., & Tjosvold, D. (2006), Constructive controversy: The value of intellectual opposition. In M. Deutsch, P. Coleman, & E.C. Marcus (Eds.), The handbook of conflict resolution (2nd ed. pp. 65-85). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Celebrating Diversity and Eclipse 2017 via a Makerspace K’e Activity

Jean Piaget stressed that “children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves, and each time that we try to teach them something too quickly, we keep them from reinventing it themselves.” (Papert, 1999).  As I continue to collaborate with makers and educators around the world, I like many before me see patterns preventing progress. Programs and strategies often talk of innovation and creativity, but fail to create systems and processes to provide a sustained action. Unfortunately, many are missing the mark. Makerspaces can serve as a disruptive change agent that can encourage diverse learners to create, invent, and in effect develop new knowledge.

During the last few months, I have had the opportunity to collaborate and coach a Navajo school located in northern Arizona through an Indigenous Makerspace Outreach program coordinated by NASA, the Indigenous Education Institute, the University of North Texas, and myself.  Ideas on integrating a makerspace approach continue to take shape, which began in 2012 with a joint ISTE and NASA Multiscale Magentosphere curriculum initiative. I had an idea that I developed through my PLN that took traction. I collaborated with Sandra Wozniak, Tom Chambers, and Troy Cline on a STEAM approach that utilized 4 career stations. That STEAM approach was revamped through four separate NASA and state funded programs to include multiple STEAM camps in Texas and other locations around the world, a NASA Makerspace Launch activity in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center, NASA funded Makers’ Guild professional development outreach program located in north Texas, and now a NASA funded Indigenous Makerspace Outreach program. With each new program and idea, our makerspace project-based learning process grew.

Makerspace Connections to Literacy

Students and the entire Navajo school staff have read Sunpainters: The Eclipse of the Navajo Sun. After reading the story, students identify main ideas and concepts. Annelle Butler, a teacher at Spicer elementary located in north Texas helped me to revamp this concept to include a focus on complex text. Ms. Butler serves a very diverse student population, with over 14 languages represented in her classroom last year. Makerspace served to help Ms. Butler meet the needs of diverse learners. Students complete a KWHL chart to identify main ideas and themes.

A Navajo cultural teacher working with me, has weaved Navajo teachings into literacy activities to center on an understanding of K’e – The Kinship System. After developing a strong understanding of content, students then extend research as they fulfill a makerspace project based learning activity using challenge cards. After making an artifact, students will write and reflect on their makerspace design process, utilize informational text, and add content to their personal journals.

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Making Through 4 STEAM Career Lens

The concept of making  using a purposeful instructional design, can help diverse learners bridge the academic gap between the arts and the sciences. How does a purposeful design help? Purposeful design adds a focus to the design process, which aides in students knowing how to direct student-led passion projects.

Maximizing PBL Makerspace Environments

Maximizing PBL Makerspace Environments (1)

Such a process is rooted in research, but often schools fail to understand the importance of purposeful design. It serves to provide enrichment toward classroom content centering around a central question. In this case, students are posed with the following question.

How does elements in the Sunpainters: Eclipse of the Navajo Sun represent K’e?

I worked with teachers during two online professional development training using Zoom and a face to face 3 hour training. Traditional Navajo beliefs center on the elements. The sun and moon are powerful deities in Navajo culture. The sun controls and regulates the universe, while the moon controls and regulates the earth. As a result, we will be honoring traditional beliefs indoors during this sacred time. Afterwards, students will participate on a makerspace event to reflect on activities during the last week through the lens of a scientist, journalist, artist, and engineer. Students will be presented several challenge card activities and will be encouraged to create their own makerspace challenge card. A representative of challenge cards are located below.

Students will showcase makerspace products in multiple community events during the next month. The program serves to be a model to other organizations. Teachers will continue to learn how to design makerspace challenge cards with me throughout the school year. In addition, students will reflect in writing journals on their design process. Additional activities will include weaving, sash belt looms, and other traditional Navajo arts.

Papert, S. (1999). Papert on piaget. Time magazine, (p. 105).

Cultivating Ideas via Makerspace

Last week I was fortunate to collaborate with an amazing Makerspace community, known as the Makerspot, led by NRH Public Library Director Cecilia Barham located in north Texas. I began this blog post but failed to publish it.  Teachers not only connected with the makerspace community, they were challenged to make a product, that connected to main ideas and concepts in their content area, serving the role of a journalist, engineer, artist, or scientist.  Teachers selected an article, book, or play and began to make a product.  Afterwards, teachers shared their products or ideas to the makerspace community. Take aways included the following.

Makerspace Centers On Community

It is important to remember that a true makerspace is a community of makers, not relying on just one leader or participant. When a makerspace becomes a shared space of leaders sharing their craft, all students benefit. Many schools fail to understand this. As a result, the makerspace becomes a club or after school program. While this does provide many benefits, the lack of shared ownership can result in the makerspace facilitator feeling overwhelmed. In addition, when the sponsor leaves, so does the program. Perhaps, the largest issue is the lack of connection to classroom content. Connecting teachers to the space provides a platform to enrich curriculum and shared ownership.

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How to Submit a Podcast to Google Play

Podbean news

Podcasts are now available (released in the U.S. and Canada currently) on Google Play Music. You can submit your Podbean-hosted audio podcasts so you can be found there! Go to Google Play to submit your RSS feed. You will need to 1. Add your RSS feed, 2. Confirm ownership, and 3. Publish.


You need to have at least 1 episode published and have the appropriate tags set up in Podbean:, or , and or (Podbean supports the iTunes tags, which work for both iTunes and Google Play). Login to google and “add a podcast”. If you don’t know your RSS, simply go to Settings→Feed/iTunes in your Podbean dashboard. At the top you will see “Your RSS feed” (http://yourname.podbean.com/feed/).

After submitting your RSS feed, you will need to “confirm email” (via the email in the RSS feed). Check for the email from Google and click on the “verify ownership” button (or…

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Choose Your Own Adventure.. My Summer Professional Learning Reflections

Anyone involved in public education knows that summers are full of opportunities for educators to embrace professional learning.  Educators and leaders are surrounded with many avenues to model life-long learning. No longer do we have to wait for PD to come to us. This year I had the opportunity to connect and grow my PLN for an entire two months. For the first time in five years, I was not enrolled in graduate courses or completing a dissertation,  free to just learn about any topic of interest and connect. I attended multiple conferences to include Texas ASCD Ignite, ISTE, Denton’s TIA, and immersed myself with exploring content in multiple museums, even visiting the Library of Congress to research the upcoming solar eclipse. Certain themes emerged this summer during my adventure.

Creativity Matters

With so many makerspace, STEM, and STEAM apps, and instructional approaches available to organizations and teachers, choices and program approaches can become overwhelming. It was exciting to see so many great project-based learning approaches centered around storytelling. Many schools are combining storytelling with gaming. For example, it was cool to see how students really engaged with Minecrafting a Colonial City. I liked the following process used toward incorporating digital storytelling with core curriculum.

Dr Jennifer Miller steamlearnlab Twitter (2)

Dr Jennifer Miller steamlearnlab Twitter (3)

Lewisville ISD has incorporated a mobile transportation lab, a collaborative unit, serving 70 libraries and STEAM labs. This provides an introduction to educators and students toward creative learning technology approaches. I visited NASA’s STEM Innovation Lab at Goddard Space Center and I was inspired by the many uses of the 3D printer. Learners of all ages were inspired to learn using 3D printed models, which encourages me to continue producing curriculum and 3D printing training programs.

Dr Jennifer Miller steamlearnlab Twitter (4)

Transparency Matters

Eric Schlesinger always inspires. He recently provided a keynote at Denton TIA in which he reminded us that transparency really does matter. I have been a heavy user at times of social media, blogging, and at times have had to unplug. Often those whom are very plugged in are criticized for bragging. However, Eric reminds us that branding your story isn’t only ok, it is necessary toward being transparent and building trust. In fact, telling your story connects learning to stakeholders. He reminded us of the importance of being transparent and consistent with our posts. During the last two years, I had dropped my professional blog posts. After hearing him speak last week, I decided to pick up my blog and begin consistently posting once a week. Hopefully, this exercise will increase my ability to communicate digital learning and cognitive science approaches to all stakeholders. Change does not come from opinions. Change is brought about by the examples we set and our reactions toward others.

Community Matters

It is important to remember that the teacher makes the difference! It was very inspiring to see how teachers at WELD Re-4 School District deliver a creative conference in which students, business leaders, and educators provide professional learning sessions to the entire community. A result of this program included a new scholarship program,  innovations scholarships, which are provided toward students who demonstrate quality interactive student showcases.

The final takeaway for this summer is that true learning is FUN! I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to learn and connect with so many around the world. This is going to be an amazing school year!



How to Get People Involved in Training? — Guila Muir and Associates

What’s the best way to assure your training participants groan inwardly and “turn off” the first second you open your mouth? Simply by following conventional wisdom about how to open a training session: introduce yourself and provide your credentials. Instead, generate curiosity, interest and motivation from the outset. Use a “Hook” before introducing yourself. (Participants […]

via How to Get People Involved in Training? — Guila Muir and Associates