EdTechMason’s Top 5 Coding Apps on the iPad

posted Dec 5, 2017, 7:58 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated ]


EdTechMason’s Top 5 Coding Apps  on the iPad 

We are in the midst of another exciting Computer Science Education Week (December 4-10, 2018), and I can not help but reflect on some of my favorite coding applications on one of my favorite mobile devices, the iPad. #CSEdweek helps remind educators around the world to foster computational, analytical, and critical thinking skills in students through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) activities like coding.


One of the biggest pushes during this week is for students to try an #hourofcode. This hour can help introduce students to coding concepts, applications, and careers. It’s essential for us to remember that an hour of code should be the spark for further exploration and education in computer science. Coding is quickly becoming the language of the future, and even if students don’t go into STEM fields, the skills they learn will still serve them well no matter what path they decide to take.


There are a variety of apps available on the iPad that help scaffold the learning of code for students. Generally, before introducing students to a coding language, teachers can have students complete unplugged activities, learning tasks that involve coding concepts but no technology. Then with apps can further the learning with line coding, block coding, and then using actual coding language. Here are my top 5:


Scratch Jr.

Scratch Jr. is one of the easiest ways to introduce coding to students. Scratch Jr. uses block coding to allow students to manipulate characters, tell stories, and express themselves in other creative ways. This application is excellent for early grades and helps scaffold the learning of code in a fun, engaging, and non-threatening way.


codeSpark Academy

codeSpark Academy is another great introductory app for coding. What I like most is how they have mastered the gamification of learning and code. This coding experience is genuinely addictive, and the fact that this is the brainchild of the MIT Media Lab doesn’t hurt either. There is no better way to foster a love of learning and computer science in our youngest students.

Sphero Edu

Sphero Edu combines the analog with the digital. Students can not only learn code in a digital environment, but they can use their coding skills to code Sphero robots. Also, Sphere Edu allows students to code robots three ways: draw, block, or text. These are great for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced coders. I especially love creating labyrinths that require students to program the right code to help their bots escape the maze.

Tynker: Code and Mod Minecraft

Tynker is another good option with scaffolds built in for different levels of coding. Like the other apps, Tynker includes block coding but also allows coding using Apple’s coding language, Swift. With Tynker, students can code robots and drones or even add-ons and mods to Minecraft. Tynker is a great app to take students on the entire coding journey.

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is my favorite coding app on the iPad. Students can work through different levels of code advancing their skills and understanding of coding concepts and the Swift coding language. Lessons build on each other, and it reminds me of going through a math class. Apple also offers a free coding curriculum and other resources to help educators get started.


What are some of your favorite coding apps?

These are just a few of the many coding applications available on the iPad. I hope you and your students get a chance to try some of them out, and I’d love to know what your favorite coding applications on the iPad are.


From Consumption to Creation on the iPad

posted Nov 2, 2017, 8:40 AM by Mason Mason   [ updated Nov 2, 2017, 8:41 AM ]

From Consumption to Creation on the iPad

This blog originally appeared at EdTechTeacher.

Technology integration can be difficult. Often times when schools go one-to-one with iPads, teachers continue to do what they’ve always done. Digital worksheets, PDFs with annotations, and consumption can quickly become the norm.

I remember when I went one-to-one with devices in my secondary English classrooms. I immediately wanted to figure out how my classes could go paperless and how I could get my students to do everything on their devices. However, I was only at the “enhancement” level of Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR technology integration framework as I was only using technology to substitute or augment student classroom activities. For example, I had students take notes on their devices instead as taking notes with pencil and paper. What I needed to strive for was the “transformation” area of SAMR, modification and redefinition. I needed to help my students be creators of content and not simply consumers of content.


Research has shown that when students create meaningful products that require synthesis of information consumed and resources curated, they learn and remember more than when they simply consume content. It’s not that using technology iPads as a substitute for pen and paper is “bad.” However, teachers can do much more to transform their teaching and student learning. When iPads are added to the pedagogical equation, the recipe for curriculum, instruction, and assessment changes. What tasks can students now undertake that were previously inconceivable without the technology?

iPads are not only useful for the consumption of new material and for curating resources, but these mobile devices provide a pathway to the pinnacle of student creation. With two cameras (front-facing and back-facing), a microphone, and innumerable applications for capturing and editing media, iPads allow students to show what they know, think, feel, and understand in new and different ways. Moreover, after students create these new products they have the ability to share them with a wide audience.

There are a number of applications teachers can use with students as they navigate the journey from consumption to creation. Here are a few of my favorites:

Consumption

Safari

Safari is the iPad’s native web browser and is optimized for performance, workflow, and functionality. Students can search, save, and create shortcuts to websites for easier access to information.

Google Chrome

Chrome may be ideal for students in schools using the G Suite for Education. When students learn to leverage the Chrome web browser, they can use the Google voice search and gain a more seamless integration with other G Suite for Education applications. Additionally, English as a second language students will enjoy the ease of translating webpages into their native language.

Microsoft Sway

Sway is one of the newest members of Microsoft Office. Teachers can share beautifully designed digital flyers, newsletters, and presentations with its adaptive design. Then Sways can be shared with a link to whatever learning management system the teacher prefers, including Microsoft Teams, a digital hub for teachers and students, in Office 365 for Education.

Curation

Google Keep

Google Keep is the newest member of the G Suite for Education. Students can easily create digital sticky notes containing audio, photos, checkboxes and so much more. They can also organize their notes through labels and color-coding. Keep is a good option for setting up reminders, creating list, and curating resources for class.

Notes

Apple’s native notes application contains useful features teachers and students can leverage to maximize student success, including the ability to add tables, scan documents, sketch and more. Notes on the iPad is a good option for non-G Suite for Education schools.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote gets curation and organization right. It allows students to organize multiple notebooks, with multiple sections, and multiple pages within each. In addition to many of the features of the other curation applications, OneNote also includes an equation editor, the ability to convert hand-drawn shapes into perfect polygons and circles, and different paper styles including ruled lines and grid lines. For Office 365 schools, OneNote is definitely great for curation.

Creation

Clips

Clips by Apple allows students to create short videos with fun and engaging text, effects, and graphics. It allows students to show what they know and understand in a completely different way and redefines what assessment can look like in the classroom.

Chatterpix

With Chatterpix, students can bring anything to “life” and make it talk, including inanimate objects, animals, and hand-drawn art. By simply taking or uploading their image into the app, drawing a line where they would like the mouth to be, and recording their voice, students can show what they think and feel creatively.

iMovie

One of the best applications for making, editing, and sharing movies is Apple’s iMovie for iPad. Students and start from scratch or use one of iMovies many trailers to create high-quality movies with images, text, photos, videos, voice over, music, transitions and much more. iMovie makes any student feel like Spielberg, Cameron, or Bay in the classroom.

As you take students on the journey from consumption to creation using iPads, think about how you can leverage each of these applications with students to transform teaching and learning. As you develop your own recipe for success with curriculum, instruction, and assessment using technology, think about how you can shift the learning environment, go from teacher-centered to student-centered, and go from consumption to creation.

Google for Education Innovator Academy

posted Oct 29, 2017, 6:22 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Oct 30, 2017, 8:48 AM ]

Google for Education Innovator Academy

Stockholm, Sweden 2017



My Google spark came in 2014 as a high school English teacher. My school received a technology grant, and my students and I received a class set of Chromebooks. At the time, I knew nothing about Chromebooks or Google Apps for Education (now called G Suite for Education); however, we quickly learned to leverage Google hardware and software to transform teaching and learning. This involved using GAFE like Classroom, Docs, and Slides to enhance collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills.


As time passed, I began sharing what I was learning in a G Suite for Education classroom with other educators at local, regional, and national conferences. In my continued quest to learn and grow as an education technology leader, I wanted to hone and enhance my skills by earning Google for Education certifications including Certified Educator Level 1, Certified Educator Level 2, Certified Trainer, and Certified Innovator. The latter distinction, I learned about on August 31, 2017.



The Certified Innovator community is a talented global group of educational thought leaders and visionaries. Part of becoming a Google for Education Certified Innovator is attending the Google for Education Innovator Academy. My cohort participated in the academy at the Google offices in Stockholm, Sweden. There we spent three days going through the design thinking process to refine our Innovation Project, one of the critical components necessary for the year-long program.


For me, this was my first time overseas, and the entire experience was truly humbling. I revel in opportunities to learn, grow, and connect with other educators, and the Innovator Academy did not disappoint. Our #SWE17 cohort was the most diverse in the program’s history with 37 educators from 19 different countries. And with the support of our coaches (former Innovators) and members from the Google for Education team (and other Google team members), we were led through a myriad of engaging and transformative activities that helped inspire innovation in education.


Even before we got to the Innovator Academy, we completed several tasks. This included solving a Digital BreakOut Edu and some other early activities in the design thinking process. Also, we did a virtual meetup using Hangouts on Air with YouTube Live, and we even organized a pre-academy meetup for fika (a favorite Swedish pastime where you enjoy coffee and pastries) in Stockholm to start our face-to-face interactions.



Leslie McBeth of the Future Design School and a Google for Education Certified Innovator from the 2016 Mountain View cohort led us through the design thinking process during the academy. The five-stage process includes discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation, and evolution. This process helped us better understand the problems we were trying to solve, ideate the innovative solutions we were trying to create, and better understand the users we are trying to design our products for.


All of our projects aim to transform, inspire, and innovate in education. Project ideas and products range from mobile applications to websites to educational movements. My Innovation Project is called PLANE PD: Taking Professional Development to New Heights. I hope to develop a professional development framework that helps transform educator training. The final product I decided on is a book that articulates this framework with definitions, examples, and research. PLANE is an acronym for professional development that is Personalized, Learner-inspired/centered, Aerodynamic, Needed, and Engaging.


Not only did we participate in the design thinking process throughout the Innovator Academy, but we also got to hear from Google engineers, hear inspirational Leadership Spark stories from our coaches, participate in a Spark Camp with sessions facilitated by various cohort members, and of course eat some great food at the Google cafeteria.



In addition to visiting the Google offices in Stockholm, I did have some time to visit a few tourist destinations: The Royal Palace and the Nobel Prize Museum in Old Town, the Vasa Museum, and an Ice Bar. It helps that pretty much all Swedes speak English, so there was no language barrier, and everyone was kind and hospitable.



Attending the Google for Education Innovator Academy in Stockholm, Sweden was a once in a lifetime experience. And the academy is just the start of an immense time in my life for growth and development as an educational leader. Through this experience, I hope to inspire change in education and have a positive impact on teacher and student success. Stay tuned, as I hope to keep everyone up-to-date on my #GoogleEI journey. If you’d like to hear me talk more about my experiences, check out Matt Miller and Kasey Bell’s the Google Teacher Tribe podcast.




How to Sketch

posted Oct 17, 2017, 10:34 AM by Mason Mason

How to Sketch – 15 Tips For Better Sketches That Come to Life

(This post originally appeared on Jen Reviews)
Sketching is the art of quick, spontaneous drawing.

A practice going back hundreds - or even thousands - of years, sketching is used by artists, designers, inventors, architects and engineers to capture something quickly on paper.

Some people sketch what they see in front of them, trying to take down an image of a beautiful scene or object. Others sketch ideas that come into their heads, committing them to paper before they forget them.


Some sketches are used as the basis for artworks or inventions, while others never leave the sketchbook.

Whatever your reason for sketching, there’s always room to improve. Luckily, ‘sketchbookers’ throughout history have built up a treasure-trove of experience in techniques and tricks.

We’ve gone to look for the best advice on sketching from history’s best sketchers themselves.

1. Make the sketchbook your friend

Drawing in a sketchbook...teaches first to look, and then to observe and finally perhaps to discover… and it is then that inspiration might come. - Le Corbusier

All drawing takes practice. But since sketching is so much about capturing things on the spur of the moment, sketching only when you’ve already planned to is not enough to truly practice. To practice sketching, one must practice sketching spontaneously, and for this one must always have a sketchbook close to hand.

Countless great artists have carried a sketchbook with them wherever they went. Pablo Picasso used his sketchbook to continually practice his technique. His notebooks are full of draft drawings for some of his great works, as well as copies of paintings he liked or simply sketches of the view from his studio.

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro uses his notebook to detail ideas for his films, his writing interspersed with illustrations of weird and wonderful fantasy characters, captured whenever the idea for them came into his mind. Other artists also use their sketchbooks for noting down fleeting ideas for their later use; British ceramic artist Grayson Perry describes his notebook as “an archive of daft notions that later become art”.

The sketchbooks of the most famous sketcher of all, Leonardo da Vinci, are full of everything from anatomical drawings to cartoons to diagrams for inventions of machinery.

One thing is common to all these sketchbooks. Compared with the artist’s finished work, which might appear highly detailed and polished in a gallery or on a cinema screen, drawings in sketchbooks are rough, ready and spontaneous. And thanks to their creators’ habits of carrying their sketchbook constantly in their pocket, these drawings were able to be created at a moment’s notice.

Sketchbook of William Trost Richards, in public domain

Pick up a sketchbook in your local art shop, and let it become your new best friend. Whenever you see something of interest, take the time to scribble down a quick sketch. It doesn’t need to be perfect, and you don't need to be at a drafting table whenever you sketch.

Get into the habit and soon enough you’ll start to see the world through the eyes of a sketchbooker. Artist John Ruskin wrote that people who routinely sketch the world around them start to see it differently:

‘’Let two persons go out for a walk; the one a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. Let them go down a green lane...The one will see a lane and trees...But what will the sketcher see? His eye is accustomed to search into the cause of beauty, and penetrate the minutest parts of loveliness.” - John Ruskin

The bottom line:

Get a pocket sketchbook and carry it with you wherever you go. Sketching spontaneously, when you get a great idea or see an interesting scene.

2. Learn proper holding technique

The first secret to good sketching might seem an obvious one - it’s all to do with how you hold your pencil.

Incorrect holding technique is a common error with beginners. The way most people learn to work with a pen or pencil is through writing. This means that we learn positions and muscle movements from writing and use them when we sketch, even though this may not be the best method for drawing.

The most important thing to learn is that different ways of holding the pencil can be used for different purposes.

Australian artist Helen South identifies four different ways to hold a pencil for sketching;

1) The ‘basic tripod; grip, which is similar to writing, with the hand resting on the paper and is used for intricate details

2) The ‘extended’ tripod grip, in which the hand is raised off the paper, and allows big, free lines to be created with very small movements

3) The ‘overhand grip’, which allows the pencil to be used at an angle for shading,

4) the ‘underhand grip’ which gives a loose, free movement of the hand.

Designer and illustrator Paul Tysall recommends using the ‘overhand’ grip to create dynamic lines of varying widths by twisting the wrist slightly as you draw, exposing different parts of the pen to the paper.

For more technical, precise drawing like architectural sketching, the key is getting your lines as straight and as accurate as possible. Architect Bob Borson recommends a curious trick for beginner skechers - try not to move your wrist, or even your elbow, but sketch with your entire arm, moving it from the shoulder.

This removes the ‘’wobble’’ created by small movements of the wrist and elbow.

The bottom line:

Learn different techniques of holding your tool and learn what types of sketching they are good for. Practice your precision by drawing from the shoulder, not the wrist.

3. Don’t be afraid of the eraser

Many novice sketchers envy those who can create an image effortlessly without making a correction, and see their own drawings full of eraser marks as a sign of failure.

But as English painter Stephen Farthing RA explains, even the experts need to erase. In his Oxford video lecture series he points out a drawing of a leaf by John Ruskin, perhaps the most talented sketcher of nature in history. If you look closely at the drawing, you can see that Ruskin has continually erased and redrawn the lines, making dozens of tiny corrections.

“This is the essence of modern drawing,” Farthing explains “Making marks, correcting them, and remaking marks.”

Keeping an eraser continually to hand and learning how and when to use it will give you practice in this process. It will also make you a more confident sketcher. Rather than carefully trying to get the ‘perfect’ line, you can take risks and draw without over-thinking, knowing you can erase it if necessary.

This will lead to sketches with a more lively, less rigid quality, and a more direct, natural connection with the thing being sketched.

The eraser can even be used for artistic effect in itself. Some sketches can be made beautifully by first covering a page in graphite or charcoal, then using the eraser like a pen and taking away highlights, as demonstrated by Disney animator Aaron Blaise in his drawings of creatures.

The bottom line:

All great artists use erasers. Incorporate one into your drawing material and don’t be afraid to use it!

4. Learn to use your tone

‘Tone’ is a general term for the creation of varying lightness, darkness and texture in a drawing. Tone’s main function is to make an image three-dimensional, converting a simple line drawing into something with depth and solidity.

The use of tone that is learned first by most artists is to show how light hits an object. The side of an object nearest a light source (say, the sun) will be lighter than the side that is in darkness, with a gradient in between depending on the sharpness of the shadow.

However, there are many other ways in which tone can be used.

Tone can be used to create a feeling of distance. In his art lectures, Stephen Farthing describes how John Ruskin, in his sketch of a mountain scene, uses darker tones in the closer parts of an image, and lighter in those further away, as in his sketch of the Alps below.

The Aiguille Blaitere John Ruskin (public domain)

The way that tone affects a drawing does not just depend on the darkness of the marks being applied, but how they are applied and in what direction. Different strokes can be used to suggest the ‘feeling’ of different objects in an image.

In his 1900 book The Practice and Science of Drawing, English painter Harold Speed explains how different directions lines can be used in creating tone.

“lines of shading drawn across the forms suggest softness, lines drawn in curves fullness of form, lines drawn down the forms hardness, and lines crossing in all directions so that only a mystery of tone results, atmosphere.” - Harold Speed

Speed also warns against what he calls ‘the scribble’, shading by moving the pencil back and forth rather than in only one direction. This not only looks messy, but leaves a slightly darker patch at the turning point of the scribble.

Your pencil marks can be given an even, smooth tone - good for smooth skin, clouds, or shiny, hard objects - by techniques known as brushing or burnishing (described by pencil artist Diane Wright in her lessons).

Brushing involves rubbing the drawing with a soft cloth or compressed paper, and leads to a soft, ‘smudged’ finish, while burnishing requires rubbing over your sketch with a very hard (3H) pencil and retains more detail.

The bottom line:

There are many techniques of creating tone to give objects in your pictures solidity. Learn careful shading techniques, and how to use tone to show light, depth and texture.

5. Create a ‘Dictionary of Marks’

As you learn the ‘tools of the trade’ in sketching, you may build up a catalog of different materials (pencil, 3d pen, chalk, graphite, charcoal…) and techniques (stippling, crosshatching, shading, burnishing...).

But how do you remember all these techniques when actually sketching? When whipping out your sketchbook to capture a beautiful scene before it disappears, you might not have the time to stop and debate whether it would look better with a 2B or 3B pencil, or curved or crosshatched shading.

As a solution to this problem, the Ashmolean Museum recommends creating a ‘dictionary of marks’ and keeping it in your sketchbook. Each time you learn a new technique for creating tone, or buy a new type of pencil, mark it down in your ‘dictionary’ and give it a short label.

This way you can quickly refer to your ‘dictionary’ whenever you start to sketch, quickly evaluating which marks would best capture the scene in front of you. This is especially useful for sketching outdoors, where your time may be limited and your judgment might be thrown off outside the comfort of a studio.

The bottom line:

As you build up techniques for line and tone, collect your marks in a ‘dictionary’ that you can use for later reference.

6. Learn to use measurement techniques

Though often sketching is spontaneous and, well, ‘sketchy’, sometimes we sketch because we want to capture an object very precisely. In this case, even professional artists don’t always rely on their minds and hands alone, and have developed methods of measuring on the spot.

The earliest sketchers (or ‘draughtsmen’) achieved very precise sketches by using “grid squares”. These are pieces of wood or cardboard in which a drawing-paper-sized hole has been cut, and covered in a grid of string. The artist looks through the hole and sees a grid over their subject, which they copy onto their paper. They can then transfer the image to their paper by lining up the two grids as they draw.

durer drawing.jpgDraughtsman drawing a recumbent woman, Albrecht Durer, public domain

The image above, by Albrecht Dürer, shows an artist using such a grid. In this picture, the artist is also shown with a pointed pole in front of his face. This keeps his eyeline level and makes sure he is looking through the grid from exactly the same angle each time.

This might seem like a rather complicated process. However, there are other ways to capture proportion which don’t require quite so much equipment.

The ‘sight-size’ method (explained here by artist Ben Rathbone) uses a string with a weight hung vertically in front of the object being drawn, creating a line that can be used as a reference in the picture. A ruler or compass is then used to map out the relative sizes of different parts of the image by holding it between the artist and the object, on the same plane as the sheet of drawing paper.

An even simpler method is to measure simply by using the pen or pencil you are drawing with by holding it in front of you face between yourself and your subject, and using it to estimate the relative distances. Vladimir London, a tutor at The Drawing Academy, recommends using a pencil for measuring distances and angles, and checking whether different focal points on a drawing ‘line up’ correctly.

The bottom line:

To make precise sketching, use one of various tried-and-tested methods (grid, sight-size or pencil) to make sure your proportions are correct.

7. Shake up your medium with toned paper

Most beginner sketchers will start with dark pencil on a white paper, using the pencil to create dark tones and leaving blank space or erasing to create highlights.

A different technique is to sketch by using toned paper. This technique uses paper that has a ‘’mid-tone’’ colour, such as blue or tan, and uses white chalk or pencil to create highlights and charcoal or dark pencil to create shadows.

With this method, the light that hits an object can be drawn in much greater sophistication and detail.

Additional mid-tones can also be used to give the image fullness and depth, as in this sketch by French painter Antoine Watteau.

Antoine Watteau, study of a girl, public domain

You can see how he uses white to highlight the light reflecting on the forehead and cheek of the girl on the left. Black crayon is used to emphasis points of high shadow, such as the inside of fabric folds. A mix of black and white crayon is used on the girl’s hair, and the resulting high-contrast texture creates the effect of shiny, dark hair.

The specific technique he uses, with a dark red as the third pencil, is known as ‘trois crayons’ (‘three pencils’) and was used extensively by famous Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.

The bottom line:

Use mid-toned paper to make lively sketches with precise shadows.

8. Learn to sketch in ink

Pencil and crayon drawing lend themselves well to sketches which require precise, fine detail. They allow an image to be built up from a bare ‘skeleton’ or ‘scaffolding’ and be slowly fleshed out as more details are added.

But sometimes you might want your sketches to be more lively and dynamic, and create an impression of ‘flow’.

Wooden Dolls by AlexandruPetre, licensed under Creative Commons CC0

Lion by Rembrandt, public domain

Sketching using a brush and ink is perfect for this sort of drawing. According to artist  Stephen Farthing,  “The point of using a wet surface and a flexible-ended brush is to transfer the energy from your body onto an image on the paper”.

Because it’s difficult to erase, ink-sketching requires bold, somewhat messy strokes - you may need to be brave!

As with pencil-sketching, there are different effects in ink-brush painting which can obtained by varying how the tool is used.

The two main techniques (as explained here by Art Institute of Charlotte lecturer Wil Bosbyshell) are wet- and dry-brushing. Wet brushing is - predictably enough - when the brush is wet with ink, water or a mix of the two. It leaves a strong, smooth stroke which can be lightened by adding water to the liquid mix and darkened by adding ink.

Dry-brushing is when very little ink is used on the brush, and creates a ‘scrappy’, textured stroke that is good for backgrounds and adding depth. In the image of the lion by Rembrandt (above), dry brushing is used to create the lion’s mane, and wet brushing is used to create the lines of his back and legs.

The bottom line:

Learning to sketch with a brush and ink creates dynamic, exciting drawings. Learn how to dilute ink and switch between wet- and dry-brushing.

9. Learn the art of field notes

Remember that sketching isn’t about creating a masterpiece, but about capturing something fleeting, whether in your mind or in the world around you.

Many great artists and inventors have perfected the art of ‘’field notes’’; capturing the essence of the things around them using sketching, color, notes and diagrams. This allows the maximum amount of information and observation to be obtained from the scene.

The image below was created by John Ruskin as a ‘field sketch’ for his book The Stones of Venice, about the architecture of that Italian city.

On the left, he captures the overall form of the building, in the center some of the architectural details, and right he draws some of the intricate carvings and emblems.

He writes detailed notes to himself about how all these different pieces fit together and uses a few ink brush strokes to capture the color of the building without needing to paint a complete picture. He is thus able to capture all the important information about the building and its art in a very short space of time.

These field notes can then be taken home and used as a reference for a more detailed piece of writing or painting.

The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin, in the public domain

The bottom line:

If you’re pressed for time, learn how to make field notes as a way to gather all the information you can from a scene while sketching.

10. Learn how to build up human forms

To the novice sketcher, capturing a complex image on paper may seem daunting. A way to simplify this process is to recognize that complicated objects are made up of simple forms.

Artist Harold Speed recommends first sketching a series of straight lines or ‘’planes’’, showing all the different surfaces which make up an object.

In his sketch of a man, below, you can see how he’s constructed the figure from a set of straight lines, then smoothed them out and brought them to life with tone and shading.

Plate Image by Harold Speed, public domain

Other artists (such as Leonardo Pereznieto) advocate creating human forms by ‘sticking together’ simple shapes, such as ovals and rectangles, and following basic laws of human proportion.

Once this basic skeleton is drawn it can be ‘fleshed out’ into a fully-formed figure and detail, texture and tone can be added.

This method of creating a figure is especially useful when drawing figures which cannot be studied carefully. This includes figures from your imagination, and people in a real-life scene who are moving too fast to be drawn in detail.

Another method for creating a human ‘framework’ when sketching requires a bit more dedication, and a little bit of a stomach for gore. Since the famous anatomical sketches of Leonardo da Vinci, artists have advocated the study of human anatomy as a way of drawing accurate human figures.

If the positions of bones and muscles in the human body are known, the artist can look for them on their subject when drawing and quickly sketch them in with a light pencil, before ‘building’ flesh onto them from observation.

The diagram below shows how knowledge of the human skull around the eye socket can be used to build up a realistic sketch of an eye.

Diagram VI, Harold Speed, in the public domain

The Bottom Line:
Learn how to build a ‘scaffolding’ for your human figures by identifying planes, building people up from shapes, or studying human anatomy.

11. Make ‘studies’ of difficult subjects

Although every new sketch is to some extent starting afresh, many things you want to sketch may contain common elements. Annoyingly, manly of these common elements are also commonly tricky to draw.

Hair, folds of fabric, foliage, bark, glass, fur, feathers and hands are subjects that pop up time and again in sketching subjects and can be for some sketchers frustratingly difficult each time.

The internet is full of ‘how to draw better’ guides showing techniques for many of these tricky subjects. These might give you a good starting point and get you sketches that look immediately improved. They do not, however, let you develop your own unique sketching styles that meshes well with your taste and the way you see objects.

Luckily, we find again that artists throughout history have found a solution: the study sketch.

Albrecht Durer - Studies of a Pillow, public domain (part of series of six)

A study sketch focuses on a particular object, person, body part - or whatever you’d like to get some practice drawing - and really gets to know it. When doing a study sketch, sketch the object from different angles, in different lights, or - as in this study by Albrecht Durer of a pillow - squashing it into different forms.

Study sketches are a place for experimentation. Try out different line types and toning techniques until you get a drawing method that you are comfortable with and you think looks good.

After this you can draw on the knowledge you’ve built up the next time that tricky object or texture appears in a sketch. You can even keep your study sketches and keep them as reference material for future drawings.

Study sketches are also often performed by artists as ‘trial’ pieces for their final artworks, where they can practice and experiment with compositions and particular features.

The bottom line: If there’s a type of object you find tricky to draw, make study sketches where you draw it from many different angles and lights to find a good technique.

12. Sketch in color

So far we’ve dealt only with tonal sketches, which denote only lightness, darkness and form. Adding colour to a sketch opens up a whole new world of possibilities. But it is also potentially far more complex.

So complex, indeed, that artist John Ruskin advocated keeping colored paints away from children until they had already begun to draw and said that “if it merely daubs the paper with shapeless stains, the color-box may be taken away until it knows better”. Oh dear.

We don’t advocate quite such an extreme view as Mr Ruskin, but it’s worth knowing what you’re getting into before starting to sketch with color.

The first step is to ask why you want to sketch in color in the first place. One reason could be that you want to quickly capture the colors in a scene, in the same way that pencil- or ink-sketching quickly captures form, as in the field sketch below by painter J.M.W. Turner.

J.W.M. Turner - Inverary Pier, Loch Fyne: Morning, public domain

Turner’s strokes are messy, but his colors are precise - he has mixed very particular blues, yellows, reds and greys to show how the delicate color varies across the landscape. The light outline of the buildings and mountain which make up the landscape has been sketched in with light grey paint, but the main purpose of the picture is the colors and their interaction.

The easiest way to paint in the field is to buy a field watercolor kit - watercolors are compact, versatile and can be used at any time with a little water. Practice color-washing techniques and try to concentrate on the different gradients of color in an image, rather than its precise form.

Artist Paul Newlands frequently makes field sketches from watercolors that he brings back to serve as inspiration for paintings he makes in the studio. Look over his work for some inspiration on how to do a great watercolor sketch and what to capture in the field.

Another way to work with color is to build on your line drawings, building them into fully colored, detailed pictures.

As Stephen Farthing describes “If a line drawing is the skeleton, a color drawing is the clothed, fleshed out-image.”

He advocates starting from a light pencil sketch, and then slowly working in the color in layers. First a very light layer should be used to fill in the general base color of the image, then darker and stronger colors slowly layered on top. At the end, highlights can be added in white paint, and spots of striking, high-contrast color added without washing or blending.

The technique of adding color to sketches can be seen in this painting by Scottish artist Arthur Melville, who did most of his work in watercolor.

 ‘Cockfight’ by Arthur Melville, image in public domain

You can see where the top-left of the archway has been lightly drawn in pencil. The painting has then been covered with diluted washes of brown paint, which build up slowly and get steadily darker. This creates the depth and shadows in the image.

A square of light has been deliberately excluded from the wash (possibly using masking fluid) to create a sharp contrast suggesting a square window at the back of the tunnel.

Over this, colored paint is layered on, with more watery, indistinct strokes in the background and more precise ones in the foreground, particularly in the figure in orange standing at the front of the composition. Finally, highlights, like the bright green of the hat in the far right of the picture, are added to create striking contrasts.

Note that the picture is still ‘incomplete’ - all the color is concentrated on the important parts of the composition, while outside it objects (like the green railings at the top of the picture) are only lightly hinted at. This can create a beautiful effect in color sketching.

The bottom line:

Learn how to make a color-sketch in the field, and how to layer and mask watercolors to build up color onto a pencil sketch.

13. Sketch like a designer

Industrial designers sketch in order to invent and explore ideas about real products that do not exist yet, but that might one day soon be designed and manufactured.

A designer’s sketches must be very precise about the size and shape of the forms they create. This style of sketching starts with learning how to draw geometric shapes, like cubes, spheres, cones and cylinders, and fitting them together to create more interesting, complex products.

This precision is required because if the correct shape of a product was forgotten in order to make a drawing ‘look pretty’, it could result in an impossible object that no engineer could actually create.

This means that even if you’re not planning on designing your own appliances, the techniques of industrial design sketching are worth learning because of their precision and attention to geometric form.

product design drawing.jpgWriter’s own work

The clocks in the picture above have been constructed from basic geometric shapes, and layered over with color to make them pop realistically from the page.

Professor of Industrial Design Sketching at TU Delft, Koos Eissen, advocates either drawing objects from life by breaking them down into shapes, or practicing drawing shapes first and ‘productizing’ them with detail and rendering to create imaginary but realistic products.

Industrial design drawing also has its own set of techniques which are quite different from artistic sketching, including sketching with different weights of felt pen, shading with colored markers, and digitally sketching using a tablet.

Fortunately industrial designers are sharing types, and there are a plethora of instructional videos which can give you a flavor of the wonderful world of design sketching.

The bottom line:

Industrial design sketching is a very different field from artistic sketching, but one which you can learn a lot from about precision and shape.

14. Build a Character

Another specialized field of sketching is that of character design. This is used by illustrators, cartoonists and animators to create unique characters with expression and personality.

Character sketching is less about being accurate or true to life and more about the story and emotions that can be portrayed through the character.  

Disney animators Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh advise starting character drawing by constantly doodling different types and styles of characters until a design arrives that inspires some kind of emotional connection. After that, this character can be fleshed out further by repeated drawing.

“Build some character that you really know - you know what he would do, what he would say in any given circumstance,” says Povenmire.

An essential part of creating a character is making sure they have been captured completely. This means that even when a character is seen at a different angle, in different clothes or making different gestures, they must still recognizable as the same character.

IMG_2529.JPG

Artist and illustrator Joumana Medlej recommends making a ‘catalogue’ of features for each of your characters which defines them (one character might have for example, a rounded forehead, upturned nose and high hairline whereas another’s distinguishing features are a long, thin nose and high cheekbones) and practice drawing them from all angles.

Illustrator and animator Gal Shkedi advises using photographic reference material to help create characters. He uses photographs of people he finds interesting, but also finds inspiration from pictures of animals, and even germs and bacteria!

As with all sketching, character design works best if practiced every day. Jeff Marsh describes himself as ‘constantly doodling’ and admits that some of his most successful characters emerged when he was just sketching for the fun of it.

The bottom line:

When sketching characters, try to build sketches with emotional connections, and then explore them until you can draw them consistently and in varied situations.

15. Capture the energy

Measuring out the distance and constructing the exact size of objects in a sketch, or building them up from geometric forms can look realistic, but can also make the sketch look dull and lifeless.

In fact, sometimes the thing a sketcher wants to capture is not a flat image, but movement. The movement of a dynamic scene can be beautiful in itself. How do you sketch the rippling of waves on the surface of water, trees being blown about in the wind, or the bustle of a crowd?

A good way to start is by sketching the ‘flow lines’ of a scene; the lines that show the directions of movement. To help understand ‘flow lines’, Harold Speed shows here how a famous painting (The Birth of Venus by Boticelli) can be broken down into lines of movement.

Illustration by Harold Speed, available in the public domain

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, available in the public domain

Here the flow lines do not just act to show things which are literally moving, but they connect moving and non-moving parts of the picture smoothly to give them ‘rhythm’ as a whole. Look at the sheet being held by the woman on the right, which is being blown backwards in the wind. Looking at the flowlines shows how the line of this movement is directly connected to the sweep of the angel’s arm on the left of the picture. This creates an overall harmony of movement in the picture.

Try incorporating flow lines into your own sketches by deliberately sketching moving scenes. Go to a dance show, a sports match, a crowded street or even just look at leaves being blown in the wind outside your window.

Sketch out the flow lines which you think characterize the main movements in the scene and build up a picture of flows. Later you can built the forms and colors into your dynamic sketch.

Practicing flowlines and getting a feel for the rhythm of a picture can also help you with static compositions, identifying how a picture is put together and how flowlines connect all of its parts.

The bottom line:

Learn how to identify ‘flow lines’ to introduce some dynamism into your sketches.

5 Ways iOS 11 Helps Transform Teaching and Learning

posted Sep 19, 2017, 2:25 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Sep 19, 2017, 7:24 PM ]

5 Ways iOS 11 Helps Transform Teaching and Learning


Rumores de iOS 11 en español y análisis de cada rumor de A… | Flickr

On Tuesday, September 19, 2017, Apple, Inc. released its much-anticipated update to its mobile software, iOS 11. Students and educators alike will be pleased with the updates available for the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. There are a number of improvements, enhancements, and new features; however, I will only focus on my 5 favorite ways these new iterations can be leveraged to transform teaching and learning.

Screen Recording




First, students and educators need to turn on the new Screen Recording feature in iOS 11. They need to start by going to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls > Screen Recording. Being able to screen record directly on the iPad will allow educators to easily create tutorial videos and how-tos. In addition, it provides students with a new and easier way to show what they know, think, feel, and understand using any applications on the iPad. Once done with the screencast, recordings are automaticallty stored in the Photos app.


QR Code Scanner




Educators love integrating Quick Response Codes into the learning environment. They make it easier for students and teachers to access documents, photos, videos, and a myriad of other content. iOS 11 now has a QR Scanner built directly into the native Camera app. To access it, all students and teachers need to do is open the Camera app, scan the provided QR Code, and I drop down notification will appear directing them to the content.


Scan Documents



Another new integrated feature in iOS 11 is the built-in document scanner. To access this feature, head over to the Notes app, start a new note and hit the plus (+) button. There is now an option to Scan Documents. Once documents are scanned in, students and teachers can annotate them using Markup, organize them within the Notes app, Create PDFs, and so much more. This is a game changer allowing educators and students to leverage this feature in the digital workflow, for digital note-taking, and to create digital notebooks.


Augmented Reality




With iOS 11, Apple’s mobile devices have become the largest augmented reality platform in the world. AR may very well be the future of education. This technology will allow lessons to be more immersive, engaging, and content-rich. With AR apps, publishers and education technology companies, institutions, and organizations can add layers to textbooks and other learning environments to enhance teaching and learning. Think Pokémon Go that fosters innovation in education.


Multitasking




Multitasking on iOS devices has never been more seamless or intuitive. Students and teachers can open second apps from the Dock using Slide Over for a Split View that helps increase productivity. In addition, the new App Switcher provides a better view of more apps for students and teachers to get back to their App Spaces. Not to mention, with Drag and Drop, it is easier to move content from one application to another when curating content, composing emails, or creating documents.


And more...

These are only but a few of the new features available in iOS 11 (there are literally hundreds more). It has never been a better time for students and teachers to leverage Apple’s hardware and software to transform teaching and learning. What are some of your favorite new iOS 11 features?


How Working at Apple Helped me Become a Better Educator

posted Sep 12, 2017, 9:33 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Sep 14, 2017, 3:24 PM ]

How Working at Apple Helped me Become a Better Educator





I had the privilege and honor of working for Apple, Inc. on the retail side for 4 years. While there I was able to learn and grow as an educator, yes, as an educator. I was a Specialist, but at Apple, I always felt like so much more. Immediately, I could tell that the culture and climate at Apple were different from any other school or organization I had ever worked for (and have yet to find one that parallels my experiences).


I never felt like my job was to sell products, and I actually rarely ever sold because Apple tapped into my unique experiences as an educator and allowed me to find my niche. My job at Apple was to enrich the lives of people; just like in education. As a Specialist, I was able to lead workshops teaching customers and educators alike how to get the most out of their devices. I helped mentor other employees and even got to work with educators from all over the United States as a part of the ConnectED project.


In addition, some of my favorite types of events at Apple include Apple Camp in the summers and the Field Trip during the school year. Both offered free of charge. These in conjunction with the myriad of workshops I taught, now called Today at Apple, were a natural extension of everything I loved about education and combined two of my passions: technology and education.


As I continue to strengthen my skills and competencies as an educational leader, I cannot help but reflect on my time at Apple and wish our education system took a page or two out of the Apple playbook. Here are 7 other ways working at Apple helped me become a better educator:

Core

When I started at Apple, I attended three days of orientation, affectionately called Core. Of course at Core, new employees learn about the core of Apple (pun intended). What I loved most about Core was that we did not spend that time learning about the products, we spent that time learning about Apple's why and our role in it. We learned how to listen to customers, resolve conflict, and the culture and climate of the organization.


What if in education, we spent more time teaching about the why, not content knowledge, but how to thrive in the culture and climate of our schools, and how to deal with the varied needs of our stakeholders including students and parents. Before the school year starts many schools and districts offer professional development and training around content; however, do we spend enough time reflecting on our missions and visions and how to meet the social and emotional needs of our customer, the students?


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Angela Ahrendts, Senior VP of Apple Retail and I

Credo

Apple’s Credo has changed since I left, but the essence of the message and its purpose are still the same, and my favorite line is still there: “At our core, we believe our soul is our people.”


Enriching lives

We are here to enrich lives. To help dreamers become doers, to help passion expand human potential, to do the best work of our lives.

 

At our best

We give more than we take. From the planet, to the person beside us. We become a place to belong where everyone is welcome.

Everyone. We draw strength from our differences. From background and perspective to collaboration and debate. We are open.

We redefine expectations. First for ourselves, then for the world. Because we’re a little crazy.Because “good enough” isn’t. Because what we do says who we are.

We find courage. To try and to fail, to learn and to grow, to figure out what’s next, to imagine the unimaginable, to do it all over again tomorrow.

 

At our core

We believe our soul is our people. People who recognize themselves in each other. People who shine a spotlight only to stand outside it. People who work to leave this world better than they found it. People who live to enrich lives.

 

I think as schools, districts, and educational institutions and organizations, we sometimes forget the big why: the students. At the core of education are the students, but sometimes politics, policymakers, and other people put other priorities first. Educators cannot forget that the soul of this country and its education system are our students.



Fearless Feedback

“Open dialogue everyday” is how Apple describes Fearless Feedback. It is my belief that this was the backbone of Apple’s culture. Learning that you can ask peers, superiors, or subordinates to give and receive feedback was a critical part of growth and development. It all starts with positive intent. Everyone knows that we have each other's’ best interest at heart, and the best interest of the customer, and we want everyone to do well.


Fearless Feedback is guidance and encouragement through dialogue that helps others maintain or improve behaviors to have a positive impact. I feel like more schools and districts need this genuine exchange in dialogue. When it becomes the norm, we help teachers, administrators, and district leaders grow. It all starts by assuming positive intent, knowing that we are all on the same team, and not letting emotions get the best of us.


Genuine feedback works sort of like bank deposits, we recognize when others are doing well and we build up an account of positive feedback, so when we have to make a withdrawal with negative feedback, the effects are mitigated.


File_000.jpeg

Acknowledge Align Assure

There are times as educators when we deal with our internal or external customers (students, parents, and/or community members), and we have to be problem solvers and mediators, that’s where the three As come in handy: Acknowledge, Align, and Assure. As a teacher and instructional coach, I used the three As a lot when dealing with tough situations.


A – Acknowledge that a student, parent, or colleague’s concerns are valid.

A – Align with the student, parent, or colleague, agreeing that you would feel the same were you in his/her shoes.

A – Assure the student, parent, or colleague that you will be able to solve their issue to their satisfaction.

The three As can help in many situations, and helped me with students, teachers, and administrators. Always use your best judgment and remember to find common ground because we are all on the same team and want the same outcome: student success.

About Me

When I started at Apple, one thing we did so that other employees could get to know us a little better was by creating a single-page About Me. This allowed you to tell your story, background, interest, and inspirations and helped your new colleagues easily spark up a conversation. This was a great way to connect and get to know the newest family member because we truly did become a family working together.


Since working at Apple, I have gone on to work in different schools, districts, and organizations, and have made it a point to always send out an About Me, so my new team can get to know me a little better. This would be a great activity to have students do at the beginning of the school year or new faculty and staff at the beginning of the school year. Building community and feeling welcome are vital to building a positive classroom and school climate.


About Me.jpg

I Don’t Know, but Let’s Find Out

This may be a tough idea for some educators, but one of the common misconceptions at the Apple Store was because I work there I knew everything and had all of the answers. That couldn’t be further from the truth; however, I knew how to find the answers and tapped into all of my available resources. So if I didn’t know something, I would simply say, “I don’t know, but let’s find out.”


The Apple Store was full of talented, smart, and amazing people with a wealth of knowledge in a variety of different areas, from music, videography, photography and so much more. Each of us had unique talents and strengths and that’s what made our team so great, but we didn’t operate in silos. That's why I love Professional Learning Communities (PLC), teachers work closely together and can leverage the unique strengths of the team no matter whether it’s content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and/or technical knowledge.


As an educator, I learned to reach out to my teammates, instructional coaches, administrators, and district resources if I didn’t have the answers I needed. Too often, teachers feel like they have to know it all, but that is just not the case. Let’s show our students that we are humans too, and vulnerable, and make mistakes. Let’s model for them how to be resourceful and how they can leverage each other to learn and understand.

Clap Out

So, there is a tradition at the Apple Store, when an employee leaves because of a new opportunity, promotion, or whatever, on his/her last day, all of the employees clap them out. When I was starting my master’s program, I no longer had the free time to work at Apple. On my last day of employment, my colleagues lined up from the back of the store to the front of the store and clapped as I left the building.


This is done as a way to say thank you. Thank you for working at Apple, thank you for being a part of our family, and thank you for being a part of this team. This seemingly insignificant gesture is usually always bittersweet and emotional. As I closed that chapter of my life, I could not help but cry because I truly felt like I was leaving my family. To this day, some of my closest friends are the people I met at Apple.


I just imagine teachers and administrators being clapped out at the end of a school year as they transfer to new schools, retire, or make career changes. Teaching is the noblest of professions but also one of the hardest. This gesture just shows them that they are appreciated, their service was appreciated, and that it was nice to have them as a member of the school community.


Mason's Clap Out


One more thing…


I know I would not be the educator I am today if it not for my experiences at Apple. It made me a better educator, but more importantly, it made me a better person. I learned empathy, compassion, patience, and understanding. All skills educators need to perform at their best. I hope you can take something away from my experiences at the Apple Retail Store to help transform your classroom, school, and/or district. I know that the work you do is hard; the way you feel is valid, but I know with these tips and a steady resolve, you will make it through.




Connecting the Dots

posted Jul 3, 2017, 10:34 AM by Mason Mason   [ updated Jul 3, 2017, 10:41 AM ]

Connecting the Dots

ISTE 17

 

As I continue to grow as an educational leader, I have learned that one of my strongest assets is my professional learning network (PLN). And social media has allowed me to maintain and grow this asset, whether it be through Facebook groups and Google+ communities or Voxer and Twitter. What’s interesting about growing my PLN, is most of the educators in my network I have never met IRL (in real life) or F2F (face-to-face).


The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference & Expo is a great way for someone like myself who is passionate about education technology to begin connecting the dots that make up my PLN. This year, ISTE was in San Antonio, TX (practically my backyard) bringing over 20,000 educators from all 50 states and 72 countries together to learn, grow, and connect with each other.


ISTE


ISTE is one of the largest education conferences in America offering thousands of sessions over 5 days, but what I realized that’s as equally as important as the sessions are the connections. I wholeheartedly believe that we are better together. When educators get together and share our knowledge, experiences, and expertise, ALL of our students are better off for it. It doesn’t matter if those students are in rural Alaska or urban New York. When educators connect, we begin knocking down the 4 walls of not only our classrooms, schools, districts, and states, but we begin to connect internationally. Globally connected educators can help create globally connected students and this can’t help but foster the type of learning our students need to succeed now and in the future.


At ISTE 17, I began connecting the dots with educators I’ve conversed with from states like California and Maryland and nations from Canada to Singapore. ISTE felt like a family reunion. I got to spend time with these educators who inspire me and make my network stronger. We were able to strengthen the bonds we made through social media and tightly interweave our experiences and connect the dots in ways that could have only happened because of ISTE.





Because every educator has unique backgrounds, experiences, students (and on and on and on), we each can help fill a void in the social media stratosphere that helps other educators help their students because of our experiences. We continue to connect the dots and transform our PLN to a PLF (Professional Learning Family, as coined by Sarah Thomas during her Ignite speech at ISTE 17). I can wait for the next family reunion, but in the meantime, I will continue connecting the dots online.



Teaching with QR, AR, and VR

posted Apr 14, 2017, 6:42 AM by Mason Mason   [ updated May 29, 2017, 5:19 PM ]

Teaching with QR, AR, and VR


Technology allows educators to transform teaching and learning by engaging and empowering students in ways previously inconceivable. In recent years, software has been advancing exponentially allowing educators to facilitate and inspire creativity, collaboration, communication, and creativity skills. I know whenever I see advancements in technology, the first thing that crosses my mind is how can this be used in the education space. And educators are notorious for hijacking new technologies to improve student outcomes.


Three of those technologies include QR, AR, and VR. Let me introduce you to each technology and five ways educators can use them to increase the rigor and relevance in the classroom.



Quick Response (QR) Codes are similar to barcodes. These unique square patterns can be read by the camera on a mobile device or tablet using a QR Code reading application to direct students to a website, video, multimedia presentation, and so much more.


  1. Teachers can use QR Codes in station rotations. At each station, there is a QR Code that directs students to the activity and/or resources for that station. To create a CR Code, educators can find their favorite QR Code generator and print the codes out on cardstock.

  2. Teachers can put QR Codes on homework, syllabi, and/or newsletters to direct students and parents to additional resources, a class website, or a video reteaching a skill.

  3. Librarians can put QR Codes in books to direct students to videos of book talks created by other students so students can see if they want to check out certain books.

  4. Teachers can use a QR Code to take attendance using a Google Form. The form requires students to be logged into their G Suite for Education account and timestamps the submission and creates a spreadsheet so teachers can quickly take attendance.

  5. Plickers (paper clickers) www.plickers.com uses QR Codes as a response system for educators not in a one-to-one environment. Students are assigned a Plicker card, and when the teacher is formatively or summatively assessing the class, students use the paper clicker to answer the questions.




Augmented Reality (AR) uses the camera on a mobile device or tablet to add an augmented layer on top of the real layer visible on the device's screen. Pokémon Go is a prime example of AR in action.


  1. Aurasma (www.aurasma.com) is my favorite way of bringing AR into the classroom. As an English teacher, I made the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird a trigger image, and when students scanned the cover with the camera of their device using the Aurasma app, a video of Gregory Peck began talking about the novel.

  2. I have seen yearbook students and teachers add trigger images in the yearbook to bring photos to life and add additional content for events that happened after the yearbook was published.

  3. Another way I have seen teachers use AR is through biography walls for students and teachers. The wall contains the photos of every student in the class (or every teacher in the school) and when students and/or guest use their devices to scan the images it triggers a video of the subject introducing and telling more about themselves.

  4. AR is great for blended learning combining the analog with the digital. Teachers can bring traditional flash cards to life by making each one a trigger image that comes to life by solving a problem or explaining a concept when scanned by a device.

  5. And one of the coolest ways I’ve seen AR being used is at colleges and universities. Professors are using AR to bring skeletons to “life” showing the beating heart within or the raising and lowering of the lungs.




    Virtual Reality (VR) immerses students into surroundings in which they may not otherwise be able to visit, and allows them to experience settings in new and different ways. This is often accomplished using a VR headset and the mobile device a student already owns, but can easily to accomplished with a similar effect using just the mobile device or a tablet.


  1. My favorite, and one of the easiest ways, to introduce virtual reality is through Nearpod (www.nearpod.com) and its Nearpod VR Field Trips. Powered by 360° Cities, there are thousands of locations available from Los Angeles to New York, London to Shanghai, and beyond.

  2. Discovery Education often offers virtual events connecting teachers and students with experts from around the world to extend learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. These events may not be as immersive; however, they are still very valuable experiences because students can be more globally connected without leaving the classroom.

  3. Even YouTube, the world’s largest repository of videos, contains 360° videos. As an English teacher, I would immerse the students in the setting of our current reading selections. It is one thing to read about a place, and another thing completely to get a more accurate depiction of a locale through VR.

  4. VR definitely makes sense for history and geography teachers as they discuss the significance of terrain and topography. Virtual reality truly allows them to bring their curriculum to life and make it even more relevant for students.

  5. Often overlooked is Google Street View through Google Maps and they now even offer Museum Views so that students can see famous works of art in museums around the world through virtual tours.

These are just a few ways to use QR, AR, and VR in education to help transform teaching and learning to engage, enrich, and enhance students’ learning experiences. Give them a try and let me know some other ways you are enhancing pedagogy with these and other digital resources.



EdCamp Garland

posted Mar 5, 2017, 2:30 PM by Mason Mason   [ updated Mar 7, 2017, 12:33 PM ]

EdCamp Garland 2017




   The first edcamp I attended was in the summer of 2015. It was held by my previous district, Plano ISD and their Instructional Technology Specialists, at the end of their Ed Tech Success Initiative (ETSI) week. The week was filled with edtech goodness; educators from around the district learning about technology integration frameworks, best practices, digital resources, and digital pedagogy. At the end of the week, we participated in an unconference event, an edcamp.


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   Edcamps are organic educator lead events. Participants decide what they want to learn and make suggestions for the day’s sessions. There are no presenters, keynotes, or vendors. Participants help facilitate the discussions during each session and share collaborative notes of their learning. Edcamps redefine professional development for educators by putting them in the driver seat for truly personalized learning. Another advent of edcamps is the “rule of two feet.” If a session isn’t meeting the needs of a participate, they should get up and go to a session that does.




   I genuinely enjoyed the edcamp experience at ETSI and two years later I have attended over twenty unconference events! I enjoy connecting with educators, deciding what I want to learn, and sharing what I know with others. In traditional professional development, it’s often times sit and get with the presenter being the expert; with edcamps, the room is the expert. Educators are better together, and no one in the room is smarter than the room.


   I wanted to bring the edcamp movement to my new district, Garland ISD, and to the educators in the Garland area, so I decided to lead the organization of the inaugural EdCamp Garland. To prepare to organize an unconference event, I started by attending an EdCamp Leadership Summit organized by The EdCamp Foundation. Because of the generous support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the EdCamp Foundation is able to host these leadership summits for edcamp organizers around the country. I attended the summit in Colorado Springs, CO where I was able to gain valuable insights from experienced edcamp organizers, and of course, the summit was organized edcamp style.


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   Attending so many edcamps also taught me a lot about best practices for organizing an edcamp: how long sessions should be, how many sessions to offer, how long the event should last, etc. The most important things I had to put in place to organize a successful event were a strong team and securing a venue. My co-organizers consisted of the other six Ready 1:1 Instructional Coaches in my district, and I was able to secure my home campus (Naaman Forest High School) as the venue with the blessing of my principal who loved the concept of edcamps.


   After securing a team and a venue, everything else fell into place pretty seamlessly. The EdCamp Foundation provides each edcamp organizer with an EdCamp-In-a-Box, containing the bare necessities to host an edcamp, including $200. And Flipgrid, a corporate sponsor, of the EdCamp Foundation provides edcamp organizers with $100. Texas happens to host more edcamps than any other state, so as I was looking for available dates, I cross-referenced edcamp.org to see when other edcamps were being held and decided on March 4, 2017.


   In December, I had my team focus on logo designs that paid homage to the city of Garland, and we created a social media presence and website to begin promoting the event. Twitter and word of mouth were the best mediums to drive attendance to our event. It helps that edcamps are free to participants, but because of this the attrition rate for attendance compared to signup can sometimes be high. The district was a huge support system in promoting our event to district educators and provided critical technical support before and during the event. One of the biggest issues we had to tackle was the district’s filtered Wi-Fi for out of district educators. In the end, everything went off without a hitch. This was great because even though the organizers were district employees using district facilities, the event was open to all educators.


EdCampGarland Logo.png


   Although not necessary, door prizes are a nice addition to edcamps, after all, educators are sacrificing their Saturday for personal growth and development. To help procure door prizes, I spent almost every free moment contacting education companies to assist with sponsorships, giveaways, and door prizes, and overwhelmingly they were willing to offer free swag, subscriptions, and prizes to the EdCamp Garland attendees.


   With the day of the event finally upon us, we had over 150 attendees and 50 sponsors for 5 hours or organic learning. When attendees arrived, they enjoyed breakfast, made session suggestions via a Google Form, and the session board was built right before their eyes. As the session board was being built, they were able to take pictures at a photo booth, learn at a makerspace, and play Twitter Bingo.


   The day was full of lively discussion, collaborative learning, sharing on social media, and winning great prizes topped off the day. Feedback from EdCamp Garland attendees was overwhelmingly positive, and nothing feeds my spirit more than getting educators together to learn, grow, and connect with each other. I was pleased to bring the edcamp movement to Garland, and I can’t wait for next year.






TCEA 2017

posted Feb 11, 2017, 8:15 AM by Mason Mason   [ updated Feb 11, 2017, 8:42 AM ]

Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA)

Conference & Expo 2017

Austin, Texas


If you know me, you know I love learning, growing, and connecting with other educators. And the TCEA Conference & Expo is a week long opportunity to do just that and so much more, and this year did not disappoint. Not only was I humbled by being allowed to present five times at TCEA, but I also got to connect with some of this nation’s prominent thought leaders in education technology.


Alice Keeler


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As a former Apple employee and self-professed Apple fanboy, I was new to Google for Education. Everything I learned about G Suite for Education (formerly known as Google Apps for Education), I can credit to my Google Goddesses, Alice Keeler and Kasey Bell. I added these two ladies to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter very early on in my dive to using social media as professional development. Alice Keeler is an educator from California, and her two books about Google Classroom have become my bibles for improving teaching and learning using this cornerstone of the G Suite for Education. In addition, the tips and tricks she shares on Twitter (@AliceKeeler) and her blog (www.alicekeeler.com) keep me abreast of what’s new in Google Classroom and beyond. Not to mention when I meet Alice in June of 2016 during the ISTE Conference & Expo in Denver, Colorado at a CoffeeEDU meet up, it inspired me to start CoffeeEDU Dallas.


Kasey Bell
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What’s so great about Kasey Bell is that she is a local girl; she is also here in north Texas, so I have gotten to see her present several times, and she is a wealth of Google knowledge. I’m pretty sure Google ooze drips from her ears when she lies down at night. Her bubbly personality, infectious grin, and down to earth persona make learning the ins-and-outs of Google a blast. Her blog (Shake Up Learning) and new podcast with Matt Miller (The Google Tribe Podcast) are filled to the brim with Google news, tips, insights, and advice. I always learn something new when Kasey Bell presents.


Amy Mayer



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Amy Mayer, CEO of friEDTECHnology (because everything is better fried), is another amazing instructional technologist from Texas, whose sessions are a must attend. I could sit in on her reading the phone book and be entertained. Amy is a Google PD partner, and her knowledge has no limits. I especially love her YouTube videos where she shares her best tips and tricks on her channel.


Jamie Casap



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I have had the luxury of hearing Google’s Global Education Evangelist (what a cool title!), Jaime Casap, speak several times, but he never disappoints. This year, he was the closing keynote speaker during the Google Academy at TCEA. His message about education’s ability to disrupt poverty definitely resonated with me because I am living proof of this. After growing up poor, in public housing, receiving welfare and food stamps, I am evidence that education does indeed disrupt poverty.


Matt Miller


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I had been connecting with Matt Miller, an educator from Indiana, and author of Ditch that Textbook, on Twitter for months by participating in #DitchBook Twitter chats. Matt is an innovator and education thought leader who believes that the future of education comes through technology integration and creativity with less reliance on textbooks. Hearing Matt share tips and resources on the exhibit floor at the ViewSonic booth was a treat and getting a signed copy of his book didn’t hurt either.


Todd Nesloney


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Of all the speakers and presenters, Todd Nesloney, author of Kids Deserve It!, was probably the most inspiring. Todd is another Texas educator, a principal, and his passion, drive, and leadership exuded from the stage. What he does for his staff and students is truly amazing. He is the school principal every school needs. I have corresponded with Todd through #KidsDeserveIt Twitter chats, but getting to hear his compassion and conviction in person was truly amazing.


What’s great about the TCEA Conference & Expo is that connecting with these educators doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of everything I learn at the conference. With over 900 sessions and workshops and 450 exhibitors, there was truly an overabundance of information to glean in just one week.


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