Stories on maker education and innovation 


How to reduce stress by keeping work organized using EverNote

In a previous post, we had introduced Getting Things Done(GTD), a system for productivity focused on helping you reduce stress by helping you stay organized.  A friend of mine from Forerunner communications, sponsored a cool series of YouTube tutorials on GTD.   These videos help you implement the GTD system in EverNote.  My wife and I are big fans of EverNote.

You can review  the whole series of tutorials here:

Do you have any favorite tips for staying organized?

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The Role of a Teacher

Published on August 15, 2012 by in stem, teaching

Posting by my wife Dr. Sarah Rosario

As I begin my second year as a college professor I find myself examining the purpose of my job. I read this article ( the other day and it made me think hard about my role as a teacher. A couple of lines stood out for me:

“Education is not the transmission of information or ideas.”

I have to admit that I have invested much of my time over the last year trying to deliver information in a organized, and efficient fashion. I want the material I present to be as clear and polished as it can be. I am constantly revamping my powerpoint slides to make them as concise as possible. I make it a point to provide explicit study guides outlining my expectations. I refer students to additional resources on YouTube and other websites. I give vocabulary quizzes and homework assignments to make sure they actually crack open the texbook. It is becoming increasing clear that this is not enough. I am still not satisfied that my students leave my class knowing more than they came in with. Yes they are passing my exams and can regurgitate the information, but I’m not sure that they could piece together a coherent argument or critically evaluate a news article on a topic covered in class.

“Educators are coaches, personal trainers in intellectual fitness.”

How on earth do I get my students to exercise their brains? I feel like I have laid down the framework for my courses, but now I have to step up my game. I need to encourage them to move beyond role of passive receiver of information into a role of active learner. Communicating information is the easy part. The harder part is getting my students to apply that knowledge. I have to change the way that I behave in the classroom. It is my job to make sure they are not just memorizing facts, but that they can see the bigger picture. For my introductory biology course I am introducing a small project that will require them to present and critique a news article related to something we’ve studied in class. I have no idea how well it will go over, but it is at least a start. For my part, I am going to resist the urge to cover as much information as possible and focus my attention on making sure that my students truly understand the material before moving on.

Here are a few resources I am exploring to help me on my journey:

How to Encourage Critical Thinking in Science and Math ( – an article aimed at K-12 teachers, but helpful nonetheless

HHMI Biointeractive
( fantastic resources for engaging students in the material

Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education
( full of articles on creative teaching ideas.

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3 Resources to connect with other educators and have a great school year

Connect with other teachers

I love to discover deals and free stuff(books, resources, tools.)   I am the type of person who thrives on connecting with people too.   The act of forming relationships and learning about other people and their ideas have profound personal education benefits.   As I help my wife start to prepare for her school year, many other teachers are kick starting their classrooms.   How do you make it a GREAT year?

To be clear, I am a dad, a team leader in a software engineering organization, and a choir director.   I do not have the explicit title of teacher.   Since my wife works as a college biology professor, our family has come to value the craft of teaching.   In my effort to support her, I have actively tried to learn what helps busy educators.   My wife encouraged us to start blogging together to help blend our passions for teaching and technology.

So, what can a computer geek do to help you have an awesome school year!??

Connect with other teachers 12 minutes per day

I would like to introduce you to three people who will help you connect with other teachers.    Teachers supporting teachers is always a epic win!

  • 1- Go to the principal’s office!

    • I had recently met Jessica Johnson through   I appreciated her taking time to chat with me.   She has written resources to help teachers use Twitter to enhance their teaching.    She encourages educators to connect with each other and support each other.   She has written a great blog post introducing teachers to the BEST of the Twitter community:
    • About @PrincipalJ: Elementary Principal, Twitter Evangelist, passionate about learning/daily5/cafe/instructional leadership, comoderator of #educoach chat, mom of 2 boys
  • 2- Follow the leaders

  • 3 – Free book using Twitter to connect with people

    • Ok.  There are a few of you reading who are resisting the idea that Twitter can help me.    How can lines of 140 characters each help me be a better teacher?  I would challenge you to consider trying Twitter for 12 minutes a day for two weeks.   If you do not get any value from Twitter, I will give you your money back.  🙂
    • This awesome book from Becky Robinson will help you connect with other teachers and leaders 12 minutes per day.   While the book is written from a marketing perspective, she does a great job of introducing twitter in baby steps.   What other professional development tool will cost you so little time?  Twitter can be very fun too.  To support you on your journey of Twitter, consider downloading this awesome e-book.   It’s free till the end of August:
    • About @beckyrbnsn: a mom, wife, friend, writer, and the founder and CEO of @weaveinfluence. I want to help you grow your online presence, 12 minutes at a time.

I hope these resources will help you connect with fellow educators.   As a parent, thank YOU for all the love and time that you put into your craft of teaching.    Thank you for loving our children.

If there is more that a computer geek can do to help you, please let me know!   As an educator, what was the last cool idea that you found on Twitter?

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Curiosity has landed! Touch down confirmed!

Published on August 6, 2012 by in nasa, stem, technology

W00t! @wilw stopped by @NASAJPL today. He seemed pretty happy... on Twitpic

Curiosity and NASA team… You’ve made us all proud!   This is the Olympics of engineering!

Wow! The rover sent back pictures too!

Buzz on the Curiosity Rover?

  • @MarsCuriosity New #Spacecraft3D augmented-reality app from @NASAJPL puts me in the palm of your hand:
  • @NASAJPL Teachers: Bring @MarsCuriosity into your classroom! JPL hosts landing educator workshop, Aug 3-5. Apply by July 13:
  • @MarsRovers This Mars panorama is the next best thing to being there. 817 pics from Oppy stitched into one 360º view:
  • @MarsCuriosity W00t! @wilw stopped by @NASAJPL today. He seemed pretty happy to see my double. (The feeling’s mutual.)
  • @MarsCuriosity Dare mighty things. Team shares challenges of the final “7 minutes of terror” of my landing on Mars. Video:
  • @NASAJPL Share your ideas about future Mars exploration plans, including prep for human exploration! Closes July 1:

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We’re about to land on Mars! Go NASA and Curiosity!

Published on August 6, 2012 by in nasa, stem, technology

We’re about to land on Mars! Wahoo! Watch it live!

Streaming video by Ustream

To learn more about the mission, please visit this article from CNN.



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MetaBlast, a video game quest through a cell.

MetaBlast is an amazing first person shooter quest through a cell.  After playing it a few times, I had to share this video game. To learn more about this game, please visit .

I did have a few issues starting the game due to challenges in the starting menu. After getting past these issues, the story and visualizations are breath taking.

Biology teachers… what do you think of the game?

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Kickstarter games that teach math, programming, language, ecosystems, economics


Why is game based learning a meaningful trend in education?

As an industry, we know that designing, coding, and testing a quality game comes with a large price tag.    Many educational game makers have addressed the funding challenges by asking the community to support the game creation effort. has become a key player in engaging our educational communities to game based learning.     I wanted to share five projects funded through Kickstarter.    In each case, I would love to see my kids play these games in the class room of the future.

  1. Code hero – Game to teach programming
  2. Xeko – Game to create strong ecosystems
  3. Urbanization – Game to teach economics
  4. Sanjiten – Game to teach language
  5. Hit seekers – Game to teach math

Do you see other interesting educational projects on ?  I would love to hear your feedback.


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Olympics of teachers – Microsoft partners in learning forum 2012


Bill Gates through his foundation has challenged our community to discover what makes a great teacher.   In this vision, we need to regularly find and celebrate great teachers.   I greatly appreciate the work Microsoft has done to organize the Partners in learning program.

During this week, Microsoft has hosted a forum where 100 awesome teachers from across the United States share innovative projects that use technology to enhance teaching.     In my head, I would call this event the Olympics of teachers using technology.    Watching this event through twitter, I wanted to highlight 10 killer inspirations and resources.

  • @web20classroom – The future of learning isn’t the device. It is what kids are doing with the device, what new knowledge they are creating with it. #pilus
  • @AngelaMaiers – Technology does not solve problems — PEOPLE do!! Design the technology around peoples needs and values #PILUS
  • @web20classroom – Good schools turn into great schools because of leadership. Administrators, teachers and especially kids, taking risks. #pilus
  • @coolcatteacher – The one limit I’d remove blocking innovation: Standards as excuses for not changing & not collaborating w/ other classrooms #pilus
  • @web20classroom: The future of the classroom isn’t flipping. It’s flattening. #pilus – How do students learn how to learn?
  • “@AngelaMaiers: This should be up in EVERY Classroom and EVERY Teacher Lounge #Pilus
  • @SkypeClassroom – “Don’t be afriad to be awesome” – wise words from @ksivick about sharing your projects with other teachers #pilus
  • @ketheredge – Just a few more days & @marty_lester and I will be in Seattle presenting our school’s prof dev program at #pilus –
  • @ewilliams65 Check out post re: Alan November’s Who Owns the Learning? book #pilus 2day #edtech #cpchat #pbl
  • @SkypeClassroom – Live blogging from #pilUS from @coolcatteacher –

Thank you @SkypeClassroom@ewilliams65@ketheredge@AngelaMaiers@web20classroom, and @coolcatteacher for sharing these ideas on twitter to help inspire positive change in our education community.   I really appreciate that many of your tweets point to the idea that people are more important than processes and tools.

Please make sure to check out all the great projects at Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012. These teachers all deserve gold medals for rocking education and making a difference in the lives of their students.

Make sure to check out @coolteacher’s live blog at .

Are there other ideas that have inspired you from Microsoft Partners in Learning 2012?





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How can games transform education?

What aspects of games help enhance learning?  Check out this awesome TED talk from Dr. Richard Van Eck.

For additional examples of gamification and game based learning, please consider reviewing my previous blog entries.

Dr. Van Eck feels that games could fundamentally disrupt the core of education. Are there  games that we can use today in our teaching?   Does your organization or company use games to teach?



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Reduce your stress level with keeping a plan of awesome

Mind like water

I have the great pleasure of sharing my life with my wife who teaches college Biology.   We have a number of friends who are preparing their final plans for the fall semester.   I have to admit the process of planning and executing a quality class can become overwhelming.  As a designer of software, I have profound respect for all educators.   I believe that we need to celebrate and support our teachers in much more profound ways.

Ok.  Back to feeling overwhelmed by work.

During a brief period in my life, I worked in music ministry, IT, and church communications.   I will always treasure the community our church staff built together.   We, however, were VERY busy at this time.   I struggled to balance all of the needs and demands: organizing binders, planning choir practice, making edits to the church website, meetings, four worship services, planning for retreats, etc.  I was also taking graduate school classes in computer science at UCF.

During this time of life, I discovered “getting things done” (GTD).   For a great summary of “Getting things done” by David Allen, please visit .

I have to admit that I still do not execute this system perfectly.    I, however, find myself using ideas from this system every day.    Here are five reasons why I value GTD:


  • “Mind like water” – David Allen stresses that your mind will induce stress when it’s forced to remember all the stuff that you need to get done.   This stress can become a roadblock to moving your work forward.  Without putting your work into a central system that you can trust, you will feel negative stress.   Consider creating one and only one “todo” system that you trust.
  • It gives me a place to see all my work and find the top 20% – In terms of execution of tasks, I check my GTD system every day.    I am currently using a Google document that I share with my wife.   In a work context, I review and prioritize my major work items every week.     If I have 10 things to do, I am searching for the top 2 items that have the maximum impact.   With my task items collected into a central system, I have more information to decide if I can do more work.    This system helps me say “no” to projects that are not important.
  • The process enables me to revisit old ideas – I am human just like everyone else.   I often bookmark cool blog articles and ideas in my system.   It often delights me to find these old ideas or nuggets of wisdom.
  • It turns my day into a game – I like scoring points in my day.   Do I finish everything on my goal list every day? No.    At the end of my day, I can feel good about my productivity since I have a green “done” icon next to tasks that died that day.  Wahoo!
  • The process pushes me to break work down – It’s in my nature to tackle big problems.   You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.    GTD provides a formal rule for taking big projects and breaking them down into smaller items.   If the item is quick, I try to do it now.   ( I need to be better at this rule. )

In future blog posts, I will try to comment upon the tools I have used.  For now, please check out Scott Hanselman’s great resources and podcast on the topic:

For now, I strongly encourage you to check out GTD by David Allen.   I can honestly say that I use these ideas every day.   Am I stress free? No.   I know that my mental stress level is lower because of David Allen’s work.

How do you keep yourself organized to reduce stress in your family or work?  


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