Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Dynamic Duo of Tech Museums: The Tech Museum of Innovation & The Computer History Museum

I've talked about Dynamic Duo's before, both here and here.

I think I may have landed the "edtech-ie-est" duo of them all.  The Tech Museum of Innovation (in San Jose) and the Computer History Museum (in Mountain View, CA). Located a mere 13 miles from each other, in the heart of Silicon Valley, they work together nicely to give you a view of our techie past and take you well into our techie present and future.

As you can imagine, my trek to San Francisco & Silicon Valley certainly included the two of these museums... and a crazy number of photos taken at both. If you ever have the chance to visit in person, you should.

The Computer History Museum (CHM)

Exhibits while I was there:
  • Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing: From the abacus to mainframes to where we are today! This is where I spent the most time. It was amazing and awe-inspiring to be surrounded by the number of artifacts (approximately 1,100...including the 1978 Merlin, which I loved as a kid!)
  • Make Software: Change the World
  • Thinking Big: Ada Lovelace: Dating back to the mid 1800s, Ada was a mathematician and a woman ahead of her time. 
  • Where To? Another favored area, where you got the opportunity to sit in a self-driving car. While in the Silicon Valley area, we actually saw two of these on the streets!!
  • IBM 1401 Demo LabThis room-sized computer takes you literally back in time to 1959
  • PDP-1 Demo LabAnother flashback to 1959 and the "one-ton minicomputer." These two rooms really show you how far we have come (as I took a picture of them on my smartphone hand-held computer!)
Resources for You To Explore:
The Tech Museum of Innovation

The Tech Tag: Coming home with "digital mementos" of our experience there was pretty darn cool.

The Exhibits while I was there
  • BioDesign Studio
  • Body Metrics
  • Body Worlds Decoded: This was incredible with the plastinated bodies and slices of true parts. They also provided you with a tablet so you could see artificial reality images popping up on hot spots right there in the museum to truly make the learning come to life! I also liked the huge, table-sized touch screen computer where you could see right inside the human body!
  • Cyber Detectives: Perfect for anyone who likes code breaking!
  • Exploration Gallery: The Shake Platform simulated what a California Earthquake feels like. Feeling that magnitude of 6.7 was stronger than this Maryland and Midwest girl has ever felt!!
  • Innovations in Health Care: Another one of my favorite exhibit. This is always where I feel innovation is going to be the key to solving so many of our global issues.
  • Reboot Reality: "A Digital Experience Lab" where you can experience "immersive media." We loved the Animaker, where you used Legos to create animals, then it virtually created that animal from scanning your Legos, then popped it up on the animated big screen!
  • Social Robots
  • The Tech for Global Good
  • The Tech Studio (A Maker Space on steroids, with just about any material you could think of to build with!)
  • Unfortunately, the IMAX was down until November 2018 for renovations.
Resources for You To Explore:

Luckily though for the rest of us, there are so many online resources, you can soak it up from... you computer, of course!

Images from my camera! Compilations made using the LiPix app.  Logos from each museum's website!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

California Scavenger Hunts

No matter where we were (Silicon Valley, San Francisco, or Napa), one of the major themes of our California trip was a variation on the theme of Pokémon Go, collecting logos and sites along our travels with drive-by's and quick photo snaps (and occasionally a stop along the way). With Geek Silicon Valley: The Inside Guide to Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, San Jose, San Francisco by Ashlee Vance as my bible, I had the addresses and the list of sights I definitely wanted to see! We...

—Tracked all those famous "birthplaces of Silicon Valley and the garages--the HP's and the Steve's.

—Circled Facebook's campus (surprised by the vastness of the it all, with 18 buildings + the fitness and recreation area that was complete with a soccer field, a rock wall, and bikes stationed all over.

—Trekked to Apple HQ, then over to their Apple Park Visitor's Center (complete with a 3D Virtual Reality model showcasing the architecture of their new round building that will house 12,000 employees (plus the ways it is maximizing solar and wind power, & also the 5+ miles of trails around it, which will be open to the public).

—Puttered around the exterior of the Google Campus—no, they wouldn’t let us ride the Google bikes, but we staged a photo or two nicely.

—Toured Standford's Campus--an all day affair! We checked out Hoover Tower & the amazing view (we saw San Francisco!), The Rodin Garden, Google's original server (housed in Legos)...and a bit of a backlot tour by an old high school buddy who I haven't seen since our sophomore year when her parents moved to CA!

—Visited the NASA Ames Research Center, seeing a replica of the International Space Center, a moon rock, and other NASA odds & ends.

—Careened by the traditional sights of San Francisco such as cable cars, the Dragon Gate to Chinatown, Lombard Street, The Painted Ladies, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradelli Square, Coit Tower, the TransAmerica Building.

— Meandered through the vineyards of Napa and past some familiar named wineries.

As an aside, my husband should be sainted as he was our chief (though not only driver), and I typically assumed the role of navigator. He should be sainted for the level of patience he displayed with these drive-bys! The sum total of these camera collection ranked up there on my list of favorite things! The best souvenirs ever!Images from my camera. Compilations created using the LiPix App.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Reaching Out to the Redwoods

One of my favorite books (which I've written about before) is Operation Redwood, by S. Terrell French. Since first discovering it in 2010, I've read this as a class read-aloud every year I've taught a homeroom (versus my role as Tech Integrator now).

When you are a teacher, & you have a summer trip to California planned, you do things like reread favorite books like this & "Last Child In the Woods" by Richard Louv & watch movies like The Internship, set at Google as part of your prep or trip experience.

Operation Redwoods is set both in San Francisco and a redwood grove outside of Willits, Callifornia--which is in Mendocino County. At this writing, the Mendocino Complex Fire was blazing over 350,000 acres (the first California wildfire ever of this size) and is approximately 64% contained. Willits is about 20 minutes from Redwood Valley, where much of the River & the Ranch Fires are taking place. (Both fires together make up the Mendocino Complex Fire, the latter of which is the bigger one.)

Putting it all (and me) in geographical proximity to all that's going on definitely helps gain perspective.

Being in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco areas, I knew one of our adventures needed to be to see the Redwoods. Both due to my love of the book and also out of my own environmental need. This ranked as high as all my needed tech-sightings of Silicon Valley. Our game plan had been to do that in Muir Woods on the way out of San Francisco and on the way to Napa--especially given it is only 12 miles from SF. Shortly after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge we saw a sign which started a prick of concern regarding parking arrangements for Muir Woods. Thank goodness for the magic of the internet and smart phones. A quick search indicated that yes, in today's world, you do indeed need reservations to go into the woods. At least "these" woods. And, as luck would have it, there was no room in the proverbial inn for us that day.

The internet also was instrumental in Plan B: where could we find Redwoods lose to us. (By this point, a Safeway parking lot off the side of the freeway was our research base.) That search led us to this article: "8 Places to See Redwoods Near San Francisco That Aren't Muir Woods" by Kristen Hanes. Kristen saved our day, leading us to Samuel P. Taylor State Park within an hour's drive of where we were. We had plenty of parking, no crowds, a picnic lunch, the gorgeous South Creek, and groves of redwoods. It was the perfect location for us!

What more could we want? We did a little bit of hiking, a little bit of tree hugging, a little bit of jaw-dropping at the size of the trees, and a whole lot of looking up. They really are remarkable trees. I can only imagine the size of old growth redwoods!

For more information, check out the following (or click any of the links above):

Image from; map screenshot from on 8/15/2018, Pictures from my camera.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Seeing Seesaw

One of the highlights of my recent trip to California was a visit to Seesaw Learning Journal's home base in San Francisco. Knowing I was going to be there early August, I reached out to Seesaw through my connection as a Seesaw Ambassador. They delighted me by welcoming me in with open arms! Extra bonus: they had just moved to a bigger office to house their 44 employees the week before, so I got to see their new, expanded space. 

Their open office design had definite zones for different types of work activities, and spaces named with school-centric names. "The Playground" defined their lunch area, for instance. I got to meet several employees, and enjoyed lunch with Emily & Natalie who gave me a warm welcome indeed. We got the opportunity to talk in depth about Seesaw, and they also were able to ask me questions about what is or isn't working from my side. I also had a lengthy conversation with Co-Founder Carl Sjogreen--about Seesaw, San Francisco, and two people we both happen two know (in that "it's a small world," "6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon" sort of way. It's not everyday I get to just sit and chat with a leader in edtech! Additionally, before I left, I got to take part in one of their favorite brain break activities: a very competitive game of Codenames!

Visiting Seesaw and getting a feel of both the climate and culture of this company really was one of my favorite parts of my trip--seriously, right up there with wine in Napa & biking across the Golden Gate Bridge! 😉
The rock star feel I got from this visit also stems from the fact that I am a big proponent of Seesaw. I piloted it two years ago with 2nd and 3rd grade. Last year I was able to have my school using it in 5 different grade levels. Fingers are crossed we'll get our whole Lower School on board this year. I was proud of the 74% parent connection we had last year, but want more so I can bring it closer to 100%. I've got some definite ideas in the works on how exactly to build that greater connection this year. Both parents and teachers gave rave reviews last year about the use and ease of Seesaw as a learning engagement tool and a way to showcase in class learning at home. I love that it's easy enough for Kindergartners to master the app, taking charge of creating and saving their digital work here (with only a little guidance at the beginning).

To learn more about Seesaw, start here or check out their Help Center.

To find the Seesaw Activity Library (with 1500+ activities written and created by Seesaw Ambassadors): Teachers, find it within your login of Seesaw, or check out this video from Richard Byrne at FreeTech4Teachers.

Start here if you are interested in becoming a Seesaw Ambassador.

Seesaw Logo from; Activities' Library Screenshot from from my visit Aug. 8th to Seesaw's HQ in San Francisco, compiled using the LiPix app.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Golden Experience, Biking the Bridge

We've just returned from a whirlwind trip to California. We packed about as much into a week as we possibly could in the Silicon Valley area, including San Francisco area & a hop over to Napa. When your days are numbered, your days are full! During our week (because this summer I am counting), we spent at least 52 hours outdoors. Odds are high, we spent at least that same amount of time engaged in techie activities as well. Given all of that, you can imagine the number of blog posts waiting to be written!

One of our highlights of the trip was our day of greatest outdoor adventure: we rented bikes and pedaled 14.6 miles in San Francisco. Not bad for a girl with bad knees who hasn't been on a bike in over 2 years. Remarkably, the bike was far kinder to the knees than all our walking had been! (Many a day we cranked out over 15,000 day totaling over 20,000 with the hills of San Francisco!)

Our sights that we saw: Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, Angel Island (the West Coast Immigration entry point from 1910–1940), Crissy Field, The Presidio, and Fort Point (at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge). We then biked across the Golden Gate Bridge (despite the huge number of bikers and pedestrians that were often in the way)! I'm still a little in awe as I write it again here. It was a pretty amazing adventure indeed.

Not only was it so good to be outside all day (oh my, the weather was perfect!)... but the wealth of sights that we saw and the ground that we covered in the city. It was remarkable watching the fog roll in—especially while we were on the bridge. It would go from clear to foggy and back again. At one point it was almost like a white curtain wall came down next to the fence, blocking our sight of the water of San Francisco Bay! The same fog made the towers ahead of us on the bridge completely disappear for 7 minutes or so.

After crossing the bridge, we then trekked down to Sausalito for lunch, ducked into a shop or two, and took the ferry back across the Bay--with Alcatraz on one side of us and Angel Island on the other. (After the bit of a bike ride back to the bike rental shop--which of course was just over that one last hill-- an Über ride back to the hotel and a nap were both well-placed!)

Prone to being a thinker anyway, I spent a lot of time in mental meanderings during the ride and given the view. A large goal of my trip (which is why it started in Silicon Valley) was to be in the innovation center. The bridge was known as an engineering feat when it was created--the longest bridge span at the time. Likewise, I was struck by the innovative history of the cable cars, historic streetcars, and electric trolleys. Fast forward to their Muni metro system, their electric buses, and even our Über. The dichotomy of all was something I found fascinating. Naturally, San Francisco is a city ripe with history as well as known for its forward thinking. All of it adding richness to my whole experience!

To learn more on the history of each of these, check out the following links:

Images: from my camera, compiled in the LiPix app. Map from Map My Run app.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Thinkport: Online #Edtech Resources

I don't just like Thinkport because of its affiliation with Maryland Public Television. Yes, I live in Maryland, but that tie-in isn't enough to make it a fabulous resource. Thinkport can certainly stand alone, and holds a lot of learning opportunities for teachers of all grade levels.

My first experience with Thinkport was doing their online interactive "Pathways to Freedom: Maryland & the Underground Railroad." It was an amazing resource to use while teaching slavery and the Civil War. I used it both when I taught 3rd grade and a few years later at another school when I taught 5th graders and it fit once again in the curriculum.

But this is just a fraction of what is available over at Thinkport. If you have never investigated this resource, put it on your list for the year ahead. Learning resources abound! Be sure to browse by the grade level bands. Within each category you will find an assortment of activities under these topics:
literacy, math, science, social studies, and STEM. You might also find some additional topics such as social & emotional skills, digital tools, digital literacy, or resources for teachers, depending on the age level.
Additionally, Thinkport has some Special Collections including Primary Sources Inquiry Kits for Middle and Upper School for US History and World History. There are also some other great primary resources to other websites along Thinkport's right hand sidebar.

I always love it when we can hit up on a plethora of resources. May these serve you well this school year ahead!

Logo and image from

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Meatless Mondays, Part Deux

Continuing our conversation....

Whether you call it Meatless Mondays, Weekday Vegetarianism, or Flexitarianism, switching up how you eat in order to try to reduce your meat intake is a trend these days. In some circles, it's seen a trend among millennial for 2018--especially when it comes to "plant-based meat alternatives."

It's not a new concept, and in fact, there are resources galore on the subject on the web.  Some fingers (like Peggy Neu, in the TEDxManhattan video below) point back to the rationing Americans (and Europeans) did during World War II. Items like meat, cheese, butter, cooking oil, processed food, and more were rationed, making it necessary to get a little more creative in the kitchen.

Here's a multitude of resources to "make Monday the day all health breaks loose:"

  • Meatless Mondays, from the non-profit Monday Campaigns and the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Here you will find resources for a variety of perspectives: restaurants, K-12 schools, hospitals, food service, campus, community, and corporate dining. Included here are implementation guides, free resources, and recipes.
  • The Greenpeace Less Is More Movement. FoodTank details the specifics of Greenpeace's report here, including a recommendation for a 50% reduction in meat dairy by 2050. The Less Is More website does a nice job of detailing the planetary effects of eating less meat to climate change, forests, water, health, animal welfare, and fair food... as well as ways to take action.
  • The Humane Society has toolkits for K-12 schools, parents, universities/colleges, and hospitals on ways to implement meatless game plans into each of these locations. (This is also where the "What Is Meatless Monday" video came from that I posted in "Flexitarians, Unite.")
  • Earth Day Network made Meatless Mondays one of their 2018 "Taking Action" points for Earth Day 2018. There, you can get some key points as well as a pledge to help you deepen your commitment.

For anyone looking to lighten your meat intake, here's a list of places to find all sorts of recipes:

At the very least, it gets us in the mode of thinking about eating a little lighter, in healthy ways, in ways that help our our planet.

Images from,; Video from

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Flexitarians, Unite!

I am an unapologetic carnivore... which I know, goes against my environmentalistic ideals. But I can't help it. I do like a good steak. Also, I tend to just feel better when I focus on protein versus carbs. Granted, I know their are some vegetable-based proteins out there, but eggs, bone broth, and/or cheese best satisfy my breakfast needs to maintain my energy levels for the day... not to mention having animal protein during my other meals of the day.

Despite all of that, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the concept of "Meatless Mondays" or "Weekday Vegetarianism." Sometimes, this can be referred to as being a "Flexitarian." In fact, I was quite surprised at the number of resources on the subject I had stockpiled! It was a lot of "food for thought!" 😋

In case you are still wondering "What are Meatless Mondays?"--it's just what it sounds like. Here's a brief video from The Humane Society to explain it in more depth.

As this video shows (and the website does too), there are a lot of environmental impacts that could be had if all of us reduced our meat consumption by just one... or a few... days. Therefore, it's a worthy venture from an environmental standpoint to pursue.

Graham Hill has some good points here in his 2010 TEDTalk below, many of which mirror my still-carnivorous self. Graham poses the solution need not be a one-sided, binary, either-or situation of being meat-eater or not. He poses a 3rd option: "weekday vegetarian." Going "meatless on Mondays" poses a 4th. I don't think I'm at all ready to go full-on meatless 4 or 5 days a week, but maybe I could be a bit of a flexitarian. Could I do Mondays, or any one day a week?  Maybe. Or even: could I go 1 meal less a week?  Definitely! By looking at it fractionally on an individual level, we could potentially go make exponential growth on a societal level. It's worth thinking about.

Stay tuned for Part 2 (coming soon) for some more resources and recipes to try out to see if you are inspired to go meatless a meal or two (or even a day or two) a week.

Images from:
Videos from and

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Spending the Day Outdoors at the 'Annapolis Rising' Benefit

This past Saturday, it was a great day to be outside & in Annapolis, Maryland.

"Annapolis Rising" was an all day benefit for the Capital Gazette victims and honoring the First Responders of the June 28th shooting, which hit the community hard. In between different bands, a multitude of people (most journalists) spoke on the 1st Amendment and the tragedy at the Capital Gazette.

The overriding theme du jour in everyone's was that journalists go into their careers to help inform citizens and maintain the transparency needed to maintain democracy. It's the 1st Amendment for an important reason... and sadly they are now on the front lines, often facing hurt and danger due to swirling hatred against the free press.

Impassioned speakers we saw and heard while we were there included Marty Baron (Washington Post Executive Editor), Elisabeth Bumiller (DC Bureau Chief of NY Times), Lucy Dalglish (Dean of the University of Maryland's Merrill School of Journalism), Tom LoBianco (Assoc Press, CNN), Carl Snowden (Annapolis Civil Rights activist & politician), and Annapolis' Mayor Gavin Buckley.

I was there with my two kids, who are now old enough to get the meaning of the speeches, but also young enough that hanging out listening to speeches isn't necessarily their thing. That's when we were given a gift that made the whole experience so much more palatable to my kids. Right near the playground were several checkerboard tables, which were perfectly placed to hear the bands and the speakers. The best table (aka, the one closest to the stage) was open, so we sat down. We were delighted to have the table, but one thing was missing==the checkers!

This, however, was a very easy problem to solve. Maybe it's the fact that I'm a teacher and pretty much live in teacher-mode... or maybe it's due to the fact that I'm re-reading Richard Louv's "Last Child In the Woods"... or maybe it just simply because I write an environmental education blog. Whatever the reason, nature and garden space surrounded us in this urban environment, so we just had to be a little creative. Mulch and dropped cherry-berries (I have no idea what kind they were, dropped from the trees) served as our checkers. A few passer-bys marveled at our innovation. We played multiple games against each other, landing ourselves in the perfect location to enjoy the day, the music, and the speeches. It was a great way to soak up our civics lessons.

(I think it also served as inspiration to others. When we finally decided to change up our vantage point and leave the table, we left the board set up, ready to play. Later we saw people following in our footsteps, playing their own game of Mulch & Cherry Checkers. Felt kind of good to be trendsetters!)
Our checker table also served as an excellent place to watch the making of a mural. The canvas: 3 adjoined sailboat sails--perfectly symbolic for Annapolis and its sailing culture. They were being spray painted with the skyline of Annapolis & the message "Press On," painted by two artists from atop a cherry picker machine lift. Fitting for the day indeed!

The freedom to be in at a public street benefit, to feel safe there, to enjoy the beautiful day, to listen to wise journalists concerned about their lost colleagues [taken violently at their place of work] during an era of the frequent anti-news rhetoric... it all really caused me to take pause. I'm grateful for our American freedoms. I was struck how easily we can take them and democracy as a whole for granted. I was thrilled to be able to pick up the paperwork with my daughter at the table set up to register voters. We will be filling that out this week and mailing it in. I don't want to delve down the deep and dangerous road of politics, so I will end with this:
"When the public's right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered." —Former US Senator, Christopher Dodd

Images of the day: from either my camera or my friend Heather's! Collage compiled in the Li-Pix Pro app.