December is Human Rights month. Teaching Tolerance’s Perspectives for a Diverse America has some nice resources, which you’ll have to register for a free account in order to access. You’ll find the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1929 poem, On Liberty and Slavery, resources for lesson planning and more.
Simple Machines is a charming website developed by Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. Students can help Twitch build simple machines by using inclined planes, levers and more.
Intrigued by 3D printing? Check out Tinkercad. You can create a free account and view their tutorials to learn more about the tool. We’ve found this to be the easiest 3D modeling application for beginners.
You probably know that Google and Facebook are under fire because of fake news sites and the influence they may have had on the recent election. From a tech educator’s standpoint, this is really frightening, and I think we need to carefully consider if we’re doing enough to teach our students how to discern what’s legitimate on the web. Here are some resources regarding this troubling issue:
A great article from the New York Times about the issue.
Information about a free Chrome extension that you can install to let you know if you’ve arrived at a fake news site (including a link to download it).
Leave it to the kids! Three Princeton students tackled the problem during a recent “hackathon” and produced their own Chrome extension – read more about it here.
The Technology: Adobe
Adobe has updated several of their iOS apps and given them a new look and some new features:
The apps haven’t changed much. They work on the same simple premise: you choose a template, and add words, music, text and images to it. The app then takes that content, and uses it to create a final product. There are not many options for customization, and you are mostly locked in based on the template you choose. That may seem like it’s limiting (and, well, it is), but if you only have forty-five minutes for your students to create a product, it can also feel really liberating!
To check out Adobe’s iPad apps, visit the iTunes App store. All are free to download and use. The only premium feature that you may want to purchase is a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud storage plan, which provides additional storage.
Additionally, it’s notable (and a welcome change!) that you can now sign up for a free Adobe ID in order to use many of the apps or you can use your Facebook or Google account. This is very convenient for those of us who already use Google and don’t wish to have another account.
In Your Classroom
Many of us rely on using videos in class. Why not? They’re engaging and open explain concepts much more efficiently than we can. Commonsense Media has some great strategies teachers can use to help students think critically about videos, including backchanneling, integrating videos into your curriculum and using tech to customize videos.
Just when I think that I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t have to explain what “GAFE” is any more, Google goes and changes the name! Google just announced that GAFE will now be known as G Suite. We’re not sure what that means long term (paid model, maybe?), but if you want to read about what it means now, check out the Google Cloud blog post here.
Want to give your students a brain break? Edutopia has some nice ideas here.
The Technology: ClassTag
ClassTag is a free website that allows you to easily email all your student’s parents at one time. You can use it to send announcements, event information (along with an RSVP link), requests for volunteers, or parent/teacher conference details. ClassTag also makes it possible for you to quickly email photos and weekly updates.
You can also use ClassTag to organize volunteers. Simply send parents an invitation to volunteer. Then, once they receive it, they can choose to click to sign up, and their commitment will appear on both their dashboard and yours.
Begin by signing up for a free ClassTag account. Then, create a class and populate it with your students’ names and their parents’ email addresses.
In Your Classroom
Choosing An App
Edited by Ann D. Koffsky
It’s so enticing: a new (free!) app comes along and sounds great. But how do you decide if it’s worth using in your classroom?
There are good reasons to be very picky about what tools you provide your students. IPads have limited storage space and can fill up very quickly. You want to make sure your apps are filling the right need and will be a good match for your students.
Decide: What is your goal?
What are you trying to accomplish? Think about how you would complete sentences like, “I want my students to be able to create a presentation/game/slide show that shows…” and, “My students will use this app to learn more about…”
Remember, just because technology looks inviting, doesn’t mean it will help you achieve your goals.
Preview the content
If you’re choosing an app that is designed to share information and teach content, (as opposed to an app that helps students create their own content) you’ll want to make sure to preview it from start to finish to verify:
A cautionary tale:When Tablet Magazine reported on several apps that were designed to teach about the Holocaust, it noted that the playful game experience might not be the most appropriate choice of tool for teaching about something so serious.
What is a meme? A meme is any symbol or concept that is copied, imitated and easily shared via social media. Often, it is a photo with a unique quote laid on top of it. A classic example would be a photo of a “grumpy” cat, with a quote complaining about well, anything, such as Mondays, annoying co-workers or lack of coffee. Memes can be a terrific tool to engage students and help them think about a subject in a new way.
For a more complete explanation of memes, and how they work, check out this video.
Three websites that can help you create your own memes are:
All three provide multiple, free-use photographs, and will place any quote that you type in along the top and bottom of it. (If you use social media, you’ll recognize many of the images offered).
To make your own meme, just click on “create” at the top of these sites, enter your text, and click on “generate.” The sites will then offer you the options of sharing it on various social media sites, or, downloading it to your own computer.
Be aware that if you choose to generate memes in your classroom, that memes created by other users are visible on these site. (Some are not the most appropriate.)
In Your Classroom
“I’m working on a design for the Apple Pencil holder.”
“I need to print a poster that I designed.”
“We’re designing logos for the Israel Experience trip.”
This is what I hear as my 6th, 7th and 8th grade students gather in our new Innovation Studio for their innovation exploration specials. They can’t wait to spend time learning how to use the new iPad Pros with Apple Pencils, GoPro cameras and green screen, poster printer and electronic paper cutter, and especially the 3D printer.
While the tech staff had experimented quite a bit with 3D printing over the summer, we had only worked with designs that were sourced ready-to-print. When I created “Innovation Go,” a game designed to teach my colleagues about the new innovation studio during faculty planning week, my tech colleagues assisted by finding and printing various Pokémon Go characters for prizes. That was easy—designing and printing our first “from scratch” project has certainly proven to be much more of an interesting challenge.
Our first student-designed project is most definitely an ambitious one. We discovered right away that the Apple Pencil styluses are really cool but cumbersome to store when being charged. They kind of look like an electronic octopus, and it’s been difficult to keep them organized. So my Innovation Studio co-teacher and I posed the challenge to our 7th and 8th grade students: could they design and print an attractive, functional holder?
One of my 8th graders rose to the challenge. He began by using 123D Print to design a holder. After spending a couple days (and evenings) working on his design, we were ready to print our first project. We were shocked at the length of time that it took to print! 7th and 8th graders regularly popped into the Innovation Studio on their way to other classes to check on the progress, peering into the 3D printer to watch the tiny thread of filament build the object.
Three days later, when we returned from the Labor Day weekend, we found a beautiful, structurally sound, perfectly printed Apple Pencil holder. It was everything we hoped it would be…except it was too tight for the Apple Pencils to fit properly!
My students aren’t daunted in the least. We explained to the class that this is simply the first step in learning how to engineer. One 8th grader led the class in a spirited discussion of the process, including what worked and how we can improve on our design and building skills. The students debated important questions like how we can better test designs before committing hours of printing time and how we can avoid the 3D printer having to create wasteful supporting structures. Having seen a design go from an iPad Pro screen to an actual item that you could hold was powerful, and we could not have had the discussion before we had actually gone through that process.
We explained to the students what going “back to the drawing board” really means, – and off they went!
In the meantime, these 6th, 7th and 8th grade students are learning how to use the iPad Pros to design for the 3D printer, and we’re excited to see their ideas coming to fruition. We’re carefully planning how to test, test and test before printing, and how to continue to build on what we’ve learned to ensure future successes. Stay tuned for updates on our design and manufacturing processes as we continue to collaborate and innovate our way to 3D printing success.
Cross-posted from Solomon Schechter of Metropolitan Chicago