Thursday, May 18, 2017

Ten Tinkercad Tips

3D Printing

What an opportunity we have as educators to bring creativity into the classroom. 3D printing is a process that allows users to dream up an idea and make it a reality. I recently worked with sixth graders through this process. For many, this was the first time they had ever seen a 3D printer. It was an obscure concept to them. Once they jumped into Tinkercad and saw it in action, students experienced scale, the metric system, and how ideas can be fabricated into reality. 

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Tinkercad

Workflow is key. Just like any other technology, there is a learning curve when it comes to using Tinkercad. The experience of knowing how to operate your tools and how it will affect the outcome plays a big factor int he usability in class. The common denominator when it comes to teachers not wanting to venture into the realm of 3D printing and using Tinkercad is the issue of time. It takes time to learn. It takes time to create. To help with that issue, I created ten Tinkercad tips that will assist with workflow. 

Ctrl to Move

Using the control button in conjunction with the touchpad/mouse will allow users to quickly rotate and move around an object. Otherwise, the user will need to use the navigation cube to rotate the camera angle around the object. Depending on how much you need to move around the object, holding control can save the user time.

Scroll to Zoom

To zoom in to or out from an object, users can use the + or - icon on the left-hand side of the screen. If a user has a mouse with a scroll wheel or a touchpad that has a scroll option (Chromebook = swipe up or down with two fingers.) The instant zoom can help you pinpoint and refine your designs at a more efficient rate.


Duplicate

Use the duplicate icon to quickly manufacture repeated objects. For example, I once was helping a student build a model of the Parthenon. He needed to be able to create the exact same column several times. Using the duplicate option, it not only copied my columns, it also evenly spaced the copied object in relation to my first two. This saves a lot of time with not having to precisely move every object that needs to be copied. 


Type Specific Sizes

Attempting to get a precise dimension size on an object can be frustrating using a touchpad or mouse. If there is a dimensional constraint, the user can click on the object, click on the white boxes that allow for dimensional changes, and then click on the numerical dimension. It will then allow you to type in the specific dimension you are seeking. 


Arrow Keys

Users can move objects around using the arrow keys. The default setting for the metric system is one mm per movement. The amount of movement can be adjusted for smaller units. That way precise connections can be made. On the lower, right-hand corner, there is a small drop-down menu called the snap grid. You can adjust the amount of movement per keystroke down to a tenth of a mm. 


Select All and Move

It is often that a person begins a project and wants to make some considerable changes to his/her design. This often requires moving objects around. By clicking away from all of your objects and drawing an invisible box around all of the shapes, they become selected. You can now move multiple objects simultaneously. 


Select All and Resize

Just like the previous move, you can draw an invisible box around all objects and instantly resize all objects simultaneously. This allows you to scale objects evenly across the board in no time at all. 


Group Objects

If you select several objects, they can be grouped into one cohesive unit. This allows the builder to essentially create their own custom shapes with the combining of several shapes. By grouping them, they cannot be easily separated and will stay together until the user deems unnecessary.


Holes

Using shapes and turning them into holes instead of solids will allow you to create some unique shapes to fit your specifications. This is great if you are building an object that is intended to be a container.


Lock Editing

You can lock objects or even groups of objects into place. This is a must when you are attempting to make precise movements with one object in particular. Fewer mistakes of clicking and moving the wrong object will occur by use of this tool. 

What's in the video? 

All of the tips listed are in my video below. I put them all in video format so that you could see them in action. This video is a little more lengthy than I like, so I put a table of contents near the beginning of my video so that you can quickly identify when I begin demonstrating one of the tips. Merely find which one you want to see visually and move the scrubber to the indicated time-stamp. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Autodraw and Hyperdocs

Autodraw

Google's Autodraw is extremely fun. Everyone has experienced the pains of attempting to draw on a device using a mouse or a touch-pad; it rarely turns out well. Google's Autodraw is an A.I. project where it predicts what you attempted to draw. Every time you release the click on your mouse, it pulls up a list of options at the top of your screen. When you select an item, it replaces your drawing with a clean and more realistic version of your own drawing. You then have the freedom to change the color of the object or insert fill color using the paint bucket. You even have the freedom to move and resize objects after you draw them.  Anyone can be an artist with Autodraw. 

If you think Autodraw is pretty awesome, you should try it on a touchscreen device. Using this activity would obviously be easier if being able to draw objects by hand. It certainly increases the accuracy in predictability from Autodraw. I tried it on my Asus Chromebook Flip and it worked like a charm. 

Interactive Tool

Autodraw would be a great tool for an interactive whiteboard or if you can project from a touch screen device. This would allow you to quickly draw and move objects around for the purpose of sorting or organizing thoughts. Not all drawings have to be in Autodraw format. A regular pen and shapes can be used to make connections between ideas. This will provide a great option for my teachers as my staff is slowly transitioning away from Promethean boards to touchscreen devices with wireless connections. 

Hyperdocs

Over the last year, I've posted quite a bit on the topic of hyperdocs. Whether it is via Docs, Slides, Drawings, or Sheets, teachers have grabbed onto the idea of providing instruction and space to interact and collaborate digitally. Autodraw is a tool for isolated users. However, teachers could easily ask students to respond on Autodraw and share their work via a hyperdoc. The process is pretty simple on a Chromebook as the download feature in Autodraw allows for the user to quickly copy the image and paste it elsewhere. 

In my video below, I give an overview of how to use Autodraw and also how to use it in conjunction with a hyperdoc. Students merely need to paste it into the destination. This would also be handy if students wanted to include an illustration directly in a Slides presentation or a graphic in a report. They could create a custom background for a comic using Google Drawings or Slides. Imagine how much fun students would have creating a sketchnote?  Lots of possibilities exist for students to share their learning in a creative and graphical format with Autodraw. 


Monday, May 8, 2017

Google Sites Updates

Early Access

MSD of Steuben County was fortunate to have a sneak peak at the new version of Google Sites. It was a great opportunity for students and teachers alike. Teachers now had the capability to build websites/resources that were simplistic and easy to use. Students could now build a website that was easy to understand and fully collaborative. We've had several teachers take advantage of the exciting opportunity Google Sites possesses for students to work on a website together. Imagine students being able to take a broad topic, break it down into multiple pages, and students build a learning resource together. This would not only benefit the group, but the entire class as the websites are easily shared via Classroom or a main website built by the teacher to host all the links. 

All GSuite for Education school districts has access to the new version of Google Sites. Teachers will want to start thinking about utilizing it as the classic Google Sites will be depreciated. Google did announce that they have plans in Q4 of 2017 to provide a way to migrate your old site to the new. No news of the process has been released as of yet. 

Updates to Google Sites

Theme Colors

There were three new updates to Google Sites that adds to the overall functionality. One feature is the ability to adjust to a specific color in the themes tab. The user can select a color, but if you want a specific color so that it matches exactly with the objects you insert, you need to use the hex code. In my demonstration video, I recommend using the Colorzilla extension for chrome. You simply launch the extension, select a color on the screen, and it automatically copies the code. You can then paste it into the theme color picker and it will adjust the coloring of your site. 


Vertical Alignment

Another great option that launched is the ability to adjust the text to align vertically with another object. Previously, this could only be accomplished by adding another section to your site. It caused users frustration as only the horizontal alignment worked well. With this adjustment, users can now add a header with text boxes directly aligned underneath. This also allows better alignment of text under embedded objects such as pictures and documents. A text box can be added and utilized for additional information and/or captions.



Site Logos

The final option is to add a site logo. This is a little icon that appears on the top-left corner of your site. You can upload your own logo directly from your computer, search Google, or search your Google Photos Albums and Google Drive. Once you upload your logo, you can then select a transparent, white, or black background in the navigation bar across the top. Another cool feature is that you can select the theme to match the color of your logo. This eliminates the needs to utilize a color picker like Colorzilla (mentioned previously) if you want your site to follow the same color scheme as your logo. (Logos can easily be built utilizing Google Drawings.)


Google Sites Resource

With these new updates, I went ahead and updated my Google Sites resource guide. Feel free to download and utilize as you wish. Let me know if there are things that need to be updated. There is a lot of material residing in the slide deck; it is easy to miss the slight changes that occur from time to time. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Words with Friends Edu


Connections

Words with Friends is a powerful way to make connections with others. For a long time, it has provided a means for me to connect with my father. He and I have a common bond when it comes to word games. (In some ways, it is scary as I often feel like I'm playing against myself.) In my past place of employment, I would play fellow technology coaches and even my superintendent. Words with Friends has lost a little steam in popularity, but I still play with current colleagues. As a technology coordinator, it is important that I spend time with people and making connections. Believe it or not, Words with Friends has helped me accomplish that because the people I play like to discuss our games when I stroll through the hallways.

Great Learning Experience

What a great learning experience Words with Friends has to offer for students. Problem solving, vocabulary, and spelling are all benefits of playing Words with Friends. Long ago I had thought it would be great if students could play each other during downtime in class. It was always a roadblock for the majority of students as being over the age of 13 was a requirement to have an account. Now there is a classroom version that allows the teacher to set up safe connections. Students connect with a class code and are able to initiate games within the members of that class. 

Words with Friends EDU isn't a new thing. It has been around for awhile, but I wanted to provide this resource for teachers so that they know how to get started. So create an account, set up a class, and have your students start playing. Visit: https://wordswithfriendsedu.com/

If you want to see the setup process in advance, check out my video below.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Drive Slides


Need a Sideshow?

Thanks to Matt Miller and Alice Keeler, a long missing feature in Google Slides is here. Ever want to create a quick slideshow with all of the pictures from your exciting field trip or special guest speaker in your classroom? Of course, we've all been there. In the past, I've always sent people to YouTube to use their video editor to import your images and create a video. (Click here to see how.) It is a great, free option. If you want it on a Slides presentation so visitors can click through each picture, Drive Slides will save the day. With a single click, Drive Slides will take all the pictures from a Google Drive folder and put them in a brand new Slides presentation.

How to use Drive Slides

What you'll need first to operate Drive Slides is the chrome extension which you can download by clicking here. Any pictures that you desire to be in a slideshow will need to be uploaded to a Google Drive folder. While in the destination folder, click on the Drive Slides extension in your Chrome Browser. Wait a few seconds and a new tab will appear that will load a blank Slides presentation that will gradually insert all the images that are present in that folder. You now have an instant slideshow with all of the images from your fun and eventful day! 

Here are the directions in video format:



If you want your Slides presentation available for parents to view, you have a couple options. One way would be to give a shared link. By doing so, your viewers would be able to see it just as a Google Slides presentation that they cannot edit. If you use the "publish to the web" option, your Slideshow be in presentation mode so that your visitors only see your slides and not all of the editing options.

View the video below to know how to publicly share your Slides presentation.

For Students

Students can also use Drive Slides. They could take pictures to document a project over time. I think instantly of one of my former colleagues that always did a caterpillar project where the students studied and documented the metamorphosis of caterpillars to butterflies. She had them take pictures to document each day. Drive Slides would be handy for building a Slides presentation that would piece all of those images together!

Another great way students could use Drive Slides would be for stop-motion animation. Students could take pictures of real objects (clay, legos, dolls, etc). Just as in claymation, they would do slight movements and snap another picture. All of these items could be pieced together in a Google Slides presentation very quickly by using Drive Slides.