Monday, December 10, 2018

Listen: My Conversation with John Sowash on The Chromebook Classroom Podcast

John and Me...somewhere in this group photo from the rooftop of Chicago's Google offices.
Earlier this Fall I had the honor of joining Google Education expert John Sowash on his "Chromebook Classroom Podcast". We had been fortunate enough this past summer to spend some quality time together in Chicago during ISTE.

While at the edtech mega-gathering we talked a lot about my "Chromebook Crisis" post and made plans to continue the conversation on the podcast.

Here you go: "Do We Have a Chromebook Crisis?"

In the episode we address that big question but also talk about ways how teachers can foster more creativity with a bevy of tools in the Chromebook environment.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Mr. Losik's Christmas List: Best Holiday STEM Gifts for Kids 2018

I get asked by parents year after year what gifts I recommend that kids will love....and maybe still learn something along the way.

After much deliberation and after many discussions with my Pre-K to 4th grade students, here's the list for the 2018 Holiday Season. Sorry kids, the iPhone XS Max didn't make the list although many of you told me it was on your wishlist. Good luck with that.

This year's list contains a real balance of totally techie gifts and completely unplugged, completely old school toys still beloved by parents and grandparents. What they all have in common is that they build skills and provide experiences that every kid needs in order to live a well-rounded life both in and out of school.

Monthly STEM Crates from KiwiCo - Guaranteed to be a lot more rewarding than the Jelly of the Month Club, each month a new crate arrives in the mail with a fun activity to build and enjoy. Kiwi offers KiwiCrate for kids ages 5-8 and TinkerCrate for ages 9-15. Recent crates we've sampled included an arcade claw game from Kiwi and a fun to build arcade catapult game from Tinker. The subscription price ranges from $16.95 to $19.95 per month depending on length of commitment. Thoroughly check their site though as numerous specials are offered. A recent offer featured 3 months for $39.

MakeDo Cardboard Construction Tools - By the far the best value on this year's list is a fun tool set that will lead to endless hours of creative adventures...and you won't have to figure out what to do with all of those boxes after all of the gifts are unwrapped. It's just $12.50 for the starter set and then you can add-on more screws and tools if you need them. The cardboard box is in the Toy Hall of Fame for a reason. Kids love to create with them. This really ramps up their abilities because now they can attach individual pieces or secure a whole bunch of boxes together. You can order sets from the website as well as get really cool project ideas.

Worx Zip Snip Cardboard Cutter - $34.00 from - This amazing cutter is the perfect companion to the cardboard construction tools as it is way safer than the typical steak knife that many kids end up using to cut their cardboard boxes down to the desired size. The Zip Snip is very safe. It's not 100% accident-proof but it's close as the blade opening is very small. With a little attention from the child doing the cutting and some adult supervision, it's almost magical how slickly this thing cuts. It's great for all kinds of jobs including opening up plastic packaging and for even cutting gift wrap.
GoPro Hero Session 8.0 MP Waterproof Sports & Action Camera with Standard Housing and 2 Adhesive Mounts (Certified Refurbished)GoPro Hero Session 8.0 MP-
$114.00 If your kids really want a GoPro-type camera it’s best to go with the name brand but for most families (unless your kids are really into filmmaking) the entry level model will be plenty of camera. There are some key points to consider however. There is no viewfinder. You use an app on a phone or tablet to set up a shot or to review clips. The free GoPro apps are really great for framing of shots, reviewing shots, and for doing some quick editing of short clips. The footage files though are really big and will fill up phone and tablet space quickly so you will want a computer to edit longer footage.

Also, tons of fun accessories like bicycle and helmet mounts can be found quite cheaply at Amazon as well. In STEM we've found these to be just as reliable as the GoPro branded ones.

Parrot Mambo Drone - $66 - Amazon - I am also being asked an increasing number of questions about which drone I recommend for kids. Personally, if I was going to buy drones for us to use in STEM, my choice would be the Mambo from Parrot. There are a couple of reasons. For the price, the quality, reliability, and out of the box ease of use set this model apart in an increasingly crowded market. Secondly, the coolest thing I find with this one is that there are tons of coding activities kids can complete to control the vehicle. Talk about taking command through learning. Coding is more than just creating games. It's all about doing high-end math and solving problems. We know that the more puzzles kids do, the better they do in math. Coding to make these things fly is a type of puzzle guaranteed to grow a few brain cells.Parrot Mambo Fly - Code, Pilot and Play Sphero- The Bolt ($149) with its LED display panel is on a bunch of wish lists this year but the Spark+ ($99) and Sphero Mini ($49) are also more affordable options. The thing about Sphero that I love is that it ties coding to something tangible. When a kid can see a physical object react to their programming it makes coding far more meaningful than just moving objects on a screen. Note about the Mini: They are much more fragile than the others. Keep them on the floor. We’ve had some casualties from them falling off of the tables in STEM. All are available from Amazon.

Lincoln Logs - $26 to $85 from Amazon. Kids love these very old school analog building toys. They provide hours of unplugged creativity and parents and grandparents love the nostalgic connection they feel when they all build together. Construction toys are so important for boys and girls to play with because we learn common sense and laws of physics. There are lots of stories from female engineers who discovered when they got to college they were at a disadvantage because their male counterparts had so much more experience putting things together. Whether our kids our headed to become engineers or not, the hands-on experience of working with these gems is something everyone should experience.

Legos are also a timeless favorite but can be really expensive. Just as apps like Mercari and Poshmark have made dealing in new, used, and vintage items easy options, and are cool third party Lego marketplaces. The Lego Fire Plane 4209 set retails for $68.99 across the web but can be had on BrickOwl for as low as $37.50. We all know that the sets are great but if you can get lots of random blocks for original creations, they'll grow even more creatively. There are new and used bricks so do some research before buying.LEGO Fire Plane Set 4209

More Old School - Every year it seems like our kindergarteners come to us with less and experience with being creative with stuff like construction paper, scissors, and other craft supplies. This is evident in reduced fine motor skills, lower social skills when it comes to creating together, and a need for teachers to prompt more children who simply state they don't know what to make. It's easy for us to blame this on too much screen time but lives of little kids can be bubble wrapped and ultra-organized. Many kids get less and less unstructured "just build it time".

Go out this Christmas and buy lots of things you used to use to just make things. Who's daring enough to buy their kids glitter? Are you ready for a trip to the real danger zone? Get them a hot glue gun to really ramp up the crafting and construction game. How about a real workbench with a hammer and saw like this one from Stanley?

We as educators and parents know that technology is great for helping kids learn and yes, enjoy life. Let's occasionally take a step back and look at what type of balance our children's lives are seeing. They need to explore, document adventures, learn new things, and they need to create with other kids and family members. By putting any of these suggestions under the tree, you'll be helping your kids make that happen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Everyone can teach great media production with "Everyone Can Create" curriculum guides from Apple

During last Spring's launch of the newest iPad Apple debuted its new curriculum effort, "Everyone Can Create". iLife has always led the way when it comes to great tools that allow students to create at a high level. Now teachers and students can download a series of guides that turn "good" student projects into "great" student projects. 

The guides dig deep into the iPad's capabilities and provide easy to follow tutorials that will have students seeing immediate improvements in how they use the devices. 

Activities like taking photo walks, sketching original emojis, making documentaries, and even learning to mix music will help you and your students produce like professionals in Keynote, Clips, iMovie, Photos, and a few third party applications like Tayasui Sketches. 

Check 'em out. The links below open in iTunes. You can also download all of the guides directly in the iBooks app.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Loving Shark Week? Here are Great Classroom Resources

One of the coolest things I have enjoyed from this year's Shark Week is discovering the great educational resources hosted by Dr. Neil Hammerschlag and the University of Miami Shark Research Lab.

Check out the "Virtual Expedition" where learners can experience a shark tagging research trip from prepping the gear to identifying sharks they've tagged.

Other resources your students will find fascinating are:

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Worst Preso Ever: Jon Corippo explains how to integrate this gem into any curriculum

Here is a gem from Jon Corippo that I have used over and over with kids of all ages as well as with professionals in workshops.

It's the "Worst Preso Ever" activity and it is part of the Smart Start program Jon developed for establishing culture and foundational skills when he led the opening of Minarets High School in Central California.

In the video Jon gives the rationale and the steps to how making awful presentations can lead to really great ones and a community of learners and creators.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Beyond Presentations: Customize Google Slides to any Dimension

One simple tweak under hood can unleash a world of freedom!

Now, that sounds like something a gear-head teenager might say after barreling out the carburetor on his mom's Passat. What we're talking about here though is Google Slides. With one not-so-obvious click, any Google slide can take on any dimension.

Make it tall and rectangular and create infographics. Make it long and rectangular and trick out your Twitter banner (1500x500 pixels) or your Facebook cover photo (851x315 pixels for desktop, 640x360 pixels for mobile) or go square for Instagram like I did. You can choose dimensions in inches, centimeters, points, or pixels.

To customize the slide, go to FILE and then PAGE SETUP.
 The thing I find most useful here is the fact that Slides connects so nicely with Google Photos. If I am posting to Instagram and want to create a collage of pictures from a trip or if I want to add words of wisdom to an image then Slides is one stop shopping. You can download your image as a JPEG in the FILE menu. It's too bad we can only post to Instagram from a mobile device.

Customizing slide size is just another way a lot of creativity can be fostered through Google Slides...and has nothing to do with just making slideshows.

For more creativity tools, especially for Chromebooks, check out the Chromebook Creativity Project and follow #CreateWithChromebooks on social media.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Turn Keynote into a 3D Design Studio

With the advent of a growing shape library in Keynote and virtually unlimited fonts (if you use the Mac version), the presentation application can be leveraged into a dynamite design tool...even for 3D printing.

For years I have been using Keynote for just about everything except slide shows. I create fun graphics for video production, t-shirt designs, as it is where I stop long before I fire up Photoshop. Now with a growing assortment of silhouette shapes and symbols, the creativity possibilities have increased exponentially.

Here is a quick workflow for turning Keynote creations on a screen into 3D printed reality.

1. Design in Keynote. Just make everything black so it will convert easily. Here I have designed a shark that will stand up on a small pedestal (to be added later in Tinkercad) with the words "Great White Shark" added to the base. Notice how I added some grass and star fish to liven up the design a bit. I did this one quickly on my iPad so fonts were limited but had I used the Mac version, I could have gotten a lot more in depth with my text designs. Note: Everything you create in Keynote will essentially be one object in the CAD program so it will all print at the same thickness. If you want objects to have differing thickness, just create separate slides for each individual part.

2. Export your slide as an image and then convert to a scalable vector graphic (.svg file). The easiest way I have found to do this to use is It's a simple upload, automatic conversion, and download process.

3. Open your 3D design app or site of choice (I work mainly in and import the .svg file or files you created from the converted slides.

Add any extra pieces you want and then assemble the pieces. I added a wedge piece for the base and then under my text, I slid a small rectangle that will help keep my text together. Eventually I will glue that printed text onto the front of the base.

4. Scale, adjust, and download for printing. Really, that is all there is to harnessing the tremendously creative power of Keynote into something you can actually pick up and handle.

Here is the final product as produced with our XYZPrinting DaVinci Mini Maker. Like most designs, this one too could use some refining. The text ended up being too small to be useful and a little poster putty went a long way to help our shark stay afloat. Still, this is a fun example of what Keynote, creativity and some free conversion tools can help you and your learners create. Think about all of the knowledge they