Saturday, December 8, 2018

Introducing: ResetEDU! (An Origin Story)

I'm really happy to have finally released my Google Certified Innovator #GoogleEI #LAX18 project into the world, ResetEDU!

ResetEDU is a web series where I strive to help educators hit their own professional “reset” button by applying Design Thinking principles to their teaching career, be it curriculum, physical spaces, or even professional relationships.



A lot of physical and mental energy has gone into this project, and well... will continue to do so! I really struggled with HOW to get my message out into the world. I've been a blogger for about 10 years now in one form or another. But the community isn't the same; people don't comment on and follow blogs like they used to. Podcasts are quite popular at the moment, but I wasn't sure if that was right for my project - there are a lot of podcasts that I already listen to that are done with such high-quality... and it just didn't feel like the right fit. 

I didn't want to create an entirely new platform or community. If I personally didn't want to sign up for another thing and have to check another "thing," I know I couldn't ask other educators to do so, too. I want to meet teachers where they already are. Facebook? Nah. I actually quit that last summer, and I've never looked back. I definitely haven't regretted that choice. 

So... I like making videos, and I have a ton of fun being goofy and creative using WeVideo tools and posting instructional videos on my teacher YouTube channel... so why not go that route? ResetEDU projects often involve quite a bit of visuals. Plus, I'm a visual person... former art teacher holla! Viewers can subscribe to the channel, and I can hopefully somewhat seamlessly integrate into a habit (watching YouTube) that already have. I want to make it as easy as possible. So that's my gamble. I'm also trying to keep the videos short - five minutes or less? - to keep it really convenient and easy to watch. 


My future goals for the channel are to connect with people who have video production experience who are willing to donate time and/or services to help increase the quality of my work, and to help distribute the work load. (I'm 100% DIY right now!) 

My 10x goal is to make this my full time job; to travel around and help educators while creating video content that other educators can watch and apply to their own professional work! (LOL, who's ready to hire me - let's connect!)


When I first graduated college, my favorite tv show was an interior design show called "Interior Motives" with Christopher Lowell. He would decorate rooms, but use this process of steps that he applied to every space that he designed, like floors, ceilings, texture, lighting, accents, etc... I ate it up! I thought about it and applied it to my own spaces and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Dang, I wish that show was still around! 

If I could have that impact, to be what Christopher Lowell was to interior design, what Gordon Ramsay is to kitchens and restaurants, or Jon Taffer is to the bar industry, that would be the 10x result of my dreams!


Both the name "Reset" and the logo of my project are really significant to me. Because I teach computers, the idea of resetting/restarting is like the golden rule around here. Something's not working right: Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

So, I wanted a word for my project that was simple, but expressed that same sentiment. Also, my son, Iggy, who is now six, used to (and occasionally still does) struggle with temper tantrums and meltdowns, as all kids do. My husband and I had a trick when he was younger where we told him to press his "reset button" when he was getting too upset. Iggy would literally press an imaginary button on his body to refocus and calm down (kinda cute, huh?). RESET was perfect! 

When designing the logo, I knew that I needed to incorporate the universal symbol for restarting/resetting: you know, the circle with the arrow thing. But the cloud is incredibly symbolic, too. The cloud is a nod to a YouTube video recommended to me by my #LAX18 coach, Michael Kosko:

"The Cloud" is the unknown area, the indirect path, between getting from point A to point B (or, often times, alternate point C). The Cloud is that area of uncertainty, confusion, and frustration, where in order to move forward, you must get creative, explore new ideas, and walk into the unknown, even if there's a chance that you could epically fail. The Cloud is not only where I found myself in the middle of #LAX18, but where I imagine a lot of the teachers who need a Reset exist. 


I simply cannot forget to thank and give credit to my #LAX18 mentor, Kevin Jarrett, who has been incredibly patient and understanding throughout my struggles with getting this off the ground. His support (and directives to stop and take a break when I'm overwhelmed!) has been key. I've noticed how much even a quick text or check-in can help at times; just knowing someone is out there cheering you on is the best feeling. Thank you, Kevin!

Wow, this post became a whole lot longer than I had thought! I guess I've had a lot swirling in my head about all of this. I'm really excited about my project, and I hope that it connects with other educators, too.

Final thought: My project cannot continue without the support of as many other educators as possible. Please share my project with others. Please subscribe to the ResetEDU channel, follow the project on Twitter and Instagram, tell a friend... any and all support is appreciated! If you're interested in connecting with me on a ResetEDU project or episode, you can fill out the form here or contact me via the ResetEDU website.


- Mrs L.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Threadless Artist Shops: Put the FUN back in FUNdraising!

Last season, before I retired from roller derby, I was the marketing coordinator for my league. One of the projects we started was to create a Threadless Artist Shop to complement our other league merch offerings - we were able to offer special designs without having to carry additional inventory, as all of the products from Threadless are print-on-demand. Also, the packing/shipping/delivery is all handled through the Threadless company. There was literally no work we needed to do beyond uploading designs and getting the word out!

So, what's the catch?

The profit margins are considerably smaller with a Threadless shop. You can actually set the price yourself to make as much/little as you want per item, but keep in mind that if you set your prices too high, no one will actually buy your stuff! Threadless sets a "base" price of each item that covers the costs of the item + printing. You get to decide how much you want to add on top of that price, and that's your cut.

There are a TON of items (not just t-shirts!) that you can create and buy in a Threadless shop: sweatshirts, tanks, cell phone cases, water bottles, mugs, STICKERS, throw pillows, leggings, notebooks, zipper pouches, tote bags... and more!

from top left: sticker sheet, tote bag
center: zip up hoodie
from bottom left: leggings, kids t-shirt

That's nice. What's it got to do with school? 

Well, you (yes you, as an individual) can open up your own Threadless Artist Shop for FREE, and you can use it in a variety of ways:
  • Extracurricular clubs can design their own shirts! You can buy as few as ONE item. 
  • A bonus PTA "spirit wear" shop to complement any other merch/fundraiser apparel sales that might already exist. This is how we use it at my school!
  • Subject areas/departments can create their own coordinating apparel.
  • Student Council could open a shop to sell merch to promote specific events/activities.
  • Create "Class of..." designs for each grade level, and use them in conjunction with school spirit competitions! 
  • Open a shop to post student-created designs from a class assignment. Students are way more motivated when they can see a functional end result ("Wait, we're going to design a shirt you can ACTUALLY BUY?!") 
I actually began our school shop for selfish reasons. I wanted a school spirit shirt in black, but alas, there were none. So I DIY-ed it with the help of Threadless:

You can check out our own Sandburg Middle School Threadless Artist Shop here for more inspiration, or to grab some merch of your own! All of the proceeds from our shop go to our PTA, who then invests the funds in our MakerSpace!

What fun ways does your school raise money? Maybe try your own Threadless Artist Shop

Note: I am not a representative of/do not make any money from, nor was I asked to endorse Threadless in any way. I just really like their stuff, the process is super simple, and they're a local Chicago company that I like supporting! 

- Mrs L.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

LEGO-Inspired Minifig Portraits Using Google Draw Tools

I like to teach my students about Google Drawing tools because it's an often overlooked app in the suite of Google tools that I think has so many great uses! You've probably seen my Google Draw "Doodle Yourself" blog post in the past. That lesson is by far my favorite, but I have another lesson that I use with 6th grade students - not quite as advanced - but just as fun! We explore and practice using Google Draw tools to create custom LEGO-inspired minifig portraits.

It's a fun way to get to know a class, because they can customize their clothing and accessories to reflect their personal interests. These digital artworks look really cool printed out, and grouped together on a board, like these:

The minifig shape is iconic, easily recognizable, and universally loved. I have yet to come across a student who wasn't excited to create a project that involved LEGO in some way. I love that students can build their figures in a variety of ways, and get as detailed as they want. You can see the wide range of ideas in the photo above.

The way I teach this project is to use a Google Slides file that is shared by the entire class. Then, each student gets one slide with a minifig template as a background image. They can then build their figure by "coloring in" via layering shapes on top of the template. I like to use a Slides file because I can "lock" the background image down, and students can see what their classmates are doing and collaborate and share as needed. But you could also make these exclusively in Draw, too. Draw and Slides have the same tools, so by using the drawing tools on one, you are also learning the other.

Do you want to do this project with your class, too? Well, I'm sharing my Slides template with you today so that you can make your own copy and try it out in class!

I've also made a YouTube video that introduces the project and goes over basic Google Draw functions and tools for getting started. You can check that out here:

If you do this lesson with your class (or even just on your own for fun), I'd love to see the results! Consider sharing with me or tagging me on Instagram or Twitter so I can check them out! 

- Mrs L.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


So, I've been a little slow as of late on the blog, but it's because I've been about a zillion times more busy than normal IRL! The latest news is that I earned the final badge in my Google collection, Google Certified Trainer! Now I told everyone that I have #allthegoogles and hopefully they don't come up with even more because geez that'd be hard.

So, as of right now I'm still up to my neck in my Innovator project. I've done like three different video shoots for my first and second videos and then I decided that none of them were quite right and I'm back at square one and it's mega frustrating.

So because I need to just focus on that and get going, my former focus over here, the blog, has taken a bit of a back seat. But it'll come back ASAP. I've got a bunch of ideas to share, including a major project FLOP a couple weeks ago in 8th grade that I've really learned a bunch on and can share, and my new class website, and a super sweet robotics kit I was lucky enough to trial and share!

But first, breathe. :)
Talk soon!

- Mrs L.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Virtual Open House: Classroom Tour 2018-19

It's that time of year again! School has started. I just dropped my son off for his first day of first grade. It was so... uneventful. He said goodbye, turned around, and walked into the door of the school with his friends. I wanted to cry. Obviously this was way more of a big deal for me than it was for him. He was excited to go. #momlife

Meanwhile, back at my own school, I made my annual classroom tour video EARLIER than ever before! Yay! I like to do this so that both students and parents can see a little peek into our school, and to what students can expect when they come to class. Some things are very similar to previous years, and others are quite different. I like making these videos to highlight those changes.

One of the biggest changes from last year to this one is the official name change from "Computer Literacy" class to "Creative Technology." It just SOUNDS more exciting, doesn't it?

The annual classroom tour video is fun to make, because designing for learning spaces is one of my favorite things to do. One of the things I'm most looking forward to for this school year is the creation of our official makerspace next to the library at Sandburg. It's 100% brand new and set up from scratch! Having so many possibilities always makes me excited.

If you enjoyed this year's tour video, please share it on social media! Here's to an awesome school year!

- Mrs L.

Friday, July 20, 2018


professional photos by Andrew Weeks Photography

So, we got out of school right before Memorial Day, and I found out shortly after that I was accepted into the Google Innovator program for the #LAX18 cohort! My summer plans instantly became 100000x more exciting.

So from July 9-11, I flew into California and got to hang with 37 of my new best friends and seven coaches for some intense training at the Google Venice Beach offices. It was overwhelming and wonderful all at the same time!

My innovator colleague Manuel Herrera @manuelherrera33 drew super cute cartoons of all of us! 

Day one started with a tour of the YouTube Creator Space LA, and then headed over to Google LA for team-building and design thinking intros. We ended the day with a relaxed dinner and got ready for day two, which ran from 8 am to 8 pm!

Day two was an intense day of spark challenges, design thinking, brainstorming, prototyping, testing, and obtaining feedback from our fellow innovators and coaches. We were taught to think big, to start small, and to fail fast! It was incredibly energizing and overwhelming to be around so many like-minded educators and I want to take them all home with me so we can start our own school! :)

deep thoughts at #LAX18
my overflowing vision board for my Innovator Project brainstorming sessions

Day three also started bright and early, was filled with more Sparks and design thinking, and ended with an awesome live-streamed graduation event! I was so excited that my husband, son, mom, and mother-in-law were all able to watch me in California from back home here in the Chicago suburbs. I was a big crybaby because I was so happy and overcome with emotion that the whole experience was ending.

my crew, Team Nacho Mama, and a sappy graduation pic

I am so grateful and amazed that this whole experience happened to me! It pretty much still feels like a dream. I have a lot of work ahead of me in the next year for my innovator project, which will be all about giving teachers a chance to try new things and to re-energize their teaching, which is something I'm really passionate about.

I know my blog post here hasn't done the whole experience justice. Several of my colleagues have also done reflections on #LAX18 that you should also really check out:

I'm so happy and proud of myself for taking a chance and applying to be a Google Certified Innovator. An extra special thank you shout-out goes to Ben Hartman, my colleague at Churchville Middle School and fellow Google Innovator for helping me with the entire application process! I couldn't have done it without you!

- Mrs L.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

My First ISTE Experience

So, I'm almost a week out from my very first ISTE experience. For anyone who's never been, ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education, and their yearly conference is a super big deal in terms of size and scale. It's basically the national version of your teaching association group, but for anyone who uses tech. 

Then multiplied by 100. 

In Illinois, we have a state group, called Illinois Computing Educators, with regional chapters and such. Their state conference is big and all (it's the one I usually go to) but I was grossly unprepared for what to expect at ISTE. 

This year, ISTE was local to me, being held in Chicago at McCormick Place... the place that the auto show and Comic-Con is held, if that helps. Oh, and it's expensive, like too much for a person to pay out of their own pocket. So you have to be lucky and have your company or school district send you there. Thankfully, because of my history with WeVideo and willingness to present on their behalf and work in the exhibitor booth, they offered to send both myself and my husband, who teaches art in Oak Park. We worked in the exhibitor booth for 2 of the 3 days, and just that experience alone was insane and fun and basically a giant overload to the senses!

I know it's mostly because it was my first time, so I was unprepared as to what to expect. I'll do better next round. 

Mr Leban and I doing what we do best. Being weird. 

For starters, it felt like we were non-stop hit by people at the booth! Some with questions, some who wanted to try out awesome green screen activities using WeVideo, and LOTS of friends: both my coworkers AND my virtual friends who I was finally able to meet up with in real life and say hello! 

from upper left, clockwise: Suzee Reinheimer (my D205 coworker) and Todd Burleson (author/librarian/twitter buddy), Ben Hartman (another D205 coworker), Kaitlin Fajks (my grad school colleague), and Abby Almerido (one of my new #LAX18 cohort pals!)

I was able to hit up a few sessions, including one on creativity by Todd Burleson, who was kind enough to include me in his Green Screen Makerspace Project book last year, and one on the Google Dynamic Learning Project, which I am super interested in learning everything about! 

Not only did I meet friends at the WeVideo booth, I also had the chance to present at the Google for Education booth on WeVideo. (WeVideo is a Google for Education partner and so we had a space to present - it was super fun!)

I haven't actually shared the awesome news here on the blog, although I've been tweeting all over - I was accepted to the Google Certified Innovator program this summer! I'm going to LA in a little over a week to work on my project, and I am so so psyched about it. I have a really amazing and friendly group of teachers in my cohort with me, and a bunch of us were able to meet up IRL at ISTE! Don't worry, I'm sure to have a blog post all about it after I get back. :)

(Note to self #1: Always take selfies with everyone you meet at ISTE. I forgot this like 90% of my time here.)

We were invited to the special WeVideo/Soundtrap social at Underground on Monday night, which was super fun, and I met up with even MORE friends. Seriously, this ISTE thing is the best place ever to connect with your PLN! :)

Our WeVideo crew! Back row L-R: John, Todd, Me, Jaime, and Krishna. Front row L-R: Emily and Allison

On day three, Todd and I had the time all to ourselves, so besides hitting up a session AND meeting another friend for coffee, we made a valiant attempt to make it through the vendor hall... and I'd say we did a pretty good job of it? 

I was ridiculously excited to find the Osmo booth (I don't use it in middle school, but Iggy has a setup at home and we keep buying more stuff for it because IT IS AMAZING) and I got to meet Awbie of the Osmo Instagram account, who I'm kind of obsessed with. He's just the cutest. 

I also got to talk with exhibitors at some of my other favorite (and new favorite!) vendors, and learn a bunch of new and exciting tricks and preview a bunch of upcoming fun things: Makey Makey, littleBits, iPevo, Swivl, Flipgrid, Creaza, Strawbees... oh geez and I'm probably forgetting a whole mess of others... I told you this ISTE thing was overwhelming! :)

Did you go to ISTE? What was your favorite part? 

- Mrs L.
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