Common Sense Media

24 Video Games You Can Say Yes to After School

Above is a link to a great article by a wonderful source, Common Sense Media.  With colder days and less sunlight right around the corner, Common Sense Media has provided a list of video games that are fun and your son or daughter might even learn something!

Have a look and if you have any other video game suggestions, please add them in the comment section of this blog.

What a Transformation! Computer Lab to NERDVANA!

This year in the Middle School Computer Lab/MakerSpace/Nerdvana was a transformative one.

The space originally started as a computer lab.  Rows of PCs that were outdated…so out they went.  We now had a room with countertops but nothing to put on those countertops…so out they went.  A peninsula, that housed some outdated technology and served no purpose except as an obstacle to quickly get to the other side of the room…so out it went.

You may ask, “What was left?” and the answer is absolutely nothing.  Exactly the way I wanted it.  Let the transformation begin…a clean slate, an open canvas, a blank Maxel XLII-90 minute cassette tape.

Here are my 5 steps to start a MakerSpace or as we call it at University School – NERDVANA!




Do Ink – Green Screen App

Do InkFor about an hour now, I have been working with an app that has made me forget that I was actually working.  Do Ink’s Green Screen app is a wonderful new(ish) app that allows green screen video editing to be done directly on the iPad.

Simple enough to work with, it also comes with a very informative tutorial to help you navigate the work space.

Here is a quick tutorial of how it works.

Coupled with the original Do Ink App that can make animations, these 2 apps can provide a powerful 1-2 punch.

This app can be an easy way to create an inexpensive classroom studio.  With some bright green poster board and this app, a studio can be created for about $20.00 (minus the iPad).



Make Something!


Make SomethingIt’s been awhile…sorry!

However, we have been very busy here in the Middle School!

First of all, the MS MakerSpace has been rebranded.  Our Middle School students now call this space, “NERDVANA”!

As for the rest, the graphic above pretty much tells our tale…

1.  Fifth Grade Dragon Boat Races were the best yet!

2.  Curious minds lead us to dismantling many old computers and repurposing some of their parts.

3.  Re-mixing music occurred here in Nerdvana!

4.  Stuffed sharks!

5.  Created prosthetic limbs  with skill and precision.

6.  Produced Podcasts for 6th grade.

7.  Designed interesting products for the 7th Grade Toy Projects.

8.  Used in-house resources like USM’s skilled craftsman/woodworker, Mr. Jacobs, create a student designed workbench.

9.  Printed numerous object with our innovative 3D Printer.

It is a great time to be a middle school student here at University School of Milwaukee!

Yik Yak

From my poll that was conducted last week, I will put together a blurb about each of the apps for which you voted.  In addition to a review of the app or site, I hope to find something positive to share about the featured app or site.

Yik Yak

This week my focus is Yik Yak.

In a nutshell, Yik Yak is an app that allows anonymous posts to appear
on a message board.  The message board uses GPS and allows messages
from approximately a 30 mile radius to appear on the user’s feed.
There is no log in for this app which makes the app completely

Yik Yak has been meant for colleges but it has been making it way into
high schools and middle schools.  The app was developed as a way to
encourage the quiet students to be a bit more vocal, “Because that guy
in the back row of your science class might be the funniest guy you
never heard.” said Buffington, one of the creators of Yik Yak.  It is
also mean to be a “Virtual Bulletin Board” and by using GPS this app
can update your feed with “Yaks” that are within a certain proximity
to your mobile device.

Recently, the Yik Yak app came under fire because of its use on high
school campuses.  Students were using the app to cyber-bully other
students.  Once the creators of Yik Yak heard about this, they became
very concerned.  What Buffington and Droll (the creators of Yik Yak)
did next was very commendable.  They contacted Apple to see if they
could get an expedited review of their app and updated it to a 17+ age
limit; Apple obliged.  The reason why this is so important is because
parents can set restrictions on their child’s iPad/iPhone or iPod
Touch. These restriction allow parents to enable a function that will
prevent their kids from downloading apps that have 17+ ratings.

However, even with the 17+ rating, our students are not in the clear.
Parents need to take an active role in knowing what their child is
doing on and off line. Setting restrictions on the device is a great
step in the right direction however, having regular conversations
about what is going with your child and being an active participant
is the best solution.

….with a little help from my friends


Below is a WordPress poll that I would love for you to fill out to help me spark some creativity.  I would like to know what you want to learn so that I can focus my next blog on something that interests you.  If your choice is not listed, then please write in your choice.

Turn It Off

D  is co n n ec  t

With Spring Break right around the corner, take some time to encourage your child to turn off the MacBook, iPad, iPhone or whatever device he or she uses regularly.  Have a conversation without the interruptions, unfold a board game or read a book. With this warm weather we experienced this past Monday, I rediscovered how much I love throwing the baseball with my children.

Here is an older blog post I wrote about 2 years ago that I updated with some newer activities that we do with our children.  Please keep in mind that we probably won’t take an entire week off of technology with Spring Break upon us, but will go a few days at time with out it.

It is my job to love technology and I do, every bit of it.  Each week I come up with a new tech tip for the Middle School’s Friday Footnotes, which I am always excited to share with all of you. My tech tip this week is: Turn It Off

As a family we decided to be tech free this past week.  No computer, no iPad, no Leapster, no texting, no Words with Friends, no Candy Crush.  Many kids are overcome by the excitement of technology and my kids are no exception. We have opened their eyes to interactive books on the iPad, drawing activities on the Leapster and fantastic games on (not to mention my son religiously watches Packer and Brewer highlights online).  None of these activities are detrimental to my children’s’ health, quite the opposite, but with the excitement of technology comes the possibility of dependency. The long and short of it is that my kids want to use tech devices more than we are comfortable with.  Plus, my wife and I aren’t always the best models of limited technology use. So we turned it off, all week, and it was great. We live in a technological world which I love, but what I love more is reading books, playing Zingo and Yahtzee, Tenzi, doing puzzles, building forts, playing invisible football and laundry basket basketball, being a client in my daughter’s hair salon or singing every song from the Frozen soundtrack at the top of our lungs.  

Technology will always be a big part of our lives and I get excited about what it offers my children.  But it is refreshing to step back, slow down and simplify. And that is why we turned it off.

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