Self-driving Cars in the Classroom

Why not, right? It’s engaging, authentic, student-directed, personalized learning that is rich with opportunities for discovery!

Driven to improve learning
Driven to improve learning

Sure, you can try to teach with drones, Google Glass, smart watches and Oculus Rift but the future of education will have students driven to learn. (at least until our spacecrafts are ready)

Does Google hate audio?

Maybe Google doesn’t hate audio but I certainly think they skipped it for its love of video.

With all the TV and YouTube channels at our fingertips, we tend to look toward video as the only tool for expression and communication. However, much like a good book, audio allows our students to conjure up imagery from within rather than having it blasted effortlessly into their minds in the form of video.

We can also challenge our students to create new forms of expression by restricting the use of visual elements. When students are asked to create audio works, they are given a chance to develop new ways to communicate effectively.

However, audio support seems to be missing in Google Apps for Education.

You cannot play audio (unless you get help elsewhere) in Google Drive.

no audio in Drive
Google Drive can play video but not audio?


Google Drive knows the audio files are there Read More

Embed an HTML5 audio player in Google Sites

Want to add audio files that play in your Google Site without forcing visitors to download the files first?

audio player in Google Sites
An HTML5 audio player embedded in Google Sites

Do you need this to work on the iPad or in other browsers that do not support Flash?

Below is the URL to a gadget I made that will embed an HTML5 audio player in Google Sites.

Watch the video below to learn how to use it.

Get a direct link to public files shared at

Over the past few days, I’ve been tinkering around with the cloud storage site It’s a lot like Dropbox and the others.

After exploring Google Drive’s ability to host files and provide direct links, I wanted to see if Copy could do the same thing. Turns out it can for most files (not html). below is an example:

change this:

to this:

I made a bookmarklet that does the URL hacking for you. Follow the steps below to put it into use:

  1. Drag this link to your bookmarks bar: Clean Copy
  2. go to the public URL of a file shared at
  3. click “Clean Copy” bookmark to get a direct link to the file

(UPDATE: made some changes. The bookmarklet about doesn’t work any longer. Changing the path still seems to work fine.)


Speaking of bookmarklets, here is one that will switch your Google Drive folder to a hosting folder like I described in a previous post.

Education reform takes more than innovation and inspiration

I caught this TEDx a while back and a few points really struck a cord with me.

“…when inspiration becomes manipulation, inspiration becomes obfuscation”

After seeing countless TED Talks that were meant to inspire education reform, I found myself duped by what Bratton described as “placebo innovation.” Bratton explains:

In this case the placebo is worse than ineffective, it’s harmful. It diverts your interest, enthusiasm and outrage until it’s absorbed into this black hole of affectation.

Too often I feel like some “reformers” are implying that we’d improve education if every teacher would just realize “x” and “have the courage to change.” Bratton points out:

Problems are not “puzzles” to be solved. That metaphor assumes that all the necessary pieces are already on the table, they just need to be rearranged and reprogrammed. It’s not true. “Innovation” defined as moving the pieces around and adding more processing power is not some Big Idea that will disrupt a broken status quo: that precisely is the broken status quo.

Bottom-line: If the problems we face in education were easy to solve, they’d be solved. But Bratton outlines that tough problems take a lot more than just ‘talk’ (or the latest blog post).

If we really want transformation, we have to slog through the hard stuff (history, economics, philosophy, art, ambiguities, contradictions). Bracketing it off to the side to focus just on technology, or just on innovation, actually prevents transformation.

Powerful weapons of speech- think about ethics and design first

Last week we interviewed Illah Reza Nourbakhsh, Professor of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. We talked a lot about how robots will affect the future. However, there was a segment of the interview that really touched on the role of the teacher and technology in the classroom.

Nourbakhsh explains the new challenges teachers face when students are working with technology in the classroom:

…educators not only need to give students the power to invent, because they need to be creators, but they need to teach them what it means to think about the process of invention, to think about the ethics of society and that’s not a lesson that we’ve ever been busy teaching people in say middle school or high school before.

When asked about teachers who feel they don’t know enough about technology, he explains:

…teachers are decades older than their students, or at least a decade older,  they know about society, they know about ethics, they know about rhetoric. And we can create resources that make it ever easier for them to teach with that. But basically we’re giving people much more powerful weapons of speech. And if we do that, we have to also teach them how to use that speech. If we decouple those in the wrong way, it’s a disaster. Then we have this zoo and our quality of life goes to heck.

You can find the entire show at, but I clipped out the segment that speaks to technology integration and share it below.

[download clip]

P.S. In this clip, co-host Brian Bartel coins the phrase “edtech smog” to describe the instances where technology pollutes our mission as educators. I’m putting Voki and Animoto at the top of my list as #EdtechSmog.

Get a direct link to files hosted in Google Drive

Update [10/2/2016]: It appears that Google has finally put a stop to this trick.

Update [11/7/2016]: Looks like Jonathan in the comments has figured a new way to do it!

Update [2/7/2017]: The website works too!

Imagine you want to use a QR code so guests at Parents’ Night can scan the code and stream video or audio straight to their mobile device. If you share the files in Google Drive, users will be taken to a Google page where they have to download the file first. But if you can create a link that points directly to the file, users can access the content right in their mobile browser.

Direct link files in Google Drive
Direct link to files in Google Drive

Turns out you can do this while still using Google Drive. Any public folder in Drive can host files and provide direct links to the files.

How to create the hosting URL:

This will provide a folder that will give direct links to files inside the folder.
Note: hosting view will not display files created in Google Docs.


Once in the hosting folder, you can right click on any of the files to get a direct link to the file.

Finding the right font with flipping typical

I’ve been looking at a lot of fonts lately. Like many others, I’m not a fan of the Comic Sans font. To me, it just looks sloppy. Since Comic Sans comes closer than other fonts to matching the look of handwriting, we see it used A LOT in elementary schools. Yet, I think there are even better choices.

While Handwriting Without Tears is a company popular for it’s handwriting teaching materials, they do not sell their font. At their website, they recommend using Century Gothic as a substitute. The lower case “a” is usually the first character I look at. There are only a handful of fonts that display this letter similar to the shape that is taught to kids. As you can see below, Comic Sans follows the shape in spirit but Century Gothic does a much better job.

Comparing fonts
Comparing fonts

If you want to search your computer for other font options, then visit the website flipping typical. It offers a perfect way to view all the fonts installed on your computer. Make sure to click “load more” at the bottom of the page to see all your options.



KG Primary Dots is another font I found online that is available for free if your use is non-commercial. It offers a dotted font for tracing and lined fonts for extra guidance.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a font nerd. Check out the great documentary titled Helvetica (it’s on Netflix) and you will be too.

Add cover art and other extras to your mp3 files

Since 2007, I’ve been co-producing a podcast, titled Lab Out Loud, for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). With each episode, I like to have all the important details about the show saved right in the mp3 file.

podcast details
add cover art and more to your mp3 files

I use a free program called Mp3tag to add things like title, artist, and cover art to each mp3. Mp3tag allows you to copy the tag from a previous file right into the new file. This makes updating new files a breeze.

with Mp3tag – adding info to audio files in a breeze

Despite its name, Mp3tag supports a wide variety of audio files. Beyond its simply features, Mp3tag offers a few extra tricks for managing large collections of audio. I have been using this free tool for years and recommend that you give it a look.