Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Maker Fair 2015

IMG_2917.JPGAs educators we all strive for student engagement and student success. Sometimes, shortly after the beginning of the second semester, when students (and us!) are tired of winter, we hit a “wall”. The natives get restless in anticipation of spring. I am sure the #cozadMakers are not the only school system that experience this. We have always discussed ideas of how to regenerate our students at this time. Now, we don’t have a sure-fire answer but we recently had success at Cozad High School that has helped the February blahs and re-energized both our students and staff; in addition, we had some GREAT learning and student achievement--now that is what I call success! We called it Maker Fair 2015 (#makerfair15).

Our technology director (@dave_evertson) has always promoted NETA and ISTE Conferences to our leadership team. He firmly believes that the investment in sending administrators and teachers to these two educational conferences is one of the greater returns on an investment. Last summer we were fortunate to take 16 teachers and administrators to the ISTE 2014 Conference in Atlanta, GA. Our high school principal, assistant principal, and counselor brought back some great, innovative ideas for their building and the district. They were excited in improving our school culture. Our high school ed-tech group (Maker Movements) meets weekly to discuss our vision, goals, and actions at the high school. In the fall of the 2014-15 school year, Mr. Beckenhauer (@bill_beckenhauer) was excited about the Innovation Week session he heard at ISTE. Through many discussions we decided to try something like this at CHS on a smaller scale. We decided to offer a two-day activity in mid-February which would give students the opportunity to take part in courses that are not typically offered at CHS. The other decision was to create a team of teachers to plan and implement. This team took ownership and were awesome! I truly believe the success behind Maker Fair was the work and dedication of this team and the staff.

On February 5th and 6th CHS held their first ANNUAL Maker Fair. Students choose ½ day or full day classes. Staff and 21 community members taught 37 different sessions. Courses ranged from jelly making, robotics, taxidermy, self defense to football 101. It was awesome to see our teachers share their passions with our students. Comments such as “this is awesome”, “that was so cool”, “I want to do that again” could be heard in the hallways.What even made the day more exciting was all of the students and teachers tweeting and sharing their story.  A CHS student tweeted after the first day “Learned so much today at #makerfair15 this should have happened years ago! #carstuff #selfdefense”.

IMG_3713.JPGAfter two days of Maker Fair, I felt re-engaged. Parents and community members shared with our administrators and staff that their children had talked more about school the past two days then they have in a long time. Not only did our students enjoy the two day, they learned so much. I am just so lucky to have been a part of this experience. Thank you to the students, teachers, administrators, community members, and presenters for your contributions to our Maker Fair.  

For more information and a list of the courses available, please visit our school website post at: If you have time, take a look at the short video and see the opportunities and smiles of our students!

Mr. William Beckenhauer (@bill_beckenhauer), CHS Principal--"Maker Fair was everything I had envisioned it could be for the first time.  From my original exposure and ideas I got from ISTE to the creation of the fair by the teaching staff, it was everything I had hoped it would be for students and teachers."

Mrs. Jann Kloepping, CHS Teacher--”Maker Fair was one of the most exciting two day events that we have experienced in several years!”


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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

PD in 140 Characters?

Can you really create professional relationships in 140 characters or less? Absolutely! Today after a great day at #YorkMLK15, I reflected on my own professional development the past few years. I realized very quickly that twitter is one of the most relied-upon resources in my Professional Learning network and development.

Four years ago, at ISTE 2011 in San Diego, I saw many educators and presenters talking about Twitter. I had a twitter account that I created for a workshop but had no idea how this social media platform could be beneficial to me as an educator. I quickly realized that by following the #ISTE2011 hashtag how many educators were sharing information about the conference. After the conference, I thought “that was kind of nice but I have no idea how I would use it now”. A year later, I was at a workshop at ESU10 and happened to be sitting by an educator from Grand Island. I noticed she was using twitter throughout the morning. Finally, I approached her and shared with her that I just didn't get the whole Twitter thing! By the end of the workshop, my new acquaintance, the legendary Heather Callihan (@hcallihan), had me following “strangers” and creating my first tweets. This was the beginning of my great journey to a great Professional Learning Network and the beginning of becoming a connected educator. Now, two years later, I credit Twitter (and @hcallihan) as the beginning of a major reform in my professional growth.

Through twitter, I have become connected to some #rockstars. There have been so many great connections that I don’t want to forget anyone but some of the most influential include @hcallihan, @mrbadura, @mickie_mueller, @j_allen, @shellymowinkel, @annfeldmann1, @dave_evertson, @mandery, and MANY MANY more. Through these connections I further developed my PLN by presenting at NETA, York MLK, and various technology conferences throughout the state. I have had the opportunity to moderate a few twitter chats and expand my twitter connections even more. My professional connection with @hcallihan encouraged me to run for NETA Board and now I have the opportunity to work with some of the greatest educators in our state.  Through collaboration, @hcallihan and I have created a STOPiT class in our district and work collectively on digital citizenship and technology integration with our staff. I now have the opportunity to work with @taylorsiebert and @strivedu on the launch of the blog site. (Make sure you check it out at:  I am excited for the possibilities.

Through my journey, I am now focused on getting staff in my district connected to other educators through social media such as Twitter. This is one more step on their "tech-lete" workout.  It is critical that teachers and administrators embrace the changes in education and begin to connect with others. Many of you reading this are probably already connecting with other educators, but if you are not, give it a “tweet” and see how quickly your professional growth and connections grow. Don’t isolate yourself--share your passions!

So, does 140 words make a difference? ABSOLUTELY!