Using Google Apps to Empower Teaching and Learning in an BYOD Environment

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Rocketry with Middle School Students

I can’t think of a better way to learn Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion, the engineering design process and the craft of building a flying object than building and firing model rockets with middle schoolers. There’s nothing quite like it!

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Google Apps – Tips for Teachers by Teachers eBook


I’m glad to have been included in this Google Apps for Education eBook. There’s a ton of great tips for anyone using or considering Google Apps for Education.

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Creating 3D Prints from Scans & Photos Quickly and Easily.

We recently had our 1st graders each create a 3D-printed ruler as a part of a science unit on measurement. Finding a method to create the rulers that wouldn’t require a large time investment was a concern. Using the tool OmNomNom to extrude a black and white image into a OpenSCAD script, which will then become an .stl file, ready for 3D printing. The really exciting thing about this method is that it forces students to change the OpenSCAD script variables to adjust their model, driving home the relationship between the code and the physical object. Students gain an understanding that code not only changes the object on their screen, but also the final object in ‘real life’!
A note on logistics: this was a class of 1st graders, so the image editing was done by a teacher between classes. Students created their paper rulers, we then scanned and edited the photo and came back to the next class with the new black and white images for students to process through OmNomNom and into OpenSCAD. In the future, we’d like to find a way where students could do the image editing as well, but found it just a bit too time-consuming and troublesome. After students created the makerware files, we then printed them on our printer. Printing this many objects did take some time, but we loaded an SD card with the files and had older students unload and start the next print as they noticed the jobs finish.
Below you’ll find a step by step walk through on how to turn a scan or photo into a 3D-printed object.


Use these instructions to create a 3D printable file from a scanned image, using Pixelmator, OpenSCAD, and MakerWare.

Edit the image

You can use your favorite image editor, in this case we are using pixelmator for the mac.

Rotate the image if needed.

If needed, rotate the image.

Crop the image as needed.

Crop the image so only the desired area remains.

Use levels to adjust the image

Your goal is a nice black and white only (2 color) image. Most image editing software has a levels feature.

Apply levels

In Pixelmator, drag the levels on the image.

Adjust levels as needed

Notice the resulting image – high contrast, only black or white.

Export as jpg

Save the .jpg

Export as jpg


Open the image in OmNomNom


Drag and drop image to open.


Keep size



For this project, we will use 2 levels with a width of 443×165

Export as Logo

Export as a logo

The object will open in OpenSCAD

Hit F5 (on some macs FN+F5) to see the preview

Editing variables

reduce surfaceheight to 2

Editing variables

To make getting the proper size simpler, we will remove any border by changing the baseWidth multiplier to 1 instead of 1.2

Preview and render the model

F5 to preview, then F6 to render. Rendering might take a while.

Prepare to wait

By a while I mean 10-15 minutes.

Export as STL


Prepare (slice) your file for your 3D printer

In this case we’ll be using a MakerBot Replicator 1 Dual and using MakerWare to slice our model.

Scale object as needed

In this case, the ruler is approximately 7.75 inches, so the setting the X value with uniform scaling on will result in the proper size.
Final scaled object. Click Make to export your file.

Export to file

We use a raft to make removing the object easier. Be sure to adjust your settings for your specific 3D printer.

Print and enjoy!

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Cultivating the Global Citizen: Creating a Social Emotional Learning Curriculum

Cultivating the Global Citizen: Creating a Social Emotional Learning Curriculum

Presented at AISNE Middle School Conference “Outside the Box”, October 11, 2013

The Meadowbrook School of Weston has redeveloped how it helps students become positive global citizens. Discover how Meadowbrook students have broadened their impact on the world through new programs, including Photo Justice, Digital Citizenship & Literacy, ThinkGive, and Community Service.

The Process
• The process of examining Meadowbrook’s social/emotional curriculum and identifying
areas of opportunity.
• Identifying resources, including partnerships, to help create the curriculum pieces.
• Creating a more comprehensive program.

The Development
• Figuring out the logistics – how to find the time and the people to make it happen.
• Adopting and adapting curricula.

The Implementation & Reflection

  • See the lessons, students, and programs in action.
  • Photo Justice – Students capture an issue in a photograph and exhibit.
  • ThinkGive – Students give something up for a day and examine its impact.
  • Digital Citizenship – Students explore what it means to be safe and positive
  • citizens online.
  • Awareness Into Action – Students bring awareness of an issue to others.
  • The challenges — what worked and plans for improvement.

Zaidee Rose, Middle School English Teacher, CGA Coordinator
Jonathan Schmid, Director of Innovation & Technology
Mike Scafati, Teacher K-8: Technology, Social Studies, Film
Justin McLean, Director of Multicultural Affairs, History Teacher

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CEDFA Pre and Post-Summit Technology Boot Camp

Below is an outline of the information we worked through together at CEDFA Summit XIV.


“Technology is available to develop either independence and learning or bureaucracy and teaching.”
-Ivan Illich

Minimally Invasive Education and Hole in the Wall Computing


Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is an instant response system that can often replace costly and complicated student response systems. Using any internet connected device or text message capable phone, respondents can answer questions posed by a facilitator. Poll Everywhere excels at real-time survey situations. Both free accounts and paid, more fully featured K-12 accounts are available.

How can Poll Everywhere be used for teaching?

Gathering student opinions, pre and post tickets, quizzes, voting on selecting group decisions.

How can Poll Everywhere be used for learning?

Students can create a Poll Everywhere account and collect information from their peers. Students can use results to complete analysis as a part of making processed informed decisions.

Today’s Meet

Today’s Meet is a live, semi-private backchanneling system. Completely free, Today’s Meet can be used to generate a conversation behind the presenter.

How can Today’s Meet be used for teaching?

Today’s Meet can be used to communicate information during a presentation or video. It could also be an interesting tool during faculty meetings.

How can Today’s Meet be used for learning?

Students can use Today’s Meet to ask questions, collaborate and have rich conversations during presentations and videos.


Prezi is a presentation tool and can be used in many situations where you would usually use PowerPoint. Prezi offers a few benefits not found in PowerPoint such as being free, accessible from any internet connected computer, offering a more holistic connection between points when compared to the linear nature of most slide based tools, and a more visually interesting style.

How can Prezi be used for teaching?

Prezi can be used anytime a teacher would traditionally use Powerpoint.

How can Prezi be used for learning?

Students can create Prezis. Online collaboration in the same Prezi is possible. Teachers can distribute Prezis outside the class as a part of a “flipped classroom” or blended learning environment.

QR Codes

QR Codes bridge the gap between the tangible world and the virtual by creating print codes that contain information. Usually these codes contain a link, which when scanned with a QR code reader, will send the user directly to the site. QR codes can also contain information such as text, email addresses, or contact information.

How can QR Codes be used for teaching?

Teachers have created quiz keys, scavenger hunts and video explanations for bulletin boards with QR Codes.

How can QR Codes be used for learning?

Students can create QR Codes as a part of a project, perhaps accompanying print flyers or other promotional materials.

Additional Resources:

QRstuff - QR Code Creator we used
QR Codes in Education
QR Codes in Education on Pinterest
QR Voice recorder – scan a QR code to hear your or your students recorded voice.


The AppleTV is a consumer entertainment device costing $99 that offers AirPlay, a simple system that allows you to share your screen wirelessly to a projector or TV from a newer iPad, iPhone or Mac.

How can AppleTV be used for teaching?

Teachers can roam throughout the room while connected to the projector.

How can AppleTV be used for learning?

Students can more easily share their work to the board without the logistical transition of coming to the board or connecting physically to a projector.

Additional Resources:


Twitter is a microblogging service where users communicated through short, 140 character messages called tweets.

How can Twitter be used for teaching?

Twitter is a powerful tool for teachers to communicate with other teachers, as a part of a Personal Learning Network.

How can Twitter be used for learning?

Students can tweet to each other, known experts or even their teacher. They can also search twitter for actual sources of current events and identify emerging trends.

Additional Resources:

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9 Must Have Chrome Extensions

One of the great features of Chrome is the countless extensions that can add extra features. Here are the extensions I couldn’t get by without.


Buffer Chrome Extension

I love twitter and use it in primarily two ways: to share resources and have conversations. Often, I’ll find links in bunches and at unusual times. Rather than deluge my followers with 10 link tweets in the middle of the night, I use Buffer to space my tweets out and post at times that the majority of my followers are online. I’m generally very wary of any tools that auto-tweet (spam) on my behalf, but buffer is different in that every tweet is mine — I’m just time shifting the tweet to a better time. I highly suggest you check this one out if you are a heavy social media user.

Evernote Web Clipper

Evernote Chrome Extension

Evernote is amazing. It’s become my digital brain, where I store reference materials and notes. The easiest way to get a web page or pdf into Evernote is through this extension.
Evernote Web Clipper


LastPass Chrome Extension

Too many passwords? Don’t fall into the trap of reusing the same one everywhere. Use LastPass to remember your passwords. The form fill feature alone is a huge time saver as it’ll fill your saved information (address, email, etc) with one click.

My Chrome Theme

My Chrome Theme Chrome Extension

I’m a heavy Chrome users user, and a different theme for each user is the easiest way to tell them apart. Create your own theme with this extension.
My Chrome Theme

Pinboard Tools

Pinboard Tools Chrome Extension

When Delicious went south, I switched to Pinboard as my bookmarking service of choice. This extension is an easy way to add a bookmark quickly.
Pinboard Tools


Pocket Chrome Extension

Pocket is a read it later service. I’ll click this extension when I have something I’d like to read but don’t have time to now, and it’ll be added to my Pocket account.Then, when I have time I’ll use the Pocket iOS app and enjoy some longer reads.

Read&Write for Google Docs

Read&Write Chrome Extension

This is a fantastic extension that helps in the writing process, particularly by reading back text in a Google Doc. I’ll often catch writing mistakes by listening to Read&Write. Anything that helps improve my writing is a must have for me!
Read&Write for Google Docs

Turn Off the Lights

Turn Off the Lights Chrome Extension

YouTube is full of great videos, but it’s also full of some not-so-great ones that always seem to be recommended on the side of the videos I watch. YouTube comments are notorious as a display of the depravity of the human race. Especially when teaching or presenting, I don’t want those distracting aspects on display, so I’ll use Turn Off the Lights to black out everything but the video itself.
Turn Off the Lights

WAV Player for Gmail

WAV Player Chrome Extension

The voicemail service at my school is able to email messages as a .wav file. Before this extension, I had to download the attachment and use an application or OSX’s quick look to listen. Now this extension adds a player in the email, no download needed.
WAV Player for Gmail

Those are the extensions that work for me. I’d encourage you to try them out, but also to look through the Chrome Web Store and find extensions that work for you.

Did I miss any must have extensions? Please let me know in the comments!

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Creating the Innovative Classroom

Presented at MLICIC 2/4/13

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STEM in Action – Functional 3D AppleTV Mount Designed by an 8th Grader

This AppleTV Mount was designed by an 8th Grader to solve a real-world problem. AppleTVs are relatively cheap and offer some amazing features, so we wanted to add these quickly and simply to our AV systems in classrooms. We wanted to mount AppleTVs directly to the projector, and neither velcro or double-sided tape could handle the job. Fortunately, we have a MakerBot Replicator 3D printer and a brilliant motivated student to create this:

So now around 25 AppleTVs are mounted throughout campus using this mount and a long zip tie.

If you need a mount, and have a 3D printer, feel free to download and print the design!

AppleTV Mount by Unsolved Cypher or grab the .stl file here.

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AppleTV Update Eliminates The Major Issue with Widespread School AppleTV Deployment


Apple released an update for the AppleTV this week that resolves the largest issue in using AppleTVs in a school. As covered here before, the AppleTV is a relatively cheap and powerful device that has many Interactive Whiteboard manufacturers scared. Previously, the only way to limit access to wirelessly project using the AirPlay feature was to set a password. Once the password was entered into a device, that device could “hijack” the screen from anywhere, as long as it was connected to the same network.

Now, an update is available which enables a simple fix. When “Onscreen passcode” is turned on, a 4 digit code will appear on the screen when attempting to AirPlay. Upon entering this code, the user will successfully connect. This forces the device to be in the same location as the screen, and eliminates headaches of the possibility of a projector being controlled by someone on the other side of campus.

At only $100, it’s easy to connect one of these to every projector and have simple wireless projecting in place for every teacher.

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