Life Updated

Yep, this is how we roll at home.  Mr. UpCyclist doing the dishes, Lil O - our faithful sidekick - and puppy Jedi in his seashell curl.

Oh, and odd papers on our backs - Lil O's made-up game, of course.

Happy Saturday,

Nurturing Fluency {part of the Be Creative Series}

As you know, for the next few months, Upcycled Education is addressing Creativity in the Be Creative Series.  Today, we will discuss one of the five main attributes of creativity, fluency.

Fluency measures the number of ideas a person can generate. The more ideas (or solutions) generated or considered, the more likely there will be success in solving a problem and thinking creatively. Think of the employees at Google. When they are sitting around a table brainstorming new product ideas, do you think they come up with just 1-2 new ideas or a whole list of crazy, off-the-wall, possibly useful ideas? I'm guessing you agree with what I've read about Google, many, many, many ideas are generated on Google's campus.

Educators (and parents), we want “fluent” students and children –  Kids who can come up with not just one idea, but many ideas or solutions!
In order to nurture fluency, adults can do this:
  • Learn the “tenets” of brainstorming, honor them, then teach the tenets to kids.  The tenets are:
  1. Defer judgment: Go with whatever ideas come to mind!  Censor ideas later.
  2. Strive for quantity:  The more ideas generated the better.  Plus, it increases the likelihood that a great idea or solution will be found.
  3. Seek wild and unusual ideas: It is easier to pull back a wild idea than invigorate a weak one. Let your mind be free!
  4. Build on other ideas: Let one idea snowball into another idea. 
  • Take on another perspective when brainstorming. For example, what ideas would a grandparent produce?  A tween?  A running shoe?
  • A supportive, nurturing environment is essential to creative thinking and fluency.  Refrain from judgment and negativity when generating ideas or solutions (or encouraging others to do so).
  • Not all the needs of a child can be met at home or in school. Studies have shown the positive impact of mentoring on creative achievement. Consider finding a trusted and appropriate mentor (even a student mentor) for a student or child. 
  • Research shows most people require incubation - time to think - and that best ideas are generated lastly not firstly.  Thus, give yourself (and your students or children) time to “warm up” when brainstorming.
Do you have other ideas to nurture fluency?  I'd love to hear them in the comments section below.

If you missed the first part of the Be Creative Series, check out the latest and greatest creativity research here.

My creative best,


Captioning Your YouTube Videos with Overstream for Tech Tuesday

Many educators and allies embrace videos as sound learning tools for students.  Heck, I even find they are great learning tools for family members or just to make Lil O's grandparents happy.  With that said, if you use videos in your teaching, then it is time to dabble in the world of closed captioning, also known as subtitling.

With that said, you have two main options for captioning or subtitling....

Option #1:  The "lazy" way

Let YouTube caption for you!  You literally don't do a thing, but let students know they can click on the "CC" symbol and choose "transcribe audio."  The downfall with this lazy option is sometimes YouTube mis-captions.

Option #2:  The non-lazy way

For this option, you need to create a caption file as an .SRT document.  If you are like me and have little to no experience creating a caption file, you'll probably want to read this great round-up of captioning applications.  I found Overstream to be super easy to add captions to my "Welcome Video."  Plus, Overstream is free.  I like free.

Once you create the Overstream file, you then need to translate it for YouTube or other popular video providers.  Follow these steps once you've created your captions or subtitles in Overstream. Ready?

Then, move onto Step 3....

For Step 4, I found I needed to paste the captions into Notepad in order to create a file that YouTube could understand.

And then, save the Notepad as a UTF-8 file (weird, I know...).

Even though that might have seemed long and complicated, it really only took about three minutes to do once I created the captions/subtitles in Overstream.  Then, you can easily upload the UTF encoded file to YouTube, as an example.

Voila, you now have closed captioned - the non-lazy way - your own videos.  Or if you are like me, you added silly subtitles.

See for yourself in this 45 second video (which does not show the subtitles on my iPhone, but does on my desktop computer):

Happy closed captioning/subtitling!  Now, your videos will be accessible, suitable and in line with this FCC regulation for the 21st century.

Yay, you!


Jedi's Subway Art

Before becomes a thing of the past on April 19th, 2012, Lil O and I thought we'd whip up some puppy subway art for Jedi.  Since Jedi has received many doggie gifts, we are using the subway art to adorn his thank you cards.

Doesn't he have the best puppy manners?  Writing his own thank you notes?


Lil O loved thinking up the words to describe Jedi, picking the fonts and colors, and helping to arrange the layout.  She's a mini-graphic designer in training.  If Mr. UpCyclist is reading, I meant mini "engineer" in training :)

Happy Weekend, Upcyclists,

Life Updated

Lil O just celebrated her birthday.  This past weekend bustled with festivities, fun, friends, and family.  This hike was a respite from all the high energy activity.  Here is the birthday girl.  I'm unsure if her eyes are open or closed since she is smiling sooooo intensely.....

The shallow river looked just as good for hiking as the trail.  Mr. UpCyclist needed to coax puppy Jedi who wasn't certain about the river current in some sections.

Cousin A and Lil O equals pure loveliness.  These photos looks fall-ish, don't they?   I'll take new ones when all the spring greenery arrives. 

Puppy Jedi is sure growing.  Remember his first puppy photos here?  He gained five pounds in two weeks recently!  Oh my!

A good life.  A good birthday weekend for Lil O. 



Free Apps for Scanning Documents {for Tech Tuesday}

If you are like me, you have lots of little bits of paper cluttering up your life.  BUT, those bits - at least, my bits - always have little notes or someone's contact information on them.  Stuff I want to save.

From this article at Mashable, I've identified four free mobile apps I want to try (possibly with students).


Genius Scan:  A feature I love about this scanning app is you can make PDFs out of your scans.  Cost:  FREE

Card Munch:  Amen to this app.  You just scan a business card and save it to your contacts.  Cost:  FREE

Shoeboxed:  This is probably the app I need the most.  I am receipt-challenged which means Target and Joann's love to give me a hard time when I am returning something.  Cost: FREE

Sign Now:  The newest Adobe Reader X allows you to e-sign PDFs and even invite others to e-sign with you.  However, Sign Now is a very cool alternative to have non-PDFs signed.  And yes, I realize this app isn't really a "scanning" app, but it sure makes life better.  Cost:  FREE

(All images from Mashable)

Do you have a favorite scanning app you like?  How would you use apps like these with your students? 

Happy Tech Tuesday, Upcyclist,


Painted Applique Patches

I love this easy tutorial from Lil Blue Boo to paint on fabric.  It is especially fun to do with kids; Lil O loves painting on just about anything, fabric included.  Once the fabric paint dries and I set it with a hot iron, I then iron-on fusible adhesive (that I purchase by the yard at a fabric store) and voila, homemade patches are ready to embellish any plain t-shirt, tote bag, or skirt!

I do have some tips that I can offer as Lil O and I didn't exactly follow the entire tutorial:
  • We used fabric paint that I bought at a craft store, but Susan from Crafterhours taught me a trick:  Any acrylic paint will do!  Who knew?  Plus, I love those little bottles of colorful acrylic paints each costing just $.99-1.59/bottle.
  • Lil O did follow the tutorial and made a rainbow patch (I would have photographed it, but I think it is with her summer bins of clothing in storage).  I found using a disappearing ink pen (bought at a fabric store) was helpful to draw the shape for her just like Ashley shows in the tutorial.
  • We only used our spray bottle of water to lightly mist the fabric, unlike the tutorial where the fabric seems more saturated.
  • We did not sprinkle salt on ours.  I completely forgot this step, but I think the patches all turned out lovely without it.
  • Since I love the look of a sewing machine stitch around a patch, Lil O and I did stitch each patch.  However, since we used iron-on fusible adhesive, the stitch is only decorative and simply reinforces the patch.

It is almost tank-top season around here.  I'm thinking we might need to make some spring/summertime patches to spruce up our wardrobe.

Have fun,


Textbook Quote Activity - Guest Blogger/Guest Upcyclist Series

Please welcome back, guest blogger/guest Upcyclist, Professor KP.  You might remember her from her Duck Pond post here.

Take it away, Professor KP....

Here is an idea I stole modified from your blog post, The Other Jen. The Other Jen had a post explaining how she uses quotes as a warm-up activity for a group.

Good idea I thought.

To make it work for my purposes, I took quotes from the upcoming chapters in our textbook.  I tried to choose quotes that were interesting, open-ended or just good conversation starters. I also included the page number in case students wanted to go back and reference the actual quote.

I printed the quotes on card stock, cut them into strips, and spread them out on a table.  Students were told to choose a quote that was interesting to them and share with a partner. As a whole class, we then shared quotes, too.

We had lots of interesting conversation.

The real treat, however, was the activity ended up generating motivation for the chapters students were assigned  to read for the upcoming week.  In education lingo we call that “Setting a purpose for reading."  Yes, a purpose was established and students' interest was peeked!

Professor KP, I love this idea!  I might need to make a quote collection for my upcoming Educational Psychology students.  Our new class begins in two weeks.

Thank you so much,

Donors Choose for Tech Tuesday

Today's Tech Tuesday is one of those "Why didn't I think of that?"  ideas.  Have a free online space where classroom teachers can post what project supplies they need.  For example, maybe you are in need of a new printer or new reading rug or new set of Sharpie markers.  Then, anyone from around the globe can visit Donors Choose and donate money to cover your entire supply list.  Or contribute just a portion to it - from $1 on up!

Giving is made simple, secure, and 100% of the monies donated are given directly to the classroom YOU choose as the donor.

Registration for teachers is free and each teacher starts with three points in their account.  That means, a teacher can submit three projects to Donors Choose to start.  Apparently, this keeps the site from being overloaded.  Then, as projects are funded, the teacher responds timely to Donors Choose emails and/or the teacher writes a thank you note to donors, the teacher can earn more points (and thus, submit more projects).  I love that Donors Choose encourages writing thank you notes (for donors who give over $50)!  Yay!

Apparently, college professors cannot submit projects to Donors Choose.  Nor can student teachers.  You have to be working in a public school as a teacher (or librarian, guidance counselor, or something similar) to enroll in Donors Choose.

If you just want to get a feel for Donors Choose, click on the "Search Projects" link and see what types of project supplies teachers are asking for.


Upcycling Containers

Every since cleaning out our home studio (Mr. UpCyclist calls it an "office; I personally think "studio" sounds more creative), I have been pleasantly surprising myself with organizational tools and ideas.  This 2-minute project is life changing as I am always looking for a piece of scrap paper and can never find one conveniently.

To make this heavenly tool, I took an empty Planter's nut container and wash and dried it, of course.  Then, I covered it with whatever fun paper I had around using double-sided scotch tape.  Paper with bicycles on it makes sense in my house.  Then, I used my bin of recycled paper and my paper cutter to cut the right-sized pieces of scrap paper.

Voila - now, I am happy and organized in our studio.  S-T-U-D-I-O.  In case Mr. UpCyclist is reading.



Be Creative Series {Launch}

Every since finishing a masters degree at Johns Hopkins University several years ago, I have been in love with creativity.  Let me be more exact.  I am in love with creativity research.  I had no idea, before my degree, that people made it their life's work to study creativity.  What?  I could have majored in Creativity?  Are you kidding me?

Thus, today starts a series to share my favorite research, tidbits, tricks, hints, and strategies to nurture creativity.  After all, a person's creative thinking ability can be improved.  Yep, isn't that awesome?  See below.....

  • Creativity has been identified as the #1 leadership competency of the future (Bronson and Merryman, 2010).
  • Highly creative people tend to be flexible in their thinking, original, persistent, and open to new ideas (Torrance and Safter, 1999).
  • Highly creative people tend to have higher self-confidence and higher school & adult creative achievement (Torrance and Safter, 1999; Torrance and Sisk, 2001).
  • The highest gains in creativity development happen in childhood or through training in creative thinking strategies (Torrance and Safter, 1999).  Thank goodness, there is hope for me.
  • Creativity measures in the US are on the decline for children and adults. (Kim, 2010). Boo!  Time to rally the creative troops.
  • The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking is considered the "gold standard" in creativity assessment for children (ages four years and older) and adults (Staff, New York Times, 2010).  I just finished my training to adminster and score this!
  • Research shows creativity can be improved (Torrance and Safter, 1999).  I am sooo on this for me, Mr. UpCyclist, Lil O, and my college students.
  • There are five main attributes that contribute to creative thinking:  fluency, originality, elaboration, abstractness and resistance to closure (in other words, keeping an open mind) (Torrance and Safter, 1999).
What do you think, Upcyclists?  Shall we dedicate a blog post to each? 
Indeed!  And so is born, the newest Upcycled Education series, B.CR8TIV.

(I want my license plate to look just like that).


Tablet Publishing for Tech Tuesday

(image from this site; Picniked by Jen)
In a world of interactivity, every student needs a tablet for either home use or school use or both.  And if every student has a tablet, then, educators need to embrace Tablet Publishing.

This article from Mashable sums up the educational "glows" of tablet publishing succinctly.

You go, Mashable.

Now, I just need to enter the 21st century and get a tablet or laptop.  I know, I know...I'm kicking it old-school with my trusty desktop computer.  Thanks, Mr. Upcyclist, for keeping Trusty running for me.


Introducing our newest Upcyclist - Jedi

As some of you know (if you follow Upcycled Education on Facebook), Lil O, Mr. UpCyclist and I adopted a puppy recently, Jedi.  He came from the most lovely rescue in KY.

We originally thought he was part Aussie Shepard, part Aussie Cattledog, but each day we think a little German Shepard might be mixed in there, too.  At any rate, he is a kind puppy and very playful.  He is friend to all kids, adults and other dogs.  And boy, can he jump!  He jumped out of our puppy play yard (thanks, Karen) and baby gates (thanks, John and Stephanie) the first week home.  Then, Jedi jumped out of the bike cart Mr. UpCyclist fashioned for him.  Jedi doesn't know it yet, but he will have to like cycling.

Introducing, Sleepy Young Jedi and his favorite teething toys.....

Jedi, as I mentioned, loves other dogs...

Jedi is great in the car - mostly sleeping.  When he gets older, we do plan to put a doggy seatbelt on him.

Since Jedi will spend many weeks in Colorado each year, we are working on his off-leash hiking skills.  Thankfully, rescuer Becca took him on many hikes before he we adopted him. 

Jedi and people equal loveliness.  Little kids love to pet him because he is so soft and docile.  

This last photo was taken a week ago.  I was blogging and Jedi was napping along side me in the studio. 

Jedi is actually napping in the studio again while I craft this blog post.  He is in his second hour of sleep. Evidently, our impromptu puppy playdate at a local park this morning wore him out.  This time he is not sprawled out like he is in the photo above, but in his "seashell" curl, as Lil O calls it.

In love,

New Mom, Jen

PS - Having a puppy is just like having an infant in my estimation.  I had new mom anxiety the first week and a half.  Now, I'm getting in my new-normal-Jedi-family-groove.  I find I am at the computer less, spend more time outdoors, and now know every dog (and their human) in the neighborhood.

The Flipped Classroom

There is much discussion lately about the flipped classroom.  Since I adore the combination of technology and learning, and since I teach several college classes as hybrid models (half-online and half in-person), I give the flipped classroom a thumbs up for tech-savvy educators and plugged-in students.  However, I do believe you need both to make the flip work properly.

This infographic explains the flipped classroom well.  If you caught this week's Tech Tuesday with the Khan Academy, you have ready-made, awesome instruction right there.  You'd be flipped-ready with Khan in your back pocket.

Flipped Classroom
(Infographic Created by Knewton and Column Five Media)

Upcyclists, what do you think of the flipped classroom?  Could students complete mini-lessons at home and then come to class prepared to put their new learning into practice?

Your comments are welcome below.  But, you knew that.