Saturday, February 25, 2017

Visiting Hawaii Part 1

Our recent visit to Hawaii was absolutely amazing, possibly transformative, and a  just in time opportunity.   For a few years now,  we had considered the possibility of visiting Hawaii, and since the concept of “vacation’  is not one that comes easy to me, I have been keeping an eye out for work related opportunities in Hawaii.  

Thus I was quick to notice when a fellow Google Certified Trainer/Educator, Michael Fricano announced a call for proposals to present at the 2017  IGNITE Innovation Conference.

A quick look at our calendar revealed that these dates might work for us, and I submitted a few possible workshop ideas.  As soon as the conference  committee accepted my proposal, Design Thinking and Computational Thinking with Makey Makey, I started to plan our trip.

Since much of my focus lately has been around maker centered learning,  I started to search for makerspaces and schools that were interested in making as a way of learning on Oahu.   What I found was a very welcoming group of educators who allowed me to truly understand that ALOHA  was so much more than a greeting!   According to Hawaiian culture expert, Peter Apo
Aloha has emerged as a Hawaiian cultural concept that functions as a prism through which all other behavioral values that govern relationships are refracted .

Aloha, while having many manifestations, essentially is an unconditional extension of love, trust, and friendship giving the benefit of the doubt to the receiver. It is a particularly magnanimous cultural act in it’s intimacy as a personal greeting that is routinely extended to strangers which sets aside personal boundaries and welcomes the receiver into one’s personal space.   ~ Hawaiian Values and the Workplace

I had no idea that I was about to experience the most amazing feeling of Aloha - especially the part where my hosts would welcome us in their personal spaces!  The sense of welcome continues to fill me, back on the mainland, in a way that I can’t quite describe.  I feel that something transformational happened to me during this visit!  

And part of that  transformation was most probably due to the Hawaiian value of ALAKA‘I— the value of leadership. According to leadership coach, Rosa Say
ALAKAI is demonstrated when you “Lead with initiative, and with your good example. You shall be the guide for others when you have gained their trust and respect.” ~ Managing with Aloha
Throughout our visit we were to be introduced to amazing examples of leadership that earned our respect with their standards of excellence that exuded Hawaiian cultural values
-- values that I had not yet read about
-- values that I got to know by experiencing them
-- values that I found myself wanting to know more about

And since my visit to Hawaii I’ve been reading more about these Hawaiian values to better understand what I experienced during our recent visit.

Perhaps because I’m in the middle of teaching my University of Vermont course on Ed Tech Leadership..
Perhaps because I’m struggling with the divisive political culture of our nation...
Perhaps because I’m in a personal inquiry of how to balance my many passions in this stage of  my life/career...

Whatever the reason… I feel that this trip to Hawaii was a transformational ‘just in time’ experience.

It will probably take me a few blog posts to digest and reflect  on our visits to

  • Iolani School where maker-educators Michael Fricano and Matt Dillon lead us on tours of the maker spaces at both the elementary school and the high school
  • Kailua Elementary School where ed tech leader, Greg Kent, gave us a tour of his classroom/maker space and the gardens surrounding the school providing numerous opportunities of problem finding that a school makerspace can support

  • Oahu Makerspace where residential maker, Ross Mulai,  shared his expertise as he lead us around a community makerspace located in the industrial section of Honolulu near the airport

  • Numerous eateries and the most beautiful tourist attractions ranging from the powerful surf in Shark’s Cove of the North Shore  to the colorful fish we found snorkeling in the Hanauma Bay

Shark's Cove

Hanauma Bay

Even though the blog post on each of these visits are in progress,  I’ve been busy applying much of what I’ve learned and experienced to my current work supporting Vermont educators in their own pursuit of excellence in our schools to better serve our students.   In the next few weeks, I’ll be following up with additional blog posts  about the various parts of my learnings from our time in Hawaii.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Roadside Repair

So much to write about after spending the past 10 days on a Hawaiian adventure,  but today  I’m going to skip past all that and  write briefly about how impressed I was with how Craig handled our first truly mechanical breakdown ‘on the road”.   With the exception of the flat tire on the tow dolly, this is the first time we’ve had the “Oh Crap” moment while driving the BlueBird.  It started with a cling cling cling in the engine area while we were climbing up the Kumewaay Highway about 20 miles before Alpine, California.

Craig quickly pulled the bus over onto the shoulder.  I climbed out and could clearly hear the clinging coming from the front grill.  When I got back into the bus, Craig had the doghouse opened and it was steaming!

I knew there was not much I could do but stay out of the way as he pulled out the toolbox and went to work!  I was totally amazed.  I was worried that he would burn himself as I watched the steam float to the ceiling.  I almost brought him a T-shirt so he didn’t ruin his new Hawaiian shirt, but decided against it.    Instead I brought him some paper towel to wipe off the sweat dripping from his brow.  He was grunting and groaning as he removed parts and tried to get into contorted positions that this repair required.  An hour or so later,  he explained to me that a bolt had broken that secured the alternator.  He was able to successfully retrieve the broken part and create a makeshift mechanism to hold the Alternator back in place from an Allen Wrench without interfering with any of the other working parts of the engine and fan!  

To me it was nothing short of Magic!  
How did he  even know where to look to find the problem?   
How did he think of a solution?  
How did he feel empowered enough to feel confident that his solution would hold well enough for us to drive away and not do more damage!  

Craig had said many times - that if the engine blew on the bus, that would probably be the end of the bus, since the  repair cost would be more than the cost of the bus. So I knew this was a high stakes repair.

Craig has also said many times - the bus is his maker project!  I’ve seen him tinker on this project or that project from fixing the water pump to designing a solar system for the roof of the bus.   But none of these jobs had been on the side of the road with vehicles whizzing by and none of them had happened at a point of physical exhaustion after a sleepless night.  We had just taken a red-eye from Hawaii and driven 100 miles in the jeep to retrieve the Bus from the long term storage area in Holtville (our last camping venue).

Well after our impromptu 2 hour repair project,  we pulled back on the highway.  By then it was obvious that darkness would soon be upon us, so we decided to forego our plans to arrive at our Oceanside Campsite and pulled into  the Veijas Casino and resort in Alpine, California about 20 miles down the road. (Yeah for free parking!)   This amazing man  got what he needed next -- a big hunk of prime rib, a tall beer, and a good nights sleep!

All I could think of is “I have married the most amazing man! You are my super hero!"
I have always known Craig to be a very capable patient man.  But I have often wondered what would happen if we got into a situation like this!  Well if this was a test - Craig passed with flying colors!

The bus is now snuggly parked in Guajorne County Park in  Oceanside, California AND we have electric hook-ups  for the first time since we left Tucson over two months ago.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Connecting with Today

I can’t believe it’s  been two months since I’ve written an entry in our travel blog.  Actually I’ve written several entries  (in my head)  but circumstances have not been conducive to getting them out on the blog.   This morning,  I’m feeling compelled to break the pattern of writing blog posts in my head, and get my thoughts out on ‘digital’ paper.

I’m afraid that that my thoughts are a bouncing all over the place this morning.  Hoping that writing a bit will help ground me today.  

The bus is parked in Quartizite, Arizona with a bunch of its cousins (we’re at a convergence of  other Bluebird owners).   

The hum of our generator makes it feel a bit like a truckstop, but looking out the window it’s easy to tell we’re at a Wanderlodge owners rally.   There are about 50 or so other Bluebirds circling the communal fire pit in the first row and a second row of Bluebirds has started as new arrivals trickle in.  This is the  second  time at the annual Bluebird rally at “Q”  (Quartizite); we were here last year for the 10th anniversary.

Craig has taken his morning coffee to join the huddle of men that have gathered by the firepit.  It feels like this is where all the big decisions that will shape the day will be made.  The lack of women is noticeably obvious.  

The silly side of me wondered if all the women were off ‘marching’.    (Today, in Washington, and around the world, women are marching in protest and solidarity - on the first full day of Trump’s presidency).

I can’t help but wonder who that SMART woman was that thought of the timing of this strategic move.  Redirecting some of the press cameras away from our new president on his first full day in office - even for a bit -- reminding him about the impact that 50% of the population can have!

Feeling a bit isolated by the lack of like minded colleagues  around me  and a bit jealous of the millions of women who are surrounded by their sisters today.   The Bluebird Rally  is certainly a ‘man’s event’.  Whether it be the “men’s tech talk”  or the caravan of jeeps who will take the 60 mile off road trip to the Desert Bar, the daily schedule is planned by men for men.    It’s okay;  men as well as women are entitled to plan events that revolve around their needs.   I’m not sure why,  but I’m not feeling inspired to join the “women’s morning walk”  or “women’s craft time” this morning.

Perhaps it’s because  the reality of the day - first day with our new president is one that makes it impossible to avoid thinking about.  I’m not going to get political here and will instead just note it as fact.  We have a new president.   The future feels uncertain.  Trying to be hopeful that the power is in the people.  But don’t want to bury my head in the sand either!

Maybe part of this blog post is similar to Ferdi Serim making this Facebook post.  

Thinking about the many old journal’s and diaries with entries like
Temperature  54 degrees.. Price of milk  $2.89 a gallon

What is it that I would put as a measure of what today was like?
What quantifiable?   

One optimistic indicator I could record is our solar energy use!

Craig just  joyfully announced that our solar panels are generating 300 watts right now-- an all time high.  Definitely indicating that the recent redesign he made to allow the 4 panels on the top of the bus to tilt is working much better than the previous design (where the goat rail and the storage pods shadows were challenging our ability to generate optimal energy)

Craig has a new strategy of running the generator in the morning instead of at night to recharge the batteries  to about 80 percent (which will happen more quickly and efficiently in the morning at the point where the batteries are the most discharged).  

Craig is an amazingly talented man who loves to figure out things like optimizing solar energy use or optimizing our bandwidth availability.  He’s constantly tweaking things to make life on the road work for us.  Since we are both working from the road -- these are important indicators for us!   Without  bandwidth I couldn’t be able to meet my daily responsibilities as an online teacher  and Craig wouldn’t be able to keep systems at his school running remotely.

So… the beginning of this 3 week period boondocking in the desert has me worried a bit.  It’s going to warrant strategic use of our ‘bandwidth’ as well as increased awareness of our use of electricity and water.    I suppose its good for us as humans to experience a lack of abundance and to work on conserving!  But it does feel a bit like being on a ‘diet’ -- planning our daily allocation!  Dieting (whether it be food, energy, and bandwidth)  tends to put me in a more fragile mood.    And perhaps the fact that  I’m dieting in all three of those domains right now is contributing to my strange mood today.

I miss the free flow of seeing my family and friends whenever I want, and having to do ‘binge visits’ to see the grandkids  like my recent two week  visit back east.   But I’m also thankful to have an amazing life partner who brings me on new adventures and causes me to stretch and grow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Drink More Wine!

We are finally NOT moving for a few weeks!  Hurray!  Although I made good use of the week long trek from New Jersey to Colorado, catching up on work while Craig drove  us westward.  
We traveled over 1700 miles in 6 days.

The passenger seat of the bus makes for a comfy office.  I was able to give my grad students lots of attention this week. This turned out to be timely since both online classes are entering project mode right now, with some students needing extra time to discuss their project ideas.  Craig was pretty proud of his network setup that made it possible for me to be video conferencing while we were traveling down the road!  I am thankful to have my own personal onsite tech support department wherever I happen to be working from.

In the afternoon I would start to check out possible places for us to pull over for the night.  It was my goal to use our Harvest Host membership more this year, and I was fortunate to find two wineries for us to stop at.  

The first was Knob Hall Winery in Maryland
Turns out they were closed for the day, but we were welcomed anyway with a quick wine tasting.  We picked up a bottle of Cabernet to add to our growing collection of wine!  We need to DRINK MORE WINE… I think!

We were told that we could park right in the driveway and exit (without unhitching)  our tow by following an exit road up ahead.  As we walked around looking for the exit road, all we could find was a field.  Walking through the field revealed a dirt road.  Craig concluded we might be able to PASS  if it doesn’t rain.  It rained!  So we didn’t take a chance and unhooked the jeep, turned around and headed out uneventfully in the morning.

The second was Wyldewood Cellars  right off I-70.  Actually it still had the appearance of an old gas station with the gas tanks barricaded with wooden planks and invitations to DRINK MORE WINE!

There were not many grapes in sight.  Turns out the ‘winery’  was really a ‘conveniently located’  distribution center right off I-70 -- go figure!  ;-)  They specialized in elderberry wine and gave us a variety to taste ranging from sweet Elderberry Mead to a dryer Cabernet/Elderberry reserve.  

We ended up walking away with two bottles - one as a gift for the  Mead-loving Warren and Allison who would soon be our host.  We enjoyed the second reserve bottle while we watched a lovely Kansas sunset.

Hotel Walmart provided us with a place for the rest of our overnights.  Not only do Walmart stops provide a convenient location for  restocking on groceries, they usually are near at least one restaurant.  We’ve decided that any long drive days warrants a break from the RV at suppertime.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Uncertain Times

Wednesday morning was a rude awakening.  As I reached for my phone and saw the news - Trump Wins - I gasped with surprise and a few choice words slipped out.

I have been working hard to keep politics out of my public facing posts, and almost didn’t include anything here, but then I realized.. This is HISTORY!  Big History!  As we passed through 4 states in our drive today (Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio)  I found myself seeing the landscape in hues of red and blue.  I found myself contemplating on  what makes different parts of the country blue, red, pink.  I’m not planning to make this blog post about those thoughts, but instead just want to acknowledge -- THIS HAPPENED TODAY  as we travelled west

I found myself going back and forth between election news and my own work as Craig navigated  I-70.  I did my best trying to find another Harvest Host for us to stay in, but that would have meant going through Columbus Ohio during rush hour.  

So we stopped for the night at a Walmart about 10 miles shy of Columbus, unwinding with a Geek Date (Best Buy, Beer, and Wings).  It was impossible not to process the election and try to make sense of the world.

At 3 o’clock this morning I found myself wide awake.  By 4 I knew I was not going to get back to sleep and realized Craig had also been awake for a while.  By 5 we gave up and decided to get on the road and try to make it past Columbus before the morning commuter traffic. I think that was the first time we’ve taken the bus out on the road before dawn.   Our early morning talk made me realize that the general sense of uneasiness about the world was allowing uncertainties about work and lifestyle choices to surface and keeping us awake.  ;-(

Well one thing we knew for sure was that we had at least 5 more days to drive to reach Colorado - where we plan to linger through Thanskgiving.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

On the Road Again - Year 4

Almost 4 years ago we gave up our apartment and moved into our 1983 Bluebird bus full time.  After spending the Summer and Fall in Vermont navigating life in the bus, we hit the road for a 6 month tour of the Southeast (mostly Florida and Texas, that year) bringing the bus back around to Vermont where our living and learning lifestyle was surrounded by friends, family, and a more intense work schedule.

We repeated the exit strategy  out of Vermont for the next few years - with the bus leaving after VermontFest (Vermont's edtech conference traditionally held first Thursday and Friday in November). This was always a bit later than Craig wanted to leave, but he was a good sport about my need to be at this conference.  Not only is organizing the maker lounge fun,  skipping out  would NOT be a good career move for me right now.

This year we did things a little different.  This year I stayed for the conference, but Craig left October 29 driving the bus to Turkey Swamp Park (about 30 minutes from his daughter's house). This way he got to spend quality time with Maggie and Peter, and   I got to stay behind putting in a SOLID week of work.   After a day at Randolph school, and a day at Bethel School,  I packed up EMMA with everything she needed to spend 3 days in at the Killington Grand Resort, where I was in charge of the Innovation / Maker Lounge for our state's ed tech conference (VermontFest).

I must say that splitting up to leave Vermont was a lot harder than I expected.
I had to pack everything that I wanted on the road for 6 months (EXCEPT the things I needed for a week in Vermont)  in the bus before Craig left.   On top of that, I had to limit what I would keep for my week in Vermont, but also needed back with me to the size of a suitcase that I take on a flight from VT to NY, where I would then transport possibly by train, tax, subway  as I couch surfed in NYC on my way to join my husband and our home in NJ a few days later!

I survived, but just barely!

After an INTENSE couple of days pulling off what I must say was a ROCKIN Maker/Innovation Lounge in Killington,  I unpacked and repacked and grabbed a flight to New York City, where I spent two nights with MY kids.  NOT only did I get to see Matt's brand new Co-op,  I also got to visit both their churches and enjoy a lovely Sunday filled with music and love and family.

Finally  almost 10 days after Craig left Vermont in our home,  I joined him at Turkey Swamp Park in New Jersey, which despite's its name turned out to be a very lovely campground - about 45 minutes from New York.

This morning we started our 7 day trek from the East Coast to Colorado where we'll spend some time with Craig's son Warren and his wife Allison.

We lingered over coffee and took our time heading out (about 11:00 a.m)  waiting for morning commuters to be off the road.  I did a little research looking for some alternatives to Walmart and TruckStops and found a lovely Harvest Host just a few miles outside of Hagerstown Maryland.

Knob Hall Winery 

We're now both keeping an eye on election results come in, fingers crossed, as we surf around the web, write blog post, and gear up mentally for the next 6 days on the road.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Making with Izzi at San Diego Fab Lab

As we travel, Craig and I like to visit and blog about creative spaces and convergences.  While in San Diego we got to visit two different makerspaces (which I'll blog about in more detail later). 

During our  first visit  to the Fab Lab,  I noted four female makers on the poster board that featured their Resident Maker Experts -- one seemed a little younger than the rest.

Yesterday  I got to meet this most amazing young maker at the San Diego Fab Lab - 8 year old Isabelle (also known as IZZI).   When I met her, I could see why she was part of the Team That Gets Things Done at the Fab Lab.  

Izzi knows her way around a maker space! As you can see in this video, Izzi is totally at home with the space, the tools, and supplies.  

When I asked her to show me what she likes to make, she darted towards a back room, stopping  by a box of jumpers, and told me that she was learning to code and then identified a numerical value for each color jumper.

I was immediately curious to know more because, I had never heard anyone assign a numerical value to jumpers before.  But then Izzi proceeded to pull out a set of resistors calculating the value of the resistors by the color bands and then explained that one of her fellow resident makers used the colors on the jumpers to ‘drill her’ about these values. That is totally brilliant!  Izzi has some smart mentors who understand both making and learning!

Izzi quickly moved on to what CLEARLY was one of her favorite rooms filled with black and yellow crates that contained lockable plastic pieces, wheels, gears, pulleys, and a remote.  She pulled down a bridge from a high shelf,  rummaged through the drawers until she found a remote and then became entranced with the structure and its moving parts.  It was obvious that the world of mechanical engineering was one that fascinated her.  

Although I’ve seen a lot of different STEM products, I had yet to encounter the Rokenbok STEM kits and what better way to learn about them than through Izzi’s eyes. This reinforced my beliefs that STEM does not have to be pink or girly  to engage girls, but it does need to have a variety of entry points. The Rokenbok STEM kits quickly went on my list of  products with low threshold, high ceilings, and wide walls which I feel are  key to engaging a more diverse population of tech-savvy creators, makers, innovators, inventors and problem solvers.

When I  learned that another area that fascinated Izzi at the FabLab was the sewing area. filled with different types of sewing machines for various types of maker projects, I shared with her my interest in using Arduino in eTextile projects and showed her my latest hat project -- a black hat designed to show off an Arduino Bean that controls blue and white LEDs sewed into embroidered snowflakes. She was particularly fascinated with the fact that the project included a sensor that triggered a buzzer to play Star Wars music and started dancing to set off the accelerometer.

I asked her if she’d like to do some making together with some of my supplies.  We broke out some sewable LEDs, a sewable battery holder, conductive thread and quickly created a felt bracelet.   Her  comfort with circuits and ability to problem solve shined as she dashed across the room to find a multimeter when our LEDs failed to light on the first try.  

True confession:  My comfort with a multimeter pales compared to Izzi’s.   But her confidence with the tool inspired me to use mine more often until it becomes as second nature as it was for Izzi.  After learning that she had given the mayor of San Diego a soldering lessons, I was tempted to ask her for pointers.    But alas it was time to go and I wanted to leave Izzi with some supplies that would help her move our project to the next steps.   

I pulled out a  LilyPad Twinkle, some conductive thread and  some more sewable LEDs to leave with Izzi so  that she could  experience the way microprocessors  can be used  in her next sewing project. Then I showed her how I was using a more powerful microprocessor called the LilyPad Arduino to control some multi-colored neopixels on a unicorn headband project I was working on.

I would so love to come back and show Izzi to code a future Arduino project.  But my guess, is that Izzi is not going to need me to learn to code.  Izzi is fortunate enough to be surrounded with fabulous mentors from the FAB LAB who have taken her under their wing -- including her mom (Joy) who serves as  Community Relations Manager for the FabLab - San Diego.

The joy I was feeling while hanging out and making with Izzi was slightly dampened when hearing that Izzi school environment doesn’t seem to provide the opportunities for Izzi’s passion to shine.  The strong confident voice I heard from this young lady is not part of the Izzi you might see at school.

It’s sad that more kids don’t get to bloom the way Izzi obviously has by being surrounded in a rich environment for learning like the FabLab.   

It’s sad that students with passions for creating and making often don’t find a place to use that passion as part of everyday learning.  

Thankfully more schools are integrating more STEM/STEAM opportunities for students, and many educators I  work with are building their own maker spaces in their schools.

Thankfully more and more products like the Rokenbok STEM kits are being created with thoughtful attention to engaging a diverse group of students to “think like engineers gives them the skills and confidence to change the world.”

Thankfully many places like the FabLab are offering outreach opportunities to help our schools create tomorrow’s innovators.   

I can’t wait to see what path Izzi will follow as she continues to learn -- but something tells me engineering is somewhere in her future.