Thursday, October 17, 2013

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.

Monday, October 7, 2013

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.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Teaching Logic to Kindergarten using Brain Burn

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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.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Teaching Typing to Early Kindergarten

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One of the standards for Kindergarten technology is to get students used to the keyboard. Before students can read, this is a challenge, but one that can also aid in your reading instruction. This is the first of many different applications that we will explore that seek to help young students gain familiarity with the keyboard.

The application in the video above is called ABC Keyboard and is available for free on the iTunes store.  This app is very basic and would be suited for pre-school or very early kindergarten students.  Parents could also utilize this app to expose students to letters.

Why I like it:

Simple to use, gets right to the point.

How you could use it:

This application would expose students to keyboarding skills while having them match up letters to the keys on the computer.  A few minutes on this and they would have the pre-requisite skills to utilize more powerful applications.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Potential Great News for iPad Schools

If Apple makes Pages free, schools could reap the benefits. Schools often are forced to utilize Google Drive for cost reasons, but could now save tens of thousands on software related costs if this proves to be a direction Apple is moving towards. I look forward to seeing what will happen with this.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Teach Kindergarten Students to Code with Kodable

Kodable is a nifty little application that gives students that can't even read the ability to put those wonderful minds to work creating code.   This program works by using symbols to complete puzzle style problems.  If you are able to build a program that can complete the problem, you get to move on.  Subsequently as you move on you are introduced to more and more complex skills.

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I think this is a great app that could be utilized by K-2 in order to hit the fundamentals of logic and computer coding.  By explaining what the symbols are doing, and why it is important to organize them the way the game recommends  you are helping students problem solve and become creative critical thinkers.   I hope you give it a shot and let me know what you think.

On the Kodable website, you will also discover that there is some curriculum coming out soon.  I cannot wait to see it, as I am sure it will be a huge help to teachers everywhere.

Why I like it:

Easy to use game style education tool that teaches a complex subject to students with no experience.  It is just plain fun!

How you could use it:

This program could be utilized by teachers in a number of ways.  It teaches many computer skills like system interface, problem solving, and logic.  The clever instructor could utilize this tool in many different ways.  It would even be a great game for those indoor recess times throughout the year.  A great way to let your student spend some time.

Law of Diffusion of Innovation and its Importance in Effective Teaching

Teaching is an art form, and in this day and age of standardize tests and students that don't feel they have a high stake in the game, inspiration in education is critical.  That is why I believe that one of the most important roles as a teacher, or leader in a school is to inspire students.  Students don't care what you know, until they know that you care.  Teachers are entrepreneurs that are manufacturing and selling education to students.  And there is a simple rule in marketing that says people will not buy what you do, they will buy why you do it.  In order to be an effective teacher you must build a relationship with students that will inspire them to follow your lead because they want to, not because they have to.

In my role as a leader at Legacy Academy, I utilize many resources from the marketing world to inspire teachers to become more effective in the classroom.  Marketers know more about what motivates humans than just about any other industry.  They study and apply research to motivate us to do all sorts of things that we probably would not do otherwise.

In this video, Simon Sinek describes the Law of Diffusion of Innovation.  This law applies to the classroom just as it applies to those that are trying to sell us things.  2.5% of your classroom will buy into anything that you are selling, they might even wait by the door of your classroom waiting to get in.  13.5% will be easy to win over once class starts, while another 34% will need to be inspired to join.  Winning over that 34% of your classroom is the most crucial part of an effective engaging lesson plan. If you can win them over, the remaining students will be won over by the impact of the enthusiasm of the other groups.  If however your efforts don't impact that 34%, you will never win the majority of the classroom over during your lesson.

Simon Sinek: Law of Diffusion of Innovation

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Several times this year, we took time as a staff to look at our classroom instruction to find ways we can be more inspiring.  It starts with teachers believing in what they do.  This seems like a simple concept, but we are at a time in education where so many outsiders are throwing in opinions as to what good education looks like, often teachers are starting to believe that what they are doing isn't effective or important.  We focus on the concept that our goal at Legacy Academy is not to give students work to complete in hopes that they will learn, it is to get students inspired so they will want to work for themselves.  Simply put, believe in what you do, and believe in the students abilities to follow your beliefs.

Combining Zite with Instapaper for Quick Research / Classroom Integration

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I love the Zite Application for use in classroom instruction.  I have seen teachers utilize it for research projects and it has great potential to teach some fantastic business skills.  Tomorrows business leaders need to keep current on trending information.  While it used to be the job of upper management to stay informed, successful companies rely on all employees to present new ideas based on current research.  Zite is a great application for this, and it allows the reader to gain access to new thoughts quickly in an easy to use format.


One feature that Zite offers is the ability to share this information with others.  When you are reading something of interest a simple key press and you have the ability to post a link to an article on Facebook, Twitter and several other useful sites.  In a classroom this could be leveraged for group work over social media, or just a way to organize thoughts.  One idea is to utilize Instapaper with Zite to compile articles of interest on a topic.  Instapaper is a simple little website that essentially organizes websites that you would like to read later.  While there are many other ways to do this, Instapaper does this with some rather good efficiency, and that is very important in the technology classroom.  The ability to store information from Zite to Instapaper in one click, generates a quick page of articles on your subject that are saved for later reading.  The best part is that most of this information is relatively current since it was pulled using the Zite App.

Now your students would have a great list of resources for a paper, video project or other research intensive study.  As a business user, you have a list of articles that you might want to refer to later in order to strengthen your position, or provide research to a committee.

If you are a clever integrator of technology, you could set up an Instapaper for each group of students, or for your classroom.  Then as you read, or individuals in a group find articles of interest they could be placed in one easy to read location.

If you currently do something like this, I would love to see it in action.  Please send me an email, or a link to a video showing how you utilize this type of technology in the classroom.  I will be sure to feature it on this site to share with others.

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Why I Like It:

Instapaper offers the user a quick and responsive way to catalog information so that it can be recalled at a later time.  Perfect for a student or business situation where a large amount of information is being sifted through, prior to its subsequent formatting and presentation.   Zite provides a quick way to keep up to date on articles that relate to your specific topics with the option to send them to Instapaper with the simple press of a key.

How you could use it:

In the classroom Zite could be utilized by students to keep up to date with a wide variety of subjects.  I could easily see a science or social studies teacher using this for current events, or discussion material.  It is very inspiring to the students to read articles that are so current and often positive in nature.  Having students set up an Instapaper account (maybe even as a group) allows them to read articles over a larger time period, saving the ones that they would like to work with later.  The RSS feature of Instapaper could also be utilized on a business/teacher blog to create quick links to important articles that have already been filtered by another reader.

Using SayIt to Create Spoken Files for Students (Special Education, RTI)

One of the challenges that teachers face is the increasing amount of specialization needed in the classroom.  Often many of the students have special requirements based on a specific plan.  Technology is here to help, and using tools like SayIt, can help remove some of the stress of differentiation in a classroom.  It is a great piece of educational technology.

Students that are struggling with language, reading or are several grade levels behind, often have verbal requirements that are often a strain on classroom resources.  I have seen on several occasions a requirement written into a plan that requires the teacher to read aloud a test, text or other information to students individually.  Even though I feel that every teacher I have come into contact with has made their best attempt to meet this requirement, they often just don't have the ability to drop everything and help an individual student while keeping track of another 28 of them.

Text to speech is great, and devices have this setting built into just about every device type these days.  Sometimes for efficiency however, I recommend that you pre-record material and post for students on iTunes University, or in a website or blog.  This helps to focus students on the end goal of hearing the material rather than the often distracting obstacle of turning on the accessibility settings of the device, navigating to the material and then listening.  Essentially my philosophy is to get students to the material as quickly as possible, and I believe a little up front work with a tool like SayIt, does just that.

Why I like it:

This application is easy to use, and produces quick results.  Very little pre-requisite knowledge needed.

How you could use it:

You can use this app to pre-record just about any section of text and create an audio file that the student can utilize later.  Students could also learn to utilize this in the creation of media materials for presentations.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Why iTunes University is Important to Your Classroom

One of the ways we are able to successfully track and manage the wide range of curriculum decisions at Legacy Academy is through our use of iTunes University.  This tool gives our teachers, parents and students a complete snapshot of units of study.  There is no longer a mystery about what is going to be taught.  Our teachers coordinate their curriculum efforts in with their teams and utilize iTunes University to organize and present lessons.

This tool goes beyond the typical course management software.  It is very easy to use, allows for all content to be downloaded directly to the device, and works seamlessly as a means to organize notes and create complete units of study.  The skilled teacher is able to utilize this tool in such a way that students are automatically set up for success.  Students that have used this system this year are already more prepared to work in a post middle school environment.

iTunes University

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Each unit of study is composed of course exams.  These formative assessments are pre-tested with all course content being geared towards the education of the specific objectives.  After the completion of the course content the assessment is then given again in order to measure progress.  The teacher then has time to reflect on the effectiveness of the lesson to determine if gaps in learning might have occurred   These gaps would then be fixed upon review, or in subsequent lessons.

iTunes University

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Identifying the Phases of Educational Technology Instruction

Legacy Academy brought 600 electronic devices into the building just a little over two years ago
with the purpose of creating a differentiated learning environment.  Our school was having a difficult time with diversity because of our whole group instruction model that is part of the Core Knowledge approach to education. Our goal was to provide all teachers and students with a new opportunity utilizing technology that levels the playing field for students.  Adaptive and interactive technologies in the classroom allow students of all abilities to have access to the entire wealth of human knowledge while also giving them additional tools to become creative, critical thinkers.

Technology in most school environments ends up on the sideline at some point in its time in the classroom.  In order to achieve our goal of creating more diverse learning opportunities, Legacy Academy had to evaluate technology integration as a whole.  Over the last two school seasons discoveries about technology in education have been made, and we are taking steps to move past the obstacles that have caused technology to stumble in schools.

I have created a workflow for all schools to evaluate and set goals for their technology application plan.  The integration of technology in classrooms only mirrors work that can also be performed in the analog world (pen and paper).  This is where most schools start and stop their technology plans.  Unfortunately for students and teachers, this level of application is not enough to engage or encourage the use of the technology for the long term.  At the very lowest level of this phase of integration, technology may actually be more difficult than utilizing analog tools.  The only way to truly engage students and create a learning environment that will adapt to a diverse population of students is to work towards moving to the application phases of technology integration.  These later phases no longer mirror what can be done in the analog world, but surpass it by allowing the student to do work that is no longer possible with pen and paper.   When you are able to utilize technology in these later phases, students become more engaged and are becoming creative, critical thinkers.  This allows students of all backgrounds and abilities to showcase talents and use information to learn, rather than learning information.



Phase 0 is really the most fundamental use of technology that we have today.  This is, TV, Video and other forms of education materials that can be played through a device and projected for others to watch.  While this is a use of technology in the classroom, it really is only mirroring what could be done with a lecture or a field trip. This phase does not diversify information, it only presents it for students to utilize (mostly memorize and regurgitate later).  There is educational value at this phase, and combined with clever lesson plans it can be somewhat engaging, however it often does not improve upon what a clever educator could do on their own.  There was a time when it was thought that video would transform the classroom, but its inability to diversify and meet needs of different learners keeps it from being a game changer.

Phase 1 is the level that most schools start to bring technology such as computers into the classroom.  Unfortunately this is also the level at which most schools stall.  If you have ever seen a dust covered computer sitting in the corner of a classroom, it is because it was utilized at Phase 1 of a technology integration plan.  At this phase the technology only mirrors what can already be done without it.  At this phase, it does provide some slight advantages over not using it, but it also has a barrier to entry in the form of pre-requisite skills that are often not given proper time to develop.  If you can handwrite a paper, you can also type it.  If you need information, you can use the internet to find it, or you can go to the library.  You could build a presentation to display for the classroom, or you could write on the white board and bring in posters.  Schools have a hard time seeing past this point, and it usually causes them to only purchase small quantities of technology for a classroom.  They might buy three computers for the entire group to use and allow them to rotate through as an example.  In the end it slows down the learning process, and eventually it is pushed aside while teachers go back to what they know.


Phase 2 is where devices like iPads have been able to change the way students learn in classrooms.  While Phase 1 was the mirroring of the analog world with digital technologies, Phase 2 is much more interactive and adaptive.  At this phase we begin to see the technology do things that could not be done without it.  The best example would be in allowing the technology to help with individualizing education.  For instance a teacher could give a 100 question math practice sheet to drill on basic math facts.  Students would complete the worksheet and hand it in.  Between 30 minutes and 48 hours later the student would receive a paper back with red marks showing them which ones they had missed. In comparison a teacher that has access to a full range of iPad's int he classroom could utilize a math application that would provide the same practice problems in a format that would automatically attempt to work with the students diverse needs. Modern applications can give the student instant feedback, as well as adjust the difficulty levels of problems adaptive to each individual student.  The end goal is a much more effective lesson than what could have been done without the technology.  Anytime that the technology improves upon a process, and can not be duplicated without the use of technology, we are in Phase 2.


Phase 3 I personally believe sums up the solution to the troubles in education. This is where technology is no longer added to the curriculum.  This is where students build and create what is simply not possible without the technology.  Everything in this phase cannot be replicated without devices and technology that make it possible. A good example of this would be the Apollo 11 Computer System.  Man wanted to get to the moon.  We knew that we needed something that could make quick and complex calculations beyond what a human was capable of with pen and paper in space.  The result was a computer system that allowed us to complete the mission.  When we rely on the technology to complete the task, we are exceeding the ability of a non-technical education. In Phase 3, students are creative, and inspired.  They are utilizing pre-requisite skills to complete challenges that might seem complicated to many around them.  Students that are operating out of this phase are usually engaged and motivated to solve complex problems.  Sometimes the solutions to problems found in this phase are real world, not just textbook case studies.  As an example, a student in Phase 3 might write a software program that solves math problems he or she encounters in math class.  Instead of being able to simply give the answer, this student knows the solution.  


End Result:

The end result of our phase technology plan has been exciting.  Our special education students are making large gains and we are seeing an increase in parents moving their students to our building because of it.  We are currently servicing three times more IEP students than in prior years, and meeting the needs of a diverse population through technology has been the way that we have accomplished this.  Every student has access to adaptive technology that allows them to learn about a larger variety of material with less of a barrier. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Teach Programming Skills with Move the Turtle

Move the Turtle is a great application to introduce computer programming to students of all ages.  It teaches logic, as well as a healthy dose of creative critical thinking.  By teaching using this app, you can introduce students to complex ideas such as variables at a very early age.  This introduction to these complex skills allows them to expand on them with greater ease once they hit algebra as an example.  It also helps put a real world application to some of these skills that older students are learning and can be very challenging to students of all ages.  I strongly recommend that you take a look at this wonderful app and think about adding it to your teaching arsenal.

Why I like it:

This app uses a system similar to that found in angry birds and other applications that students are already used to using.  This eliminates some of the prerequisite knowledge that is a barrier to classroom implementation.  This system also creates a strong game like feel that encourages students to work through frustrations.

How you could use it:

This application could be utilized as a supplemental instructional material for a variety of lesson plans. It can also be used as a differentiation strategy as it would inspire some of your high level thinkers in the classroom.  Students can work on this application on all levels and it meets many of the common technology standards.  If you are following a plan to work towards computer programing in your school, this app could be utilized as an entry level computer programing course. It would also make for an excellent use of rainy day time as it works like a game, but teaches like a professor.

Flowboard App for Creative Classroom Presentations without Frustration

Flowboard is an app that I stumbled upon recently that has amazing uses as an educational technology tool.  The interface is simple and easy to use, but it also has an appearance that gets students engaged quickly.  With other presentation software you have to find content that fits your message, save that content to a machine or copy links and past them, hoping that the software will then parse that into usable content.  Flowboard is different.  You can add content strait from Google with a simple search that is built into the platform.  This is a step in the right direction and I hope that more applications will build this sort of external cloud technology into their design.

Content is not limited to images.  You can also place video into these documents which make them a great way to present material to students as well.

Why I like it:

Students spend less time on design and more time on meaningful content.  A good research plan combined with this app would produce a quality instructional piece that would be as fun for the teacher to provide feedback on as it would be for the student to create.

How you could use it:

This software could be used for the presentation of learned material, or as a group project.  It could also be utilized by the teacher as a creative way to present information to students to introduce a unit of study.  Flowboards ability to utilize images and video make it similar to digital text book solutions, without all of the pre-requisite knowledge.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Google Safe Search - How to Keep Kids Safe

Filtering the internet at home might not be enough. Some searches can provide young eyes access to more than they bargained for despite the best efforts to filter content. Google Safe Search is a way to minimize exposure to such content. While nothing is perfect, this is one more added layer that you can utilize to keep kids focused and on task.

Electronic Signatures in PDF Documents

Apple Preview has a built in feature that allows you to create great electronic signatures in PDF documents. Combine this with a cloud based storage platform and you can have a paperless office in no time. Each time you sign a PDF document in preview the file is automatically saved. When the file is saved, Google Drive will sync this document to your cloud storage. Share this file with others, and they have instant access to the file and are able to add signatures and edits of their own.

Creating a Resume Using the iPad

Portable devices such as iPads are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives. Often however, they are utilized for consuming instead of creating. They can be utilized to help with many common tasks normally relegated to a computer however. iPads can now be utilized as a powerful tool for resume creation. This video describes how you can get started building your resume using this software.

Basic Resume Creation