Inference with Dr. G - What's in your purse?

Welcome back, Dr. G!  Last month, Dr. G joined Upcycled Education for a new monthly series featuring talented guest bloggers/upcyclists/educators.

Let's see what Dr. G has for us today.....

Image from one of my favorite non-education blogs, How About Orange.
This graphic designer/blogger, Jessica, inspires me with her wit, clean patterns and fresh outlook

This is an activity I do with my Foundations of Education students. I first model this activity by pulling three random items out of my purse. I then ask my students to look over the items and to make inferences about who I am, just by looking at the items. For example, if I pull out a camera from my purse, students may be able to infer that I love capturing memories, I like being with people, I notice things and like to snap shots of them, and/or I am reliable, because others rely on me for the memory-capturing, photo-taking, etc.
Then, I have students pair up and each pull three items from their purse/wallet/book bag, etc. They then have to infer about each other (and I ask them to dig deep…not to just say, “Oh, you have a credit card out…you must like money”). After about three minutes, each pair takes turns standing up and introducing their partner by attributes of the items they shared. I tell them NOT to mention what items their partner had in front of them, but just to tell us what they LEARNED from INFERRING about their partner's items.

This activity not only helps students learn more about each other, but it helps students hone their inference skills, as well as to think more critically about the people that we will getting to know and be working with this semester.
Next month I will share with you more strategies on how to engage students DURING the lessons we prepare. Happy almost October!

Big, phat thanks, Dr. G. 

By the way, I just pulled these three items from my book bag:  a whistle, duct tape wallet, and half-eaten granola bar.  What can you infer about me from those items, clever blog reader?

PS - If you missed Dr. G's M & M's Madness post, click here.

Basecamp for Tech Tuesday

Two things inspire me to write this post.  I adore Basecamp and I want to win an iPad.  Yep, I don't have one (nor a laptop, if you must know).  Which makes me the tech queen minus the correct equipment.  Oh, the irony.

My dear friend and colleague, Jenn, moved to California three months ago.  We've been friends and colleagues for over a decade.  Jenn is the type of friend you'd wish for in a wishing well.  She is caring, bright, creative, a good conversationalist, responsive and aware.  Her humor doubles me over in laughter and she is beyond clever...way beyond.  Not only do those descriptors make amazing friend attributes, but when you couple that with a working environment, working with Jenn on any project makes you feel unstoppable.  Let me correct myself, you are unstoppable.  Jenn gets the job done and the end product is Pulitzer Prize material for teaching and learning.

You can imagine how I reacted when she moved (however, my college is SO smart....they hired her to work from a distance and stay part of our department).  And by the way, I was uber-excited for her to move.  You know I love the unordinary, dream of world-schooling lil O and I am a number one supporter of life changes.  As Jenn puts it, "Time to shake up the snow globe."  I had my hands on the snow globe fearlessly shaking it with her.

To make working with Jenn fluid - after all, she is a west coaster now and me, an east coaster - we happily both employed a free (and fee-based) web-based tool called Basecamp.  Basecamp is an online project management tool that makes collaboration a complete breeze.  Although, there are monthly plans you can purchase (starting from $24/month), Jenn and I use the free plan which allows us to manage one project, have a writeboard (no, that was not a typo), and upload 10 mb of files/documents.  We are educators, after all.  Free speaks to us.

I was happy to see on the Basecamp website other fine companies use Basecamp, too.  Patagonia, Adidas, National Geographic and The World Bank.  Yes, we are in esteemed company.  Look we even have a our own logo....Did you see it above?  The red one with the funky snowflake flowers?

Jenn and I are currently developing an educational policy class for a colleague at another university.  Since we are using Basecamp almost daily, here are my favorite features (I'd ask Jenn hers, but with the time change, she is sleeping right now. Sweet dreams, dear friend):

Basecamp (and I know Jenn would agree) is a streamlined, no fuss, dependable web-based tool to foster collaboration.  It is perfect for folks like us who need to be productive asynchronously.  I could see students - like my college students - using it for team projects, school clubs, organizing events - basically any operation where two or more people need to collaborate.  Of course, Basecamp is perfect for educators who are constantly working with others. 

And that whole iPad thing I mentioned way up above....If you decide you want to sign-up for a Basecamp account, you can choose the free one or a fee-based one, if you have more projects to manage.  For each fee-based account signed up using the links in this post, Upcycled Education's name gets thrown in a hat for a free iPad2.  Yeah, I know.  I only like free web-tools, too, but maybe you can tell your friends or significant others about Basecamp.  They probably have non-education jobs, right? They can afford the monthly subscription.  By the way, all my non-profit blog readers, Basecamp is soooo for you.  Collaborative and affordable.

Enjoy, amazing blog reader,


More on Montessori: The Montessori Mafia

Do you remember when Upcycled Education's Montessori post won "Best of Show?"  If not, click here for a recap of all five best of show winners.  Since you know I am a Montessori advocate, you understand how excited I was reading this Wall Street Journal article on the "Montessori Mafia."  Indeed, many of the 21st century innovators - like Google, Amazon and Wikipedia's founders - are Montessori alumni.

See for yourself in this spirited article.  I am grateful lil O is continuing her Montessori education in elementary school.  Lucky kid.
My best,

PS - If you want to learn more about Montessori Education, click here for a tidy overview.

QR Codes with Delivr for Tech Tuesday

I have been wanting to play with QR (Quick Response) Codes since I saw them plastered on every cycling ad in my husband's bike magazines this past spring.  You know what they are.  They are those two dimensional, square shaped codes that, when scanned with a smart phone, take you to a specific web page.  On my iPhone4, I have the AT&T Scanner app that lets you scan QR codes for free.  Lil O loves scanning the codes from magazines or from products in stores.

If you are still lost with all this QR code talk, here is a code I made using a free web tool, Delivr.  Scan the square code with your mobile phone app (download a QR scanning app first, if you don't already have one) and see where it takes you....
Did you scan it?  Did the code take you to my favorite outdoor clothing company in the world?  I worked for Patagonia all through grad school and just adore their clothing and philosophy.  Plus, they treat their employees so kindly.  Just how I hope to always treat my students.

Now, how can you use QR codes with your students?  Could you lace homework with them?  Class newsletters?  Your syllabi?  Put one on your business card?  Ask students to include them with their research?  Go to Delivr to create your own free codes.  Save the QR code image as a "PNG"  or "JPG" file.  Then, insert the image like you would any other graphic.

Wouldn't a QR code be cute on a t-shirt?  Actually, I need a QR code on my business card. 



And the My Memories giveaway winner is....

Lil O, my trusty assistant, pulls a name from a (ski) hat......

Drum roll, please.......

Congratulations, Damara!  You won the My Memories Suite software giveaway.  I will email you with all the details how to download your free copy.

Big thank you to all the giveaway participants and of course, to My Memories for sponsoring the giveaway.  If you'd like to purchase My Memories for you (or as a gift for a friend),  use the Upcycled Education coupon code  (Copy and paste the coupon Code: STMMMS57701) for $10 off the software and $10 in free merchandise from the My Memories store.

Enjoy your Sunday,

The Finland Phenomenon - Trailer

Sometimes the best lesson plans are the ones that grow out of necessity.  Yesterday, my students and I watched The Finland Phenomenon.  Let's just say, it gave us - collectively - much to think about and consider.

You can watch the trailer by clicking below:

And you guessed it.... I'll be blogging on The Finland Phenomenon in the future.  Perhaps one of my students will join me.

Jen for Tech Tuesday and Giveaway!


Upcycled Education presents.....

Yahooooo!  Our first giveaway (and coupon code) for fall 2011! 

About two weeks ago, a gal from contacted me about reviewing their digital scrapbooking software.  Let me set the record straight:  I am not a scrapbooker, much less a digital scrapbooker.  Though, I adore decorative papers and make a ton of cards and lunchbox love notes for lil O, I just have not carved out time to scrapbook.  With that said, I believe scrapbooking - of any kind - is a wonderful way to creatively capture people, events, special occasions, trips and moments in time. 

Case in point:  I literally have a plastic bin full of lil O's memorabilia highlighting special occasions and milestones; the thought of scrapbooking the bin's contents overwhelms me.  However, you know I adore technology, so put the word "digital" in front of anything and I am pretty certain, I will pounce.  Enter digital scrapbooking.

Case in point, #2: I spent an hour and a half this past Sunday morning playing with My Memories digital scrapbooking software.  Instead of tackling lil O's overwhelming life bin, I decided to focus on a group of other people I adore, my college students.  See, aren't they a smiley group?  And guess, what?  They are all future teachers! (PS - My students gave me permission to use their photos online).

Using My Memories Suite, I created a 7-page digital scrapbooking spread and let me just say, I found the software easy and intuitive.  My Memories Suite allows you to print pages and photobooks AND (wait for it...) make uber-cool items like interactive albums, videos (with narration and/or music) and iPod/iPad-ready movies!  Can you say a "teacher's dream?"  Seriously, there are endless possibilities for the classroom  - interactive book reports, presentation-like movies that are not PowerPointless, class yearbooks, thematic digital scrapbooks - I could go on and on. 

Here's what I liked best about My Memories Suite besides the pre-designed templates & layouts and the free (and low cost) selection of digital scrapbook papers (My Memories calls them "packs" or "pages"):

On the downside, I tried using the "Fast Fill" option that automatically populates your photos within your digital scrapbooking spread.  I did not like how it placed some photos and preferred to use the "Pick and Click" option, which was super easy to use.  Perhaps, I need to visit the My Memories tutorial page, which appears handy (I did watch one tutorial and was excited about what I learned).  I just noticed there is a tutorial on the Fast Fill option if you visit their tutorial page.  I am experimenting with My Memories Suite's movie options as I think it would an engaging way to teach a lesson via a digital scrapbook movie either you or your students create.  You can click here to see how digital scrapbook pages look when you save as a "movie" and then upload to YouTube.  Again, my college students are a happy group, aren't they?

Want to win a free copy of My Memories Suite?  It will save you close to $40.  Plus, the kind folks at My Memories have given Upcycled Education a coupon code  (Coupon Code: STMMMS57701) for $10 off the software - in case you miss winning the giveaway - and $10 in free merchandise from the My Memories store.  The store is where you can buy other digital papers packs that do not come pre-loaded with the software; for example, if you wanted a specific theme - like something related to science, Rome or school in general.


One lucky blog reader will win a  free copy of My Memories Suite- a $40 value!  To enter, simply leave a comment below and share which digital paper pack is your favorite from the My Memories store

For Extra Entries (leave a separate comment for each)::
-Follow Upcycled Education on Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to our sweet blog using the links on the right side of this page.  If you are already a FB/Twitter/Blog fan, feel free to leave an extra comment below, too.  You should be rewarded for being so cutting edge.
AND/OR to score extra entries.....
-Follow My Memories on Facebook, Twitter or their blog

-Please provide your email address so that I can contact you if you win.
-Giveaway ends September 17th, 2011 at midnight PST.
-Winner will be announced on this post on September 18th, 2011 - sometime after my morning coffee

Giveaways are soooo much fun! 


If you would like more information on sponsoring a blog post on Upcycled Education or being a giveaway sponsor, contact jen at


Over the summer I was stuck in the Indianapolis airport for several hours and treated myself to Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers.  About 36 hours later, I was done reading the book.  Yes, it was that good.  There are a million ideas I'd like to blog about after reading Outliers, but today I want to keep it simple.  After all, most of us educators just returned from a summer off;  we are in survival mode until we understand our students (and they understand us).

Use this easy acronym to help your students (and students with special needs) hone their communication skills during the first few weeks of school.  Gladwell includes it within an education discussion in Outliers, along with a ton of other interesting tidbits.  And by the way, I may like Gladwell's writing and ideas as much as I like Daniel Pink.  Shocking, no?

Ready to SSLANT?  When  communicating with others....

S      Smile
S    Sit up
L     Listen
A   Ask Questions
N    Nod when being spoken to
T   Track with your eyes

This would make a great poster hung on your classroom wall to remind students to SSLANT.  Of course, you have to train them how to SSLANT first, but you knew that.


PS - All of Gladwell's books are incredible (Outliers, The Tipping Point and Blink)

More Tech Tuesdays Coming Soon!

In the meantime, I thought you might appreciate this cartoon from Mashable

Ha.  Makes me love my GPS more!