3-12, Art, Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Education, Math

The Beauty of Spirals

My 4th grade students are currently studying mathematical masterpieces.  I love showing them examples of the intersection of math and art.  When I saw a tweet yesterday morning from @TheKidShouldSeeThis with a link to the video of John Edmark’s spiral geometries, I knew right away that they would want to watch the video.  It weirdly connected with the magical drawbridge from yesterday’s video, so I showed that part to them first.  We have already talked about Fibonacci and the Golden Spiral, so they immediately found ways to connect both videos to their learning.

Since the students have also been using Scratch coding, I found a Scratch project for making spirals.  First we looked “inside” to decipher the code.  Then the students explored running the program.  After that, I talked about creative constraints, and gave them the challenge of changing one and only one part of the code to see how it made the program run differently. They recorded the results of their new programs and the class tried to guess what variable each student changed based on the videos.  Then I gave them time to freely remix however many parts of the program they liked.

This was one of those times that the students could happily have explored all day.  It was their first time remixing a program, and they delighted in trying to take it to the extremes by putting ridiculous numbers in to see how large or small or non-existent their spirals became.  Some of them created spirals so tiny that they appeared to be flowers blooming as they popped on to the Scratch stage.

And I still haven’t blown their mind with this Vi Hart video yet.  With the school year almost over, we may have to take this unit into their 5th grade year.  There is so much beauty in math, and we have barely scratched the surface!

image from Marco Braun on Flickr
3-12, Apps, Augmented Reality, Education

Merge Cube

The Merge Cube is the latest product to market augmented reality experiences for kids. It is being sold at Walmart for $14.97 – although it looks like it is already out of stock. Beore purchasing it, you should know that you will need a smartphone or tablet to download the apps for the cube.  Merge Goggles can also be used, but are not required as long as you have an app-enabled device.  If you have Google Cardboard, you can use it with the Merge Cube.  However, the Merge Goggles have a special cut-out specifically designed for use with the cube that helps to make the experience more immersive.

I have not used this product yet, so I can’t give you a full review (you can see one here by “Dad Does”).  It looks like it has educational as well as entertainment applications.  According to the website, there is a “Mr. Body” experience and “Galactic Explorer”.  The Merge Cube is being marketed as “the hologram you can hold in your hand.”  It reminds me of Daqri’s Elements 4D Cubes, but it is actually one cube designed for multiple apps – and developers are being invited to submit more.

Merge has several products out there, including its Merge Goggles.  You can visit the Merge Miniverse site to see games and YouTube 360 videos that are compatible.

I like the idea of the flexibility (since VR glasses require phones and all I have are tablets in my classroom), and will be curious to see what other educational uses come out of this relatively affordable product.  Like many ed-tech options, the novelty may attract your students, but it is up to educators to determine if it is a tool that will deepen learning.

For other Augmented Reality Resources for Education, check out this page.


3-6, 6-12, Apps, Creative Thinking, Education, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Websites, Writing

Canva for Education

I first posted about Canva about 18 months ago when it was in its beta stage.  Since then, this amazing graphic design service has: become a full-fledged website, launched a mobile app, and unveiled its education services (which include sign-in with Google Apps for Education).

I was one of the educators approached by Canva to write some lesson plans utilizing their resources.  (Full disclosure: I was paid for this service.)  You can also find plans from Vicki Davis, Paul Hamilton, Steven Anderson, and William Ferriter.  These plans include many different disciplines and grade levels. In addition, you can access excellent specific graphic design tutorials provided by Canva.

If you are looking for app-smashing ideas for Canva and ThingLink, try these from Lisa Johnson (TechChef4U).  Lisa also explains how to use Canva’s public profile feature in this guest post on Free Technology for Teachers.

One of my favorite things about Canva is how the company has really reached out to educators for suggestions and ideas.  As you will see on their Canva for Education splash page, they have a board of Education Advisors, and I can personally attest that Canva keeps in regular contact with us to find ways they can improve their product.

Canva is free, but it also offers graphics for a fee.  It’s easy to train your students to identify the free images, backgrounds, etc… so their projects don’t end up costing money.  In addition, they can upload their own images, and take advantage of Canva’s free templates to design eye-popping presentations, posters, and collages.

If you have students in elementary school, I recommend that you create one account that your students will all access.  This will allow you to keep track of their projects and, if you are in a school where students share iPads, then this account can stay logged in.

The best way to get started with Canva as a teacher is to open a free account and start using it yourself.  Make blog graphics, picture collages, quote posters for your classroom.  Once you see how easy it is to create something that looks professional, you will come up with your own ideas for ways to integrate it into your classroom.

A six word memoir of The Giver created by one of my 5th graders in Canva
A six word memoir of The Giver created by one of my 5th graders in Canva


Apps, Education, K-12, Teaching Tools

I Forgot How to Count to Two

So I am currently at TCEA in Austin.  TechNinjaTodd graciously asked me to join his team of Ninjas on Thursday morning as we share a couple of apps and/or webtools with the crowd.

“Sure!” I said.  As you can tell from my blog or Twitter account, I have no problem sharing – though I’m not so good in front of a crowd.

“Anything you’re excited about,” he said when I asked what I should present.

No problem.

Wait.  Just a couple of things I’m excited about?  Hold on.  Let me look up “couple” real quick.

Hmm. That might be a problem.

I started a list.

It got long.  “Long” does not appear in the dictionary definition of “couple.”

This is me trying to decide what to share.  Okay.  It's not really me.  It's just what I would like to look like while I'm trying to make a decision.  Calm and thoughtful.
This is me trying to decide what to share. Okay. It’s not really me. It’s just what I would like to look like while I’m trying to make a decision. Calm and thoughtful. And young.

I don’t want to be one of those people.

You know – the one who has 5 minutes and takes 30.

I also don’t want to be one of those people.

You know – the one who promises to tell you about something new and bends your ear about something you’ve known about for two years and you’re sitting in the front of the room so you can’t politely leave the session but you are dying inside because it’s a total waste of time and so you start surreptitiously paging through your conference program so you can make sure you choose your next session a bit more judiciously.

Kind of like the way you’re probably feeling about this blog post right now.  Except no one but you and the CIA will know that you ditched it before you got to the end.

So, I should get to the point.


If you were going to this session, what would you want to hear more about?  (Choose all of the topics that interest you.  You can even come back and vote again.  I figure if you’re that passionate, then who am I to stop you?)