Friday, May 30, 2014

Photo Friday: High Speed Shutter

Here is a shot taken with the shutter speed set high. With enough light you can capture millisecond moments. Here the crayons appear to floating under the spell of one of my former students Lauren.

The beauty of the digital DSLR camera is that you can take shot after shot until you get it just right.

[caption id="attachment_632" align="alignleft" width="693"]high speed shutter high speed shutter[/caption]

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

WOTV: A Unique Preschool - Taking learning out of the classroom

West Michigan ABC affiliate WOTV did a fantastic piece on Hamilton's Little Hawks Preschool. This is just one aspect of why I am so lucky to teach where I do. These kids are getting a great start and getting to spend their days outside in a beautiful preserve. School really is about developing the whole child.

25 words better than "rigorous"

In this age of educational reform, the words "rigor" and "rigorous" get thrown around as a manner of painting a picture of students developing deep knowledge and meeting high expectations. For the most part the words are used with the best of intentions. They are however losing their meaning as they become more and more cliché.

Luckily people in education are starting to re-think our overuse of these words. It is not hard to do when we take a look at their actual meanings.

Take a look at this screenshot from for "rigorous".
Screenshot 2014-05-28 08.09.31



Do we really want our schools to be harsh,  brutal, oppressive, and ironhanded? I don't. Here are twenty-five words that I feel paint a much better picture of the kinds of schools we want to lead and have our students experience.


We should strive to get the absolute most from our students and develop their talents. That experience doesn't have to be an unpleasant one. It is a safe bet everyone involved will grow even more if we aren't so ironhanded.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Point and Shoot 3D Modeling with 123D Catch

The cat sculpture above was created by one of our third graders in art class. It is a nice piece of work in the style of artist Laurel Burch. After it and others were displayed in the library for a couple of weeks students took them home.

We were able to create a 3D interactive digital replica simply through the iPad's camera and the 123D Catch app from Autodesk.

The app directs the user through a series of shots in order to capture all angles of a 3D object. After some rendering, the app sews together all overlapping images and creates a digital version. It is extremely easy.

The cool thing is that content created in any of the 123D apps can be further edited and developed via a companion Autodesk web app. The cat sculpture had a lot of excess space in the model like bookshelves and background that I was able to remove. Be warned though. Some of the models you send from your mobile device to the app can be pretty big and take significant time and memory to load. Once I cut out the extras, working with model was much smoother.

These models can also be printed at home if you have a compatible 3D printer or 3D prints can be ordered through Autodesk. If you thought the world of Maker Faires and 3D modeling was far beyond your tech savviness, this app makes the process as easy as point and shoot.

10 Seconds from Infotech

Here is a quick peek at the fun we make in Infotech. First Graders were writing and drawing in KidPix about their favorite online activities and then enjoying them. This sing-along broke out in the most impromptu manner.

Demystifying the new iMovie

Jon Corippo and I presented on Advanced iMovie techniques at the 2013 MACUL conference in Detroit. Since then, iMovie has undergone some significant changes.

A number of the old habit workflows no longer work. This was the scene at the Connected Educator Un/conference about a month ago. Several of us were completely stumped at using green screen in the newest version.

Jon recently overhauled the Advanced iMovie Techniques slide deck for the new version, demystifying all of the changes. Enjoy.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Photo Friday: Market Day

Here is another one from 2007. It is one of my favorite pics to use as a writing prompt because there are so many colors, the danger sign, and interactions happening in it. I took it from the shuttle bus window as my wife and I traveled from our resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic back to the airport.

Market Day

Photo Friday: Blue Skies

I can't believe it has been seven years since I took this picture. It was one of the first pictures I really liked that I took with my new Nikon D40. It was also the first warm day to be outside shooting that spring.

After thinking the Memorial Day Parade started at 9:30 instead of 9:00 we ventured to the Blue Star Elementary playground to enjoy the great holiday weather. The blue skies had returned and launched another beautiful Michigan summer along the Lake Michigan shore.Events-316

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Untapped Power of Apple's Preview

Preview_iconHands down my favorite feature of Keynote is the Instant Alpha tool. It takes out background color and really makes a huge difference when creating presentations with icons and logos. I also do a ton of creative layout and design work in Keynote. With Instant Alpha it functions just like Photoshop.

My only complaint was that although I could export slides as images, I couldn't export images with transparent backgrounds.

I shared this with my buddy Jon Corippo the other night and he mentioned using Preview to do it. I had really only ever used Preview to view .pdf files on my Mac. Jon explained that he builds in Keynote, saves as an image, and then opens it in Preview. The same Instant Alpha in Keynote exists on the "Edit Toolbar" in Preview (VIEW - Show Edit Toolbar). Once you alpha out your background you can export (under FILE) as a .png.

I had no idea.

The Edit Toolbar also allows you to add text and shapes, as well as crop and adjust your image...all for free.

Screenshot 2014-05-19 10.29.23

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fourteen years of handing out superpowers

As the school year winds down it seems like all we do is check off one more task from from a never-ending to-do list. Reflecting is one of those things we need to do but don't always do. This week I submitted my last monthly newsletter for the year. What I teach is called Infotech. It is in the elementary specials rotation with music, art, and phys. ed. Kids come to me for an hour each week. The program is kind of my baby because I was one of the two founding teachers and have been able to mold it pretty much to my wishes along the way. I can't believe it has been fourteen years since we sat down to craft this thing. Below are my reflections that I placed in the specials news section this week.

As I take a second to look back over the last fourteen years of Infotech, it is pretty amazing how much it has changed.

We started out as one of the first school districts in Michigan to have wireless laptops with our blue Apple "clamshell" iBooks. Since then we have moved to being much more web-based and have MacBooks with ten times the capabilities of the original iBooks.

We utilize many of Google's Apps for Education and we have Apple iPads running iOS and Sony tablets that run Android. It seems like we are broadening students' exposure to more and more tools and devices every year.

One thing hasn't changed though. The goal of Infotech has been and always will be to build technology skills that students can use to enhance learning in their regular classroom. I call them "learning superpowers" that allow them to access information in amazing ways and to share what they learn in amazing ways. Here is to many more great years to come in Infotech.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

#MichEd Un/Conference Excellent Adventure Keynote

Thanks Brad Wilson and #TeamJXN for polishing up my keynote address from the  Connected Educator Un/Conference. There is a little Easter Egg in this so stick around for the whole thing.




Autodesk offering free software to educators

Aautodeskutodesk has built itself into a huge force on the industrial design and 3D animation fronts in gaming and entertainment.

Now they are making a big push for education and inviting educators to use all of their software for free.

There are some amazing design apps for as young as 4th grade and some serious high-end tools for computer-aided drafting and video editing projects as well.

For a good place to start, go to the app store and find anything "123d" for your iPad. Let your kids figure out how quickly they can begin molding and modeling. Be warned that you will probably want to get a 3D printer though so you can make their creations a reality .

My favorite so far is the Catch app that lets you shoot panoramic shots of an object and then the apps builds it into a 3D digital model. I showed our art teacher how I created a digital version of one of the 3rd grade sculptures a girl at Blue Star Elementary made. This gives us the ability to save physical creativity in digital portfolios or share it far beyond school walls.

Autodesk is involved in so much. I was surprised to learn they also make the Pixlr online creativity suite, Tinkerbox app (iOS), and the Instructables app (iOS and Android).

Look for what I hear will be an impressive presence at ISTE this summer.

I would bet serious money that this company will become a major, well-known force in education in the next 5 years...if not a lot sooner.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A view from above

Check out the Earth from the International Space Station 230 miles above at a speed up to 17,000 miles per hour. 
Live streaming video by UstreamTo find out where the ISS is use this tracker.