How Spritz Reader Might Change Learning

If you have not already seen the Spritz reader, you should check it out here:  and here:

Although this technology is still in it’s infancy, it works to change significantly how we read.  If you have read any of my blog posts, you know that I am all about using technology to do things that were just not possible before.  This is definitely something that does just that.

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Reading is something that we spend a good amount of time learning in school.  We learn all the proper skills needed to do it correctly.  What we didn’t know was how much time we waste moving our eyes.  What this application does is focus your eye on one spot while feeding you the information.  Through this process you are able to read much faster than you ever could before.  I believe personally that it comes with greater accuracy as well.

Tracking issues have always been a problem with school students.  There are many methods out there to help students with this issue.  We utilize rulers and fingers, templates that isolate words and software applications that track our eyes and attempt to help us follow along with the page.  Many students still struggle with reading, because following lines on a page is not an easily mastered skill and sometimes it goes against how we are wired.

What impact this new idea in reading will have on education?  Too early for me to tell, but I believe that it will be impactful to a large number of students out there that struggle with reading and focusing.  I believe potentially that students with ADD will be able to read more content in a shorter time, helping them keep pace, while not forcing them into hours or sitting still.  Students that can’t track a page well, will be able to read content without being frustrated, or having to re-read sections for understanding.  It might even level the playing field between book worms that naturally feel comfortable reading, and those students that don’t seem to have the skill natively.  Books simply might become more accessible for everybody.  This could really be a tool that bridges the gap in reading skills and makes it more accessible for everybody.

The big question is this:  Testing will require students to read the old fashioned way.  Will testing ever be able to keep up with the technology that is allowing students to be so successful in school, while not meeting the standards on tests?

App Smashing and Using iPads in the Classroom (Quick Guide)

Many schools that have adopted one-one tablet technology struggle with the pre-requisite skills associated with moving files from app to app.  This process is now called App Smashing, and when you learn how to use it to your advantage, it really does make things nice and simple.  Workflow is king and the easier it is to distribute content, create solutions, and then store that information for feedback, the more success you will have in the digital classroom.

In the following example, I will be demonstrating how to utilize iTunes U, Various Apps, and Google Drive together for a smooth classroom workflow.  iTunes U will be our method of distribution, Apps will provide the ability to complete work, and Google Drive will be our method of collection. (These training videos take into account that you already know how to set up courses in iTunes University.  If you do not, please refer to the iTunes U training for more information.

Getting Started:

First you will need to set up your Google Drive folders.  We will be using Google Drive as our method of collection.  We want to make the process simple by first having the students create a folder that they will share with their teacher, and then by organizing those folders from the teacher account.  The key takeaway from this is that you will want a common naming system.  The following videos explain this process:

Next Steps:

Now that we have created our folders on Google Drive, we are ready to complete our work and turn it into our file for a grade.  In our examples we are going to take a PDF worksheet, annotate that document and submit it into our Google Drive folder that we established in the earlier videos.  The next example uses a software application that creates an image that we then will submit to our Google Drive for grading.  And our final example demonstrates using a quiz from iBooks as a way to get feedback from a student.  This final example also demonstrates creative ways to utilize the built in features of the tablet to create content for distribution.

First example:  Taking a PDF assignment from iTunes U, opening it up using the requested application, completing the worksheet, and turning it in using Google Drive.

Second example: Using iTunes U to request that the students create a drawing, using an app to complete the drawing process, and then turning in the drawing using Google Drive.  The key to this video is that the drawing application requires that the file be first turned into an image before it can be uploaded to Google Drive.

Third example:  iTunes U is used to request that a test is taken in an iBooks epub book.  This book is opened and the test is completed.  The test results need to be submitted to the teacher using Google Drive, but there is no clear cut way to accomplish this.  Using the screen capture option on the iPad an image is created and then submitted for a grade on Google Drive.

All of these training videos and more are part of an iTunes U course that can be found by going to the following address on your iPad device.  In this course you will find other materials on creating iTunes U content, and more ways to App Smash your way to a successful classroom.

This Facebook Idea Belongs in Schools

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Most schools that I have visited struggle with social media, and its place in schools.  It is so easy for one thing to

go wrong and thousands of people to see it and react.  This is just not a risk that most schools are willing to take.  When analyzing the problem, we can probably identify lots of ways that social media can be negative in the classroom.  Will there ever be a time when students are respectful enough to use social media in a powerful way to change education?

Facebook moving into some new digs in New York.  All of the images of the amazing office space are really fun to look at, however one stood out from the others to me.  A blank wall that says “write something…”.  Schools are full of blank walls and this might just be an amazing trick to teach students about social media.

By creating a wall in your school where students have the ability to write on the wall, you can teach the expectations of social media.  The wall is very similar to how social media actually works, with one exception.  The perceived privacy that students struggle with can be taught visually.  When somebody writes on this wall, they are exposing their thoughts to whomever walks by.  Write something negative on this wall, and the entire school can see.  Write something uplifting on this wall and you can brighten somebodies day.  Use this wall to educate and you have a large audience of willing learners.

Although it is just paper and gypsum, the reality is that students can visually see how their ideas impact the group.  Make the parallels to the real Facebook wall and students should be able to visually see how their comments on websites can impact the lives of anybody that walks by.

-Jason Cross-

The SAMR Model/Gartners’ Hype Cycle and the Phases of First Year Teaching

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 6.32.57 PMAs schools make the move to a digital classroom there is a lot at stake. There also exists a complex situation where many different types of classroom research converge upon implimentation. Schools often  look to the SAMR model created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura for some guidance because they want the technology to redefine the education process. This model is the cornerstone to understanding the process of moving from classroom technology being something that substitutes for what we already can do, to the type of tool that transforms education. Schools that integrate technology sometimes become disenchanted by the process. After a few months the new wears off and the new equipment doesn’t seem to have any added value.  Teachers then put it aside and speak to all of the distractions that it has created for them.

Pure and simple, schools struggle to get past the Augmentation phase of the SAMR model. It is past this phase where the technology actually becomes valuable to the education process, but there seems to be a wall right in the center of this model.  It is at the point where the things being done in the classroom could not have been done without technology. In order to get past this barrier we need to understand some other key forces at work when implementing a large scale technology plan.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 6.32.00 PMGartner Inc. has created something called the Hype Cycle. The Hype Cycle helps us to discern all of the hype around the implementation of new technology. It is designed to give us a “view of how a technology or application will evolve over time, providing a sound source of insight to manage its deployment within the context of your specific business goals.” (More Here) The model essentially starts with a “Technology Trigger”, and I believe that most schools are at this point.  We are only years away from technology being a dominate force in the classroom.  Once the trigger has been pressed you have a period of inflated expectations as stakeholders become very excited about what the technology can do for your school. Those expectations are usually abruptly moved to a period of disillusionment as things don’t seem to be moving the way we imagined in our head. From there we have a period of enlightenment and eventually a plateau of productivity. When you line the Hype Cycle on top of the SAMR Model, you begin to see why so many schools have a difficult time moving past the Augmentation phase.

In the early going, administrators, and school staff are excited by the technology. They have very little problem substituting it for things they already do in the classroom. They become very excited about what the technology can do and they begin to augment their instruction with applications while using internet resources. At first the impact is significant because there is an immediate increase of engagement occurring. As these processes are beginning, teachers then realize the need for pre-requisite skills to be taught, lesson plans become more complicated and the early results are less that enticing. Students will become distracted by the technology because they are still using it as a consumer product, and the connection has not yet been made to the electronic device becoming a creative tool for critical thinking.  This causes many teachers to abandon the technology, leaving administrators that still believe in the system to struggle to find the buy in needed to innovate in the classroom.

There are other forces at work as well. Integrating technology in the classroom is tricky because of the before mentioned pre-requisite skills. Not only by the teacher, but also by the student. We make a common mistake of believing that students already have all the technology skills to perform with it in the classroom. It simply isn’t true. In most of our past educational experiences, we can think of a time where we were given a 30 minute lesson on how to fill out a bubble sheet test. Technology needs the same attention as we give to the number two pencil, coloring inside the lines. It is because of these missing pre-requisites that most teachers given new technology become like first year teachers again. In 1990 the California Department of Education published research on the Phases of first-year teachers and their attitude towards teaching. I believe this model can be applied to the classroom attitudes towards technology. Not only by the teacher, but also by the students in many cases.

At first, just as with the Hype Cycle there is extreme excitement over the anticipation of teaching and learning with the new devices. That quickly turns to survival as the pre-requisite knowledge starts to become an factor in using them. Teachers are having to plan differently, learn new apps, dissever new lesson plans and before long they are in a period of disillusionment. Students are learning new classroom procedures, coping with an open world of information and in general just trying to find ways to remain as productive as they were prior to the technology. In most cases, the students begin to rapidly lose interest in the new technology because in these early phases it operates just like a text book and paper. It doesn’t allow them to be more creative, it represents exactly the same education they were already getting with much of the same results.  Students become disillusioned because they want this device to be their Magic Mystery Box. They want to use it to become creative and build things of value to offer the world. In the early days the box is opened and it becomes just another thing they have to deal with.


There is some great news at the end of this story of struggle however.  The teacher that sticks with it finds rewards in the end. All of these pieces of research predict it. In the later phases of the SAMR model the technology does things for the classroom that were impossible without it. I have seen this in some of the schools I visit on a regular basis. They do things in these schools that are not possible without technology. I have visited schools before where students are engaged in activities that are so advanced, being creative is just a way of life.  The Hype Cycle tells us that eventually classrooms will make it to the Slope of Enlightenment that leads to the Plateau of Productivity. It is at these phases, after all of the bumps in the road have been dealt with that understating occurs. Teachers know how to use the technology to the best of their ability and students are starting to use it for moving beyond the 20th century. And finally when we look at the Phases of First Year Teachers’ we see that hard work starts to rejuvenate the teacher. They are able to reflect on their past efforts and usually are in anticipation of becoming more productive in the technology classroom.

So the lesson is, stick with it.

-Jason Cross-

Five Excellent Ted Talks on Gamification

Gamification is the big buzz word, and for good reason. The engagement possibilities that exist through well thought out classroom games could be a big part of the future of education. In this first video, Jesse Schell talks about how games might invade our world in the future. While some of his predictions such as the iPad not working out for Apple might not have come true, there are lots of key points that we can take home as educators. The fact is that people spend hundreds of hours gaming, often performing mundane tasks over and over again for the purpose of achievements. Jesse puts legs to how this all works and how it motivates people. Now the job is for educators to start looking at ways to tap into this resource of engagement for use in the classroom.

In this next video, Ali Carr-Chellman talks to how games meet boys where they are. In her eye opening video she explains some shocking statistics about how boys are being alienated by the education system.

This is a famous ramification video that speaks to how video games can make the world a better place. Jane Mcgonical has a wonderful view of how games can be utilized for real work. And that these games can create the opportunity for people to fail, learn and then succeed. When you think about the way that this theory can be applied to a classroom, you can’t help but feel excited. One key moment of this video that I feel educators should pay careful attention to is the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Jane makes a very good point that people are usually willing to work harder for extrinsic rewards as opposed to intrinsic ones. This really gets you thinking about what we are using as motivation in our classrooms today.

Daphne Bavelier is a brain scientist that wants to make our brains smarter, better and faster. In the previous video, Ali Carr-Chellman mentions that when they interview teachers about students that play video games, they are spoke of in a degrading light. Daphne speaks on behalf of 90% of the children that play video games. Like Jane McGonigal, she mentions the overwhelming hours spent on playing video games and asks how do we leverage video games? Her research shows what the impact of video game playing has on the body and brain.

David Perry takes us on a walk of just what video games are all about. It is now part of our culture, not just something that we do in order to kill time. It has replaced the entertainment experience for most of us, and it has the potential of making a tremendous impact on our future. It brings up some of the ethical topics involved and is very inspiring to those educators that are looking to engage this next generation of students.

Bonus Video:

I know that I said five videos, but this one is also amazing. Seth Priebatsch talks about the game layer that exists already, and how we can tap into that world as a way of engaging people. This video has a marketing bend, but I am sure that you can find some great lessons for integrating some engaging ideas in the classroom.

Complex vs. Complicated Classrooms

When integrating a new system like technology into your classroom, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It is fascinating how something that is being marketed as a tool that can simplify your process can in fact seem as if it is complicating the goals and objectives you have for students. Once again inspired by excellent Ted Talks, I wanted to take the chance to explore what is really going on in classrooms. Looking for that simple solution in the midst of a complicated system, I began to look at what makes things complicated. This is what I am discovering.

So is your classroom Complex or Complicated?

First step is to evaluate if your classroom is complex or complicated. A complex system is composed of many parts that can be broken down into simpler systems. They all work together for the greater good. A complicated system is composed of complicated parts. These parts are not simple on their own and often they are difficult and problematic. From this oversimplified definition, I come up with the following conclusion for your classroom.

If your classroom is complex, it might have many different parts working together for the same goal. It might be really easy to run while being successful. If you have a complicated classroom, it would be made of many difficult parts, and there would be constant obstacles to overcome. Each difficult part when subtracted from the whole might present specific challenges that are difficult to overcome.

Ways to move your classroom from complicated to a more complex system.

When looking to change your classroom dynamic, you should look to evaluate your processes and look for ways to make them less complicated. For example, how do your students turn in their work? If you are having a situation where many of your students are not getting their work turned in, you have a chance to evaluate the system that is in place for them to do so. Is it complex, or complicated? If it is complex, the process to turn in the work will be made from many smaller simple steps and rules that in themselves are easy to perform. If however the the steps involved in turing in work contain sub-steps and unidentified pre-requisite knowledge the system turns complicated quickly. As Eric Berlow puts it in his Ted Talk below, “the more you stand back and embrace complexity, the more chance you have of seeing simple answers”.

Technology in education has a significant hurdle that can turn your processes into complicated messes. When you take a complex system like turning in work, the complexity hurdles begin to form due to the pre-requisite skills needed to make the individual parts of the system simple. The once simple process of putting a completed paper into the basket, has now turned into convert the document into the proper file type, then upload to the website and share the link with the teacher. Within that process are hundreds of smaller steps that involve specific technology skills and even vocabulary that may not have been a part of the teacher and students previous sphere of knowledge. The secret to a successful technology integration is to not take those steps for granted, step back and see them for what they are, and find simple solutions to make the system less complicated.

On a side note, think about this one fact when evaluating your classroom routines and procedures. Students starting in pre-school are being given the pre-requisite skills in the pen and paper world to be able to properly function in all of their advancing studies. These skills are being leveraged each day by teachers and built into classroom procedures. In pre-school, no teacher says “put a heading on your paper and turn it in”. Students at that level have no idea what a heading is. In later grades however, students are asked all of the time to “put a heading on their paper and turn it in”. Students that have mastered this skill have very little problem operating in this complex system. Students that have a difficult time with this skill, would find this classroom procedure to be very complicated.

Imagine now the situation that the educational technology community works in. We typically give students technology in later grades, although I hope to see this change. They have been given very little or no pre-requisite skills in technology instruction and are being asked to “turn in their work to the server”. This yields frustration on the part of the teacher and the student. It is important to step back and look at the complexity of this procedure in order to make it successful. I joke around that each person I meet has had at least 30 minutes of classroom training on how to fill out a bubble sheet test form. You are taught to fill in the bubble, not stray outside the lines, not to write on the side of the page, and to always use a number two pencil. Yet often our students are not given any time to learn the technology that they are expected to utilize to turn in a well crafted paper.

-Jason Cross-

The Golden Circle Applied to the Classroom

Teachers in classrooms are always looking for an edge to help them connect with students. Especially those hard to reach students that stick out in the classroom like a stray piece of broccoli in your teeth after a nice meal. If you have ever had a successful lesson where the students left energized and excited about your lesson, you know what an amazing experience it is. Not only for your students, but for your sanity as an educator. It is those moments of complete student engagement where everything comes together and you are glad you chose education as your profession.

In the process to try and diagnose a solution to helping students take ownership of their own learning, we have looked towards learning styles, engagement strategies and a variety of classroom modifications for answers. We bring in new curriculums, take students outside and invent amazing games in an effort to have more excellent moments in the classroom. Despite our efforts students sometimes are tuned out for our best designed lessons, and those teacher pleasers are often just going through the motions. How to we capture the minds of students with a variety of backgrounds, needs and ability levels?

The answer might not be simple, but we can start by looking to the marketing world for help. After all, these are the people that can get me to buy a new iPad when the one I already does everything I need. We have all been sitting on the couch after a big meal, turned on the television to see an add for a juicy hamburger and thought, “I am so full, but that does look good”. Marketing professionals have mastered what drives our decisions and we can learn from them by discovering how they tap into the human brain to produce feeling. When looking to get a group of students engaged, we must look at what motivates their decision making. We have to tap into the key motivator that will create buy in for our lessons.

Simon Sinek created something called the Golden Circle as a way of explaining marketing behaviors. In his Ted talk which explains the principals of the Golden Circle, Mr. Sinek uses the example of Apple Computers to explain why they have been so successful in influencing people to buy anything that they make. I have posted the Ted talk below, and I recommend taking a look at it. If you watch his ideas with your classroom in mind, you will discover that most of us have been going about our education efforts from the outside in, rather than from the inside out. We are not in touch with the part of the brain that makes decisions, therefore we are not getting our students to actively find a need to be a part of what is happening in the classroom. Most students just don’t “feel” like participating. And we might not have been giving them a reason to.

This is a quick explanation of the Golden Circle, however please watch the Simon Sinek video, and maybe even read his book, because he is the expert on this. Here is the quick:

Here is a quick summation of Simon Sinek’s explanation of the Golden Circle. The inner most part of the circle is the WHY portion. Why we do things is a process of our Limbic brains that control emotion and feeling. The next circle is HOW, and the how section is made up of the decisions that control our ability to get to the result. The outer most circle is the WHAT section. What we do is controlled by the Neocortex, and it involves rational thought. The principal of the Golden Circe is that we most often are working from the WHAT section towards the WHY section. You usually start a lesson plan with what you would like the students to do. Often we utilize this as our goal statement for the classroom. As an example we state: Given the information in the book, you will be able to answer the following questions with 80% accuracy. This is working from the rational Neocortex part of our brain, which does not control decision making towards our Limbic brain. In many cases we feel that by putting this clear goal not he board our students will have a greater chance of success. However many teachers will probably agree with me that we tend to get the same disconnected students as before. This is because we need to tap into the Limbic brain, the part of the brain that controls decision making. This is the part of the brain that “feels” good or bad about something and tends to control our efforts from behind the scene. So in order to tap into the part of our brain that will get us motivated and engaged, we have to connect with WHY we are embarking on the lesson that we are on. It gets even more complex as Simon Sinek also ties this to the Law of Diffusion of Innovation, which can also be tied into the classroom, but would take an entire blog post of its own.

In order to use this principal in your classroom, think about how you present your lessons to the group. Do you explain why students need to learn the lesson, or do you focus your time on what you would like the students to do? If you stay focused on the result, you will not get the engagement back from the students. If you focus on how they are to work on the assignment you will end up with confused looks and students looking around for others to help them “keep up”, when in fact they are just not sold on the idea. The answer is to get them to buy into why the content or lesson you are presenting is so important.

Have you ever met a dynamic or engaging teacher? They are often referred to as passionate individuals that are driven by their content. If you think about it in the context of Mr. Sinek’s marketing model you will realize that they are all about the WHY. Those teachers are able to create demand for their content because they are so engaged in why it is important. A science teacher that loves science usually has little problem trying to get students to buy into a lesson because they are first explaining WHY that concept is so essential. When you are teaching a lesson, you must make sure that you have a good and valuable reason WHY, to create demand for how and what you will be doing. The results will follow.

It sounds simple really, but I assure you it is a difficult skill to master. When trying to apply this type of thinking to the lesson, you might find that your WHY relates to WHAT you want your outcome to be. Your WHY cannot be “to increase test scores”. That is a result, and results do not drive behavior. If you think about this, you will find that most of your lesson plans need modification, or a complete rebuild. You might even find that your curriculum map is needing to be updated because of your need to identify WHY you are teaching a subject. In many cases you might find that assignments have no WHY, or you don’t know WHY. If you only know that you are working on a piece of work because it is part of the curriculum, evaluate that work to determine what the specific purpose is. How does the assignment work to bring students to a higher level of understanding. How does that assignment bring them to WHY they are learning. If you can begin to map your material to this concept, you will see students becoming in charge of their own learning because they understand WHY it is important, HOW it needs to be done, and WHAT the outcome should look like.

-Jason Cross-

The evolution of affordable 3D Printing.

3D printing is already making waves. Soon it will be a part of each of our lives, and eventually maybe the way we purchase and create most of our things. Just like the dot matrix days, it all starts with a simple product that can deliver a reliable result. From there the industry takes off and eventually you have an affordable technology with many improvements that we see with color laser and ink jet printers today. MakerBot has given us that dot matrix printer, and now we are starting to see technology branch out in many directions from that one brilliant idea.

Here are some ground breaking advancements in 3D printing that I believe will keep moving us towards large scale, multi use, personal fabrication machines.

Stratasys, has begun work on multi-color, multi material machines. While these are built for the professional currently, it is easy to see that this might become part of our homes.

The construction of houses might never look the same. Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis has been working on a project to allow a 3D printer to construct a house in just 24 hours. This could be a wildly amazing technology that will transform architecture in a big way. Imagine neighborhoods of houses constructed by methods that can build designs and shapes that were simply not possible with past methods of construction. That will give designers a great deal of power in the years to come.

Printing in plastic is one thing, but in order to build really useful items a bit more strength is needed. MarkForged is working on a project that will bring us the first Carbon Fiber 3D printer. This technology would allow designers to build using a material that has the strength to be used for all sorts of projects.

And finally the 3D printed pizza. Its true, cooking might not be the same. You might be able to engineer your foods, print them with needed medicines and healthy ingredients, and make them into all sorts of fancy shapes that where never possible before. This really could change how people eat all over the world, and on mars.

Top apps for learning to code.

When I am working with teachers and staff members of schools that have embraced technology, eventually I am asked which apps are best for teaching students how to code.  There isn’t a quick and easy answer to this.  There are lots of resources for different age groups, and some of the best resources actually are not apps at all.  Here are a few applications and websites that I think can be utilized in the classroom to help students learn the fundamentals of computer coding.

Move The Turtle. Programming For Kids – Next is Great

Lightbot – Programming Puzzles – LightBot Inc.

Kodable Pro – SurfScore

Hopscotch: Coding for kids, a visual programming language – Hopscotch Technologies

Treehouse: Learn Programming and Design – Treehouse Island Inc.

Koder Code Editor – Fauzan Hamdi

Codea – Two Lives Left

Textastic Code Editor for iPad – Alexander Blach

Cato’s Hike: A Programming and Logic Odyssey – Hesham Wahba

Hakitzu Elite: Robot Hackers – Kuato Games

CodeToGo – Nathaniel Herman

Code Monkey – ToolUsr

Codosaurus – Grilled Bacon

CoffeeScript At Once – Tatsuya Tobioka

Diet Coda – Panic, Inc.

Jsany – JavaScript Anywhere – Tatsuya Tobioka

Pre-Requisite Skills Using iWork Pages for iPad

Free is always a good thing in education, and now that Apple has released apps like Pages for free, teachers and students everywhere will be using it more often.  It really is a great software application.  For students it is a great solution because it offers no frills quick document editing that allows them to get right to the work, instead of the word art.  Those of you who have tried to work in office know what I mean. ;)

The following video is a quick walkthrough of all the features of the new Pages app.  Teaching your students how to use the app is a key step in having them be productive using their technology.  Once you learn the basics and give it a try, you will find that it really does work well and is a very valuable tool for education.

Apps for Kindergarten Counting and Cardinality K.CC.A.1

There are lots of apps in the Apple app store.  Sometimes it is very hard to find an app for a specific purpose.  Over the next few weeks I will be highlighting some apps that are aligned specifically to meet Common Core Standard objectives.

A complete alignment of apps can be found in the Common Core section of this website.  In particular Kindergarten math applications here:  While my project to align apps to the Common Core is far from complete, over the next couple months there will be significant work done to help teachers everywhere use technology more effectively through these lists.

For this first post I would like to highlight three math apps for counting to 100 by ones and by tens.

This is a very basic free app for kindergarten counting.  It assosiates the number with an image and allows students to visualize the numbers when they click on them.

This is a great little free app that uses the Hundred Board to get students to sequence numbers by finding them and counting along.

This next app is all about drawing your numbers.

Why teach 3D Printing Skills?

In order to really live a fulfilling life I believe you have to create, not just consume. In a world that has become great at selling us things, 3D printing is starting to give us the ability to create without limitations. Put this technology in the hands of people, and there is no limit to what they will create to make lives better.

In this video, Project Daniel headed up by Richard Van, makes a difference using 3D printing. This is an amazing time we live in. Technology has made it possible for one person to make a difference by creating something that just wasn’t a possibility in any other time throughout history.

So why is it important to teach 3D printing skills? I believe it is essential to expose students to working in three dimensional space because that is the world they are going to grow up in. They need to have practice designing and working with objects beyond coloring or drawing ideas on paper. There is a better than good chance that students in school today will not have limitations on their ability to create. By giving them real challenges, and the tools to develop skills, you will be surprised by what this next generation will do for the betterment of society.

In early grades they should use apps that work with 3D objects. Apps like 123D Creature, allow students to make 3D models almost like working with clay. Later on Google Sketch up, Blender, and apple like AutoDesk 360 Mobile, can give students the opportunity to build just about anything they can think of.

By exposing students to this technology, they will build skills that will enable them to be innovators in this next era, where 3D printing will become just another part of our lives.

3D Printing in Schools – Resources and Links to Get Started

3D printing is a relevant topic for schools thanks to the affordability of the technology and the availability of software tools that allow for creativity.  From engineering and design to product creation, the future is looking towards 3D printing as an alternative to traditional manufacturing processes.

When using 3D printers in your school there are several considerations that need to be thought through.  Cost of the machines, materials and other considerations will play into your decision as to what type of 3D hardware to bring into the building.  In addition, most 3D printers utilize software that can sometimes require varying levels of expertise.

One resource that I have seen utilized in an effective way was the Makerbot system.  At Legacy Academy (, as an example, students have been using the Makerbot printers to create products and engineer new ideas from grades K-8.  Since the cost of the materials is low, teachers and administrators feel as if they can allow these students the ability to print designs and products on a more regular basis.  Working in a 3D environment is a fun and engaging alternative to the traditional 2D world that we all grew up in.  Students that are able to take ideas, articulate them into 3D objects and then have the ability to see those objects become reality, I believe will have an advantage in the coming job market.

JJ Abrams and his Magic Mystery Box

One of the challenges in developing a school environment that is full of technology is overcoming the potential let down of the  ”Mystery Box”.  JJ Abrams gave a Ted Talk years ago about the Magic Mystery Box that he has sitting on his desk to remind him of the power of mystery.  This talk is very relevant to anybody attempting to create a one to one school technology environment for a couple reasons.

When you first bring technology of any type to the school it represents mystery, and unlimited possibilities.   This is why students, parents and staff often get really excited about the opportunity to have technology in the school.  So why do schools, teachers, parents and students so often find themselves less excited about technology after it has been introduced in the school?  Why do we tend to slow down the process of allowing it to have a transformational effect on our schools?

Prior to the box being opened, we imagine and dream of all the excellent stuff we will work on for our classes.  We think about how we will be productive and explore new ideas.  How we will share and collaborate with our other classmates and how this device will allow us to be a part of unlimited possibilities.  Maybe we will have “virtual class” with a student in another country, or design something for the 3D printer.  The possibilities are so vast we can only be super excited.  But then, we opened the box.

Instead of the device being used for creation as it was dreamed about,  it more than likely is being used for consumption.  And just like all of our educational experiences in the past it has let us down.  After the box is open we find out we didn’t transform education, we just repackaged it with a shiny glass screen with a ten hour battery life.  We use it to consume papers, books and worksheets.  We use it to consume vast amounts of information that we will probably not recall a couple days after we are tested on it.  We have taken an exceptional opportunity and put it back into the constraints of the assembly line, consumption driven, education model that we have all grown up in.

This is why it is important as educational technology instructors, that we not allow the box to be opened.  It is important that we take this tool and use it for creation and not consumption.  In order for technology to have a transformational effect on our education system we have to stop thinking that it is a way to get all of our analog products into a digital device.  PDF’s of textbooks, web pages and links, and course management systems are simply the rebranding of our current education practices.  It is now time for educators to start thinking in ways that we were never taught.  We have to be creative, and look for ways to allow these new digital devices to be tools to our creativity.  Otherwise, the box is open and inside we found out that it wasn’t a magic box that could become anything we wanted it to be, it is just more stuff to be done.

Teaching Logic to Kindergarten using Brain Burn

When we think of technology standards we don’t always think about logic.  Logic is an important skill however to students today.  From math instruction to just figuring out who is who in a written piece of text can often involve logical skills.  I always have recommended that schools start young when teaching logic to students. Teaching logic is not always an easy thing however.  This is one app that fills this roll.  While the app does not offer a huge depth of instruction, it is a great way to start teaching logic utilizing a game.  Maybe you just have a couple minutes of class-time to kill, or that advanced student has already completed all of their work and is needing a little extra something.  Burn Brain might just be an app that could come in valuable.

Why I like it:

It plays like a game.  There is no real trick here, except students are being asked to solve puzzles.  The key ingredient that Burn Brain has added is that 0 is an answer, and often problems are multiple steps.  This forces students to look at the problems with a more critical eye rather than just hurrying to a pre-determined answer.  There is no memorization here, only thinking.

How you could use it:

This could be utilized as a lesson.  Students could be taught the fundamentals of the game by the teacher, some examples could be done as a class, and then students could be challenged to work on this on their own.  It could also be utilized as extra practice, or something to add to the curriculum during rainy days where playgrounds are out of the question.