Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ChatterPix: Visualizing Student Voice

Creating a culture where students feel safe and empowered to share their ideas and creations is an important goal. Traditional models include Q&A sessions, group discussion, writing pieces, and presenting one's work in exhibition-based activities.

Yesterday in our STEM Certificate class, teachers in the program shared a variety of edtech products. One that I would like to share is a simple iTunes app. It is called ChatterPix. What you can do is add a voice recording to images and insert an animated mouth over the picture. In addition to being pretty hilarious to watch, the ability to add audio recordings to images creates all sorts of learning opportunities. For instance, a student could narrate the voice of a historical figure or produce a creative poem or story quote for a fictional character. The app is free and I tested the product and it took me three minutes to produce a ChatterPix recording.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Digital Twin: Smart, Connected Products

The way thing are made is changing. The connection between the digital and physical world of design is merging closer and closer. Historically 3D design and engineering plans were used in the beginning of a design process and when the physical product was created, these digital files were left on the hard drive and perhaps used in future product iterations. This is changing.

Now digital models of products are being integrated with our physical reality. In the near future we will be using apps to visualize our physical products in a virtual avatar form whereby we can learn all sorts of stuff. For instance, imagine you want to see if your car is in good condition--pull out your car 3D visualization app and in real time see the oil viscosity, piston structural integrity, or tire pressure of your car. All this data will be personalized to your car using embedded sensors in the product. The beginnings of this digital twin strategy are starting to appear such as augmented maps. If you are curious to learn more about the Digital Twin strategy and smart, connected products check out PTC's CEO keynote talk at the LiveWorx conference in Boston. Definitely worth a look if you are interested in innovation, design, and product development.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

JPL: Mars Simple Facts

From time to time I save websites and other media on Pinterest. And the one pin that gets re-pinned the most is about Mars.

Here is the resource which provides simple facts and figures on Mars. The website is old and the images are OK but the information is concise and covers the basics that any student would need to know to become familiarized with Mars conditions.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Coursolve: Digital Internships

Securing a job often requires prior experience in the field. This situation presents a catch 22 for many job seekers as they can't get the job they want unless they have experience, and since they don't have experience they can't get that job that demonstrates prior experience. Historically one way to overcome this barrier was to get an internship. Now internships are tough to get too; and in many cases, competitive internships require prior experience as well. 

OK well we have a new frontier where this barrier can be overcome---Digital Internships. A leader in this area is Coursolve.  It is an online platform that provides a menu of digital internships for various industry sectors such as marketing, data analysis, business strategy, and the sciences. Internships are advertised as short projects including both paid and unpaid work experiences. By leveraging this digital menu, professionals across the globe can tap into new markets and make new connections. Currently this platform seems to cater to post-college professionals. Next steps are providing this venue to college and K12 students...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

BIE: PBL resources

Lately I have been writing and talking quite a bit about PBL or project-based learning. As I mentioned previously my take on PBL is there are two types: (1) inquiry-based where students solve an essential question often in the shape of a lab or research project, and (2) design-based where students solve an essential problem often in the shape of a design challenge or engineering project.

If you are on the hunt for much more depth than this brief statement above, I recommend checking out the Buck Institute for Effective Education. They focus on PBL pedagogy, research and partnerships. They have a ton of white papers, some curricula, and other resources that can inform your teaching and learning.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

PTC STEM Certificate: Video

My team and I have been collaborating with K-12 STEM teachers for three years. Our aim is to enable teachers to be agile educators who can lead in and out of the classroom through various strategies such as curriculum innovation and project-based learning.

This effort takes shape in the PTC STEM Certificate program which is a graduate-level training program focused on best practices in education and industry. Recently we hosted a capstone challenge for the course. Using the content and skills they learned from 8 weeks of training they designed and presented concept plans for a smart, connected prosthetic for use in alpine sports activities. We had a blast and this experience was captured in a video that I would like to share with you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pixbay: images for lesson plans

Teachers are sharing their lessons and materials online through curriculum marketplaces such as Teachers Pay Teachers. In this pursuit, finding quality images is always a challenge, especially images that you have the rights to use for selling or sharing online.

Happily I would like to share with you Pixbay. This website provides thousands of quality images free to use that does not require any attribution. This means no concerns about copyright, selling content, or other legal matters. Find the image, download, add it your curriculum, and make beautiful lessons and worksheets for your students and other teachers. I use this resource all the time. Love it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Creative Educator: PBL strategies

Project-based learning is defined by many strategies including authentic learning, focus on content knowledge, deep inquiry, or interdisciplinary learning.

One challenge in implementing PBL is identifying how to implement these strategies. If you are curious to find some answers I recommend checking out this resource by Creative Educator. Here you will find narratives explaining core concepts as well downloadable PDFs to support your instruction.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

NovoEd: MOOC, 3

One of the challenges in delivering MOOCs is providing quality feedback to your students. In the research literature, feedback, especially formative feedback, is identified as a strong predictor of student learning especially in developing deep understanding of core concepts. So the question is how do you provide formative feedback when you have 1000+ students and one or two instructors? 

In the online learning space, social learning is one solution. How it works is you create a platform in which peers in the class can share their expertise and knowledge with other students in the class. There are many tools to accomplish this. You could have a tool that enables students to create professional learning teams in which they can conduct discussions and Q&As. Another tool is to create a peer-2-peer assessment features in which students give feedback on other's students works. The benefits of approaches like this is the platform cultivates a collaborative learning experience, instructors are able to coordinate feedback, and students are positioned as both learners and teachers. If you are looking for a best practice example in social learning I recommend NovoEd. I took the Crash Course on Creativity course and was super impressed by the user experience, course quality, and the in-depth collaboration features that were easy to use and very helpful in my exploration of creativity practices. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Coursera: MOOC, 2

About two weeks ago I visited a school where the 9th grade students were designing smart-connected products for a 21st century classroom (e.g. wrist band for automatic attendance, alternative powered parking spaces, smart lunch tables for  ordering food). I was there to check out their work and give feedback on their design and business plan. One group, and in particular one student, had a knack for coming up with business cases for their products. As we talked I could sense he was really hungry to learn more but he didn't know where to go. My follow up with him was you should check out all the MOOCs that have tons of courses on business and other finance related topics.

This story is an opener to my second blog entry on MOOCs. Today I would like to share with you Coursera. This is a well known MOOC; there are nearly 1000 courses offered by over 100 institutions that cover a ton of topics. If you open the search filter, for example, I counted 25 categories such as education or business, and some of these courses are offered in other languages than English. The best part about this is the courses are free!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Udemy: MOOC, 1

Based on the graph above, MOOC's are a hot search topic on Google. MOOC which stand for Massively Open Online Courses had a surge of interest in 2012-13 and to this day the growth is trending upward. The verdict on the effectiveness of MOOCs in increasing knowledge and other outcomes is tentative. Much more research is needed to tease out the key factors that lead to success such as collaborative features or peer assessment.

Recently I have been researching MOOCs and other online learning platforms and my plan is to share some of the big hitters over the next few weeks. The first one I want to share is Udemy. What I like about Udemy is its usability. Simple layout for search, filters to organize the lessons, and an in-depth but at the same time easily understood course outline that gives you a sense of the class goals and deliverables. I also like how there is a revenue model attached which by definition means Udemy is not a MOOC since it is not open or free. That being said the idea that anyone in the world can create a course and generate some value is a big deal especially for educators who have a lot to offer but don't have a traditional venue to share their interest and expertise.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Curiosity Machine: Design Challenges

Project-based learning can be broken down to two types: (1) inquiry-based is when students seek out to answer an essential question, and (2) design-based is when students seek to solve an essential problem. Both models are effective and have a rich research and practice history. In my work I often focus on the design-based model and use the Explore-Create-Share framework to scaffold and drive student learning.

If you are new to design-based learning or are looking for some new resources, check out Curiosity Machine. It is a STEM website dedicated to connecting students with real world engineers and scientist as they solve design challenges. They have a collection of design projects and some nice frameworks to organize student learning. I also love their brand--super colorful and fun.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Skillshare: connector of creatives

When you read about disruption or innovation I often see three sources. One is the producer; this is an organization that produces there own content that is unique and valuable (e.g. Apple, Tesla). Two is the connector; this is an organization that connects creatives in one location, physical or digital, that offers a venue for people to share ideas & resources (e.g. Quirky,, Amazon). Three is the enabler; this is an organization that enables creatives to make products through easy-to-use productivity tools (e.g. Adobe, Google Docs, etc.).

One organization that I want to share with you is a connector--Skillshare. They are an online learning network in which creatives share training tips in a variety of disciplines especially in the design, business and innovation space. Some of these videos are free to watch whereas others require a premium account. Definitely worth a look see.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Internet of Things: John Deere

The internet of things is a hot topic in industry. The idea is products will have sensors, software and connectivity to the cloud which enables the exchange of information between user, product, and manufacturer. Well known examples are the Nest system in homes or smart meters in San Francisco. The education market is starting to play in this field especially in city planning and robotics.

If you are curious to get a glimpse of what the future will look like with IoT enables product systems, I recommend checking out John Deer's Farm Forward video. I love the pacing of the video which combines futuristic technologies with traditional past times. In the classroom this could be a nice hook video to introduce Internet of Things.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NOVA: Making Stuff Wilder

This week I attended a great biomimicry conference hosted by Bridgewater State's CASE program. I had the chance to meet some fellow New England biomimcers and discuss ways to infuse K12 education with nature inspired STEM projects.

One takeaway resource worth checking out is Nova's Making Stuff Wilder documentary. An eight grade teacher said the video was super helpful as she began designing lessons for her classroom.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A World Of Solutions: Video

When I begin learning about a topic, some of my first resources I check out are: (1) infographics, (2) TED talk videos, and (3) articles from trendy magazines like Wired or Fast Company. A crosscutting format that really speaks to me are visuals, and one of the best visuals experiences is a short, concise video introducing a concept or issue.

One video I really enjoyed watching recently is this clip narrated by Morgan Freeman I enjoyed the sense of wonder, the call for action, and the approach of looking to nature for solutions to our pressing needs and challenges. In the classroom, this resource would be great for kicking off an unit on sustainability or a design challenge that has a biomimicry approach.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

IDEO: T-Shaped Creativity

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, actively recruits people who have T-shaped skills. A T-shaped skills set is when you have a depth of knowledge in one discipline, say engineering, and a breadth of interest and experience with other disciplines such as art and history. The reason why this is valued in the workplace is T-shaped skill sets catalyze creativity--the exposure to new ideas, perspectives and expertise in the horizontal band act as a source of inspiration for solving problems in your domain of expertise.

For example, when solving a noise problem associated with the bullet train moving through a tunnel, a Japanese designer found inspiration from his interest in bird watching. In particular, the train designer copied the beak shape of the Kingfisher bird to re-design the nose of the bullet train. This innovation solved the noise problems and had an added benefit--it increase the energy efficiency of the train by 15%. If you want to hear more about Tim Brown's thoughts on T-shaped skills sets and effective work cultures check out this interview.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Knewton: Adaptive Learning

Edtech products are changing the way we teach. A disruptive technology coming down the pipeline is adaptive learning. The current state of adaptive learning is largely modeled after a decision tree matrix. A student answers a question or picks an activity, and based on this decision you go down one pathway; in this pathway the student can make another decision which takes them down a branch in this pathway.

Enter Knewton. This company is transforming the nature of adaptive learning. Instead of a pre-set decision tree model, they have developed a system where each learning path is personalized. In other words, Knewton technology enables each student to create their own decision tree pathway based on their unique choices, answers, and other points of data collection (search choices, demographics, time on task, etc.). So what does this mean for educators. One, teachers and students will have a tool that will provide instant feedback on student learning. Instead of waiting weeks for grading or months for standardized testing, students will have unique data to foster formative assessment. Two, teachers can enhance their role as facilitator in project-based learning experiences. For example, teachers can focus their efforts on scaffolding project activities and creating a culture of creativity and collaboration. Three, teachers will have a ton of data to assess how well their curriculum works. First you enter your digital content into Knewton's system. Then you track student progress as they use your content. And with instant feedback, teachers can optimize their curricula. Boom. These are but a few examples of the possible innovations that will be catalyzed by adaptive learning systems. And Knewton will be a company to watch in this evolution. Right now they are in every school in America because the major publishers use their technology. That equals lots of data (millions of students) to build their robust, personalized systems. And recently I heard that they are launching a free consumer product. Can't wait to check it out!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Instructables: PBL curriculum

Project-based learning has been around for some time now. Engineering activities are relatively new to the education space. These two fields often go hand in hand as engineering challenges often require essential PBL skills such as applying academic content, working in teams, and reviewing progress consistently.

If you are on the hunt for some cool PBL challenges with an engineering twist, check out Instructables. WYE Lance is the author of these units and he provides video instructions for more than a dozen low budget engineering projects. YeehA!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

D School: design thinking

Design & engineering are gaining more and more attention in the k12 space. The NGSS standards have codified engineering as an essential discipline in science education. Employers are looking for creatives and makers who can produce next generation technologies and services. In the research space, design-based learning has demonstrated positive gains in developing 21st century skills and increasing content knowledge in STEM disciplines. And furthermore, teachers and students dig implementing design challenges where kids get their hands on materials and solve problems.

If you are on the hunt for some new resources, one website worth checking out is the D.School's K12 lab. Here you can find inspirational content, see whats new in the design thinking field, and explore how higher ed. and industry are approaching product design and development.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Amy Cuddy: Nonverbal Communication

Over the past few weeks six college students with engineering and computer science backgrounds have been working with us to develop smart phone apps and an internet of things website. In preparation for their demo to company executives, we hosted a series of mini-workshops focused on improving their communication, team work, and other soft skills.

One area we focused on is the power of nonverbal communication. For instance, how body language (arms closed around you, open and extended arms, facial expressions.) evoke meaning in your interactions with people. If you are curious about this topic and want to take a quick deep dive into the social pyschology of nonverbal communication, I highly recommend checking out Amy Cuddy'sTED talk. It is one of the most watched TED talks of all time--22 million--and breaks down some really interesting strategies to consider when working with people.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Skillshare: online PD

Historically teaching has been an individual enterprise. A smart guy/gal gets on the stage and shares their disciplinary wisdom to the young minds in the classroom. This is changing. Now the internet provides learners with thousands of teachers from across the globe who can teach them simple cooking recipes to complex robotics programming language. This transformation in teaching is challenging educators to re-think their role in education. For example, many educators are taking a facilitator/guide role in the classroom to assist students in using 21st century skills to make sense of their information gathering and to help them apply it to innovative, meaningful problems.  

One resources worth checking out in this internet-driven education space is Skillshare. This platform provides online videos focused on enhancing your creativity and other design/innovation skills. You can find videos on design thinking, DIY, and entrepreneurship, which are hosted by hundreds of creatives from across the world. Better yet, if you want to share your innovative techniques with the world you can sign up as an instructor and share your ideas. There is a free version and for educators/students you can request premium access through their scholarship program.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Project Noah: Citizen Science

You may have used Waze before. It is a mobile app that aggregrates user driving data to provide community traffic updates and directions. The app was so successful that Google acquired it for over one billion dollars!

This approach of thousands, even millions, of everyday people providing useful information through their phone is transforming the way we collect and use data. One burgeoning area in education is the idea of citizen scientist. Students using mobile apps to collect data (e.g. weather, pollution, noise) and send this data to national science organizations who use this large sample data. If you are looking for a cool app to start with check out Project Noah. This app enables students to conduct outdoor field studies. They can take pictures, tag pictures, and share pictures of local flora and fauna, which is also networked in a larger database to show distribution of these species.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hooks: Not Impossible Labs

This week our team went on a team retreat. The game plan was to identify new opportunities in the K12 space with special emphasis on the Internet of Things. On the first day, five teachers joined us and conducted a teaching 101 session. The teachers shared tips on hooks, presentation styles, assessments, differentiated learning and more. 

In the hook session we learned how real world stories, product vignettes, shocking images , and mini challenges are great approaches to engage students in the lesson of the day. One of my favorite resources shared in this session was the story of the Eyewriter which was developed by Not Impossible Labs. It is a super inspiring story and demonstrates how purpose and collaboration can lead to incredible outcomes. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

High Tech High: Jeff Robin PBL

Today I was lucky to have an opportunity to visit High Tech High in San Diego. This school lives and breathes a culture of student autonomy and authentic learning.

One major take away I want to share with you all is Jeff Robin's PBL resource site. It is awesome! He created a bunch of video tutorials on essential PBL teaching strategies. The videos are short and sweet and he created his own artwork (what a beast!) to capture his storytelling process. Another huge benefit to this site is Jeff also posts student work and curriculum ideas. Happy hunting!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TE: Teach Engineering

According to a recent national-level study, 7% or less teachers feel very prepared to teach engineering. This is major gap. There is a big demand for employees with design and problem-solving skills, and recently NGSS identified engineering as a core discipline in science education.

If you are new to engineering education, or you are looking for some new resources to spice up your curricula, I recommend Teach Engineering. The developers of this site recently updated the user interface and workflow, and content is aligned to the latest educational standards such as NGSS and Common Core.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

UCAR: interactive tornado story map

Lately weather has been on my mind. Not because of the recent and rapid onset of "winter" in Boston but rather because I am working on a big data project where students solve entrepreneurial problems using weather data and business strategies.

In preparation for this project, I jumped on the web and looked up existing big data education projects. Low and behold there are ton of resources on the web especially from large organizations such as NOAA, GLOBE, and UCAR. For exampe, the UCAR site has a lesson plan in which students explore tornado data over several decades in efforts to build their data analysis and mapping skills. Many of these resources are free and include rigorous lesson plan instructions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ann Makosinski: youth innovation

The other day I visited an elementary school. The assistant superintendent who showed us around commented at one point on how the teachers at the school were pleased and somewhat surprised by how their students were able to take on a math program that they originally thought was too hard for their students. Misconceptions like these held by teachers and administrators can play a big role in thwarting student learning and innovation. 

Based on visits to hundreds of schools and interacting with lots of students and staff, my conclusion is kids have a lot of untapped potential. Furthermore, when they are supported kids can do amazing things. As an example, check out this video about Ann Makosinski. As a 15 year old she designed a next-generation flashlight that is powered by the heat of your hand! So awesome!! And as the teacher who shared this video with me said "the video is a great reminder for me (in the midst of data analysis/testing stress at school) of why we do what we do!" 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

TED Ed: Periodic Table videos

Often science and mathematics concepts are taught in a vacuum; the connection to real world applications or the students life is empty. Creating a context for learning is essential to making meaning. This approach answers questions such as "why I am learning this?", "so what?", or "how does this connect to my life?".

If you are on the hunt for materials to contextualize the learning of the Periodic Table, I recommend checking out TED Ed's newest resource: Periodic Table videos. Each element has a unique video that explains its origins, properties such as color, and most importantly its applications in society (e.g. technologies, experiments, nature, etc.). 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

PollEverywhere: Collaborative Assessment

Formative assessment is essential to student growth and learning. According to one study, student feedback has a greater impact on student achievement than reductions in classroom size or improving a teacher's content knowledge.

Recently a student-teacher shared with me how his practicum teacher uses technology to support student feedback in assessments. Using clickers or phone-based polling software, he conducts a forum-like situation where students anonymously answer questions and when the results results are displayed on the class screen, students are given the opportunity to support their answers. I tested this tech-enabled assessment approach the other day with some teachers and they loved it. Here are some steps you can take to make this happen:

  1. Get Polleveryhwere for free. 
  2. Create a poll.
  3. Sync the poll to your PowerPoint slides.
  4. In class, show the slide with the question.
  5. Students text their response. 
  6. Students explain their choices
  7. Teacher/student provide feedback.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Intel: Assessment Rubrics

Hot off the press. As in I just learned about this resources on a phone call with a teacher two minutes ago. It is a rubrics library that can be (1) a source of assessment ideas, and (2) a repository to create and store your own editable rubrics.

What I love about these rubrics is the attention given to measuring more complex skills such as creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking. The site takes a few minutes to load but once the chest is open many assessment treasures are at your fingertips.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

West Point Bridge: virtual science simulations

This week's resource is an oldy and a goody. West Point Bridge Designer is a software application that provides students with a digital laboratory to test various bridge structures with the intent of learning about building forces such as load, compression, and tension.

This resource is a great way to do some preliminary exploration with the students and engage their interest with digital simulations. Once they have learned key concepts you can then move onto building and testing physical models.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Creative Pool: STEM careers

U.S. students rank at the bottom of a list of 30 industrialized countries in international science and mathematics assessments such as TIMMS and PISA. Coupled with these low scores is a major demand to fill science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs which are growing at a rate 3 times faster than other fields.

One way to help students prepare for STEM careers is to bring awareness to what it is like to work in these fields and furthermore what types of traits and skills are needed to be successful (e.g. creativity, optimism, systems thinking, etc.). If you are looking to expose students to some of these jobs check out Creative Pool's list of jobs. It includes STEM fields as well as many other jobs. You could use it to enrich a lesson or have students go on the site directly and do some research.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

PBS: Lesson Builder

I am a big fan of teacher-created materials. I think this approach to lesson implementation is especially helpful in this day and age when teachers need to provide lesson materials that are relevant to a variety of complex and changing demands (e.g standards reform, diverse learning needs, classroom resources, admin policies, etc.).

In this effort to provide customized curriculum materials, I recommend checking out PBS' new teacher tools which includes a Lesson Builder and Story Mapping tool. What is wonderful about these design tools is you can quickly pull from all the PBS resources (Design Squad, Frontline, etc.) and plug them into your lesson materials. The user interface is simple to use and this resource is free!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Teacher Channel: Best Practice Videos

One problem in education is teacher's do not get enough time to collaborate with other educators. Part of the reason is teacher spend 80% of school time in instruction which leaves on average about 3-5 hours to cover planning, grading, and meeting with other staff. In other countries such as Finland or Japan teacher have more time (~60% is spent on instruction) to collaborate with their peers which can foster a culture of professional learning and innovation.

Given how time structures are not changing in the near future, we need to find alternatives. One great resource is Teacher Channel. Here you will find a collection of videos of teachers at work sharing their best practices. To support your search you can filter by grade-level, subject-area, and topics. Access is free and you can sign in and leave comments.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rita Pierson: Relationships in Teaching

Relationships are often left out of the education reform conversation. Yes big cats like Dewey and Vygotsky have discussed this topic in detail and there are organizations who dedicate their entire mission on relationships such as Big Brother, Big Sister. But when reform hits the committee rooms and department meetings of the world, the conversation often focuses on improving curriculum, teaching and resources.

If you are looking for a role model and an inspirational teacher vignette I highly recommend checking out Rita Pierson's TED talk "Everybody Needs a Champion". Here approach to flipping failure into opportunity and getting at the core of how teaching is building and supporting positive relationships is simply wonderful.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Notability: digital note taking

The other day a teacher posted a question on our community discussion board asking if anyone has any recommendations for online journals to document science experiments or design projects.

Teachers in the community shared a bunch of resources. One that caught my attention was Notability. The teacher wrote how you can do regular note taking, take pictures with iPad cameras, you can get GPS data, and it can sync automatically with Google Drive. The app is 3 bucks.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

PBS: Teaching NGSS Engineering

K-12 educators have been getting ready for, or in some cases adopting, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). A new opportunity and challenge in the adoptions of NGSS is the incorporation of engineering-based standards. Engineering education is an up and coming discipline in the K-12 community which can provide many benefits such as engaging students in problem solving, providing a framework to integrate disciplines, and make connections to real world scenarios through technology innovation.

One of the challenges of implementing engineering materials in the classroom is finding stuff that is relevant for students. A new resource that helps solve this problem is PBS Learning Media's NGSS  repository of videos, lessons, and other educational resources. The site includes free access, a search engine aligned to NGSS standards, and a ton of media from heavy hitters such as NOVA, PBS, and more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blendspace: digital lesson creator

There is a ton of digital content that educators have to manage. This is definitely true for curriculum materials. One solution to this issue is providing an organizational framework to organize and deliver materials. Currently many teacher use blogs, google docs, and webquests to structure their materials. This is definitely one way to do it. But as we delve deeper into the digital world, we will need platforms focused on this content management issue.

Say hello to Blendpsace. It is a digital lesson creator that enables educators to source and organize multi-media learning materials. The way it works is you have an open canvas that is organized into grids. In each grid you can add the digital media you want to include in your lesson. For example, you start off with a video hook, then have a worksheet activity coupled with an informational website, and conclude with an assessment document. This resource is free and includes useful features such as searching for digital content within the website so you don't have to switch back n forth between windows.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sunrise: email app

For a long time I have been waiting for a company to create an app that merges multiple email accounts. The Gmail app came close but the syncing of Outlook based accounts was a hassle.

This year my email dream came true through Sunrise. The email and desktop based app is fantastic. Not only does it merge all your email accounts but it also can sync with sports schedules, weather, and other global events. To all the educators reading this app I strongly recommend it as an email management tool. You can sync your work emails and personal emails, and then color code them so you have a well-organized, one stop shop for all email related queries.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

National Research Council: iSTEM Report

One of the big problems in teaching integrated learning is making disciplinary connections explicit in the learning process. For example, in engineering design challenges students will learn a lot about the engineering design process but often the benefits of enhancing this process with science and math concepts do not get enough attention.

If you are looking for some research-based approaches to remedy this problem, I recommend checking out the National Academies STEM Integration in K-12 Education report. Here you will a bunch of ideas and frameworks to design, implement, and assess integrated STEM education. In addition, this report collates a significant number of studies which can lead to all sorts of reading adventures. You can buy a paperback version or download a FREE pdf version.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Infographic bonanza

One of my favorite approaches to kicking off a research project is to type the "topic" and the word "infographic". This approach can help you get a lay of the land since infographics are data visualization tools that summarize a lot of data on one topic.

Recently a friend shared this blog which is filled with tons of infographics! In the classroom infographics have a lot of instructional value. For example, you can use an infographic as a lesson hook, require students to incorporate infographics in their research, students can evaluate the veracity of an infographic, and students can also learn how to create their own infographics.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

PTC Creativity Lab: STEM & design thinking

My work at PTC focuses on professional development and curriculum development in the K-12 education space. One project that I spend most of my time on is the STEM Certificate Network which links engineering and design in industry with teacher professional development services in STEM education.

During the development of this program we created a bunch of content including STEM projects, reference guides and access to industry stories & tools. In order to share these resources openly to educators across the globe we created the PTC Creativity Lab. Here you will find a project-based library, STEM curriculum, and other materials that guide teachers on how to integrate engineering and design strategies that are grounded in best practices from industry and education. If you have any questions about this digital library, shoot us an email at

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

EAS: Educational Apps Store

Don't reinvent the wheel, right? Well that goes for finding good apps too. Last week I shared Graphite which reviews apps, website, and other ed tech platforms. This week I want to share an app-specific review platform.

It is called EAS or Educational Apps Store. This company consists of an expert community of education reviewers who identify the best apps based on user group (e.g. teachers, students, parents) and content areas (e.g. science, reading, etc.). In addition to reviews, EAS provides advice on how to integrates mobile apps into school curriculum. The review feature of the website is free and the "App Consultancy" option requires payment.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

EdTech Reviews: Graphite

There are a ton of apps in the market. One of the challenges is finding the right tool. This is especially true in education since teachers need to make sure the app is kid friendly, links to academic content, provides value to diverse students, and is easy to use in classroom settings.

Recently several ed tech companies have taken on this challenge by creating curation websites that enable to teachers to find and review apps. One of these websites is Graphite. Here you will find reviews by experts and in some cases teachers. In addition to reviews of apps there are also listings for games and websites. I especially like how the Graphite team linked their listings to Common Core standards and provides several features for community engagement such as boards and field notes. Definitely worth a look see.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

MakeBadges: Graphics Creator

My intern and I are making an infographic for the STEM Certificate Program. During our research we found a bunch of great graphic resources.

One resource I found very easy to use and well designed was MakeBadges. It is a web-based tool for creating graphic badges, avatars, and banners. There are all sorts of classroom applications with this tool. Kids could create a badge for a mock company, store, or enterprise; they could make avatars for a group project. Teacher could create badges for their kids when they accomplish a given task. And the banner creator is a nice tool for sprucing up your worksheets or slide decks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

eGFI: getting to know the E in STEM

When you think of an engineer what activities come to mind? Manufacturing? Fixing cars? Constructing bridges? If this is where your thoughts went you are not alone. Most people today think of engineering as profession geared towards mechanical and construction fields. Now these engineering pathways are the source of all kinds of cool technologies such as state-of-the-art suspension bridges and rockets ships. But there are many other engineering pathways such as biomedical, computer, or environmental that does not enter the public perception of engineering. Another problem is many people think the main role of engineers is to fix things. Engineers do fix things. But at a higher level they are problem solvers. They come up with solutions that can lead to a variety of benefits for society such as bicycle safety equipment, cyber security protocols, or wind turbine blades.

If you are looking for some info about engineering careers and want to share the possibilities of an engineering careers with kids I recommend checking out Engineering Go For It, also known as eGFI. Here you will find resources for students, teachers, and parents. One of my favorite items is an awesome engineering career poster. Definitely worth a look see. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bootstrap World: video games, math, and programming

Spanish or Programming? In the not too distant future this could be a common decision families will have to make when deciding what "language" their child should start learning in school. My reasoning for this outlook is currently there are billions of people whose personal and professional lives are enhanced by the power of code. For instance, imagine a typical morning in a U.S. home. The family gets up and starts the automated coffee machine, one of the kids open up his phone and checks his Twitter app, someone leaves the refrigerator open and a warning alarm sounds, and when the kids are on the way to school the car automatically senses increased rain outside and modifies the wiper speed. This is the tip of the iceberg in describing how programming impacts our world. If you look at industry today companies across the globe are utilizing software programs to develop website, analyze data, and much more. As the digital age matures the power of computing will unlock new opportunities (e.g. big data, robotics, smart products, nano-tech, etc.) for solving local and global problems.

In the education arena there is a good amount of resources for teachers to incorporate in their instruction. One resource that has popped up on my radar a lot is Bootstrap World. The goal of this organization is to inspire kids to learn about mathematics and computer science through video game design. They provide free curriculum, software tools, and they have several strong partnerships (e.g. Hour of Code, NYC computer science project, and Citizen Schools) to provide schools with training and extracurricular activities.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fast Company: Brand Color Decisions

I've been messing around with branding colors this week and wanted to share with you a nice reference.

So here it is...a quick psychology of color and company branding by Fast Company. As your students make art pieces, new products, advertisements and other graphic elements I suggest you show them this information and then have them pick specific colors and explain why they did so (e.g. audience, theme, personal interest, history, etc.); it could lead to some interesting discussions and enrich your students approach to playing with paints.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MakerBot: Mars Design Challenge

Yesterday I visited a school STEM fair. The event included teams of 10th graders who created a next-generation Mars colony model. The results were amazing. Each team consisted of various roles (e.g. CEO, business development, engineering, marketer, etc.) who were responsible for specific assets of their Mars colony proposal. Highlights included biodome models with living fish, craft-based colony prototypes with multiple levels and detailed diagrams, and various marketing materials such as websites and pamphlets for their company.

If you are looking for a resource to kick start a project like the Mars Colony STEM fair project, one resource I recommend checking out is a new design challenge hosted by MakerBot (famous for making 3D printers) called the Mars Challenge. Using a 3D design software or 2D art skills students can win awards that are based on reviews by industry designers and engineers.