Candace Marcotte

One educator, determined to create an engaging and dynamic experience for learners of all ages.

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Illinois Reading Council Presentation

I had the privilege of presenting with two former colleagues, @MrsCaracci and @MrsServe at the Illinois Reading Council Conference last week. We shared all of the resources that we created and curated when bringing our own version of StoryCorps to their 6th grade ELA classrooms. One of the highlights of the presentation was an interactive portion where we asked participants to use Google Voice to share a story from their middle school experience. You can find some of their “phone-casts” here. Check out our presentation and resources below!



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Creativity and Choice in Assessment

Looking to provide more choice in how students demonstrate their understanding?  Check out these Multiple Intelligence choice boards that provide you and your students with creative ways to show what they know!  These choice boards were developed for K-8 teachers and were a part of a professional development on creativity.  If you open the slides, you’ll find that grade levels for each board (or really, wheel!) are mentioned in the presenter notes section.

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Makey Making Digital Citizenship Connections

Digital citizenship.  It’s a multi-faceted concept that we model as educators and embed into lessons to help our students understand how to navigate, analyze, interact with, and create with digital technologies.  But, what does digital citizenship mean to a middle schooler? How do our young students process and connect with such a big concept?

Using the guiding questions above, I tried to think of a new way to help students see some of the key components of digital citizenship.  It’s one thing to understand the umbrella concept, but why are these components important and how do they interact to help us become good digital citizens?


  • Makey Makey™ MaKey MaKey Digcit Setup
  • Digcit Scratch project
  • Magnifying glass: Critical literacy
  • Spoon:  Balance of screen time as well as “going with our gut” in digital communication
  • Padlock: Digital security and protection
  • Play-Doh®: Digital rights and responsibilities, advocating for ourselves and our digital footprint
  • Elmer’s Glue:  Digital rights and responsibilities, how to clean up a “digital mess”
  • Paint brush with copper tape: Digital law, creative credit

What worked:

  • Students were active members of the discussion.  THEY were a key component, just as they are in digital citizenship.
  • We plugged one item into the Makey Makey™ at a time as we discussed the component.  We started to make rhythms as we plugged in items, allowing students to understand the relationship between the components and how they interact.
  • With the Elmer’s Glue, we got to focus on the fact that miscommunication and misrepresentation happens.  For the first time, I felt that I got to address the fact that there will be “digital messes” that need to be cleaned up.  Guess what, the digital citizenship machine still works!  We just have to learn from our experiences and do what we can to make sure to keep ourselves out of sticky situations. (sidenote: you should’ve seen their faces when the glue actually triggered the noise!)

Things to change for the next go-round:

  • I changed some of the noises in my Scratch project because I found they were too quiet in the classroom setting and weren’t distinct enough to be heard in the mix of components.
  • My goal was to have enough time to have the class join hands and play together, to demonstrate how a community of good digital citizens can take on bigger challenges.  Unfortunately, I only had 30 minutes for this lesson so we could only discuss this and didn’t get to the culminating activity.  I am hoping that by streamlining some of the setup, we can get this in.

Because of the nature of my job, I will be doing this lesson with a few other classrooms so I’ll be sure to update the post with new takeaways.  Here’s to Makey making digital citizenship come alive in a new way for students!

Creative Commons LicenseMakey Making Digital Citizenship Connections by Candace Marcotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Getting a MAKEover: Part III…What do they take away?

This is the third post in the series about the development of our middle school makerspace in our library.  Thanks @jrosenberg6432 for asking some great questions, which were used as the basis for the three posts.  Check out post one to see where we started and post two to see what we do!

“What things do kids take away?”

First, there’s the question of literal takeaways.  What do students physically carry out of the space and keep?  Currently, students can keep some of the items that they create, but not everything.  Because we are 1:1, a lot of artifacts that they create are either digital and housed on their individual devices (movies, etc.) or we turn them into digital artifacts by blogging to document their learning/experiences with images, videos, and text.  Due to cost, students can’t keep the kits and more expensive items, so that’s one of the reasons why we blog.  They always have at least a picture or a video to take away!  We do allow them take home/keep the consumable items like conductive thread, coin cell batteries, conductive tape, LEDs, and crafting materials (paper, cardboard, felt, etc.) because they have a lower price point.  I’ve even had a few students borrow goggles to work on reverse engineering at home. Now that our Makerbot and Cricut are all set up, they will begin to take home those artifacts and the prototypes that they have designed as well.

More importantly, I think that they’re taking away some bigger things like independence, perseverance, creativity, and critical thinking.  They are learning how to share their knowledge, collaborate in positive manner, and connect with others.  They are learning how to appropriately make their learning public.  They are learning that with a little effort, they can do some pretty extraordinary things! Now those are some incredible takeaways…and it’s only just the start!

Maker Impact GIF

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Getting a MAKEover: Part III…What do they take away? by Candace Marcotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Getting a MAKEover: Part II…What do we do?

This is the second of three posts about the development of our middle school makerspace in our library.  Thanks @jrosenberg6432 for asking some great questions, which were used as the basis for the three posts.  Check out post one to see where we started!

“What things do you do and make?”

I first need to state that the level that this has reached this year wouldn’t be possible without collaboration.  Take a look at our collaboration story below to see how we connected with members of our personal learning networks (PLNs) to bring maker magic to our students.  There are definitely more elements missing from this story.  For example,  attendance at events like Maker Faire allowed us to connect with other makers or including some of our other favorite hashtags for gaining ideas and knowledge like #STEM.

Maker Collaboration StoryWith all of this collaboration occurring, other teachers began to stop by.  The music teacher has come up to help students learn about how speakers work and in turn, students have repaired speakers and an old record player that teachers found in their classrooms.  The music teacher is going to come back and help students build dulcimers!  Another teacher dropped in to teach students proper stitches when we started sewn circuits.  The makerspace has allowed for teachers from all content areas/grade levels to come together and share their own maker skills!

Ok, so back to the question…what do we do and make?  Our vision for the space is to allow students to explore what they are interested in and to create independence in them so that they can figure out their issues and seek the solutions.  Being so student-centered can be somewhat chaotic, but it is so incredibly exciting!  When we first started the year, I heard a lot of, “Ms. Marcotte…?, Ms. Marcotte…?”  I’d say that over the last month is when students started to shift and turn the “Ms. Marcotte?” into “Ms. Marcotte!”  Yes, they still ask for assistance occasionally, but much more often they are asking for more materials, digging deeper with bigger questions, or just want to share the excitement of what they have discovered or created.  Here’s some of what our students have done this year:

What we MakeA little explanation about some of the items above:

  • Reverse Engineering (introduced to get students to think about how things work and looking past the surface):  Became so popular that teachers now drop off all of their “junk” in my office!  Students have also brought their family’s “junk” in with permission.  They have been enamored with this for the duration of the year.  We have been creating labeled display boards to place on exhibit.  A parent also came in to share in this experience, which was really fun!
  • Maker Show (student-named):  Students bring in projects or items from home that they are either working on or are curious about.  We now start every Wednesday makerspace with a student sharing.
  • Each member has a personal maker blog that they reflect on using Kidblog.  Not fully public yet because we have to get a bit better at it first 🙂
  • We JUST launched a shared, public blog with the other middle school’s makerspace and appointed social media managers from each group to share our stories.
  • We created a twitter handle, @WildcatMakers, a few weeks ago as well to allow us to connect with field experts and “real-life” makers as the students like to say.

We just started our first design challenge to build their innovation muscles.  Other than this, we haven’t done any formalized group activities besides the first meeting where we created LED nametags (shout-out to MAET at MACUL 2014 for the idea!).  This allowed us to talk about circuitry which is really important for them moving forward and provided an opportunity for a discussion around good hacks vs. bad hacks.

Paper Circuit NametagsLooking forward:

  • Division of specialized teams: We have something called “Maker Modes” right now which students have identified as their greatest interest areas.  We want to have these groups work together on things like the Arduino, Raspberry Pi, film production, crafting, wearable electronics, robotics, etc.  and stick with them to really become experts in the technologies or skill sets.
  • We are looking to hold some video chats with different makers (hobby or professional makers). We just held our first chat last week and are working on getting connections to more makers!
  • Robot battle
  • Mini design challenges to help build student exploration and innovation muscles
  • knitting, crocheting, jewelry making

There’s really no limit to where the remainder of the year will take us because we really let student-interest guide us.  And, we are willing to beg for materials/resources from anyone!

Creative Commons LicenseGetting a MAKEover: Part II…What do we do? by Candace Marcotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Getting a MAKEover: Part I…Taking the First Steps!

Recently, a member of my PLN, @jrosenberg6432 asked me a few simple questions about the development of our middle school makerspace.  I’ve been trying to wrap our progress into a neat little bundle, but I came to the conclusion that it’s big and messy!  There’s SO much that encompasses how our learning environment is getting a MAKEover, from the physical space to the mindset.  The culture itself is getting a MAKEover.  So, I decided to break the responses to @jrosenberg6432‘s great questions into a few separate posts…maybe one step towards neater little bundles (let’s at least pretend!)?


“How did you setup and start the space?”


The Initial Rollout
The development of our makerspace has been a work in progress since around last February when we purchased some initial kits and introduced them to our after school Tech Club (check out my original post).  We decided to start with Tech Club so that we could determine how long it would take students to complete projects and to observe things like perseverance and innovation.  This also allowed us to get feedback on what activities sparked middle school interest the most and how they handled challenges.  At the beginning of this year, we actually started to use the term “makerspace” in our school.  Instead of Tech Club, we introduced it as “Tech Club in the Wildcat Makerspace.” I’m hoping we will be able to change the name totally next year and just call the group the “Wildcat Makers or Wildcat Makerspace.”  With the introduction of this new terminology, we still continued to focus on the after school club because I was the sponsor and could roll things out at a faster rate and it was still about the education piece of helping people understand what the Maker Movement is all about (check out Dale Dougherty’s TED Talk: “We are Makers”).  Also, it allowed us to push out to all grade levels at once.  We had about 50 students show up at our first meeting of the year with this new terminology!  Last year, I had about 20 students at the first meeting so this was a decent jump.  I have to immediately acknowledge my colleagues @oconnorscience and @ajsullivan77 who joined me as co-sponsors to make some magical maker things happen for our students!


The Materials
With the energy that was created in our first few after school meetings this year, I worked with the technology facilitator at the other middle school in the district to submit a grant to a local community organization.  Prior to this, we received a small grant from our PTA which allowed us to buy additional kits and consumable materials, but we were ready to take a big jump!  Our initial grant that we submitted to our local community organization focused on beefing up STEM opportunities for our students with a Makerbot and Cricut.  Our vision from the beginning has been to infuse this maker culture into all classrooms by integrating these technologies into all content areas.  Therefore, we connected with a variety of content area teachers in each of our buildings and they joined in on the grant.  The organization was so excited about our plan to integrate these technologies, that they asked us to submit a wishlist of our dream materials…how often does that happen?!  The fine folks of #MakerEd helped A TON in finalizing our wishlist materials.  When the decision was final, we actually ended up receiving $30,000 in grant funding.  It’s important to understand a bit more of our context- we have about 900 students in each of our buildings and we planned for the materials in our grant to last a minimum of  two years.  We did discuss submitting a Phase 2 of the grant which will focus on the design of the space as well as additional tools (sewing machine, video setup including boom mic, etc.).  We are incredibly lucky to have this support and funding and we do not miss a beat in counting our blessings.


The Space
My office is in our library.  I never really felt that the space was mine at all until getting our librarian (a colleague who I work closely with) on board for the whole makerspace initiative.  We discussed it, she went to a librarian’s conference and heard about the impact it had on circulation and she was ready to go!  This allowed us to start making changes in the physical layout of the library.  I don’t have a very good image of what it looked like when we started, but I’ve included a semi-decent one below.  Imagine that to the right of this image are these large wooden study carrels.  Think of our library as a silent and isolated space.
Our library before the makerspace.
Slowly, we began to alter the physical space after getting administrator approval.   This came with the knowledge that the space would become collaborative…and if there was ONLY one thing we accomplished this year, it would be to get rid of those study carrels!  They represented the antithesis of the culture shift that we were trying to make.


We first started by moving some book shelves around to create a little nook-like space.  The librarian and I joke that everything in terms of furniture in the makerspace came from the garbage- and it’s partially true.  We didn’t have any funding for furniture itself (the grant did include $ for storage, but phase two will focus on design), so we had to get thrifty!  Just by taking walks around the building and looking in some spaces that stuff seems to pile up in, we were able to accumulate a coat rack for lab coats and safety gloves, half-circle tables, a curved table, two monitors, and other odds and ends.  We also began collecting items like lamination scraps, broken tools/tech, cardboard, Styrofoam, and bubble wrap. The pics below show where we’re at today.

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Our makerspace now takes up almost half of our library!  We wanted to make the space interactive to stimulate curiosity, play, and creativity.  We took paper and covered the tables, set up a MaKey MaKey tinfoil piano on the back of a bookshelf, and used lamination scraps to create a “Doodle Wall.” Because of the buy-in from our librarian, she was able to clear out some books and dedicate shelves for materials.  I can’t tell you how amazing this has been as a storage solution!  The excellent part is that everything is accessible and easy to grab and go- which is exactly what we want.  I keep the tools and needles locked in my office so that we know where those are at all times.  Safety first!  I still look at it as being in the start up phase.  We are always thinking of ways to improve the space…someone walked in a few weeks ago and said, “I swear this place is always changing.”  We took it as a compliment over confusion because what was once a stagnant space is now dynamic and flexible.


Our end goal is to have every day be a maker day – not just after school one day a week.  For example, we want to carry out our vision of integrating materials into daily lessons in all content areas (see our grant examples here) and  @oconnorscience created a makerspace corner in her classroom with legos, puzzles, and random items after seeing what was going on in the library.  We want to infect the building with this spirit and energy 🙂  We are in the process of transitioning from the Tech Club mainly using the items, to publicizing that everyone has access now that we have more materials in from our grant orders.  Students have been coming to create on random days, in addition to our Tech Club meeting.  We are going to label the material boxes with QR codes that attach to a Google Form sign out sheet so that students know that they are able to check out the materials in the space and create at any time, while still being held accountable (can’t take home for now, just use in the space or in the classroom).  We don’t want to make it too formal because we want to encourage random tinkering, but we do want students to know that the expectation is for every piece to come back so that others can play later.


If I had to pick 2 words to represent the initial phase of implementation, they would be VISION and COMMUNITY.  Without both, it would have been a challenge to get this maker party started!
Creative Commons License Getting a MAKEover: Part I…Taking the First Steps! by Candace Marcotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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Running an Edcamp Style PD!

Teachers in our district have the option of attending a district Institute Day (PD Day) over the summer or during the school year.  I was asked to lead a session with my fellow Technology Facilitator and our middle school Instructional Coach. We wanted to spice things up and provide an authentic learning environment for our teachers, so we decided to implement an Edcamp style PD.  We utilized the first half of the day for our Edcamp and during the second half of the day, teachers worked with in their PLCs to put their new knowledge into action and develop plans and assessments for the year.  We had about 70 middle school teachers participate in our day of learning and all content areas were included.

If you don’t know about the Edcamp craze, check it out here.  We started the day with a bit of a keynote that the three of us prepared, which reviewed TPACK and SAMR.  After a brief discussion, we prompted our staff to participate in a Quickfire Challenge to demonstrate their understanding of the framework and model.  Quickfire Challenges are a concept which can be attributed to Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf of Michigan State University (see her post here about them).  Having been a student in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology program at MSU, I have lived through so many Quickfires and love how they sparked my interest and brought energy to learning (I even used them with students when I was a classroom teacher!).  Below you’ll see the guidelines for our Quickfire and if you click on the image, it will take you to the Thinglink with live links.Quickfire Challenge

Teachers then had to share their creation on a Schoology discussion board.  Note that they were only given 10 minutes to complete this task.  Here are three examples of what they created and shared.  When you take a step back to think about it, it’s actually pretty cool.  We gave them NO instruction on how to do any of this, from the technology they picked to uploading to a Schoology discussion board.  They had to play with it and they were immersed in creation with a looming deadline.  Was it stressful?  Yes.  Was it meaningful? Yes.  Did they enjoy it?  After it was done :).  We had everything from videos to Haikus.  They also got to see how allowing for choice with a choice board was simple and meaningful to the learner, because they experienced it as their students would.


SAMR Popplet


After this recap, we then discussed how Edcamps work and how you “vote with your feet”.  We then asked the teachers what they wanted to learn that day.  Now, we did do some pre-planning when it came to this and planted some seeds because we weren’t sure what teachers would do in the face of being given total choice.  We knew we wanted to have at least 6 sessions going at one time.  We thought of 3 sessions which we knew teachers would be looking for and created a “Playlist” of resources that they could explore as a part of their breakout discussion for a bit of scaffolding into the open world of Edcamps.  We also planted some seeds in terms of talking to a few teachers ahead of time and asking them to share their learning interests if the crowd got quiet- luckily we did that because teachers were at a loss initially when posed with the challenge of getting to voice what they wanted to learn.  Once a few of our seeds spoke up, it got the ball rolling and we were able to find teacher facilitators for each session.  We purposefully did not facilitate any sessions. While breakouts were occurring, we rotated through rooms to offer conversation or answer any questions of difficulty.  We made sure to have an “App Playground” during all breakout sessions to assist teachers who simply needed to focus the day on growing their technological knowledge in terms of the functions of the iPads and apps.

Session 2 Session 1

When we returned from the breakout sessions, we had a “Show what you know SLAM”, which is a derivative of an App Slam or Demo Slam that you see at Edcamps.  We asked teachers to share something that they learned in a breakout session, which prompted lots of “Ooohhs and Ahhhhs” from the audience.  Of course, each teacher only had 1 minute to share what they learned, so it was a rapid fire race to talk about their big takeaways.

Show What you Know SLAM

Overall, we had a lot of great feedback about the day.  What would we change?  We would notify all staff to come with ideas for conversation topics that they were interested in.  I believe that if we do this again, now that all of our teachers will have 1:1 experience under their belts, the conversations will spark more readily and their comfort with guiding their own learning will also increase now that they have exposure to this style of PD.