Candace Robertson

One educator, determined to create an engaging and dynamic experience for learners of all ages.

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SITE 2018 Recap — The Quickfire Challenge Roundtable: How to fail fast & learn while having fun

We (Leigh & Candace) are honored to present at SITE 2018. This blog post will serve as our guide and “handout” for our roundtable session.  

Inspired by reality TV cooking shows, the “Quickfire Challenge” is an educational tool created as an activity in the Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University (Wolf, 2009). Over the past 8 years the Quickfire Challenge has been a core of the student learning experience. Having theoretical underpinnings in Mezirow’s Transformative Learning Theory (1991), the Quickfire Challenge is structured to create a (gently) disorienting experience which challenges traditional forms of professional development models. Quickfire Challenges are carefully crafted to impose time constraints, give specific, yet vague directions, embed tangible outcomes, all the while keeping learning at the core. By experiencing failure (and success) in this format, participants begin to rediscover the joy and creativity necessary to spark engagement in curriculum development and delivery.

Four our SITE roundtable, we would like to provide attendees resources for replicating existing Quickfire Challenges (learning from practitioners who have successfully implemented the idea in K12 and teacher PD contexts) along with tools for creating their own challenges. We hope that attendees will leave with a series of experiences which can be implemented in professional development (both online and offline) contexts.  

Quickfire Resources

The following links will take you to instructions and examples for several Quickfire Challenges that we have developed and run in the MAET program at Michigan State University:

MSUrbanSTEM Quickfires

Michigan State University, in partnership with global tech giant Wipro Ltd., launched an innovative fellowship program (which ran from 2014-2018) designed to empower math and science teachers in Chicago Public Schools to create transformative, innovative, and multimodal instructional experiences for students. One thing you’ll note as a key feature present in the majority of the MSUrbanSTEM Quickfire Challenges is the “extra spicy challenge”. In order to provide the (gently) disorienting experience for all of our fellows, the inclusion of this additional element provided an opportunity for differentiation.

Teacher-generated Quickfires


Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative Dimensions of Adult Learning. San Francisco , CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wolf, L. G. (2009, Aug. 19). Quickfires explained. Retrieved from

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Illinois Reading Council Presentation

I had the privilege of presenting with two former colleagues, @MrsCaracci and @MrsServe at the Illinois Reading Council Conference last week. We shared all of the resources that we created and curated when bringing our own version of StoryCorps to their 6th grade ELA classrooms. One of the highlights of the presentation was an interactive portion where we asked participants to use Google Voice to share a story from their middle school experience. You can find some of their “phone-casts” here. Check out our presentation and resources below!



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Creativity and Choice in Assessment

Looking to provide more choice in how students demonstrate their understanding?  Check out these Multiple Intelligence choice boards that provide you and your students with creative ways to show what they know!  These choice boards were developed for K-8 teachers and were a part of a professional development on creativity.  If you open the slides, you’ll find that grade levels for each board (or really, wheel!) are mentioned in the presenter notes section.

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Makey Making Digital Citizenship Connections

Digital citizenship.  It’s a multi-faceted concept that we model as educators and embed into lessons to help our students understand how to navigate, analyze, interact with, and create with digital technologies.  But, what does digital citizenship mean to a middle schooler? How do our young students process and connect with such a big concept?

Using the guiding questions above, I tried to think of a new way to help students see some of the key components of digital citizenship.  It’s one thing to understand the umbrella concept, but why are these components important and how do they interact to help us become good digital citizens?


  • Makey Makey™ MaKey MaKey Digcit Setup
  • Digcit Scratch project
  • Magnifying glass: Critical literacy
  • Spoon:  Balance of screen time as well as “going with our gut” in digital communication
  • Padlock: Digital security and protection
  • Play-Doh®: Digital rights and responsibilities, advocating for ourselves and our digital footprint
  • Elmer’s Glue:  Digital rights and responsibilities, how to clean up a “digital mess”
  • Paint brush with copper tape: Digital law, creative credit

What worked:

  • Students were active members of the discussion.  THEY were a key component, just as they are in digital citizenship.
  • We plugged one item into the Makey Makey™ at a time as we discussed the component.  We started to make rhythms as we plugged in items, allowing students to understand the relationship between the components and how they interact.
  • With the Elmer’s Glue, we got to focus on the fact that miscommunication and misrepresentation happens.  For the first time, I felt that I got to address the fact that there will be “digital messes” that need to be cleaned up.  Guess what, the digital citizenship machine still works!  We just have to learn from our experiences and do what we can to make sure to keep ourselves out of sticky situations. (sidenote: you should’ve seen their faces when the glue actually triggered the noise!)

Things to change for the next go-round:

  • I changed some of the noises in my Scratch project because I found they were too quiet in the classroom setting and weren’t distinct enough to be heard in the mix of components.
  • My goal was to have enough time to have the class join hands and play together, to demonstrate how a community of good digital citizens can take on bigger challenges.  Unfortunately, I only had 30 minutes for this lesson so we could only discuss this and didn’t get to the culminating activity.  I am hoping that by streamlining some of the setup, we can get this in.

Because of the nature of my job, I will be doing this lesson with a few other classrooms so I’ll be sure to update the post with new takeaways.  Here’s to Makey making digital citizenship come alive in a new way for students!

Creative Commons LicenseMakey Making Digital Citizenship Connections by Candace Marcotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Getting a MAKEover: Part III…What do they take away?

This is the third post in the series about the development of our middle school makerspace in our library.  Thanks @jrosenberg6432 for asking some great questions, which were used as the basis for the three posts.  Check out post one to see where we started and post two to see what we do!

“What things do kids take away?”

First, there’s the question of literal takeaways.  What do students physically carry out of the space and keep?  Currently, students can keep some of the items that they create, but not everything.  Because we are 1:1, a lot of artifacts that they create are either digital and housed on their individual devices (movies, etc.) or we turn them into digital artifacts by blogging to document their learning/experiences with images, videos, and text.  Due to cost, students can’t keep the kits and more expensive items, so that’s one of the reasons why we blog.  They always have at least a picture or a video to take away!  We do allow them take home/keep the consumable items like conductive thread, coin cell batteries, conductive tape, LEDs, and crafting materials (paper, cardboard, felt, etc.) because they have a lower price point.  I’ve even had a few students borrow goggles to work on reverse engineering at home. Now that our Makerbot and Cricut are all set up, they will begin to take home those artifacts and the prototypes that they have designed as well.

More importantly, I think that they’re taking away some bigger things like independence, perseverance, creativity, and critical thinking.  They are learning how to share their knowledge, collaborate in positive manner, and connect with others.  They are learning how to appropriately make their learning public.  They are learning that with a little effort, they can do some pretty extraordinary things! Now those are some incredible takeaways…and it’s only just the start!

Maker Impact GIF

Creative Commons License
Getting a MAKEover: Part III…What do they take away? by Candace Marcotte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.