I recently worked with one of our language arts teachers to use our Silhouette Cameo to cut repositionable vinyl to create images for our 8th graders’ lockers based on their reading of To Kill a Mockingbird. What an ambitious project! From a tech standpoint, this meant the entire 8th grade had to use an electronic method for drawing an image that then had to be transferred to the software that drives the cutter.

While the Silhouette software has some rudimentary drawing features, we felt that it would be limiting to the creativity we knew our 8th graders would want to bring to the project. After the students came up with what images they wanted for the gallery, they spent one period in our innovation studio learning how to use a drawing app on the iPad Pros. Some of them hadn’t used the iPad Pros and Apple Pencil stylus for drawing, so it was a great opportunity to experiment with these tools. The images were converted to a Silhouette-friendly format (the kids Airdropped their jpgs to me, I ran them through Photoshop to export a work path and then through Illustrator to export as a .dxf file) and the 8th graders were given an opportunity to modify the files, this time using Silhouette Studio. Since the resulting artwork would be cut from solid-colored vinyl, this was a challenge for the students to create with just negative and positive space – no shading allowed!

Finally, the images were cut out, and students transferred them to their lockers, along with an artist’s statement. It was so gratifying to watch the students’ excitement as they saw their drawings appear! I can’t wait to see what else my creative colleagues come up with to use this tool.

Here are some more samples of my continuing quest to become a sketchnoter. While spending two weeks at an overnight camp is a departure from the typical sketchnote-worthy activity, I thought it would be a good place to practice. Still loving the process!

IMG_1655 IMG_1656 IMG_1657 IMG_1664

I’m starting a new feature called “learn with me.” I realized that, more than anything else, I’m curious. About everything.

As a child, I was constantly reading. I remember not being able to eat breakfast unless the cereal box (now, there’s some fascinating literature) was sitting in front of me so I could read it. Of course, that was before the Internet. Now, I find myself eating dinner in front of the TV, with my iPad or phone in front of me. I realize that’s not what a nutritionist would suggest, but it’s perfect for a lifelong learner.

Anyway, whenever people ask me what I love most about my job, my answer typically is that there’s always something new to learn. I rarely do things the same way twice. In fact, the best part of repeating something you did before is figuring out how to improve on last year’s effort.

So one of the things I’ve been learning about is sketchnoting. Sketchnoting is essentially taking notes but doing it in an interesting visual manner; incorporating images (like icons), color and other diagramming tools. For instance, Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk accompanied by the RSA animation is a professional and incredibly powerful example of sketchnoting:

We will be getting a cart of iPad Pros next year with Apple Pencils, so I have been studying the whole sketchnoting field and figuring out how to teach it to my 7th and 8th grade students next year. Why sketchnoting on an iPad?

First, I figure the iPad app Paper will be a terrific way for the students to be able to combine sketching with using the iPad. Paper is a great app, and there are lots of ways that students will be able to use it. The advantage to using the iPad for sketchnoting is that electronic sketchnotes can easily be shared and tagged for reference.

Thoughts about teaching students to sketchnote:

The first is the “why.” I’ll start with why we take notes, and how studies are showing that taking notes using your hand is more effective than typing them.

The second will be to learn how to use Paper and the stylus. There are a number of terrific tutorials here. Then we’ll have the students create their own drawings using the app.

Next, we will work on learning how to actually sketchnote. This will be the tricky part – kids need to learn how to LISTEN and figure out what the important stuff is (which is why taking notes by hand rather than trying to just transcribe everything they hear). I think this will be the hard part, but certainly the most beneficial. There are several lessons plans online that incorporate sketchnoting:

Third grade sketchnoting

2nd graders go wild for sketchnoting

Visual narrative meets note taking

I think it will be helpful to find some TED talks that are of interest to the specific grade level, and practice sketchnoting to those, before using them in an actual class. In fact – that’s what I’m doing to hone my sketchnoting skills.

The other thing that I’ll do with my students is have them develop their own library of images (ideas, important connections, for more information, etc.) and then put them on the side of a drawing (like a key). Then, they can use that drawing as a template for each of their subsequent sketchnotes. That way, they don’t have to figure out how to redraw an image over and over; they can just select and copy it to wherever they need it when they’re doing the actual sketchnote.

I’m excited to try sketchnoting! Stay tuned!

My mother, a woman who survived Hitler’s Germany, admonished us to never squander our privilege to vote. She was truly a political junkie before the Internet made it easy. She passionately devoured newspaper and magazine articles about everything having to do with politics. We knew not to bother her during her Sunday morning political talk shows. During Watergate, she regularly fell asleep on the living room couch reading about Nixon’s newest troubles. A diehard liberal until she died in her eighties, she accumulated hundreds of emails from Moveon.org in her AOL (yes) email account. She died in 2009 and we joked that she hung around long enough to see Obama get elected. We even bought her a new TV so she could watch the inauguration in style. In assisted living.

I’m old enough to remember JFK and the impact his election had on my immigrant parents. I remember them going to vote for JFK and having a party (a very rare event) late into the evening the night he won. I remember my father getting drunk that night for the first and only time during my lifetime. I remember my mother weeping when JFK was assassinated. And I remember her cutting his photo out of a magazine, framing it in a cheap dime store frame, and displaying it in our home.

When my younger daughter could first vote for president, it was John Kerry for whom she voted. She called me, waiting in line to vote at the University of Illinois – she knew how much it would mean to me that she was voting. It wasn’t Kerry who was lighting the fires under those young college students, though, it was the new Illinois senator.

“We’re here voting for Kerry, mom. But we’re SO EXCITED for Barack Obama.”

I will never forget the excitement in her voice and hearing the cheers of the college students in the background. I get teary eyed and choked up just thinking about it.

Looking at the photos and videos of Bernie Sanders’ rallies makes me think of that conversation with her. Watching the interviews with passionate, inspired, engaged young voters yesterday at the caucus locations makes me think of that conversation.

Sanders at a town meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. Image from Wikipedia.

That Kennedy and the young senator Obama inspired others isn’t really a surprise, right? They were bright-eyed, optimistic, young and handsome and it makes sense. The senior Sanders, with his gruff delivery, his white, unkempt hair, and his passionate “I’m angry as hell and not going to take it any more” message doesn’t seem to fit in with them, but he does. In his anger, though, he is incongruously optimistic. And he is inspiring others.

No matter what happens in this election, I feel certain that some time soon, a remarkable leader will emerge. Someone with passion, vision, and the ability to unite a divided country. And I am certain that, when this person is asked “why politics?,” the answer will be “I was there when Bernie Sanders lit the country on fire.”

And I wish my mother would be here to see it.


Yesterday was weird… BENNY POINTER·TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2016 Yesterday was a weird day. I couldn’t get myself out of bed. The guy I live with lifted me up. I tried to get my legs under me, but they wouldn’t cooperate. He said, “Don’t worry, I gotcha buddy,” carried me downstairs, and out the front door. That was so nice of him. I needed to pee so badly, I just had to go right there where he put me down. Normally I wouldn’t, but we both decided to make an exception to the rule. I started walking down the p

Source: Tissue alert. Beautiful. – Deborah Stern Harris

This year, I’ve decided to try a new 30-day challenge each month. Last month, I wrote in a gratitude journal each night. This month, I’m going to try mindful meditation each night for 20 minutes.

Here’s my inspiration: