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Reboot Your Teaching Practice with Design Thinking: 5 Tips to Get Started

Here's a sign of a powerful professional development event, your laptop and cell phone never leave your book bag once.  The idea that a 1-day workshops won't grow dendrites for teachers, has been exclaimed by researchers for decades, yet if the one-day event creates disequilibrium in the way you view teaching and learning it's possible that change can take place immediately.  Researchers say professional development needs to be ongoing and continuous, but when an adult learner experiences a surge of inspiration in a moment in time, the intensity of the experience can disrupt your practice.  

This was my experience at DesignCamp Monterey.  For those of you unfamiliar with #DesignCamp it is rooted in the philosophy of Design Thinking in which designers tackle problems by rethinking an issue in a human-centric way as a means to explore possibilities and unleash creativity.  This is possible with hands-on tasks that have a "low-ceiling and high floor" to engage all learners and promote as many solutions to a problem as possible.  Design thinking gets kids to think just like an engineer and view learning as ongoing process which occurs when designers (a.k.a students)  partake in an iterative cycle of sketching, prototyping and testing concepts and ideas. 

This model of instruction definitely shifts the role of the teacher from director of information to coach and facilitator.  Students immediately take an active role in constructing learning and everyone has a voice and a choice for participation. The process of design is authentic in the sense that children quiet naturally are curious, flexible in thinking and willing to take risks (this reminds you of preschool right).

It is teachers who are most likely static in their approach to instruction, afraid of taking chances and rigid in their thinking.  So your biggest challenge might not be will my students be engaged in Design Thinking, but will I be able to get outside my comfort zone.  You see the process is learner-directed so the sage on the stage, is more like the coach on the sideline, you still have the expertise and the plays, but it's your students who will make all the moves.  

So what might design thinking look like in your classroom? Think of a concept you might be working on like:  
Common Core Math 5 MD.C3 Recognize volume as an attribute of solid figures and understand concepts of volume measurement

Then provide your students with a problem in which they must design a solution: 
Students will create and use a model that can transport fresh water over long distances with no human contact in between locations, design a water transportation model to scale, test it to ensure success and then show and explain how it works.  Students iterate and record data as they improve their designs.

 This approach to instruction is interdisciplinary in construct and connects various disciplines across the framework of the Four C's: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration and Critical Thinking.  

At our #DesignCamp we participated in several tasks from designing a suit for the Winter Olympics Mardi-gras event based on the users needs and interests, to building a rocket, and creating a solutions to transport water.  

Children as young as Pre-K can engage in an activity that allows them to think creatively and apply solutions.  This is what children do naturally from the time they are born.  They are testing out their environment and seeing what works.  

Here are my 5 Tops Tips for Implementing Design Thinking: 

1. Begin with Empathy: when tasks are rooted in empathy the collaboration and culture of the school and classroom shifts to recognize all students as individuals, who they are, what they believe in and what is important.  Building on students' funds of knowledge is what makes Design Thinking learner-centric, but when the task has meaning and value then students will go deeper with their learning and become passionate about what they are doing. 

2. Don't Go It Alone: If you are new to design thinking you need to share and reflect on your process and what you learned about your students during the task.  Create a team of teachers at your school site who can observe your students in action and help you make interdisciplinary connections across subject areas.  This is especially important at secondary schools as you will want to consider how you can integrate subjects: Want to see what this looks like in a middle school? Check out Vista Innovation and Design Academy in San Diego 

3.  Start with a plan and connect the standards:  Trying out Design Thinking without a solid plan might be the last time you take a big leap.  Your students might think it's fun, but are they learning?  Determine what your goals are for your students, consider the materials and resources needed and the kinds of task that will hook your learner. Without structure, Design Thinking can turn into playtime at Chuck-e-Cheese. Look at these Design Thinking Challenges from Raft Resources that includes standards-based lessons, planning and include materials and resources to get started immediately. 

4. Stay Connected and Continue to Learn: social media and twitter can get you digitally connected to teachers who have been developing Design Thinking tasks for quiet some time. But it's important to know who to follow on Twitter here are my recommendations:  
Principals Dr Chagala  @drchagala and Kaleb Brashad @kalebrashad are leaders who are charging their schools forward with Design Thinking.  Science teachers Brian Delgado @bluedotbrian and Andrew Lerario @bluedotandrew and English teacher  Dan Ryder (@wickeddecent) are forging the way for teachers to jump on board with Design Thinking.  

5. Start Small and Stay Humble: this process is definitely not about perfection it's all about the process.  So be gentle with yourself and know that kids are still learning even if you're not getting the exact results that you want.  Learning can occur when mistakes are made and projects fail.  Failure is an opportunity for growth and a chance for kids to know that just because you fail does not mean you need to give up.  Here's an inspiring video of kids at HighTech High building a rocket 

So if you've got a growth mindset and a willingness to step outside of the box, then creating, implementing and facilitating a Design Thinking task is the right step for you.  Let us know what works for you, what are your challenges and where you need to grow, because that's what being humble is all about, and if we can't own our mistakes how can we teach empathy to others?

Join the digital conversation on our Facebook Group: Teacher Prep Tech 

Making Multiple Representations in Math with Digital Tools

Let's be clear counting in small quantities is a skill most kids do naturally without much prompting or coaching needed, in fact the region of the brain we use for counting includes the same portion of the brain that controls our fingers. Research suggests this may be attributed to the fact that our ancestors first experience with numbers involved the fingers (Devlin, 2000).  However counting and calculations that go beyond our friendly finger tips are likely to result in errors. 

When it comes to calculations students need strategies and not just one.  Research suggests students will most likely use a particular strategy that they find to be a more efficient solution for a particular type of problem (Sieger & Jenkinds, 1989). Take for example the problem 6 x 42 . Students who have proficiency with breaking apart numbers can determine they will need to calculate 6 X 40 (240) and 6 X 2 (12) and mentally calculate the total of 252, but when these numbers become much larger 656 X 3245 the standard algorithm may be more efficient. 

Common core mathematics shifts the focus from learning one-way and one-algorithm to understanding the underlying principles of a concept and applying multiple algorithms.   This approach certainly lends itself to going deeper with math through multiple representations and ways of showing what you know.   

The idea that students don't begin with the end in mind but begin with understanding and developing concepts is at the heart of the common core. 

This shift in standards does not guarantee a shift in learning, this will only happen when teachers change the way they teach and curriculum evolves from focusing on some learners, to all learners in the classroom.  From gifted and talented to students with special needs and English language learners, our approach and modes of instruction need to be flexible and supportive of our classroom population.  Students need a variety of pedagogical approaches from number talks that support discussions of strategies and mental calculations, to manipulatives that allow students to construct models and make meaning of concepts.  

So when parents ask, "Why can't they just memorize their multiplication facts"  we can assure them that memorization does not promote understanding and automaticity will develop with practice.  Elementary teachers should begin introducing concepts by building on what children already know and albeit this may be intuitive, it can lead to a deeper understanding of the concepts.  

Rooting math in the lives of the students we teach can support building conceptual understanding as well as transfer the learning of math  (number words, symbols and quantities) into their informal learning experiences such as the park, playing games and with friends.  Take for example the idea of using arrays to introduce the concept of multiplication.  Arrays are all around students but this knowledge needs to be brought forward during instruction and through practice.  It's not enough just to talk about where you might see arrays kids also need to  construct , discover, apply and identify. We should understand that what works for one kind of learner might not work for another.  Woodward and Baxter found that students with disabilites in math tend to make significantly less growth in discussion-oriented classes (1997) than traditional ones.  

Technology can be a great mediator to support, and challenge students with open ended tasks and flexibility.  It can also be useful to move from the abstract to the real-life connection.  
Available as a Google Slide here

Repeated addition is the knowledge students can start with to build an understanding of multiplication, but some students in your class might not have developed automaticity of their addition facts.  Working with arrays that are highly contextualized and not just on a piece of graph paper can provide practice in addition while also introducing the concept of multiplication.  In this video a second-grader works on a Google Slide presentation his teacher made to drag and drop cars into a parking lot.  

If our ancestors first counting tool was their fingers then digital devices might be consider the cultural tools for our students today.  

 Using this digital lesson teachers can scaffold instruction and allow students to work at their own pace.  While some students might work with benchmark numbers 2's, 5's, and 10's to construct an array, students who understand the concept of multiplication and have strong number sense in this area can move to more complex equations.  

Are you using technology to support students conceptual understanding in your math class? Share your ideas here and join the conversation on our Facebook Group


Bringing the L Factor into your Teaching Practice: In 3 Simple Ways

By Guest Blogger: Jack Yee

One of the biggest myths about teaching is that you have to love your students.

Love is a loaded word and many people have difficulty with this complex emotion. I am a great example. I love ”all you can eat” pizza night, but I struggle to love my students especially when they refuse to line-up after I have asked them (at least 900 times) to do so. Even people that I do love on a regular basis like my wife, I have moments when I wish I could buy her a one-way ticket to a place far away. Regardless of this fleeting feeling, I still deeply care about her no matter how upset I get.

This is the attitude that I have toward my students and I highly suggest you do the same. Asking teachers to love all their students isn’t realistic or necessary. What is essential is that you care 100% about all your kids even the ones that you feel indifferent towards. This isn’t easy, I know that.

Heck, I had kids in my classes that drove me to high blood pressure medication, but I had to find ways to care about their well-being. I’m not talking about fake interest either. Kids have a built-in BS meter that can detect insincerity instantly.

What you need to do is develop genuine care for all your students, especially kids you are lukewarm towards. Once I found it in myself to have real concern for all my students, it completely changed the dynamics in our relationship. In other words, things just got better between us. You can experience this positive shift as well.

Here are three tips to help you care more for your students:

1. Find Compassion: It’s hard to love anybody when you’re running out of patience. All you want to do is scream and berate them for their misbehavior. In difficult times when it’s hard to find love, shift your emphasis to compassion. Instead of honing in on your anger, look for reasons behind their struggles. What you will discover is an explanation for your students’ inappropriate actions. This by no means excuses them, but it will help you see the bigger picture. 

How to be more compassionate: A while back I struggled with making a connection with a student that was constantly acting out. When I decided to develop a reward system for him, I realized that I knew nothing about him! Then I discovered he had no contact with his parents and he was living with his grandmother.  My feeling toward him changed dramatically and I dedicated spending more time with him. As a result, his disruption in class became minimal. The lesson is get to know your learners. Spend some time finding out who your students are. Ask them questions about their life. Be inquisitive and curious about what their needs are. The best way to do this is greet them in the morning and ask about how they are doing and what they did the previous night.  Don't forget to be sincere when you’re asking questions.  Kids will pick up on your insincerity. Be truly interested in who they are and they’ll feel it, but more importantly, they’ll know that you really care about them. 

2. Find your empathy. Many teachers tell me that have a hard time loving some of their students because they just can’t relate with them. It’s hard to care for somebody when there seems to be nothing in common between you and the other person. However, you have more similarities with your students than you ever realize. When you become more empathetic toward your students, you’ll see yourself in them, even those that push your buttons. When you find the commonality, you’ll have valuable insights on their behavior and how to correct it. How to be more empathetic. I need to remind myself that being empathic is a skill. It’s a skill that I must hone everyday, if not, my negative emotions can take over. For example, I had a student that was apparently throwing F-bombs at me for no specific reason at all. My natural instinct and boiling emotions wanted to scream and holler back at him. But, my sharpened empathy skills got the better of me and led me to pause. I then had an instant flashback when I was in a similar situation where I was cursing up a storm at my poor car mechanic. Like my student, I wasn’t upset at the mechanic, but at another situation and he was just an innocent bystander that I was projecting my anger towards. To develop your empathy skills, try this trick. The next time you get upset, repeat the following mantra . "Johnny is ____ (insert the inappropriate behavior or negative trait here like “Johnny is talking back to me….Johnny is fighting on the yard" just like how I used to be. This mantra will lead you to see that your student’s negative action is inside of you too. By doing so, it will elicit a more empathic response out of you and perhaps leading to a solution. 

3. Learn to be a better listener: This one has been very difficult for me. When I see my students being disrespectful, my mind instantly begins to rage and a long harsh diatribe begins writing in my head that I can’t wait to deliver. Even when my students try to explain their actions to me, it sometimes goes over me because my mind is working so quickly with counter-arguments and better comebacks to respond back to them. My intention to speak feels so urgent, most of the time, I don’t even let my students finish speaking. Unfortunately and sadly, I’ve been told by some of my students that I can be unfair because I don’t always listen to them. 

How to be a better listener: When your mind is fuming and you are overly eager to prove your point, it’s hard to process what your students are trying to say to you. You’re not really listening and instead focusing all your attention on building up your argument. The next time you get in a heated situation, just change your intention. Instead of listening to reply, listen to understand. Try to understand the whole picture instead of just the small details. Also, focus your attention of the non-verbal aspects such as body language, facial expressions, and tone and put everything together. By taking in the whole experience of the speaker, it can lead you to a more empathetic and compassionate response. By doing so, not only will you deescalate the student, but it will calm BOTH of you down so you can get reach a viable resolution to the problem. 

In sum, if you implement these caring skills to your classroom, I have no doubt it will help improve your relationships with your students. By doing so, not only will you open up your heart, but don’t be surprised at how you will change even more. You just might find yourself loving them.

Jackson Yee has been teaching for over 30 years. He currently teaches ESL in Massachusetts. Also, he is a mental toughness and strength conditioning coach. You can follow his blog at:
FB Page:
To get in the best mental shape and state of your life check out his book “Mental Toughness Training: Get in the Best Shape of Your Life.” 

Three Simple Steps and Tech Tips to Support Students with ADD/ADHD

Yes somethings are obvious,  the hyperactive child who can't sit still on the carpet, lacks self control and can blurt out compulsively, desk is completely disorganized with papers, drawings, and candy wrappers, you know these are behaviors of a child with attention deficit disorder (ADD).  

But what is not always obvious is what lies beneath the surface of a child with ADD/ADHD.  ADD/ADHD is much more than just a behavioral issue, and focusing just on what you can see and not what is going on emotionally and cognitively can have a negative impact socially and academically for students with this disability.  Students with ADD/ADHD are just as capable as other students, in fact they are likely to be good problem solvers, highly creative and have an abundant amount of energy (of course). 

What you need to know about ADD/ADHD in terms of what is going on behind the scenes (in their brain) should impact the way you teach and approach instruction. 

Students with ADD typically have weak executive functioning.  This means their working memory, (which is what kids use to remember information long enough to actually use it) is impaired and this will impact their ability to read and learn skills in math.  They are also likely to have a difficult time getting started and exhibiting effort towards a task.  Internalizing language is also an issue and that means they are probably less likely to ask for help.  
Other cognitive concerns includes having an impaired sense of time, so not only will they have difficulty getting started, but they will also lose track of time and have difficulty planning and executing long-term projects.

So what does all this mean for you the teacher, and how can you use this information, to get your incredibly capable and creative child to not only be, but feel successful (children with ADD/ADHD are also likely to have emotional issues including depression, anxiety and oppositional defiant disorder).

3 Steps to Support Students with ADD/ADHD
1. First start with planning: 

  • Be sure to include visuals, movement and graphic organizers to every lesson. 
  • Include learning apps such as studystack, spellingcity and quizlet to create flashcards and games to support recall and working memory. 

  • Make learning interactive with web-based games such as Kahoot and concept mapping such as Popplet to support making meaningful connections. 

2. Next Support the Student in Self-Regulation: 

  • Construct a weekly or daily monitor report that you and the  student can complete to monitor behavior and track growth. 
  • Use a secret signal such as a particular phrase or cue to attract and help redirect the students attention. 
  • Provide the student with a rubber ball or device that can be used to help them stay focused
  • Include regular busy body breaks such as stretching or using Go Noodle

3. Get Parents Involved: 

  • Create a website, blog or use Google Calendar to share important dates, homework, agendas and upcoming events.
  • Use the above monitoring form to let parents know how students are doing in your class. 
  • Share information about learning disabilities and strategies that can be used at home such as PBIS and IRIS

  • Use a webtool such as Remind to send quick messages and reminders.  

Schools should be a place where students grow and develop not just academically, but cognitively and socially as well.  Non-cognitive skills such as self-regulation, self-monitoring and reflection are extremely important to develop in young children especially before they transition to secondary schools.  For students with ADD/ADHD this requires teachers to do more than just plan for one standard but plan for all learners so they can be successful .  These strategies will benefit not just your ADD/ADHD students but every student that needs to be empowered and independent.

Leave a comment below and receive the Monitoring Report template for free.  Join our virtual discussion on Facebook   

3 Steps to Getting the Joy Back in your Teaching Practice

By Guest Blogger: Jackson Yee
Years ago, I stumbled upon an article about happiness. The article suggested that the key to joy was giving and helping others. If this was true, then teachers should be the happiest people since all we do is give and help. But, this isn’t how it is as most teachers are miserable and unhappy at work. What would explain this contradiction?

I pondered this paradox for years. But, the majority of the research on happiness still pointed to the act of giving as a strong factor that determines happiness. I was stumped until a Buddhist friend of mine told me unhappiness is related to a loss of control

That’s when I put happiness and the concept of control together and looked at my own practice. Even though, I couldn’t control the home environment of my students or the lack of support from my administrators, I discovered there were a lot of things I had influence over.

Discovering these untapped sources of control not only empowered me in the classroom, but improved my overall fulfillment as an educator. Give these ideas a try and I’m sure you’ll definitely find more joy in the classroom:

1) You have control in your preparation.
I’m not talking about lesson planning either. This is a sign of relief to many of you! But, what I’m suggesting is preparing your mindset before going into work. You definitely have control on your morning mood. If not, you end up starting your day with the same negativity that will spiral down throughout your day. But, if you take the time to prepare differently, you can have a more productive and satisfying day.

Suggestion - bring a practice of gratitude to your toolbox as a teacher. Studies have shown that gratitude builds resilience.  Before starting your day, take a few minutes to think of 3 things that you are grateful for.  By doing so, you’ll bring a strong sense of appreciation that will influence how you'll react to your students or a unpleasant situation which can lead to a more enjoyable work day.

2) You have control in your response.
When Johnny throws his book at you and calls you all sorts of unflattering names, you want to respond back by raising your voice and berating the little brat. When you work in a high stressful environment like teaching, getting angry, sad or frustrated is a normal response. The problem with these negative emotions is they lead to more dissatisfaction at work. However, feeling bad about yourself doesn’t have to be the norm. How you feel depends on how you act and you have a lot more control over your emotions than you realize.

Suggestion: the next time a student pushes your buttons, resist the temptation to let your emotions take over. Instead, pull back and detached from the moment. Fight back the urge to give it back to the student and pause to reflect. By doing so, you’ll have more control over your emotions, but more importantly, more control of the situation. Assess the situation and use logic to respond back. For me, this slight pause allow me to smile and use kindness to defuse the confrontation. On the other hand, you may decide to yell back, but at least now, you are in control of how to respond.

3) You have control over the meaning you attach to the situation
If you have a terrible day at work, you may decide that your job sucks or you just had a bad day. Or if Johnny doesn’t listen to you, you may conclude that he’s just an idiot that can’t be helped or he just had too much sugar this morning. It’s not what happens to you, but how you interpret these actions that’s crucial. In other words, what meaning you attach to the situation will determine how you will experience it.

Suggestion: If you can find more purpose in how you interpret your experiences, you’ll find more meaning in what you do. This is crucial because studies have show that the more positive meaning you can find in unpleasant circumstance, leads to more fulfillment., So the next time, Johnny pushes your buttons, find how meaningful your relationship is to him. Understand his background and lack of love he has at home and that you may be the only positive adult in his life. By seeing how meaningful you are in Johnny’s life you can develop greater compassion towards him and possibly enhance your positive feeling toward him.

In sum, learning that you have more control in the classroom won’t lead you to becoming super teacher. In fact, you’ll probably have awful days and consider switching professions, but it will certainly make your day a lot brighter. Bottom line you are in control of your choices, actions and responses.

What's your strategy for staying in control share with us in the comments below.  You can also join our Facebook Group for more tips, tricks and conversations in a virtual space.

Jackson Yee has been teaching for over 30 years. He currently teaches ESL in Massachusetts. Also, he is a mental toughness and strength conditioning coach. You can follow his blog at:
FB Page:
To get in the best mental shape and state of your life check out his book “Mental Toughness Training: Get in the Best Shape of Your Life.” 


5 Things You Must Consider for Classroom 3D Printers

By Guest Blogger: Margaux Weighner
The industry of printing is continuously evolving. 3D printing is an innovation that's several leaps ahead of the 2D, flat and linear printing. The innovative machine could produce prints in three dimensions, making it possible to generate various products ranging from cell phone cases, solar system dioramas to complex models for engineering students.

A 3D printer works by creating a blueprint of the object through an application or software. Instead of the standard ink that comes with the typical laser printer, the 3D printer uses a different kind of material, usually plastic, resin or filament. The printer then starts to assemble the prototype of the object by printing in layers, simulating the shape, dimensions, and colors from the application.
2D printers produce prints, 3D printers create prototypes.
From the confines of a teacher's classroom, 3D printing can make learning more engaging and realistic to the students. 3D printing can be a valuable tool that teachers can use in breeding a more interactive learning environment for their students.

There's a lot of thought that goes toward purchasing a 3D printer for educational purposes. Different brands have different features and various levels of complexity. Before buying a 3D printer for your classroom, here are 5 things you must consider:

1. Fully-Constructed vs. DIY Printer

When you shop for a 3D printer, you'll find that most, if not all, fall in either of these two types: a fully-constructed or DIY printer. The ready-made 3D printer is a device that you can just plug and play. Every component in the printer is designed and structured to function upon unboxing, so there's no more need to assemble. Between the two types, a fully-assembled 3D printer is more expensive by up to several hundred dollars.

On the other hand, a DIY 3D printer needs some time to figure out. You will need to put the printer together before you're able to use it. Teachers and students who like the challenge of assembling an object from scratch will find the DIY 3D printer an excellent choice. Plus, these printers are at least twice less expensive than the assembled ones.

2. Printing Speed

Three-dimensional objects are more complicated to build than two-dimensional ones, so expect that results of the 3D printer will take some time. If you're making a very detailed prototype of an object, you will need to be more patient. On the brighter side, that would teach the students the virtue of patience too.

Although 3D prints are slow to produce results in general, speed can still vary depending on the type of material you use and the make and model of the printer.

3. Printing Filament

Another important consideration when choosing a 3D printer is the material it uses to produce the 3D object. In 2D printing, we use ink as the material or substance to print out flat, two-dimensional products like texts and graphics.

In the world of 3D printing, these materials are called filaments. A typical 3D printer uses thermoplastics which become pliable when exposed to the right amount of temperature. Today, the available filaments can either be polylactic acid (PLA) or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS).
The ABS 3D filament is a durable and moderately flexible material that's excellent when printing kitchen devices, automotive components and different kinds of toys. Meanwhile, PLA 3D filament consists of organic substances like cornstarch and sugarcane.

Unlike the ABS filament, PLA is safer to use because it doesn't emit toxic fumes. However, because the PLA filament has a lower melting point, it is not the best material in creating objects that may warp or melt when exposed to high temperatures. PLA is the perfect filament for forming surgical sutures, diaper, and disposable utensils.

Importantly, choose a printer that's compatible any filament coming from different manufacturers. A 3D printer that can only work with a proprietary brand of filament limits the opportunities for creating and learning.

4. Software

To execute the idea into reality, you will need to use an application or computer software. If this is your class' first dibs in 3D printing, opt for software that's user-friendly. There are a lot of things that you need to learn and ensuring that the software is easy to use speeds up the process.

Also, you'll find that most of the 3D printers in the market work with "open source" programs, allowing the DIY enthusiasts to learn, build and modify the printer to their own terms. Unless you get to that level, pick a software that you and your students can understand and use. You can level up your software and gain more power and features when you've learned at least the basics.

5. Customer Service

The 3D printer is going to run into some issues at some point as all printers do. If you're not a tech-savvy teacher who can't figure out what's broken and do the repairs, you'll ultimately need someone who will. With that said, you need to run some checks on the background and feedback of the company where you intend to purchase the printer.

Opt for a brand or manufacturer that provides robust customer support, from troubleshooting tutorials on their website to friendly customer service agents who pick up calls and answer questions. The school's IT guy may not always be available to help you out just in case something went wrong with the printer, but it helps that there's a number, email, video or forum you can turn to whenever you need.


The 3D printer is an excellent addition to your teaching arsenal. This machinery allows the students to design, and build objects on their own, further stretching their creative and technical abilities. As a teacher, you'll also learn a handful of things in operating a 3D printer.

However, a 3D printer is a purchase you wouldn't want to do in a heartbeat. You need to carefully research all your options and narrow them down to the best few. You need to dissect each candidate according to your needs, the printer's features and their suitability for your class.

Margaux Weighner is a tech blogger and she also handles the blog of She is continuously writing tips, hacks, informative and tech related articles to help students and business owners with their tech needs.

Are you using 3D printing in your classroom share your best practices with us.

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From Flip Books to Apps: Get Ready to Animate

By Guest Blogger: Frankie Caplan

Animation has been around for over a century, but its use in academia is still a fairly new phenomenon. The dawn of what we would think of as ‘traditional animation’ occurred in 1908 with the world’s first animated film.

While effective at capturing the attention of the audience, the technique didn’t become mainstream until the release of Snow White and the Seventh Dwarves in 1927, going on to become popular on television in the late 50s, after which it got increasingly common in children’s shows and advertisements.

Today’s animation is no longer reserved for entertainment industry and it’s time educators embrace its potential for the educational process.

The effectiveness of animation

There are some simple reasons for animation becoming so effective in both advertising, business communications and education; the ability to create an attention grabbing mini-world. Distinct from reality and using shapes and colours motion graphics make it easier for young, but also adult, audiences to engage with the content. For this reason animation is an incredible tool in education. Instead of selling someone on a product or idea, as a traditional advertisement would, academic animation allows children (and even adults) to understand a subject matter they’re having trouble visualising.

As the visual is already created for them their mind is then free to engage without restraint with the subject, which will in many cases allow an audience to develop a more comprehensive understanding of complicated subjects. Visual demonstrations have been shown to be a powerful tool in educating young minds, as it supports the student’s cognitive processes. It’s even been suggested that the multi-sensory aspects of animation overcome the barriers of students learning in different ways, allowing a whole class to learn at the same pace, as well as the obvious advantages of encouraging student creativity and breaking up the normal teaching structure.

How can educational institutions employ animation?

While creating animation for academic purposes used to be long and time consuming, it’s now much easier, especially with the influx of animation startups and freelancers. Still, as with any lesson plan, the first step should be carefully planning how your animation can have the maximum impact. Plan the world you’re going to introduce to your students based on their age and the subject. For instance, for an English lesson the animation could mirror the texts you’re reading, including characters or settings, but for science lessons a more abstract approach will be beneficial in improving students understanding of the subject matter.

You may also believe that animation only takes place on a computer or projector, but don’t forget that now everyone carries around powerful computing devices with them at all times. Instead of having your students put away their phones, there are a variety of apps that will allow you to create basic animations and pass them on to your students, an ideal way of engaging their attention in class or at home. Even if you want to stick to the traditional and make the animation yourself, there are many apps that will let you create animated teaching resources quickly and at little to no cost; some are even specifically designed for children.

For younger audiences, you can also consider engaging them with one of the oldest style of animations available: flip books. Purchasing flip books in bulk and then having your students draw their animations on the corners is a great way to lead a creative, engaging lesson while helping their minds process a variety of subjects again and again. Animations can also help children to learn lessons outside the typical learning environment, such as in cases of home schooling or even evening classes.

Ultimately, the benefits of using animation in the education process are clear. It allows for greater creativity and motivation among the students, encouraging them to engage with the subject matter while simultaneously making it easy for them to understand it.

Are you using animation in the classroom with your students? Share your videos, pictures and ideas here! Got questions for our author just leave a comment below!

Frankie Caplan is an animator and video marketing specialist interested in visual storytelling and applying animation to business projects. You can find her writing at Pigeon Studio and follow her on twitter.

You can send her a tweet @FrankieCpln

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About Me

About Me
Dr. Patricia Dickenson has taught grades K-9 she currently works with pre-service teacher candidates. She has three school aged children and loves to create curriculum.

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