School of Education News Archives

Webinars Explore Making in Schools, Features Panel of Maker-Educators

By Pamela Van Halsema on December 2, 2014 10:38 AM

Making in K-12 Schools Webinars: Part 1, Wednesday, December 3 and Part 2, Wednesday, December 10, noon PST

To join the webinars, go to http://educatorinnovator.org/webinars/

2 webinars december 3 and 10 for Making in K-12 Settings

Join School of Education Assoc. Professor Jessica Parker, along with several Bay Area maker-educators as they discuss the role of "Making" in schools.  Set up as a forum, these teachers will share stories from their own experiences in the classroom--from elementary up to high school--incorporating making into the curriculum and both creating and maintaining a culture of creativity

In Part 1 of the two part series, on December 3, the panel will focus on how to set things up to foster hands-on, interdisciplinary maker projects and events which successfully support student learning.

In Part 2, on December 10, they will discuss the kind of professional development that they themselves need as educators to implement these programs and adopt a 'maker mindset' as a teacher.

The Maker Movement

Making emphasizes learning-through-doing In a social environment. Maker culture emphasizes informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. Makers encourage taking risks and experimentation with materials from simple to high tech equipment, they set up opportunities to build and tinker and create. Robotics, woodworking, crafting, 3D printing, and machining are just a few examples of projects used in Maker Spaces all over the world top inspire through project-based learning.

The notion of tinkering and Making has become popular world-wide and is now truly a movement capturing the imagination of young and old, across cultures and disciplines. Maker Media, based here in Sonoma County, has been the hub and helped build this movement around the world with their publications and their Maker Faire events.

This global community consists of inventors, artists, engineers, and many other types of people with all kinds of backgrounds. This movement is taking many in the direction of successful independent creativity that is allowing for outside the box thinking and knowledge expansion and growth.

This kind of thinking is a great fit for project based learning and creative problem solving curriculum in schools, as well as creative and artistic development.

The Maker Educator Certificate Program

This webinar is hosted and produced by the National Writing Project's Educator Innovator initiative (educatorinnovator.org), and is affiliated with the Maker Educator Certificate Program offered by The Startup Classroom at Sonoma State University. The certificate program offers a selection of mini courses to help educators of all kinds (not just school teachers) learn how to start and maintain MakerSpaces in their own setting, and become part of a network of Maker Educators.  

To learn more about the Maker Educator Certificate Program visit www.thestartupclassroom.org/maker-course/ 

Looking Through the Camera Lens: A Videographer's Nostalgic View of the Sonoma State's Global Cardboard Challenge

By Casey Sears on October 27, 2014 2:38 PM

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Guest Blog Post by Russell Brackett, Sonoma State University Communications Major and Multimedia Communications Intern in the School of Education


When I saw the Caine's Arcade video for the first time, I couldn't help but smile uncontrollably. Flashbacks to my childhood washed over me as I watched this amazing kid use his imagination to build something incredible out of nothing. This video tells the story of a creative kid from East LA who built an incredible pretend arcade out of cardboard boxes. It was heartwarming to see especially in this world of video games and nonstop technology.

When I heard we were putting on our own Global Cardboard Challenge at Sonoma State, in response to the Caine's Arcade video, I instantly began thinking of ways to contribute to this movement to get kids to be creative and have fun in the process. I not only thought about ways to film this event, but also the things that I could build with cardboard! This was a great opportunity to help not only the kids, but myself as well by taking me back to my childhood days of imaginative play.

Growing up, I was the type of kid who had to be told multiple times by my parents to get in the house for dinner. I'd always yell back "Just a minute!", but one minute often turned into fifteen before they physically would come and get me. I was often wrapped up in some imaginative scenario using random objects to build forts, cars, or weapons to fight battles to save a damsel in distress. This is why I was so excited because I remember getting lost in play on a daily basis as a kid and always having a blast! I waited in anticipation for the day of the Cardboard Challenge as I was hoping to relive some of something from my childhood.

October 10th finally arrived and I woke up excited and ready. Our plan was to build a village out of cardboard. Once the first wave of children began pouring in with their amazing creations built out of old boxes, I again found myself smiling and feeling happy in the same way I did when I watched the Caine's Arcade video the first time. 

Our event included preschoolers, elementary kids and college students who built houses, hospitals, and even trees for the village, made colorful with the splash of poster paint. Sounds of laughter and happiness could be heard throughout the makeshift village all day as more and more people poured in with their projects. 

Rocket ships, hotels, buses, ice cream shops, and all kinds of imaginative ideas built by people of all ages filled the quad. I was focused on filming, but there were a couple moments where I had to step back, put the camera down, and just enjoy what was taking place.

As a videographer, I film all day in hopes of capturing those moments that not only look good on camera, but most importantly evoke emotion in my viewers. Those moments were not hard to find that day as everyone who participated seemed genuinely excited to be there, and it showed in their body language and finished projects. 

At the end of the day, I was exhausted but couldn't help smiling as I knew we had accomplished something great. That day will always serve as a reminder that no matter your age, it is important to step away and be creative just like when you were a kid.

To read more about the event visit The Startup Classroom website. Check out my finished video story here: Global Cardboard Challenge Video

Alumna Kaki McLachlan selected as 2014 PBS Digital Innovator

By Lina Raffaelli on June 20, 2014 3:15 PM

Kaki McLachlan at the 2013 Teacher Technology Showcase at Sonoma State

Kaki McLachlan shares an interactive project at the 2013 Teacher Technology Showcase at Sonoma State

As education is rapidly running to catch up with today's digital advances, institutions have begun to acknowledge and reward educators who are helping pave the way through useful and creative classroom strategies.

PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovators Program is a year-long professional development program designed to foster and grow a community of ed-tech leaders. Each year PBS hand-selects 100 digitally-savvy K-12 educators who are effectively using digital media and technology in their schools to further student engagement and achievement.

School of Education Alumna Kaki McLachlan, graduate of the Single Subject Credential Program and Master's in Education in Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning, has been selected for this honor for the 2014-2015 school year.

"When students use technology in the classroom it allows them to take ownership of what they are learning," said McLachlan. "It is also an engaging way for students to gather up-to-date information in a variety of ways and share what they have learned in more exciting ways then ever before!"

Kaki McLachlanShe acknowledges that all the new technology can be confusing for teachers. "New amazing resources are available each and every day for teachers. At times, it can be overwhelming, but it's not necessary to know it all!" Trying a new technology with students can be a risk, and doesn't always work perfectly. She notes, "It's important to remember, as a teacher, that not every lesson is going to be a success. This is especially important to remember when you begin to implement new projects with technology in the classroom. It is okay to fail! We are students too."

McLachlan teaches science and technology to 6th-8th graders at White Hill Middle School in Fairfax. In addition to teaching life science, this year she took on two brand new technology elective courses focusing on digital citizenship and media.

Throughout the year McLachlan will participate in various virtual trainings in educational technology. As a Digital Innovator, she is expected to lead several professional development activities in the 2014-2015 school year to share her innovations with other educators within her school and district 

The PBS Learning Media Digital Innovators Summit was held in June, hosted at the PBS headquarters in Washington D.C. You can learn more about Digital Innovators by following the event on Twitter at #pbsdigitalinnovator and #pbsdisummit.

Summer Technology Institute engages faculty with new tools

By Lina Raffaelli on June 20, 2014 10:47 AM

Faculty members across different departments discuss resources

Faculty members across different departments discuss resources

As summer break got underway, faculty and staff of Sonoma State gathered for the Summer Technology Institute May 20-22. Attendees spent three days discussing and engaging with educational technology tools

The mantra of the 3-day session was "Ask, Play, Learn, Share!" This idea was developed in hopes of creating a stress-free environment for experimentation.

The Summer Institute combined lectures, hands-on workshops and discussions all based around educational technology. Attendees were introduced to a variety of tools and platforms to try. Presentations included using Twitter to build a "professional learning network," ways to increase engagement using Moodle, and group participation using the Padlet web application. Faculty were also introduced to Google Drive and the opportunities for collaborative work, hybrid course development, and introductions to iMovie.

iPad instruction

Workshop included iPad instruction & classroom app integration

Presentations and workshops were led both by School of Education faculty as well as outside sources. Speakers included Sarah Fountain, principal of Monte Vista Elementary School, Shira Katz from Common Sense Media, and Robin Mencher from KQED Education.

Professor Michael Lesch said he was appreciative of the light-hearted approach to the workshop. Appreciative of both the structure and atmosphere at the institute, he noted "Jessica [Parker] was sensitive to our fears about technology." Other participants expressed similar sentiments. "For children today technology is just an extension of their identities," said Parker. "But for those of us who haven't grown up with it we need to adopt and share this mindset to help lessen anxiety," she said about the mantra. "We can't do it as separate individuals, it must be collaborative," she added.

During the debrief on the final day attendees broke into discussion groups to consider the practical applications of the tech tools they'd learned. Anthropology professor Karin Jaffee put many of the ideas to use right away in her summer class. "I used a Google Doc to have students 'build' our first lecture by filling in a table with terms and answering questions I would normally answer in a PowerPoint presentation. I also used Padlet to get students to answer questions that I would also normally address with a PowerPoint. Both assignments resulted in much conversation among the students, who were divided into groups, and also allowed me to have a class discussion to highlight good answers and address problematic ones. And I've already received feedback from the students indicating that they like the increased in-class participation! I'm thrilled with what I learned at SOESTI and so glad I've been able to implement ideas so quickly and successfully!"

Faculty member Erma Jean-Sims said she saw the potential for Padlet in her classes. "I like that it's instantaneous. Students are seeing and responding in real time," she said. "It could be especially helpful for getting more introverted students to participate, those who wouldn't normally raise their hands."

The general consensus was that educational technology needs to be used in practical, purposeful and usable ways. It's important to strike a delicate balance between engagement and distraction for students. Robin Mencher of KQED summed up this idea by saying "technology is the vehicle, but not the driver," said Robin Mencher of KQED. Educators must be the facilitators to help guide their classes.

Click here to view list of Summer Tech resources

FREE Summer Science and Math Foundational Level Institute for Teachers

By Lina Raffaelli on May 27, 2014 2:13 PM

Student looking through microscope If you are a credentialed teacher who wants to teach math or science, Sonoma State University has just the program for you! This summer the School of Education at Sonoma State University is offering a Foundational Level Mathematics Institute at SSU, as well as two Foundational Level Science Institutes, located in Santa Rosa and Napa. These free programs are designed for teachers who currently hold a Multiple or Single Subject Teaching Credential and provides them the opportunity to add an additional credential.

The Institutes offer both a content methods course and content review to prepare and assist teachers to pass the CSET's. Participants will earn 5 units of credit and will only need cover the cost of their own books.

For more information about the Foundational Level Mathematics Institute, please visit sonoma.edu/education/smtri/foundationalmath. Information on the Foundational Level Science Institute can be found at sonoma.edu/education/smtri/foundationalscience

Both program application deadlines have been extended to May 30th.

Napa Science Institute deadline: June 15th EXTENDED TO JUNE 30! We still have room!

School of Education honors local educators and alumni at annual awards ceremony

By Pamela Van Halsema on May 5, 2014 12:03 PM

Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Ron Whitman

Sonoma County Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Ron Whitman

For over 20 years Sonoma State's School of Education has acknowledged alumni and community partners for their excellence in local education at the annual School of Education Recognition and Awards Ceremony.  This year's event is slated for Tuesday, May 13 at 5:00 PM on SSU's campus.

The Circle of Excellence Awards recognize the accomplishments and contributions to the local education community by School of Education Alumni and community partners. Faculty members nominate alumni, mentor teachers, and friends of the program for this recognition. 

This year's recipients of the Circle of Excellence Award include: Andy Gibson (Sonoma Valley High School), Tom Griffin (Casa Grande High School), Ron Whitman (Sonoma County Office of Education) and the mentor teachers at Santa Rosa's Kid Street Learning Center.

teacher Erin Fightmaster in her classroom at Kid Street Learning Center

Teacher Erin Fightmaster in her classroom at Kid Street Learning Center

Professor Emiliano Ayala nominated Assistant Superintendent Ron Whitman for his support and ongoing collaboration with the Special Education programs at Sonoma State. "As a strong leader in our community, his colleagues offer high praise for his student-centered approach to decision making that upholds the mission of Sonoma County Office of Education," said Ayala. 

Tom Griffin, department chair at Casa Grande High School, Petaluma, was nominated by Susan Victor, faculty member in the Curriculum Studies and Secondary Education department. "He has been a tireless advocate for English learners and a supportive mentor teacher for Single Subject teaching candidates," said Victor. 

Strong teacher mentors play an essential role in the field experience component of SSU's teacher preparation programs, and both Andy Gibson and three educators from Kid Street Learning Center (Principal Kathleen Mallamo, Clare McKenzie and Erin Fightmaster) are nominated for their exemplary work supporting and mentoring new teacher candidates in the classroom. 

In addition to the Circle of Excellence honors, the School of Education will present the Jack London Awards at the event on May 13, and acknowledge the recipients of two scholarships. Early Childhood Studies major Alyx Fritz will receive the Patricia Nourot Early Childhood Scholarship. Veteran science teacher Linn Briner will receive the F. George Elliott Exemplary Professional Renewal Scholarship, providing the funds for Briner to work on a M.A. in Education in the School of Education.
Sonoma Valley High School teacher Andy Gibson standing outdoors with a group of his students

Sonoma Valley High School teacher Andy Gibson standing outdoors with a group of his students


The Circle of Excellence and scholarship recipients will be honored at the Annual Education Recognition and Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 13 at the Sonoma State Cooperage from 5-7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.  

The event is sponsored by The SSU Alumni Association, the SSU Office of the President, The California Faculty Association, The Sonoma County Educators Council CTA/NEA, the F. George Elliott Scholarship Fund and the Patricia Nourot Scholarship Fund. is free and open to the public.

Activist Dolores Huerta rouses crowd at SSU during social justice lecture

By Lina Raffaelli on April 10, 2014 1:12 PM

There are not many women in their eighties who have the gusto and vivaciousness to rouse a crowd of a thousand faces, not only inspiring their audience but eliciting a mixture of laughter and serious reflection; Dolores Huerta is a rare exception.

On March 27 Huerta, activist and co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, spoke at Sonoma State as part of the H. Andréa Neves and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series.

The evening kicked off in The HUB, SSU's multicultural center, where Huerta spoke directly with students in an intimate and open discussion about her life and work as an organizer. Students asked thought provoking questions and sought advice for young people who desire to organize and work towards social justice in their own communities.

She later spoke in the Student Center ballroom, an event that sold-out at just over 1,000 tickets, distributed to high school and college students, community members, and faculty. Huerta covered a variety of topics, such as women rights, workers right, and marriage equality. She emphasized the importance of organizing and empowering people to make a change. "Poor people don't often think they have any power." She explained how, alongside Cesar Chavez, she helped spread a grassroots movement towards workers rights by visiting the homes of farmworkers and speaking to them face to face. 

She also strongly encouraged the audience to go see "Cesar Chavez," the feature film directed by Diego Luna, which was set to hit theaters the following day. "If enough people go and see the film, maybe we can show Hollywood that these kinds of films are important, and maybe we will see more like them in the future," said Huerta, who is portrayed in the film by Rosario Dawson.

By the end of the evening Huerta had 1,000 attendees on their feet chanting "SÍ, se puede!" a phrase that she famously coined during the farmworkers movement. She arroused and inspired the crowd, chanting "who has the power?" with a sea of booming voices shouting in response: "WE have the power!"

Student Angelica Shubbie said she loved how engaging Huerta was during her lecture. "She showed her passion, wisdom, and hope, which was inspiring to witness in person." said Shubbie. "Although her main focus is on Farm Labor Unions, it's amazing to see her work towards human rights for everyone!"

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Slideshow by Gabrielle Cordero

Maker Day in Marin Showcases How Teachers and Students Integrate Creativity and Science

By Pamela Van Halsema on April 2, 2014 9:11 AM

The MAKER Movement has taken hold in many schools around Northern California. Over the last several years interest in the grass roots MAKER Movement has grown. MAKER Fairs around the world have attracted hundreds of thousands of people. Now MAKER is beginning to spill into schools and be used by innovative teachers seeking to provide engaging, hands-on, authentic learning experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics.  

You can find out what MAKER is all about the 1st annual MAKER Day on April 12 at the Marin County Office of Education.See how the future is being imagined,invented, designed, programmed, and manufactured by Marin County students.Meet the MAKERS and have fun with the hands-on exhibits. Everyone is welcome--teachers, kids, families and more-- and it's free! HERE to register.

GO Green and ride your bike to MAKER Day on April 12. Valet bike parking courtesy of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition!

The Marin County Office of Education and partners Autodesk, Microsoft, Edutopia, Intel Clubhouse, Marin County Bicycle Coalition, Lego Play-Well, Buck Institute for Education, and Bay Area Science Festival are hosting MAKER Day on April 12, from 10:00-4:00 at the Marin County Office of Education, 1111 Las Gallinas Avenue, San Rafael. Experience the excitement, creativity, genius and the "do it yourself" ingenuity of our students. More info at http://make.marinschools.org.

The School of Education encourages both pre-service and in-service teachers to take advantage of this opportunity to see how schools are incorporating the MAKER mindset in their classrooms.

School of Education lobby displays work to highlight alumni and local schools

By Lina Raffaelli on February 6, 2014 2:24 PM

If you've recently visited the School of Education office, you may have stopped to admire the large, eye-catching mandalas decorating the walls and student credenza. These intricate pencil-drawn creations are part of a new program that incorporates student schoolwork into the lobby decor.

The goal of the new program is to showcase the lessons that our recent graduates prepare while working in local public schools. The current installment is from Novato High School, where Single Subject Alumna Roxanna Lieva teaches art to freshman and sophomore students.

"The idea is to include the lesson plans alongside the work itself, for a more in depth understanding of the assignment" said Pamela Van Halsema. "We also want to recognize how our new teachers are excelling in local schools."

Roxana Leiva assists students during her Art & Design class

Roxana Leiva assists students on a project during her Art & Design class at Novato High

Hanging Mandalas

The student credenza displaying the lesson and mandalas from Roxana's classroom


"Additionally we visit the classrooms and observe our teachers in action, so that our display reflects not only the lesson but also the students," added Van Halsema. "We want to shift the focus back on the children we serve."

The School of Ed plans to incorporate four exhibits per year. Keep an eye out in late February for the next installation, featuring work from Rohnert Park's Monte Vista Elementary School, home to several Multiple Subject alumni teachers.

SSU's Teacher Technology Showcase Fosters Dialogue & Innovation

By Lina Raffaelli on January 8, 2014 2:08 PM

Where can you play PacMan with a carrot controller, walk on the moon, and play a digital piano using Play-Doh, all in one evening? One month ago, educators and students gathered together for the Teacher Technology Showcase, and were able to do all three in this year's interactive Maker's Space.

The annual event, now in its third year, is an open house for creative thinking about how to effectively use technology in teaching. Thirty six presenters shared and demonstrated their ideas for lesson plans, tutorials, and tools, all designed to improve learning and student engagement. The event gathered over 200 attendees, including SSU credential and master's degree students, SSU faculty, staff, and alumni, and Bay Area educators.

Posters around the room encouraged participation and dialogue with phrases like "Choose to be Creative," "Create classroom activities that don't yet exist in the world!" and "Ask me how this meets the needs of all learners." One of the graduate students who attended said, "I really appreciated the opportunity to talk with the presenters about the benefits for students."

Watch the video slideshow:

This year the School of Education welcomed the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) as a partner for the event. Presenters from SCOE provided many of the hands-on Maker Space activities, and helped spread the word out about the Showcase to local schools. Technology Showcase supporters Edutopia and KQED also sent representatives to present and share information about the resources and tools they offer for the classroom.

Presentations covered a broad range of topics, and were aimed at various teaching levels, including elementary, secondary, and special education. Presenters shared their utilization of various websites including Prezi, Wix, Twig World, and Moodle, as well as a handful of useful iPad apps used for behavioral change, teaching science, and verbalizing emotions. In an attendance survey many participants said they appreciated the relevance and practicality of the presentations, as well as the broad range of topics and grade levels included.

One of the goals of this event is to help educators see creative and practical uses for a variety of applications for the classroom, and encourage them to try out some of these new ideas with their own students. To help them put the ideas into practice, each of the presenters created an online version of their presentation which is available online on the School of Education website. One elementary school principal left saying, "I have homework!" commenting on how there were so many things to learn at the showcase.

Read about the Tech Showcase in the Sonoma State STAR