Monday, September 24, 2018

Coffee with a Geek Interview with Dr. Xiao-Ning Zhang

Coffee with a Geek Interview with Xiao-Ning Zhang

WHEN:  September 26th, 2019
TIME:  9am-9:30am
Youtube Live Link

I saw a presentation by Dr. Zhang at Daemen College's STEAM Conference over the summer.  I was really impressed at how she took subjects that seem very complex, such as the science of DNA, and made creative hands-on activities to help students understand them.

I'm really excited to talk to her about her teaching methods, as well as her projects and work.  This session would be great for any teacher looking for inspiration and ideas on how to help students learn with creative activities and projects.

A little bit about Dr. Zhang in her own words:

Born in Tianjin, China.

Bachelor of Science in Biology and Master of Science in Biotechnology at Nanjing University.

PhD in Genetics at Fudan University in 2002. (both universities are similar in status in China as ivy league in the US)
Postdoctoral position at University of Pennsylvania and University of Maryland for a total of 7 years.
In Maryland, I also enrolled in Tai Sophia Institute (Now changed to Maryland University of Integrative Health) as a part-time student in the Applied Healing Arts program.
The years in Maryland got me thinking and reflecting on what I really want in my life and what I want as a career. For the first time, teaching came to the front page.
In 2009, I started a new position at St Bonaventure University, teaching courses
in biology while continuing the research I love with undergraduate students. I never dreamed of such a career before. But after teaching for a few months, I knew that this is what I have been looking for.
I started to get involved in STEM outreach from 2015. Working with colleagues st SBU, I have been organizing a summer teacher workshop for math and science teachers and a summer research program for high school students annually. Through these experience, I get to learn about the education system in the United States and listen to teacher’s needs. It motivates me to think of new
ways to teach and design new activities for teachers to take back to their home schools. Now I mainly work through WNY STEM HUB and WNY STEM Southern Tier Satellite Center at SBU to inspire and prepare the next generations.

How to Connect with Dr. Zhang


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Movies Educators Should Watch Episode 1: Red Folder

Many of you may know that I often like to pretend I am a movie critic.  For my children, I created a movie blog titled, "Movies I Want My Kids to See, and Why?"  It's a slow work in progress, but I wanted to have my children know a little about me through the movies I have enjoyed and which had meaning to me.

Well, I thought it might be nice to create a list of movies I think teachers should watch.  Am I an expert on movies?  Nope.  I'm just a teacher who likes to watch movies.  The movies I plan to highlight are movies, many of them short films, that made me really think about education.

So with that introduction, I'd like to showcase the Ben Kallam short film, "Red Folder"

Red Folder from Ben Kallam on Vimeo.

This film moved me on many levels.  First, cinematically, I was captivated by the scenery and character development as the main character, Joseph, is sent on a mission to find a red folder.  As he wanders through the school we learn more about him from the teachers and school staff that he meets.  Joseph is lost in many ways in this film.  But who is there to help him?  Is the system designed to help him?  Are the teachers capable of helping him?  Or are they and the system setting him up for failure?  What is his role in his success as a student? This film pushes those questions.  It will make your heart ache, but will it make a difference?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Black Mirror Guest Post- Matt Mariglia

Matt Mariglia was supposed to be a part of our Black Mirror Educator Support Group Session.  Unfortunately, due to some tech issues he was late to our group.  Matt's insights are so valuable to the support group, so I asked him to send me his thoughts as an extra segment.  Must read!.

Video of Support Group Session:  HERE
Support Group Shownotes:  HERE

As a part of #CWAG’s Black Mirror Support Group (I call it the BMSG) with Andy, Jen Murphy & Heather Krieger, we recently discussed the episode in season three called Shut Up and Dance.  The basic story is of a young man named Kenny whose life is riddled with many of the problems a young man might have.  He’s bullied by workmates, has a single mom who is interested more in her social life than her children, and he himself  lacks plenty of self confidence. But with Shut Up and Dance, and any Black Mirror episode, the seemingly understandable story can get flipped on its head.  Without me giving away all of the episode, we find that it’s Kenny’s connection to the outside world via his phone & laptop are what eventually cause his life to come unraveled.  And come unraveled it does when his worst fears are realized through these connections. What the episode forces us to address is that our connection to the outside world for most of us (especially for younger generations) is through the internet & mobile devices.  Our connections to the outside world have changed dramatically in the past 30 years. Is this newer connection to the outside world come at a cost?

Back in the day (1980s & before) parents could easily keep their children away from elements of society that they deemed to be inappropriate or unsafe.  The way they did this was to keep them “in the house”. Sneaking out of the house into the world was a common rebellious behavior for pre-internet children.  Keeping the child in the house severed their connection to the outside world and to experiences that might get themselves in trouble. That parenting technique does not work anymore.  Connections to the outside world are easily available to us all from the privacy of our own homes. Locking a kid in their room might be exactly what they want! Teenagers like Kenny in Shut Up and Dance, not to mention adults, can connect to all aspects of society using the internet including ones that promote & participate in deviant behavior.  This behavior can easily be exposed through hacking and the capturing of webcams and mobile photos on social media. (See this article from Make Use Of that talks about webcam hacking).   For Kenny in Shut Up and Dance, and his counterparts, their connection to the outside world not only exposed their deviant behavior, but cost them any shot at a normal life.  So the question for all of us is pretty simple: do our connections to the outside world via the internet & social media have the potential to cost us a shot at a happy & healthy life?  Our answers, and the answers of the younger generations, will play a large part in whether the way the use of technology is shown throughout the series Black Mirror will come to fruition in the future.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The #CWAG Black Mirror Discussions Part 2- Shut Up and Dance

WHAT  The Coffee with a Geek Black Mirror Discussions
WHEN:  August 22nd, 2018
WHEREYouTube Live Hangout
TIME:  3:30-4pm Eastern

Please join the Black Mirror Support Group panel for our 2nd installment.  For this, session we will be exploring the episode entitled, "Shut Up and Dance".  If you're not familiar with Black Mirror, it is a Netflix Series that is explores technology trends and how they impact society.  Each episode is standalone, so you don't need to watch them in any particular order.   Join my colleagues, (Jennifer Murphy, Heather Krieger, and Matthew Mariglia as we take a deep dive into this episode and how it relates to education.

For the Show Notes Click HERE

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Coffee with a Geek Interview with Jaime Donally

Really looking forward to my interview with Jaime Donally!

A little about Jaime:  Jaime is a passionate technology enthusiast. She began her career as a math teacher and later moved into Instructional Technology. Her desire to build relationships have brought about opportunities to collaborate with students and educators around the world. She provides staff development and training on immersive technology as an edtech consultant.

Her latest adventures include the launch of Global Maker Day and the #ARVRinEDU community. She works as an author and speaker to provide practical use of augmented and virtual reality with more resources at

This interview I will be asking her about her ISTE Experience, her Speaking/ Keynote presentations,  her amazing work in AR/VR in education, and her book, "Learning Transported!

Ways to Connect with Jaime:
Twitter - @jaimedonally
Facebook - ARVRinEDU Group

Instagram - jaimedonally

Jaime's amazing Website:  ARVR in EDU

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Coffee with a Geek: The Black Mirror Support Group

Video Link for Live Interview


In this month's episode I will be chatting with Williamsville Technology Integrator's Jennifer Murphy Heather Krieger, and Starpoint's Matthew Mariglia as we start our very own Black Mirror Support Group.

In case you're not familiar with Black Mirror, it is a Netflix Series that is similar to The Twighlight Zone, in format so that each episode is self contained.  Every episode takes a technology trend or topic and extends its affects on society to an extreme level.  It is very thought provoking and yes, many of the episodes will leave you quite shaken or disturbed.  (This is an adult level show)  For Common Sense Media Review Click HERE.  That said, I have genuinely thought that its plot lines can relate well to educational technology and I think educators shouldn't be afraid to take on this show.

With that in mind, I have asked my colleagues Jennifer and Heather to offer their insights as we dig into one of the most trending episodes that has to do with Social Media:  NoseDive.  With the help of Catlin Tucker's well written blog post and other resources we will hope to explore social media from a parent and educator point of view.  Join us in the discussion.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

When everything falls into place..

A few weeks ago I had one of those marvelous inspiring days ... It almost seemed accidental or perhaps providential.  For "in the trenches" teachers, it is one of those days when the learning and engagement come together and you as the teacher can watch it all happen with maximum flexibility to interact with all learners.   For Professional Developers this day appears when your participants are actively creating and interacting with others to make curriculum or educational technology magic happen.   I had just such a day:

I had a history teacher, who is a Civil War Re-Enactor, in one of my PD sessions looking to change up the dynamic of his classroom instruction.  I told him about my Virtual World projects, The Islands of Enlightenment, fully expecting his eyes to glass over and politely nod, but then look for another option.  Instead, he embraced the idea, asked all types of insightful questions and looked to dig right in.  So, I connected some of my OpenSim buddies who have been using virtual environments for years with their history classes and set up a day to get together and flesh out the idea of creating a Virtual Civil War experience for students.

What happened next was truly magical.    The teacher with the Civil War Re-Enactor experience brought his extensive knowledge of what a Civil War Encampment would look like, and the virtual world teachers started creating the encampment.  We spent the entire day working, collaborating, researching, and having fun!  Here are a few of the pictures from that day.