My first instructional GIFs!

I wanted to make GIFs of some techniques that might be helpful to my teachers here. I saw some great examples from @JakeMillerTech on Twitter, and had to give it a shot. Here are my first attempts. I’m sure these will get better as I learn better timing and sizing, but I am pretty happy with these first steps.

Rainbow Filament

I finally got around to trying some rainbow filament. These two prints came out of the same roll of Stronghero3D Rainbox Multicolor PLA. As you can see, there is a lot of variation. I think that you have to print pieces with a lot of plastic for the maximum effect, and some transitions are just going to be better than others. That said, it’s pretty fun to see what comes out. I’m looking forward to some more experimentation with the rest of the roll.

The Origins of Kindergarten, Blocks, and Sandboxes


Images via Inventing Kindergarten and Architecture in Play

The latest 99% Invisible is a marvelous exploration of the origin of Kindergarten. It is well worth a listen, particularly for all my friends in education. The first Kindergarten was founded in 1837 by Freidrich Froebel . He centered much of his program around a set of manipulatives, starting with blocks and spheres, and progressing to much more complex shapes and combinations. The podcast traces the influence of Kindergarten to the works of modern artists and architects, and even to the modern toy market. I will definitely be looking into his ideas further.


In some ways, all modern toy building systems reflect the influence of Froebel. Tinker Toys, Lego, Kinex — they’re all about understanding shape and form and making connections. Yet they also represent a departure from Froebel’s highly-organized and linear approach. These days, building toys are viewed more broadly as tools of the imagination — objects kids can use to assemble houses and castles and cities together, learning collaboration and creativity through construction.

Spreadsheets!

I do love spreadsheets! There’s nothing like the feeling crunching a ton of data in a well-made spreadsheet. Sometimes it’s almost like magic. Today I got to do a very fun lesson with 6th graders. On spreadsheets! While I can’t say they were as excited about them as I, I did manage to convey some of the magic feeling to them. When they saw me instantly get the average of 350 data points, they definitely saw the usefulness! Especially since they already knew they were going to have to find averages, medians, and modes of their own data. I could talk about spreadsheets all day, but they can’t listen quite that long. So I broke up the spreadsheets with an excellent little challenge by Kern Kelley. I’ll end with a section I call “How to make graphs lie,” which always sparks discussion and gets a laugh.

My office

One of the things I’ve tried to do is make my office an inspirational learning environment for the kids (and for me as well!). When I first moved into the office, it was a pretty standard wiring closet. About a quarter of the wall space was taken up by wiring, and the rest was covered by disorganized boxes and shelves. It was exactly what you would expect from a utility closet with no regular visitors. I almost immediately began redecorating. I discarded boxes and boxes of obsolete and unused equipment, got rid of old shelving units, took everything out that could be moved, and cleaned. Then I had the walls and floor painted. I swiped the color scheme from our front lobby, so it looked pretty nice. The only part I couldn’t get to was the plywood mounting board on the walls. I couldn’t paint the wires or equipment, of course, so they remained a sickly yellow. I brought in a faux leather chair to encourage visitors, and some Ikea storage units. I found some interesting wall coverings (like a beautiful map of submarine internet cables). Later, I built a custom desk with a beautiful copper epoxy top. The idea is to make the office interesting enough to get the kids asking questions. It seems to work, as most days I have a steady stream of kids in to see if anything new has been added.

Still working on getting a 360 shot to work with the Gutenberg interface. Stay tuned.

Today’s field trip

I’m finishing up a basic skills unit in 3rd grade, and thought a field trip would be a fun way to bring it to a close! The kids picked some really unique trips to make. We only had a half hour, but I htought we made pretty good use of our time. Tools used: Google search, Google Drawings, and remove.bg. Special thanks to facepixelizer.com for anonymizing the kids.

On Screen Time

How Schools Are Bringing Common Sense, Mindfulness to Screen Time

I’m really pretty tired of the term “screen time.” Implicit in the phrase is the idea that all time spent with technology is equivalent, when nothing could be further from the truth. It is no more useful than being concerned about “eat time,” when what is consumed could be broccoli or vodka. The nature, context, and amount of anything has to be taken into account when deciding how much concern should be applied. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make for good, scary headlines. I absolutely agree that students (and everyone else) should be mindful of how long they spend on certain activities. But it makes a difference whether a student is clicking through the latest dank memes for an hour well past midnight, or spending three hours struggling with a tricky computer animation or audio production after school. The amount of time in front a screen is only one factor, and definitely not the most important. Maybe a better article would be How Schools Are Bringing Common Sense and Mindfulness to Teens. That’s an article I could really get behind!

New proposal for multiple-choice tests

From DataGenetics, a description of typical problems with multiple-choice tests, and a proposal to fix them. The idea is to add an option for each question to provide an answer BEFORE the multiple choices are displayed. This would give double credit or a double penalty if selected. It’s a fascinating idea. I hope someone will code this so I can try it out!