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.

Think Different Tim Cook: 10 Reasons Chromebooks Are Winning…And It Has Nothing To Do With Testing

Apple CEO Tim Cook calls Chrome devices “test machines” – Buzzfeed Photo

On Wednesday in a Buzzfeed interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook called Chromebooks “test machines” and cited Google’s take over of the education market as primarily a result of schools just buying hardware for standardized assessments.

There is no denying that recent mass purchases from school districts have been in response to needing more equipment for tests that have moved from paper to web browser. What is in question is why schools are choosing Chromebooks over Macs and iPads. Cook sells educational leaders and teachers short when he implies that testing is all that went into the decision making and all that is being done with the products once they reach schools.

Now, don’t write me off as a hater. Heck, one of the proudest recognitions I have received is that of being named an Apple Distinguished Educator. I am a huge Apple advocate and I truly believe that Cupertino builds the most durable and best designed products in the tech world. For a long long time Apple won the classroom because its stuff “just worked” and it still does. The six-year-old  Macbooks I teach with just hum along. The three-year-old cart of HPs…don’t.  The iPad has opened worlds previously un-explorable to people with disabilities. Apple has done great things in the classroom and I still believe schools need a number of Macs or iPads around for tasks Chrome devices can’t. I am just not convinced anymore that Apple products are the only solution.

Here Mr. Cook are 10 reasons why educators are choosing Chrome devices over Apple products…and they don’t have anything to do with testing.

  1. The Reality of Classroom Technology Integration – “We create products that are whole solutions for people — that allow kids to learn how to create and engage on a different level,” Cook stated in the and he’s correct. iMovie, Keynote, Pages, Final Cut Pro, Motion, and other high level apps are the staples when it comes to kids creating high level content. The only problem for Apple is that the vast majority of students and teachers don’t learn and teach constantly at this level. As great as all of these Apple tools are, right or wrong, they have taken a support role to the tools students and teachers use most.The SAMR framework discusses how teachers use tech at varied levels between basic “substitution” and creating previously inconceivable activities in a level defined as “redefinition”. The Apple stuff excels in the hands of teachers who have mastered ways of getting to redefinition but the vast majority of educators are somewhere in the middle and most of the learning tasks they ask students to do with technology doesn’t require the high end apps.
  2. Price – Chrome devices continue to drop in price to the point where schools can buy five Chromebooks with touchscreens for the price of one Macbook. It’s hard to justify the extra cost if the job can be done with a solid device at a fraction of the money. I just bought a fully functioning Chrome computer in the $85 Chromebit. $85! Yes it requires me to connect it to an HDMI display and I have to supply the keyboard and mouse but that price point alone makes it wildly affordable for a number of functions around a school.
  3. They Just Work – It is still the number one reason I always choose Apple stuff over Windows stuff and I was very suspect of the Chrome products when they first hit the market. Aside from getting used to the layout of where everything is on these devices my experience has been that the simplicity of the Chrome “just works” as well. With less operating system there are less hassles.
  4. Ease of Management – Managing a cart of iPads is incredibly time consuming and not something most classroom teachers are entrusted to do. Apple has put out a series of management solutions but none have been the silver bullet that actually make life easier for teachers. With Chrome there is virtually no management because when a kid logs in with their Google Apps for Education account, all of their stuff is available.
  5. Google Apps – No, the free suite won’t let you make your documents as cute as Word or Pages will, but with a little skill you and your kids can get darn close. Cute isn’t deal closer on GAFE though. Storage is unlimited for schools and with a little foresight educators can help kids set up portfolios that will follow them all of the way through high school. No one will ever lose their work due to a dead laptop battery because Google saves every few seconds. Plus, it’s just automatically already set up with every Google account. Yes, Apple offers a version of its iWork suite online for free and it can do a lot but space is limited and the sharing options aren’t close to what GAFE does. What is really cool though is that if you want to use the online versions of iLife you can do it on a Chromebook.
  6. Collaboration – The whole game changed way back in the day when Google bought Writely from an upstart called Upstartle. Simply being able to edit something simultaneously ten years ago was groundbreaking. Google has used the last decade to further enhance the collaborative capabilities. Apple is bringing that to iLife but are essentially playing catch up. The collaboration built into a Google Apps/Chrome environment helps teachers better communicate with students and provide useful feedback. The same is true with students communicating and collaborating better with each other.
  7. Google Classroom – From its introduction teachers have been flocking to the free learning management system. As it evolves and becomes more stable it is becoming the go-to, even by die hard Edmodo and Schoology users. What is the big deal? See all six of the previous reasons. Seriously, you can apply all of them. As a classroom teacher, paper was my Achilles heel. In Classroom it’s all digital and the interface shows who has completed work and who hasn’t. Once it’s turned in, it’s locked until the teacher grades and returns it. Apple offers iTunes U which is a beautiful way to present content and develop courses that don’t rely on Internet connectivity but they only run on an Apple device. Classroom works everywhere.
  8. Access Everywhere – Speaking working everywhere, students and teachers can access the work they started on the Chrome device at school anywhere they can find a web browser with an Internet connection. It is something kids have come to take completely for granted. Ubiquitous access is their normal. A perfect example was when we were making book report trailers on iMovie and my students all wanted to know how they could find their work when they got home so they could continue working. They were put off when I told them it was only available on the one device they’d been using.
  9. Open To Innovation – Google Apps has evolved at light speed because of the way individuals can create add-ons. Doctopus and Goobric are examples of innovation created by a user that have made the product better fit teacher needs. This isn’t just in Docs either. There are a ton of new Chrome apps being developed that bring a lot of the creativity and depth of exploration to the Chrome browser.  Apple obviously innovates all of the time too but doesn’t adapt as fast as Google because the innovation all takes place within Apple.
  10. Big Yet Nimble – Lebron James and Cam Newton are special athletes because they are big yet have uncharacteristic speed. Google Chrome and the devices that run it are a lot like that. Google is massive with unlimited resources to support its products yet has retained a simplicity that makes stuff work at the highest level of efficiency. There is no reason to expect that won’t continue to be the case.

Ultimately schools have to find the platforms and devices that work best for their needs. I always have a Mac nearby because I use so many levels of its functionality. My students don’t always need the firepower and Google is picking up a lot of believers in educators who see all of the benefits Chrome devices can deliver at a fraction of the cost.

I understand and appreciate Tim Cook’s passion for giving educators and learners amazing stuff but if Chrome devices are just “test machines”, he needs to Think Different. 

Mr. Losik’s 2015 Holiday Gift Giving Guide

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It’s too early to put up your tree. It’s too early to even turn on the 24 hour Christmas music station. No, it is…..well at least at our house. When the turkey dinner is cleaned up, then it…..is…..on!

It’s never too early though to get a jump on holiday shopping and here is your 2015 gift giving guide from MrLosik.com. In the past I have talked iPads and tablets. Last year it was all about putting STEAM in a kid’s Christmas. This year it’s all about “learning toys that kids don’t know are learning toys” with just a little tech sprinkled into the mix. I have included the link to most of these products on Amazon and most have Prime shipping available. Most are also available from the big box department stores like Walmart and Target as so keep your eyes open when out battling the crowds. Keep your eyes open for me as well on WOOD TV next Monday morning (November 30) to about a bunch of these.

BDPS-squishy-human-body-webSquishy Human Body – The “visible man” human body models have been around for a long time but what makes this one different is that all of the guts come out and kids can spend endless hours doing surgery by extracting them and putting them all back in together. Smart Lab Toys also includes a great guide book that teaches about each body part. This just one of a bunch of amazing products the company offers. There’s a squishy brain that looks totally gross. Get the Squishy Human Body on Amazon for $21.99.

Star Wars Science – Death Star Planetarium – With Star Wars The Force Awakens opening soon, there is no doubt that Star Wars toys are going to be hot this season. It reminds me a lot of the Christmas when I was a first grader. The first movie (or Episode IV – A New Dawn or whatever you want to call it) had just come out and I can’t remember anything I got that Christmas that didn’t have Darth Vader on it. Here comes a great model of the Death Star from Uncle Milton Toys and their line of Star Wars science that turns a dark room into a full map of our night sky or the Star Wars planetary system.

Get the Death Star Planetarium from Amazon for $17.17.

chocolatepenCandy Craft Chocolate Pen – Doodling is great. Doodling with chocolate in a variety of colors is amazing. This pen uses a variety of chocolate-filled cartridges and allows free-hand creativity or is great for filling 50 different molds that are included in the starter kit. I was exploring traditional 3D printers and doodlers, the ones that create plastic objects when I discovered the chocolate pen. Give me chocolate over plastic any day and you will save a bunch of money too. There are a ton of optional accessories that can be added from the Candy Craft line of products from Skyrocket toys. Amazon has it available for $24.93.Anki-OVERDRIVE-Starter-Kit


Anki Overdrive Race Track Starter Kit – 
Take the old slot car race track and move it 50 years into the future. Anki’s starter kit comes with two robotically controlled race cars and eight pieces of easily adjustable track. Instead of just a little trigger that makes the cars go fast or too fast, these cars are controlled by an iOS or Android app. The app talks to the car and the car talks to the track helping to prevent endless spinouts and slide-offs. The app even keeps track of race position and laps completed. No one to race against? No problem. These cars can drive themselves. Yes, just like those Google cars we keep hearing about. If you think that is amazing, they also come with electronic weapons like phasers and forcefields that disrupt the other cars on the track. The starter kit is expandable with more cars and more track pieces, even jumps. This toy is more expensive at $135 but you get a lot of play for the money.  it is still cheaper than most gaming systems or larger electronic devices and it stimulates the science, tech, and engineering of racing along with the creativity of designing the ultimate track layout. Get it at Amazon.

smallcoverStay In The Game: Jared Veldheer’s Journey To The NFL – I am 100% biased on this one but having spent the last five years creating this book I know it will provide a lot of entertainment and insight to any sports fan age 10 and up. Jared Veldheer was an over-sized, brainy kid who often found it hard to fit-in. Things all changed when he realized he could combine his amazing athletic gifts and size with his intelligence in order to do big things in the sports world. Now he’s one of the top left tackles in the National Football League.  If Jared hadn’t made a career of football, the core principles of his life would have likely made him successful in whatever he had decided to pursue.

Jared’s offensive line coach at Hillsdale College was one of the first to read it and said he couldn’t put it down, “ ‘Stay In The Game’ is a great story and a great read. I think current and future football players will benefit tremendously from the insight it provides.”

Get a copy from Lulu.com for $11.99. It will be one book that won’t bring any Christmas morning eye rolls like other books might.

Here is a bonus. I have had people ask about what the best Chromebook and tablet buys are this season so I offer up this device from ASUS. The ASUS Chromebook Flip 10.1-Inch Convertible 2 in 1 Touchscreen starts as a Chromebook but the keyboard flips all of the way back so the touchscreen can serve as a tablet.

flipchromebook For $219 this is a great device that does anything you can do with your Chrome browser all with the convenience of the touchscreen and its price comes in way below what tablet makers like Samsung and Apple can offer. It’s made believers out of a lot of educators and I know of at least two districts in Michigan that are selecting this device for their upcoming 1:1 technology initiatives. There is a ton of learning and fun in this one.

 

A few other odds and ends to explore:

  • Amazon Fire Tablet: At $49 this is a great little 7″ device for playing games, surfing the web (Do people still say that?), or watching streaming content. It might not have the full capability of an iPad but for under $50 it still packs a lot of fun and functionality.
  • Ruby Rails – The new action figure from Goldieblox – She’s a computer engineer who skydives.
  • Compose Yourself – A music card game that lets kids hear their creations played by the London Symphony.
  • Chrono Bomb – Set up a course and maneuver your way through a laser maze before time is up…just you’re the 12th member of Ocean’s 11.

Makey Makey Just Got Easier With Makey Makey Go

Image result for makey makey goIt is not like inventing with the original Makey Makey was extremely hard to begin with, but things just got more simple and more mobile with the “Go” version.

Makey Makey Go will begin shipping in December and is the size of a thumb drive making it totally mobile and less likely to get you taken “behind the curtain” by TSA when on the way to some nerdfest you’re carrying kits with lots of wires, panels, and alligator clips through airports (I know a lady who experienced this.).

What exactly is the “Go”? Well, this video can explain and describe it way better than I can.

Flite Test | Tile Can Help You Find Almost Anything

I have often infuriated my family by not being able to find my keys when we are all ready to go someplace. Last January they bought me a Tile ($25 on their site) that hooks on my keys and connects to an iPhone app. Now when I can’t find my keys and I am within less than 150 feet I tap a button on my phone and the tile starts to chirp. The app uses bluetooth to locate the tile and pinpoints it on a map. Even if I am a greater distance away, the map shows the last place the tile talked to my phone.

All of the above would be cool enough but Tile uses all other users with the app as anonymous trackers. That means that any time anybody gets within 150 feet of a Tile no matter who it belongs to, it’s location is registered with the company and updated on the owner’s app. Imagine losing your keys or a camera or anything at Disney World. Instead of having to look under every seat of every boat in It’s a Small World, just fire up your app and chances are it will get pinged by another Tile user.

The guys from Flite Test have created a great video demonstrating how all of these features work together. Check out the Tile Blog as well.