Taking the Bite Out of Failure

Epic Fail

I have failed. I have totally failed at my goal to start 2019 off right by blogging twice a week. Here we are three months in and I’m writing my first blog post of the year. Fail.

So, I thought it fitting that I recover from my failure with a blog post about failure. Part of the reason for my radio silence is because some new projects have been brewing. The first quarter of the year has been filled with new initiatives, new ideas, and new experiences. (Don’t worry, I’ll fill you in on some of them in future blog posts.) My favorite new project is a podcast about failure. Failure Bites.

Failure Bites

The Failure Bites Podcast, our latest NIU STEAM podcast, features successful people telling their stories of a difficult experience that helped them grown and learn. This podcast was the brainchild of my colleague, Kim Likier. Our team had been talking about the role of failure in learning from some time. We incorporate Failure-Based Learning into much of what we do. Kim suggested that we create a podcast that highlights personal stories of failure and success. A few collaborative meetings later and voila! Failure Bites was born.

We all have a failure story to tell. I told mine a year or so ago in a blog post for Coaching for Geeks. (You can read my failure story here.)  I found the process very therapeutic. It was actually interesting to look at that experience through a lens of growth instead of failure. Our goal with this project is to celebrate the role that failure plays in success. We want to change the mindset that failing at something means you are a failure. It is the exact opposite. Failure and reflection are how we learn and grow. You can’t grow if you don’t take risks. When you take risks, you could fail. In this podcast, we are exploring the connection between failure and growth through personal stories.

We are four episodes in and so far I am loving this project. It has been truly inspiring to hear people from all over and from so many different backgrounds and fields talk about personal triumphs and the failures or challenges that got them there.

Listen to the most recent episode featuring filmmaker Tom Gustafson from Speak Productions.  Tom tells his story of the challenges he faced making his first feature film. It was great to talk to Tom. He is my younger brother and I am truly inspired by all he and his partner have accomplished. I know that it has not been an easy road.

Fail Forward

This whole project was a risk. We could have (and still could) fail. But that’s OK. Even if we get one person to think about failure differently, we have succeeded.

We have some great upcoming episodes in the queue. We’ll hear from a hugely successful author and an award-winning teacher. There are other new episodes in the works featuring some very exciting guests. We will also weave in some psychology experts to help us understand the effects of failure on our brain.

You can find Failure Bites on all of your favorite podcast platforms including iTunes, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

Please subscribe and leave a comment. We would love to hear if one of the stories resonated with you or inspired you to keep going or take a risk. We would also love to hear your story.

So, take the bite out of failure. Take a risk and make a mistake. You might learn something new.

 

Connect with Ease using Talky

From Google Hangouts to Skype to Zoom and everything in between, there are many different ways to connect with others online. Most of them are feature packed and great tools. Sometimes, however, you just want a simple tool that will let you connect with someone online without having to exchange usernames or other information. Talky by &yet is a simple communication tool. It requires no downloads, no logins, and no hassle.

I was first introduced to Talky by my colleague, Carl, who helps us out as the sound engineer for the STEM Read podcast.  We were looking for an easy way to have one-time conversations with our guests. We needed something that didn’t require usernames, long-term contact connections or software downloads. Carl had us switch to this app and it has been working like a charm ever since.

Overview

Talky is a free site that uses your on-device microphone and camera to allow you to chat via the internet. You can also get the app for your mobile device. According to the website, Talky uses a new technology called WebRTC. I’m not sure exactly what that means. Visit their Privacy page to read more about this technology and what it is actually doing. There is a lot of information on how it all works and how it keeps your information private through encryption. You can also read through their privacy information. Set all the tech info aside and what you have is a simple way to connect with people through your computer or phone (Android users can use the web-based version while iphone users can use the iOS app).

To use the app, go to talky.io, create a room, share the link with someone you want to talk to, and talk away! Easy peasy!

Let’s break down the features.

Key Features

Talky is more than just an online chat tool. It is a collaboration tool that has many of the features you need to collaborate virtually.

  • Easy invite – To invite someone to your room for a chat, just send the link.
  • Audio and video – Chat using audio and video or just audio.
  • Password protected room – If you want more privacy for your conversation, you can set a room key.
  • Screen Sharing – There is the ability to screen share. However, it is only for Chrome and Firefox users. I run Chrome and I had to install the Talky Screen Share Chrome extension. Once I did this is worked really well.

    Talky (2)
    My daughter and I chatting via Talky. Using the screen share feature to share my screen.
  • Multiple People – Talky accommodates group calls. I could not find the maximum number. Go gather some friends and see how many can join the party line before you crash it.
  • Walkie-talky mode – In walkie-talky mode, you have to press the space bar to talk.
  • Integrated text chat – Like many of these apps, Talky also has a text chat feature. That comes in handy when dealing with connection issues.

As I mentioned earlier, we use Talky to connect with our STEM Read Podcast guests. For the most part, it works beautifully. So much easier than exchanging usernames and adding each other to our friend or contact list. However, we have had some sound and connection issues. Not a huge deal if you are just using Talky to chat with folks. A bigger deal when you are recording the conversation for a podcast. Because you are talking browser to browser and the data is encrypted, there can be issues. The Talky help page on the website has some information to help you troubleshoot your connection.

Overall, Talky is exactly what it is supposed to be. A simple tool for connecting with others. I love the simplicity.

For your classroom, this is a great tool for connecting students to experts or other classrooms. I like it because the set-up is so simple. I’ve used several different tools to connect with others and Talky is by far the easiest to use. So, create a room and give it a try.

Inspiring Stories: Breaking Boundaries in Science from Filament Games

Inspiring kids to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is a large part of what I do on a daily basis. Now, thanks to Filament Games, we have a beautiful new VR experience to add to our toolbox – Breaking Boundaries in Science.

The Experience

Filament Games is known for their high quality, fun, educational games. Breaking Boundaries in Science is no exception. Created for Samsung VR and Oculus Go, Breaking Boundaries lets you or your students explore the working spaces of three groundbreaking female scientists: Jane Goodall, Grace Hopper, and Marie Curie. When you first enter the experience, you are standing in a great hall in front of portraits of the great women. Selecting a portrait sends you to a beautifully detailed virtual recreation of their workspaces. Once you are in these spaces, you can move through and explore these amazing spaces. In the space, you can select items and hear, in the scientist’s voice, a bit about their own story as it related to the item. Cool fun fact – Jane Goodall herself voiced her vignette. It is incredible to hear about her work from her.

BREAKING BOUNDARIES IN SCIENCE
A Screenshot of the scientists from the Breaking Boundaries website.

The gameplay experience is open exploration. The developers at Filament call it a form of non-linear storytelling, told through objects that held personal meaning to the scientists. It is almost like an unstructured Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Using this strategy, Breaking Boundaries tells a multi-faceted story about the scientific breakthroughs that made these women pioneers in their field and, more importantly, an intimate portrait of who these women were as people.

My Experience

My colleague and I had the opportunity to play Breaking Boundaries back in late August at the Filament Games offices. The experience was impressive. I had to sit while my colleague played first. I sat with anticipation while she oohed and aahed over what she saw in-world.  I was a bit impatient for her to finish so I could have my turn. If you are using it with your students, be prepared for a few impatient cries of “Is it my turn yet?”

When I (finally) got to play, I could see what she was oohing and aahing about. The detail in-world was gorgeous. From the stars in the sky and bugs on the ground in Jane Goodall’s camp to the sparking equipment and dusty chalkboards of Grace Hopper’s office. Marie Curie’s lab ceiling even leaked when it rained. It was inspiring to hear their stories in their own voices. (The voice actors for Hopper and Curie were spot on.)

I didn’t get to experience it, but my colleague selected the right things to get Marie Curie herself to appear! I wanted to keep trying but, we couldn’t stay there forever.

Classroom Uses

If you have a Samsung VR or Oculus Go, I highly recommend this VR experience. It is a free download. There are lots of ways you can use this in the classroom. Full disclosure – my office at NIU worked with Filament to write the accompanying activity guide. So – check it out for ideas on using this in the classroom. You can access the resources here.  It was a lot of fun to think about all the ways to use this with students.

Extras

While we were at Filament, we had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Norton, the Cheif Creative Officer of Filament and Ethan Cayko, the producer of Breaking Boundaries. We picked their brain about all kinds of things. Everything from designing educational video games, career paths in the gaming industry, and their own paths to get them to where they are today. It was a fascinating interview with two fascinating people.

STEM Read Podcast!
STEM Read Podcast!

You can listen to our interview with them and author Jennifer L. Holm on Episode 12: Games, Goldfish, and Greatness.

I hope you and your students enjoy Breaking Boundaries in Science as much as I did!

Doodlers and Daydreamers: STEM Read Podcast Ep 6

The STEM Read Podcast Episode 6: Doodlers and Daydreamers. Talking creativity with Dr. Rhonda Robinson and Tom Lichtenheld.

We’ve all seen those kids. Off in the corner of the room. Staring out the window. Drawing in their notebooks instead of taking notes. We know those kids. Heck, maybe you were one of those kids. The Doodlers and the Daydreamers. The creative spirits who, with the right encouragement and support, might someday change the world.

Doodles
A peek at some of my doodle masterpieces.

In this episode of STEM Read Podcast, Gillian (@gkingcargile) and I talk to two of our favorite doodlers and daydreamers, Dr. Rhonda Robinson and author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld.

This was a fun episode. Not only did we get to talk to two amazing people about fun topics like visual literacy, creativity, perseverance, and collaboration, we recorded in Tom’s studio surrounded by art, books, and inspiration. And there were cookies there to boot. It was amazing!

Head over to the STEM Read Podcast page to give the episode a listen and check out the show notes. We have links to all of the books we discussed, information on visual literacy, and pics from the studio.

You can find the STEM Read Podcast on iTunes or on our home page on Northern Public Radio. Check out past episodes and subscribe to make sure you don’t miss new episodes. Also, check out all our resources over on stemread.com.

Want to learn more about teaching visual literacy and creativity in the classroom? Check out these past posts,  Friday Five: Build Visual Literacy Skills and Five Tips for Unleashing Your Creative Self in 2018.

 

 

STEM Read Podcast Episode 5

My reflections on STEM Read Podcast Episode 5. The one with all the swearing. Warning: Strong language.

The Rise of WHAT?!?

The fifth episode of the STEM Read Podcast posted on December 22nd. It has taken me a long time to write about it, not because I have nothing to say but because of WHAT I said.

In this episode, The Rise of F%@kwe discuss (you guessed it) swearing. We have a very colorful conversation with linguist Melissa Wright about why we swear,  the role it plays in culture, and how words became taboo. This is followed by an interview with M.C. Atwood (a.k.a Megan Atwood), author of the YA novel The Devils You KnowIn that interview we talk about how language, especially that of the foul variety, is used as a part of character development as well as how it helps us, the reader, form a connection with our fictional friends.

I found each of our discussions fascinating and informational. (I know, I am a bit biased. I always find myself fascinating.) I learned a lot from both of our guests. It has even prompted me to do more reading on the subject. However, I have to admit, I was (and still am) a bit nervous sharing this one.

Me and My Big Mouth

Anyone who knows me IRL, knows that I am not a stranger to the occasional F-bomb or perfectly place curse. In fact, my use of prolific profanity is directly proportional to my level of comfort with you. In other words…I swears if I like you.

If that is the case, why is this episode giving me pause and causing me anxiety? I think it goes back to the idea of context. We have different norms for different situations. It also might have to do with the different ways language is connected to our different identities. The STEM Read Podcast is connected to my professional identity. Non professional me swears like a drunken pirate. Professional me does not usually use such “unprofessional” vernacular. Professional me usually keeps it, well, professional. For me, this podcast pushed me outside of my professional comfort zone. Even though I know what we discussed was intellectually intriguing, professional me is saying, “But you said F%@k. A lot.”

It was a show about swearing. What the f%@k was I supposed to say?

Listen Anyway

Language is fun. How we use it. How it changes from culture to culture. How it shifts from decade to decade. It’s fun to talk about language. In fact, as I was writing this post, a colleague stepped into my office and we had a 15 minute conversation about swearing. Imagine the conversations you can have with your students around language when you use books like Feed by M.T. Anderson or The Martian by Andy Weir. In Feed, the language serves a key purpose in the story. When you dig deeper into the language choice, you see that in many ways, the book is all about language and the impact technology has on how we communicate. The language used in the book is an excellent starting point for a conversation about the language we use and why we use it.

So, if you are easily offended by the occasional obscenity or two, or ten, you might want to skip this episode. Or at the very least, don’t listen to it around your children. (My 18 and 19 year-old kids..er…young adults, were in the car when I played it for my husband. Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable.) But, don’t let the extra expletives prevent you from queuing it up, giving it a listen, and having a discussion.

As I said in the show. “Don’t let the use of strong language stop you from selecting a book with a strong message.” The same holds true for a podcast.

Follow the link to listen to Episode 5: The Rise of F%@k. And check out the show notes for more info on our guests, resources, and other fun stuff.

Also – do us a solid and leave us a review. Pretty f%@king please. 🙂

STEM Read Podcast Episode 3: Inquiry with Zack Gilbert and M.T. Anderson

All good things start with a question.

Listen to this episode of the STEM Read podcast and hear Gillian and I talk to social studies teacher and fellow podcaster Zack Gilbert (http://edgamer.net/) and award-winning author M.T. Anderson (http://mt-anderson.com/) about the power of inquiry.

Follow the link to listen to the episode and view the show notes.

STEM Read Podcast Episode 3: Inquiry with Zack Gilbert and M.T. Anderson

STEM Read Podcast – Episode 2

In case you missed it, episode 2 of the STEM Read Podcast dropped last week.

In this episode, we ask the question “What if?” with Hugo award-winning editor,  co-producer and editor of Uncanny Magazine, and all around cool person, Lynne M. Thomas and amazing author Aaron Starmer. Gillian and I did our best to not go completely crazy fangirl over Aaron. We are both huge fans of his work so it was cool to peek behind the curtain and see what goes on in his writing brain.

This was a fun episode. Not only did we get to talk to two amazing people, we also got to talk about unicorns. It’s always a good day when you can spend your time talking about unicorns. Am I right?

Unicorn
All About Unicorns

Special shout out to my Independent Study teacher, Dodie Merritt. She was that one teacher who allowed me and so many others, to ask what if and follow my curiosity. For me, her program taught me how to learn. She was doing project-based learning before it was cool. I still have the unicorn book that I created back in 4th grade as well as my book from 1st and 5th grade. You could say her program was life-changing. In my 1st grade book, I wrote about another student in the program who was building a telegraph. That telegraph kid is now my husband of over 20 years. Further proof that curiosity leads to amazing things.

So, take a few minutes and give this episode a listen.  Hopefully, we’ll spark some ideas for how you can inspire your students to embrace their curiosity and ask “What if?” Who knows where the question will take them.

Follow this link to STEM Read Podcast Episode 2. Don’t forget to explore the show notes for resources and fun stuff.

STEM Read Podcast – Episode 1

Very excited to announce that the NIU STEM Read Podcast is live! Check it out on WNIJ and subscribe!

Listen to the first episode, Science and Storytellingwith special guests biophysicist and science writer Erika Gebel Berg (@erikagebelberg) and award-winning author Mike Mullin (mikemullinauthor.com).

Here is a sneak peak of the behind the scenes fun with me (@kbrynteson) and Gillian King-Carlige (@gkingcargile). We’d love to hear from you in the comments!