“Wide-Open Spaces” Want creative thinkers? Help kids create, says Mitch Resnick – MIT Spectrum

THE LIFELONG KINDERGARTEN GROUP AT THE MIT MEDIA LAB, led by Mitchel Resnick SM ’88, PhD ’92, is known for its educational innovations: the Computer Clubhouse Network, an after-school environment where kids from underserved communities learn to express themselves creatively with new technologies; a 30-year collaboration with the LEGO company begun by Resnick’s mentor, the late MIT professor Seymour Papert, which yielded the robotics kits branded as LEGO Mindstorms; and Scratch, a visual programming language

Read an Interview with Mitchel Resnick on the idea of letting kids create: Wide-Open Spaces – MIT Spectrum

Embrace The Learning Curve This Christmas Morning

The more I talk to kids about what they are dreaming about showing up under the Christmas tree, the more I hear about really cool, high tech gadgets like virtual reality headsets, 3D printers, robots like Spheros or Ozobots, and drones.

Here is a newsflash. All of those items are amazing and all of those items can be really hard to use at the start. I am not trying to play The Grinch here; I am telling you now so you can be ready for the learning curve.

When kids dream of drones, they don’t dream of a parent muttering words that could get them on the naughty list while trying to assemble it. They don’t dream of an endless series of 3 second flights either. They dream of that thing lifting off in the living room and capturing with its camera the majesty of a Christmas morning. Reality is that these toys can make many dreams come true but it will take time. Here are some tips.

1. Prepare yourself. Whether you receive the gift or give the gift, understand that the cool stuff you saw happening in the YouTube promotional video probably was highly edited and performed by the inventors of the device. Make that kind of high level use your goal….someday, not right out of the box.

2. Seek out help. Speaking of YouTube, most companies now post many product support videos online. When I bought my XYZ Mini Maker 3D printer I found their online support videos to be far more detailed and helpful than the printed instructions. You can also often find videos created by other users of the product that share their own tweaks and helpful hints. Use all of the knowledge that exists and that people are willing to share. It can make a big difference.

3. Make it about the journey. Instead of pouting that your first 3D printed phone case turned out more like something stuck to the pan at the bottom of great grandma’s egg casserole, have a laugh and know your skills will greatly improve. Try and figure out what went wrong so you can improve upon future designs. Keep that lumpy pile of goo so that when you are cranking out really cool stuff you can look back and see how far you have come. It has taken me months to produce anything really useful with my printer.

4. Remember 1 thing. Everything is awesome! We are so lucky to be living in the day and age we do….especially over the holidays. If you need a reminder, just listen to the old Christmas carol “Up on the Housetop.” Here is what those kids got from Dear Old Saint Nick:

“Next comes the stocking of little Will
Oh, just see what a glorious fill
Here is a hammer and lots of tacks
Also a ball and a whip that cracks”

No VR headset for little Will? Bummer. Poor Will probably had to go fix the roof and then drive the oxen to town that day once all of the wrapping paper was cleaned up. The point is…..if you get something amazing, be grateful, and when (not if) it doesn’t work perfectly right at the start, be happy about that. Don’t get mad. Getter better at it.

10 Ways To Stop the Summer Slide

The following was posted for my elementary kids on my classroom blog mrlosik.blogspot.com.  I am sharing it here to offer up some ideas teachers can use to help their own students avoid the “summer slide”.

Don’t let the last nine months of hard work simply slip away. Here are tens ways to keep the knowledge, creativity, and problem solving growing.

1. Read. Our local libraries are amazing places and wonderfully cool on hot days. Holland’s Herrick District Library has lot of summer activities planned and so does the Saugatuck Douglas Library. The Kent District Library in Grand Rapids does too if your family is up for a little reading road trip. Best of all, they are all free. Another free online resource is the Michigan Electronic Library’s kids section.

Your family can also sign up for Epic Books and have unlimited access to all kinds of digital books for your iPad or tablet. Think of it like Netflix for books with tons of the best titles like Big Nate and Bad Kitty. Epic is $4.99 per month and the first month is free. That’s less than a pizza and whether you like fiction or non-fiction, there is something for everybody.

2. Practice Math Facts. Teaching and learning are a lot like playing sports. Professional football players don’t just sit around all summer waiting for training camp. They are doing something everyday to become faster, stronger, and smarter. Whether it’s running, lifting weights, or perfecting how to better cover a pass, they know without it, they won’t be successful. The same is true with math facts. The more they become automatic, the more you can move on to more exciting stuff. Spend time on IXL and XtraMath this summer building your speed, strength, and brain. Here is the Blue Star IXL login.

3. Build Something. One of the main reasons we do math is so we can make cool stuff. Anybody can be a worksheet monkey but is really special to do something with your math skills. Whether you are just nailing wood together on a workbench or creating your own iPad speakers you have to be able to measure your pieces and solve equations. Check out Instructables.com and you will be amazed at all of the projects from simple to mind-blowing. Most even use things you just have lying around the house.

4. Get Outside and Explore. Did you know that in Michigan you are never more than six miles from water? West Michigan is literally one of the best places on earth to spend the summer. Whether it is a visit to a park, the woods, or the beach there are great places to explore just minutes from your house.  The Shore Acres Park near the Felt Mansion has all of that and more. Walk the trails and check out the different trees and then look for fossils, sea glass, and special rocks on beach. The Lake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide is a great book for identifying what you find. Here is a cool blog with some other information. Pier Cove, Westside County Park, Douglas Beach, and Laketown Beach are all free and close by.

5. Grow Something and Eat It. You might live on a big farm or you might live in a tiny apartment, but everyone has enough room for a flower pot or planter. Go big on a whole garden or just spend a buck or two on some green bean seeds and plant them in sturdy pot. Give them water and sun and soon you will have a beanstalk offering up a crisp healthy snack. Gardening Fundamentals  is a great place to start. Print out the journal to track your gardening.

6. Learn to Code. Why just play video games when you can learn an entire new language and build your own? Visit CODE.org and work on a couple of challenges like the Mindcraft, Star Wars or Frozen ones. If you get caught by the coding bug, keep going and try one of their 20 Hour Courses. There is something for every grade level from pre-school on up. Completing these courses will actually give you a nice boost on a career in computer science or set you up to build your own game.

7. Catch the Olympic Spirit. The world’s best athletes are headed to Rio de Janeiro in August for the 2016 summer Olympics. Sharpen your geography and boost your knowledge by digging into the history of the games, researching your favorite athletes, and making the flags you find most interesting. Teachervision.com has a great site for getting started. NBC will provide hundreds of hours of coverage but you don’t have to wait until August. Check out NBCOlympics.com now to learn all about what is coming up from Rio.
8. Play60. Just go outside and play. You don’t have to spend money going to a sports or summer camp. It doesn’t even matter if there are any other kids around either. Speaking of Olympics, set up your own events even if you just draw a line, pick up a rock, and jump as far as you can. Set the rock down next to where your back heel landed. Try to beat it. If you want to do some moving with a pro athlete, check out Washington Redskins’ Ryan Kerrigan leading some agility activities from Discovery Education and the NFL. Getting creative outside is great for mind and body.
9. Go new places. If you have opportunity to take a trip, understand how lucky you are to be getting out and experiencing new places. Just paying attention to how the scenery changes or the importance of physical and human-created landmarks is the best social studies lesson anybody can have. Even if it doesn’t work out for your family to embark on an epic journey just go somewhere different like a park you’ve never explored. Try to unplug as much as possible but if you are going to bring along a device use it to capture and then share the adventure. Here are some great apps for that.

10. Do Something For Someone Else. No matter what you do this summer, do something for someone else. The real reward is the feeling you get inside. I’ve always believed true friendship is true service so just randomly decide to help someone do something like empty the dishwasher or even clean your room without being told. The more you volunteer your time and talents, the more likely you will return to school in the fall ready to be the kind of kid that makes any school a better place to be.

Our summer vacation is something we can’t take for granted. Find a nice balance of recovering from this school year, resting up for the next one, and finding ways to keep your brain firing while you make it the best one ever!

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.

“Participation Medals Are Not the Real World”: the Wit and Wisdom of Curt Schilling

Last night I had the opportunity to visit my alma mater Hillsdale College and the kickoff to its “Sports and Character” symposium.

World Series MVP Curt Schilling was the speaker and leadership was his primary theme. Schilling is best remembered for his bloody sock in Game Six of the ALCS in 2004. A lot was made of the courage it took for Schilling to pitch with an ankle tendon sutured in place and that he was a hero to the long suffering Red Sox nation.

“I only did what I thought every one of my teammates would have done,” Schilling stated. “In our world the words ‘hero’, ‘great’, and ‘courage’ have really been diminished.” He also mentioned that he had never been more at ease on the mound and credited a casual conversation with God that eased the nerves and any doubts about the ankle holding up. “That night I had a moment of true faith. Never in my life was I more relaxed and enjoyed playing the game more.”

Most of the night’s talk was a set of stories of both sporting and personal highs and lows. It’s quite evident that Schilling has taken every experience and learned something that has either helped him grow or is something he can share to help others grow as well.

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Curt Schilling sharing his life experiences on Sunday night.

Here are some quotes on a number of topics that give insight into the wit and wisdom of Curt Schilling.

On parents who push their kids too much in sports: “If you make your kid love a sport they will quit the minute you can’t make them love it anymore.”

On the “real world” that the college students will soon face: “Participation medals aren’t the real world.” and “If you leave your house every morning waiting to be patted on the ass for a job well done, it’s not going to happen. That’s because the rest of the world now is too busy waiting to be patted on the ass for a job well done.”

On becoming the first team in Major League history to come back from a three games to none deficit in the 2004 American League Championship Series: “I told my teammates down 0-3 that we don’t have to win the next four games. We don’t have to even win the next game. All we have to do is win the next at-bat and the at-bat after that and we’ll be fine. Just focus at the task at hand.”

What I found most applicable to my career as an educator was the time he spent talking about leadership and accountability.

“Anyone can be a leader but there are so few true leaders.”

“Leaders get paid to produce. Everyone else gets paid to work.”

“You can get a job anywhere but it is really hard to find a place where you are inspired everyday. That’s what real leaders do. They inspire people who are excited to come do what it is they do everyday.”

On lessons in accountability he learned from the failure of his 38 Studios video game company and the $50,000,000 he lost of his own money in the venture.

“When you put your head on your pillow there’s no escaping by making excuses that losing the 50 million was somebody else’s fault…If you want to know what accountability is try having to tell someone their job no longer exists because of your mistakes.”

Another part of the talk that really resonated with my life as a technology teacher and a dad of a daughter. A year ago Schilling began receiving an onslaught vulgar tweets directed at his daughter Gabby. Using his tech skills, Schilling tracked down the trolls and contacted their parents, bosses, and colleges. Several of the trolls were college athletes and immediately were cut from their respective teams.

“4 kids lost $140,000 of scholarships for 140 characters.”

“It’s hard to explain to kids ‘forever’ because the Internet is forever.”

All insightful thoughts. Probably the best thing that Curt Schilling modeled on Sunday night in Hillsdale is that you can be a world famous professional athlete but you still face the same ups and downs and trials that everyone else faces. The key is to learn from each of those trials and grow.

An hour well spent.

 

It’s Time for an Educational Jailbreak

Coding, Maker Space, Video, Photography, Graphic Design, Sound Engineering, and countless other great educational innovations have suffered far too long in the educational prisons of the world. It is time we break them out and truly integrate them into the core curriculum.

Coding is math. Video editing is story telling. Making is practical application of all kinds of “core” skills. They have to move though beyond being viewed as clubs, fun Friday activities, or just stuff hippies do to avoid integrating fully into society.

The education establishment has this terrible tendency to bottle up and lock away approaches to teaching and learning that don’t look like something it experienced in the classroom twenty years ago or worse isn’t obviously a part of subject areas measured by state assessments.

My former district took away specials like gym and art and made them test prep time. Recess was all but eliminated for more reading instruction. So much for educating the whole child.

This has to stop.

We can lament this all we want and nothing will change or we can begin to focus on the pedagogy and develop sound ways that coding builds success in the algebra classroom and that iMovie Book Trailers build excitement for reading and a demonstration of literacy. That is how we break down the prison walls that are keeping great innovation on the fringes of education and not at its core.

A Simple Approach To Dealing With Personal Devices In The Classroom

I have long been an advocate for bring your own device (BYOD) in the classroom. I figure that if kids have tools that know well and use well, then there is no reason to restrict them from using them in the classroom.

Key word there: tools, as in apps for learning.

Too many of the teachers who are frustrated with dealing with personal devices often don’t take the learning tools approach. Instead of allowing for specific purposes they end up policing. They collect phones ahead of class or insist on no devices being out at any time. Kids at our high school have even started bringing old phones to turn in at the beginning of class so they can still access their working devices.

I’m not naive enough to think that every time a kid has a device out in the library, they are using it solely for a learning activity. What I do know from 20+ years in the classroom that kids for the most part respond well when you give them some clear expectations and put the responsibility on them to do the right thing.

Despite spending a lot of time on this early in the year I too have had some frustration with our students in the library who are taking online classes. Too many are “forgetting” or just seeing how much they can push our guidelines with personal devices. Usually a friendly reminder gets everybody back on track. Sometimes it takes a few reminders.

Here is a new poster adorning our work stations. The kids got a laugh out of the devices I chose but more importantly the “got” the message.

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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. 

How Colorado teenagers hid a massive nude sexting ring from parents and teachers – The Washington Post

Here is a must-read wakeup call for educators and families. Kids will probably always out-pace us in the deception race but we owe it to them and ourselves to at least stay in the race.

Disguised to look and function like an innocent smartphone app, photo vaults — also known as “ghost apps” — allow people to conceal photos, video and information in plain view on their phone. They’ve been around since at least 2011, but have grown increasingly common as smartphones have gained popularity. The App Store and Google Play are littered with apps designed to help users hide their activity and camouflage sensitive information. “If you look at your kid’s phone, everything looks normal, but one of

Source: How Colorado teenagers hid a massive nude sexting ring from parents and teachers – The Washington Post

Rubik’s Cube: A question, waiting to be answered – Google

Rubik’s cube is more than a puzzle- it’s a question waiting to be answered. And when the right person finds the right question, it can set them on a journey to change the world. We salute Ernő Rubik and everyone helping young minds find the questions that challenge, excite, and let them see the world in a new way. See artists and designers remixing the Rubik’s Cube at http://chrome.com/cubelab ~Google