This morning we had a DNA extraction exercise in my Introductory Biology course. I asked my students where DNA is located in our cells (answer: the nucleus). They stared at me blankly. We are more than halfway through the semester and my students cannot answer that very basic question. Clearly there is something wrong with my teaching strategy. Or, there is something wrong with them. Or, maybe it was because it was 9am and nobody wanted to be the one to speak up, but this is a prime example of the frustration that I have encountered this semester.

For all of the effort that I put into this class, I feel like I should have better results. Over and over again I have tried to encourage them to study. I had mid-term meetings with each student to talk about study strategies. I give them homework assignments to re-enforce lecture material. I give them study guides and keep my office door open so they can get help when they need it. They don’t come. I’m not sure what else I can do to help them to be successful. Some days I feel like I am teaching in an empty lecture hall.

So what am I to do when faced with this sort of frustration? Here are some things that I do when grades are down and I feel like the worst teacher in the world:

1) Reevaluate. Take time after an exam or a major assessment and reflect on what went well and what did not. Sometimes just breaking it down can help you to figure out where you might need to use a new strategy. This can be hard in the middle of the semester where you’ve already established your syllabus and grading policies, but it is important to maintain some flexibility and be willing to make minor changes. There is no sense in doing the same thing over and over when it just isn’t working.

2) Change things up. Variety is the spice of life right? Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut. If we teach the same thing over and over it can get very monotonous. What can you do to change your routine? For me, this means that I am not teaching introductory biology next semester. Instead I will be teaching an upper level course in cells and molecular biology. I am looking forward to the change in pace. I love teaching the non-majors, but I think I’m getting a little burnt out. I hope to return to the course in the Fall with fresh ideas and renewed enthusiasm.

3) Trust in the process. Sometimes you can do everything possible and your students just won’t learn. If you are confident in your teaching strategy, then you have to accept that some students just aren’t going to be successful. There are more reasons for this than I can count. You are not the center of their universe. Students have lives outside the classroom and sometimes those lives get in the way. Unfortunately, many students are at your school to get a degree, but not to learn. Just as you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You can lead a student to knowledge, but you can’t make them think.

What sort of encouragement can you give me? I am open to suggestions!

Mind Blowing Creatives and Projects from Atlanta Mini Maker Faire 2013

Robots Under God: A Project from Atlanta Mini Maker Faire 2013

Creative people enjoy sharing their craft with the community. The Atlanta Mini Maker Faire (AMMF) showcased creatives, craft makers, artists, inventors, and technologists from across Georgia and the US. The outdoor conference blended the best of an arts show and a “hands on” science fair.

Sarah and I had the opportunity to take the family to the AMMF. Sarah appreciated the “kid friendly” style of the day. The kids were captivated by creative projects and crafts at every booth. Our first project of the day involved making a paper rocket ship.   Unexpectedly, the facilitator of the project invited the kids and family to over to a launch pad. My son’s rocket was placed on an air pressurized launch structure. It was pure joy to see my son jumping excitedly after seeing his rocket travel hundreds of feet into the air and return. At this point, I knew our day would be filled with more surprises.

The kids loved shooting smoke rings into the air, building crafts at the STEAM truck, making glop, and seeing toys created by 3D printers. As we had lunch on Georgia Tech’s beautiful campus, you could notice quad-copters and R/C aircraft dancing in the sky. The boys LOVED all the robots. They especially enjoyed catching Frisbee’s from the robots built by FIRST robotics teams in Georgia. I was very impressed with the young people and mentors building these robots. What a fun way to learn computer science and technology!

Walking around the faire, I enjoyed getting to speak with other Makers and entrepreneurs seeking to improve their community. I greatly valued the opportunity to talk with Jenny Kortina, founder of . She has years of experience designing and coding with the team from . does an amazing job of encouraging kids to play and learn at the same time. I’m very excited for Jenny in her start-up called Blokify that seeks to make 3D printing and toy making accessible to young makers. I appreciated that she offered me tips on the craft of building game based learning experiences too.

After speaking with founders and members from Georgia Maker spaces, I started to notice a strong theme in the conversations. The result of building a Maker space involves intentional community building and openness to experimentation.   It’s important to build the community of creatives first! Resources and location seem to flow from there.

The Rosario’s had an amazing time at the Atlanta Mini Maker Faire. I would strongly encourage our readers to seek out a Maker Faire in your area. They are a wonderful celebration of art and creative technology.

Special thanks to all the Makers and organizers of the conference!

Interested in getting started in Making in your house? Check out the following resources:



Pictures from Atlanta Mini Maker Faire 2013

We love to hear from our readers. Are you working on a fun and creative project?

Related Posts:


Every Student Has a Story


All sorts of people walk into my classroom. One of the benefits of teaching is that you get to meet individuals that you might not otherwise encounter. This brings a richness to my own life for which I am incredibly grateful. Each person carries with them their own life experiences and their own burdens. This semester alone I have students that have battled cancer, struggled with the death of a parent, been through divorce, and cared for gravely ill children. For some of them, these things are behind them and they are trying to get a new start in life. For others, they are simply trying to push forward despite the odds against them.

How does this factor in to the way that we teach? Well, for one, knowing what your students are up against can help you to design assignments and assessments that give them opportunities for success. For example, I do not require group work outside of class. The majority of my students are adult learners with complicated personal lives. It is generally unreasonable to expect them to be able to also schedule in group meetings in addition to class, labs, and homework assignments. Another strategy that takes into account this need for flexibility is that I provide homework assignments well in advance of their due dates. At the beginning of each unit I post all of the homework assignments for that unit. It gives the students an opportunity to work ahead (in reality, few do)  if they know they have life events that may interfere. It also gives me the ability to hold them accountable when something comes up at the last minute (“Dr. Rosario I couldn’t get to the computer to complete my assignment” doesn’t fly when they’ve had several weeks to work on it).

As teachers, we rarely get a glimpse into the real lives of our students, but it is important that we don’t take those lives for granted. We spend a few hours each week with them. It is a small fraction of their time, but we have an incredible opportunity to be a positive impact. Get to know your students. Get to class early, linger afterwards. You never know what you might find out. Your life will be richer for it. I love this training video from Chick Fil A. It truly underscores the point that I am trying to make, each one of us carries with us our pains and our joys. Don’t take that for granted.


5 Strategies For Getting Noticed Using Social Media


As one finishes college, students start to think about how they can “stand out from the crowd” to prospective employers. Employers use Google to research the background of potential candidates.   It’s just part of the hiring process.   If someone Googled you, what would they find?   As an artist or designer, how do you get potential customers to notice your portfolio?  If you run a company or non-profit, how do you attract the community to come to your events and promote your values?

I believe that building a platform of service is critical to growing your personal brand, growing your influence, or getting noticed.    Here’s the great news!   If social media is used intentionally, you can promote positive change and earn the trust of the community.  In addition, the cost of building a platform of service is VERY affordable.

What are the Benefits of Building a Platform of Service?

  • Share your WHY:  Social media enables you to intentionally share your values and beliefs.  On InspiredToEducate.NET, our readers learn about some of our core values.   We believe the world becomes a better place through great leadership.  Promoting quality education is imperative to our personal lives, families, businesses and our country.   What core set of values do you need to share?
  • Giving generously through social media helps you to build trust:  I am a HUGE Michael Hyatt fan.   He has a wonderful teaching called the “20 to 1” rule.   In this teaching, he encourages you to form the habit of connecting your tribe with teaching that serves them.  In the context of Twitter, you should post 20 teachings that help your tribe members become awesome or more productive.   After you have shared 20 times, feel free to ask your tribe for a favor:
    • Consider signing up for a newsletter.
    • Consider purchasing an e-book, app, or product.
    • Consider attending an event.
    • Consider helping us with a survey.
  • Share your personality: People are motivated by stories and your personality.   For me, I am intentional with the people I follow on blogs and twitter.   I always appreciate when a blogger or writer is real.   I enjoy hearing the stories of great times with families or businesses changing the world.   I appreciate when authors share their struggle.     It helps me realize that I’m not alone in growing.  Be funny!  Be bold!   Be YOU!
  • Great teaching will get shared:  70% to 92% of consumers read reviews or ask their friends when making purchasing decisions or making choices about going to events.   This data suggests that organizations need to create strategies so that tribe members are motivated to share your organization with their friends and professional contacts. How do you get the community to share positive reviews of your brand?   As you are promoting your organization, you need to serve your tribe with teaching and resources that help your tribe become superheroes.    The teaching needs to be actionable, practical, fun, and help your tribe member grow.
  • Building a platform helps you explore your passions: If you intentionally want to explore a life that is not common, I believe that creating media around your strengths and passions can be helpful for personal clarity.    I went to graduate school and focused on machine learning.   Through blogging about Makers movement, project based learning, and game based learning, I have discovered a hidden passion for learning.  If I wasn’t blogging with my wife, I don’t think I would have discovered this.  Blog analytic data and comments on your blog can help you measure interest or demand for your ideas too.
  • How to build a platform?

To help serve our readers, I wanted to share some of my favorite teachings on building a platform using social media.

Resources from Michael Hyatt

Seth Godin: How to get Your Ideas to Spread
Remarkable ideas will go viral!


What information and teaching would help your friends, family, and community be more successful?   What kind of information can you share?


Photo by


Other posts from InspiredToEducate.NET


Join us at the Atlanta Mini Maker Faire

Check out the ATLANTA Mine Maker Faire

As part of the Makers movement, a Maker Faire is a community gathering that celebrates creative expression in digital fabrication, arts, fine crafts, robotics, programming, and engineering.  Across the nation, these events are inspiring kids and adults to be creative, curious and take on the spirit of an inventor.

Frequent readers of our blog will note that I’m passionate about creativity.   I love the craft of making music.   Thanks to my mom and dad, I grew up in a home where I learned to play violin and piano.   As I internalized my love for music, I started learning how to arrange music on my computer and picked up guitar.   I am always thankful that my parents fostered musical thinking in my life.   It has been a source of self confidence and joy.

I also enjoy the crafts related to computers.   I grew up tinkering with computers with my dad.   I can still remember writing simple games in GW-BASIC programs with him on our IBM PC 8068.   When I was eight, my dad brought home our first mouse.  This was a revolutionary technology at the time.  I spent hours learning how to draw pictures on Microsoft Paint.   These small creative experiences with my dad inspired me to become a software engineer.  As a researcher today, I enjoy artificial intelligence, machine learning, gaming and how technology supports learning.

My parents fostered my love of learning by exposing me to music and tinkering with computer technology.   Sarah and I hope to inspire this same love of learning in our kids.   We enjoy taking the kids on road trips to help them stand in “awe” of the world.  Sarah, my wife who works as a biology professor, does a great job teaching them about the building blocks of life.   She celebrates the wonderful complexities of our Earth and nature.  It’s cool to hear my eldest talk about exploring cells or get excited about discovering a new plant or insect.

In the Rosario household, it’s very common to see us making stuff.  We enjoy making music together.  More recently, we have started playing Minecraft together.  We enjoy building Lego space ships and robots together.   It’s amazing to see how much fun the kids have building forts from card board boxes.

Making is in our DNA.  If you’re reading this post, you probably enjoy being curious, being creative, and learning.   With that said, I wanted to promote the Atlanta Maker Faire that will be happening later this month.

Atlanta Maker Faire

  • The third annual Atlanta Mini Maker Faire is scheduled for Saturday, October 26, 2013 at Georgia Tech from 10am to 5pm. Featuring both established and emerging local “Makers,” the Atlanta Mini Maker Faire is a free family-friendly celebration featuring speakers, workshops, and exhibits on topics such as robotics, green tech, electric vehicles, vintage computing, 3D printing, textile arts, home fabrication, and much more! Get your TICKETS here
  • WHERE: Georgia Tech; Tech Green at Clough Commons; 266 4th Street Northwest; Atlanta, GA 30313
  • WHEN: Saturday, October 26, 2013 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Learn more at


Stories from MakerFaire NYC

Related Posts:

Something Old, Something New: Blending Physical Objects and Computing For Learning

Using rice and computing to learn about topography

Given that Sarah and I love science, we enjoy exposing our family to novel learning experiences. In the past month, we had the opportunity to enjoy the Museum of Science in Boston, MA. I greatly enjoy hands on learning. Getting to see my kids play with some of the Tangible Computing exhibits in the computer science section was a blast! The exhibits enabled my kids to learn and explore by playing with ordinary physical objects augmented by computing. I found this educational technology fun and approachable.

Researchers at the MIT Tangible Media lab contributed a teaching tool to the museum exploring topography, the flow of fluids, and making 3D models. In the Sandscape exhibit, the children played in a 5ft by 5ft sandbox. The sandbox structure was filled with rice that the kids could move around to experiment with changes in topography. My kids were captivated by this exhibit. To learn more about SandScape, Professor Hiroshi ISHII and his team of researchers in human computer interaction, please check out the following video and visit their website.


I also wanted to celebrate the teachers from the museum. As my children played with SandScape, the teacher gracefully used questions to help them discover the meaning of the different colors on the SandScape topography map. For instance, by encouraging the kids to do small experiments with the rice and asking leading questions, the kids concluded correctly that “red” represented high elevation while “blue” represented low.

Since I witnessed this learning experience, I have started to encourage my kids to explore through leading questions,doing small experiments at home, and letting them make conclusions. That has been fun!

The Tangible learning space included another fun exhibit enabling kids to control a robot. In this exhibit, the children arranged various puzzle pieces together to form a computer program that will be executed by the robot. One puzzle piece represents moving forward. Another puzzle piece represents turning 90 degrees. Still another represents moving backward. I love how this exhibit built upon kids natural ability to play with puzzle pieces. Once the puzzle pieces are put together, the kids press a button executing the program. Using a web camera positioned above the exhibit, the computer reads the chain of puzzle pieces and controls the robot accordingly. I started to wonder if Scratch was inspired by this exhibit. I really want to build this at home!

Using Puzzle Pieces To Control a Robot

The “hands-on” learning experience and staff at Museum of Science at Boston are amazing. I highly recommend the experience to everyone! For our education and parent readers, I have collected helpful teaching resources from the museum that you can include in your lessons. Make sure to check out the other research projects from the MIT Tangible Media lab.

What kinds of “hands-on” learning excites your kids to learn?



Related Posts: