10 Ways Glowforge Can Disrupt Education

It’s been a long time since I have been more excited about the introduction of a piece of technology than I am for the Glowforge.

Aside from all of the personal ways I can see Glowforge help bring my creativity to life, this single device has the potential to revolutionize so many of the ways we do things in the typical school. I have often said, “There is a lot of money to be made in education…just not in teaching.” Schools spend a ton of money that goes to vendors, but here are 10 ways a single Glowforge can change that.

1. Die Cut Letters – The Ellison die cut machines have dominated the bulletin board making market my entire career and their stuff is expensive. A single set of alphabet tiles runs $500 and it takes a ton of time to plan and cut that “Hurry Spring” signage. With a Glowforge you can throw a stack of construction paper into the machine and have your whole set of cut-outs zipped out in a couple of minutes…and you’re not stuck with one font either. If you can type it on an device, you can cut it out of construction paper.

2. Mothers Day Gifts – Think about the huge ramp-up in production value that the average elementary school class could do when it comes to personalized gift crafting. Goodbye paper plate bouquets and hello personalized wooden votive candle holders.

3. Awards and Trophies – Athletic departments and honor societies spend huge amounts of their budgets on trophies, plaques, and awards. Think about the amount of money that could be saved if schools just bought the raw materials and engraved all of their own awards. What if a school created a class where kids designed and created all of the awards? A teacher may have to do final names but 90% of the work could be student driven and done at a fraction of the dough Ned at the trophy shop is charging.

4. Inventory Engraving – Speaking of engraving…instead of a jittery hand with an engraving pen or a sticker that is easily removed, schools could engrave items like laptops and iPads with attractive, permanent identifiers. Check out what Glowforge designers have done with a Macbook.


5. Staff ID Badges – Get creative and save money by creating personalized staff or visitor badges by cutting and engraving them from your choice of materials.

6. Pro-Style Locker Labels – If you have ever seen an interview from a professional or big-time college sports locker room then you’ve seen the fancy headers above each locker sporting the athlete’s name, number, and team logo. With some creativity and cheap 1″x2″ lumber, a school could give its athletes the pro treatment.

7. School Spirit Items – Lots of schools sell items as fundraisers and to boost school spirit. Instead of eating up profits by going to one of the national suppliers, schools could begin buying blank stock items and doing the engraving and laser cutting themselves with a Glowforge. You can’t screen print with it but you can create some amazing luggage tags, pendants, and other personalized signage that can generate spirit, pride, and revenue.

8. Etsy Class – Think of all of the economics and entrepreneurship that can be experienced when students begin to design, create, and market products with a Glowforge. With sites like Etsy and Mercari as global marketplaces, individual students may begin to peddle their wares  to the far reaches of the Internet. It sure beats 180 days of PowerPoint lectures and worksheets.

9. Trick Out Your Office Space – With every Glowforge purchase comes access to the members’ catalog that features projects ready to print and assembly. This iPhone stand is one example of the cool stuff that staff can create for themselves and add a high end, start-up, feel to the workplace. There are a ton of neat items like this available. Glowforge features a similar computer stand in many of its promotional materials that was cut as flat pieces and then glued together.

10. Hands-on Classroom Products – Instead of buying any of these items, just create your own.

•Wooden or Acrylic Cut-out Letters and Numbers for the early elementary classroom

•Wooden or Acrylic Cut-out Shapes or other math manipulates that can be used K-12

•3D Geometrical Shapes that can be cut from all kinds of materials from cardboard to plastics

•United States or World Puzzles cut from plywood or plastic. Team with the art teacher and have kids paint and label each state or country.

•3D Models of Landmarks can be elaborately created by cutting flat slices and assembling a bunch of pieces like this Space Needle or just cut and engrave a 2D image on piece of wood thick enough to stand up on its own or with a small additional brace.

Like I said, I haven’t been more excited about a piece of technology in a long time. It can turn all kinds of creative dreams into reality but it has nearly infinite potential to impact how we do things and what we can create in our schools.

Five Things In Education We Have To Stop Pretending

cory-matthews-make-it-stop-boy-meets-worldI was challenged this weekend to really think. Lisa Nowakowski, many of you know from her work with CUE Rock Star, listed  five things we have to stop pretending in education. and then she tagged five other educators including me to list five more things as part of the #makeschooldifferent challenge. Okay, here it goes.

Stop pretending:

1) We need more technology in schools.
Solution: We don’t need more technology in schools. We need a better focus on how technology can improve teaching and learning. Start with great teaching and then ramp it off the charts by giving students tools to deepen their understanding, dig for more, and then share their knowledge or skills in authentic and impactful ways. Now, in areas where that vision and set of priorities is in place, bring on the technology! LA Unified Schools systemically lacked all of the above on their failed, massive iPad initiative and is now trying to blame Apple and Pearson. It’s not the technology’s fault for the shortcomings. Technology can have zero impact or worse without great teaching and know-how. It’s like a chainsaw. Don’t buy if you don’t know what you’re doing.

2) Technology use needs to redefine every task, providing experiences previously inconceivable.
Solution: I am a big proponent on the SAMR model of technology integration and have presented a number of times on it and its value. SAMR identifies at what level teachers apply technology. A major misinterpretation comes when people think the only good integration is the highest level of redefinition, or that what was previously inconceivable. Trevor Shaw wrote about some of that today in eSchoolNews. Nobody wants the iPad being used solely a $300 worksheet, but it’s unrealistic to expect every tech use to earth shattering. Sharing documents via Google Docs might not be “redefinition” but it has huge inherent value over just typing something. We can’t live in “redefinition”. It’s just not practical.

3) Teachers need to be trained in how to work new tech tools.
Solution: Teachers don’t need to be trained how to push buttons, copy-paste, or export to Quicktime. What teachers need is to be immersed in an experience where they learn to put specific technology tools to work in their classrooms to boost teaching and learning. Too many presentations or workshops end up being magic shows with cool tricks but not much depth in how to make a difference. The learning needs to be continuous as well. For growth and sustainability to happen, co-workers need to be constantly helping each other by sharing little victories,  their tribulations, and ideas for better management.

4) Initiatives are like satellites. All they need is strong engineering and a solid launch.
Solution: Planning, design, and a great roll-out are essential to any initiative. The problem is that too many people think that after the launch the work is essentially done. Initiatives aren’t satellites though. Initiatives are more like the cooking and serving of a seven course meal where the food needs constant attention, and the diners do too. How many things have you seen in your career rolled out with great energy go on to fizzle quite quickly because there was no follow up after the launch? If you’re going to “set it and forget it,” just forget it.

5) We are just teachers and only administration can bring meaningful change.
Solution: This one might be getting a little hacky because it seems like it has been stated emphatically in every keynote address I have attended in the last year but it can’t be stated enough. A lot of real, positive, sustainable change in education comes from individual teachers or small groups of teachers who find things that work and they share those ideas. For whatever reason, co-workers often put more clout into something new they see or hear about from another teacher as opposed to it coming from an administrator. There is something powerful in knowing this technique, app, or strategy actually works in someone’s actual classroom. Whatever works in your classroom needs to be shared. It’s not bragging. It’s moving education forward.

So, there you go. Those five have been begging to be shared. Thanks Lisa for lighting the fire!

Now it’s time to pass the challenge along to five more great educators. Let’s see what else we need to stop pretending. You are now officially on the clock Kelly Croy, Sue Gorman, Sean Junkins, Brad Wilson, and Ben Rimes.