036 – Hard Fun with Josh Burker

036 – Hard Fun with Josh Burker
Josh & the Boot!


Josh and his son Wim


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[In This Episode][Guest Bio][Additional Notes][Text Transcript]

In This Episode

How can educators integrate geeky-ness with accessibility?  How important is documenting our learning to the larger educational community?  and What exactly is a Kreg jig? 

Hey there, Innovation Nation!  You are going to love today’s guest.  He is a master of fun with technology.  A good friend of mine, Tim, told me back in graduate school that we became physicists because physicists have the coolest toys!  I could not agree more, and physicists have believed this for a very long time.  In fact, Carl Gauss, a physics-famous pioneer from the early 1800’s said,

“It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.”Carl Friedrich Gauss

Josh & the Boot!
Josh & the Boot!

Learning is indeed a quest, and even though it may be hard at times, it is most definitely fun.  Around here we call that “hard fun”, a term we lovingly adopted from the Pepperdine OMET/MALT program.  Hard fun is a way of life.  Life is indeed hard–sometimes very hard–but we are dedicated to having fun in the process!  Learning without fun causes boredom and has killed many powerful learning opportunities.  On the other hand, learning without hard work does not engender a strong feeling of accomplishment or excitement upon completion.  By marrying the two, learning experiences become both profound and deeply satisfying–a recipe for educational ecstasy.

Perhaps that imagery is a little more powerful than you were ready to hear today, but I would like to challenge you to think bigger when it comes to the educational experiences you observe and create.  We began asking ourselves what was possible to learn in a few short days, and out of that question grew one of the most fun and challenging experiences we have ever seen in the education of teenagers.  We keep talking about the Inventor’s Bootcamp experience because we have seen teenagers face almost insurmountable technical challenges, time after time, and continue to find enjoyment in the over-the-top difficulty level of the experience.  The students keep telling us, “It was hard, but really fun!”

You can find out more about Inventor’s Bootcamp by visiting http://www.InventingZone.com or by clicking on the Inventor’s Bootcamp button on the TTInvent.com website.

Josh Burker & The Invent to Learn Guide to Fun – Classroom Technology Projects

Today’s guest is no stranger to “hard fun”.  Josh Burker is an educational technologist with extensive experience.  He particularly enjoys making technology “invisible” as well as extremely accessible which is a skill many teachers would like to see in their tech department.  Josh has honed his skills and become a recognized expert on “Hard Fun”, and his new book called “The Invent to Learn Guide to Fun” shares his extensive toolbox! Listen in for lively answers in today’s podcast!







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About Josh

Working with kids is what Josh does best!
Working with kids is what Josh does best!

Josh Burker has been playing with LEGO since Kindergarten, working with wood since second grade, and has been using computers since his family got an Apple ][+ when he was third grade.  Josh is interested in exploring the intersection of crafting and technology. As Maker-In-Residence at the Westport, CT Library MakerSpace, Josh led over 200 people in creating cardboard musical instruments that connected to computers with the MaKey MaKey and which were programmed in Scratch. His projects have been published in MAKE magazine and his forthcoming book will widen his audience considerably. 


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What is the Purpose of an Education?

“To create in oneself the quest to keep asking questions.”- Josh Burker

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Josh’s Favorite Quote

“No matter where you go, there you are.” Buckaroo Banzai.

I have this as my email signature. Very zen.

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About Teachers 

The teacher who always comes to mind immediately was my chemistry and physics teacher in high school, Walt Hoesel. He is an amazing man. Unflappably calm. Totally fair. Reflective. Supportive. He owns the best belt buckle in the world that a high school teacher could wear: a round, abstract design that when you look at it reads, “Transcend the Bullshit.” He made me really love physics though I struggled with the math. He made me realize that I can’t be great at everything and that’s okay.

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 Something Josh has made recently:

Geez, I’m constantly making things. I made some good chicken today!  The thing that I am most proud of making recently was some of the parts that the students I helped teach to build automata used in their mechanisms. From the hand crank design and fabrication to the 3D printed gears that I made, I made a big leap in my 3D designs during the past six months. Much credit is due to my collaborator, Joseph Schott, whose own designs and approaches helped me improve my designs.

The thing that I made recently that has brought the most joy to my family is the stomp rocket from How-Toons in MAKE magazine volume 35. I designed a 3D printed part so the bottle screws onto the PVC pipe, which makes changing out your stomped out bottles easy. Everyone who launches rockets with me ends up laughing a lot and having a blast!

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Something Josh has learned recently:

I recently bought my first new computer since 1985 that isn’t a Mac.  So I have been revisiting the knowledge I first built during a nine month certification course in UNIX/Linux system administration as I set up complicated tool sets on an Ubuntu laptop. I’m learning way too much about libraries, dependencies, compiling, and the USB interface trying to get a Kinect talking to the laptop so I can start doing some 3D scanning. 

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Additional Notes



  •  Josh’s new book, “The Invent to Learn Guide to Fun” – Buy the Book!


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Full Text Transcript – Coming Soon!

“To be the person who can produce, who can document what you are doing along the way and share that documentation, I think that is the most important skill [in the digital age].  We’re inundated with information, but not all of it is good, and not all of it is true.”  –Josh Burker


“If you’re constantly seeking new knowledge instead of just riding the wave that you’re comfortable on, I think you’re a well-educated person.”  –Josh Burker

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