Origami spinners: Take #3

I wanted to try an origami spinner that didnt require extra “bits” – just paper. Bonus: This one is also pretty easy to keep going with perpetual motion.

Origami spinners: Take #2

This spinner is made with a pushpin and paper. There are a few tricky folds, but the “ninja star” is a common origami prototype that some of your students may already know how to make!

Origami spinners: Take #1

What about spinners? Are they a helpful fidget for students, or an annoying toy that causes classroom disruptions?

No matter where you find yourself in the spinner controversy, the spinner is still a trend to be reckoned with.

Why not capitalize on the phenomenon and make a simple rule for your school: The only spinners allowed are those you have made by hand.

The Internet has lots of inspiration for DIY spinners, complete with opportunities for trial and error, rapid prototyping, and learning from mistakes – all great makerspace concepts! Plus, many spinners can be made with paper, so they’re inexpensive.

This month I highlight several types of origami spinners to get you started. Give ’em a spin! (Bad pun.)

Extra tip: I always use recycled paper for origami. It gives an interesting result, and is a wonderful excuse for upcycling.

The first origami spinner I recommend comes from Red Ted Art. Their videos are cheerful and easy to follow:

Free online tools: Stencyl video game maker

Do you want to really impress your friends this summer? Tell them you’re developing your own video game.

It’s easy with Stencyl, a drag-and-drop video game creator that you can download.

Check out some of their showcase games.
Stencyl has a crash course for beginners.

Even better, they have a free educator’s kit to get you started with students.

Have fun creating a game, and then invite your friends to play your game on their iOS or Android device!

Free online tools: Thimble HTML and CSS remixer

Have you always wanted to make your own website, but felt intimidated by HTML?

Thimble, an online environment created by Mozilla, lets you play in a sandbox with HTML and CSS code. You can swap things out and see what happens, so you’re learning in an exploratory manner.

To get started, select a project to “remix,” like a Keep Calm poster, HTML burger, or My Six Word Summer.

The remix environment includes a tutorial if you’re lost, as well as a lesson plan to help get you started with students.

You can post your remix and share it with others!

Free online tools: Storybird online book creator

Want to work on your creative writing skills? Storybird makes it easy to get inspired and write picture books, longform stories, or poetry.

In Storybird, you select curated artwork that inspires you, and use that as a launch pad to write. Read The Homework Monster as an example.

Educators can create accounts for students, giving them a different way of expressing themselves. Storybird also posts monthly challenges, making it easy to incorporate as an option in your Makerspace.

Take a few moments and write a witty story to send to your friends and family!

Free online tools: Coding with Scratch

It’s a great time of year for professional development… especially if it’s free! This month on the blog, I’m writing about four free online tools that you can explore when you have a few moments. With these tools, you can learn more about coding, writing, HTML/CSS, and video game creation. And you’ll be ready to help your students learn with these tools when school starts back up! All of the tools also let you share what you’ve learned with your friends, family, and colleagues. Maybe you’ll inspire someone else to learn something new and be a maker this summer, too!

Want to learn to write code? Scratch is to the rescue.

Scratch is simple to use, with drag-and-drop bits of code that animate a “sprite” on the screen.

If you’re new, Scratch provides lots of step-by-step tutorials to get you started.

And if you’re looking for inspiration for your students, check out these downloadable Scratch cards.
Make a greeting card and send it to a friend or animate your name and share it with your family!

Ethics: Can ethics be computed?

Researchers at the University of Connecticut have been working with Nao, a toddler-sized robot, to see if we can program robots to make ethical decisions. Even simple tasks, like reminding someone to take medication, have ethical consequences. What does the robot do if the person refuses to take the medicine?

Questions to discuss with students:

First, present a common ethical dilemma to students, such as the trolley problem. Have students discuss the possible outcomes and the consequences of the choices made.

Do you think robots can be programmed to make similar choices? Would you want them to? Why or why not?

Ethics: Effect of technology on economics

“The robots are taking over!” Although that’s a line out of many science fiction books and movies, it is undeniable that robots are becoming an increasing part of our world. One area we’re seeing more robots is in jobs. As robots become less expensive, they cost less than a human doing the same work. In manufacturing, robot sales have jumped 32% since last year in the U.S.

Inevitably this will lead to job losses for humans. But what else will we lose? This author discusses how doing “menial” work actually helps employees become better as they learn and grow in their careers.

Questions to discuss with students:

What menial chores or tasks do you do at school and at home? What do you think you’re learning from doing those jobs? What if a robot did them for you? How would that change your daily life? How would that change your future?


Ethics: What about privacy?

Does your school use Google Education apps? More than half of the students in the U.S. currently do. But what is Google doing with the data it is collecting from schools?

In a New York Times article, author Natasha Singer talks about how Google is setting itself up for brand loyalty with students. But even more troubling is its lack of transparency over what it is doing with student data.

“Unless we know what is collected, why it is collected, how it is used and a review of it is possible, we can never understand with certainty how this information could be used to help or hurt a kid,” said Bill Fitzgerald of Common Sense Media, a children’s advocacy group, who vets the security and privacy of classroom apps.

Google declined to provide a breakdown of the exact details the company collects from student use of its services. Bram Bout, director of Google’s education unit, pointed to a Google privacy notice listing the categories of information that the company’s education services collect, like location data and “details of how a user used our service.”

Question to discuss with students:

What is privacy? Why is it important? What steps can you take to maintain online privacy?