Moving from 2D to 3D using Tinkercad and Google Drawings

The concept of 3D modeling can be a challenge for young students. They may have little to no experience with the idea of 3D. To change this, teachers can build upon the prior knowledge students already possess.

An Introduction to Dimensions (Get these slides)

However, almost all of our students have experience with crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Creations done with these tools are done in two dimensions. Starting with a drawing is an excellent place to introduce the term dimension and the directions labeled X and Y.

The next step is to give students an experience with computer aided drawing (CAD). I like to use Google Drawings because it is free to use, easy to learn, offers a vast variety of fonts, and is already available to many schools as a part of Google Apps for Education.

Before diving into a tool like Google Drawing, I feel it is important to have a discussion with students about how the features in computer aided drawing (CAD) programs can help the creative process. For example, last year I worked with fourth graders that were creating a variety of U.S. maps. We encouraged the students to experiment with different styles and colors. The students learned that trying out different ideas in a digital drawing was much easier since it didn’t mean that that they had to start over.

To move to the third dimension, students need to move their 2D drawings into a 3D modeling tool. For 3D design, I like to use Tinkercad. It also is free and easy to use. Works created in Google Drawings can be saved as a .svg file that can be imported into Tinkercad. Once in Tinkercad, designs can be stretched in the third dimension- the Z direction. Below is a video demonstration of this process.

Fewer students feel overwhelmed when they enter gradually into the world of 3D designing and modeling. By providing students a way to transition from drawings on paper to Google Drawings to Tinkercad, they develop a foundation that often strengthens their confidence to attempt more complex designs.

Google Sheets missing full Autofill; Text Mechanic to the rescue!

Let’s say you need a long series of numbers in your spreadsheet and you are trapped on a Chromebook. Yes, I could drag down to fill but this takes way too long if you have a long list of numbers.

I hate that Google Sheets cannot do what Excel can do below:

Excel wins at Autofill
Excel wins at Autofill

Fortunately, there is Text Mechanic– a website that provides a collection of text manipulation tools that work in your browser. I used the Generate List of Sequential Numbers tool get the series of numbers I needed.

Use Text Mechanic to Generate List of Sequential Numbers
Use Text Mechanic to Generate List of Sequential Numbers

From here, I can copy and paste my list into Google Sheets and start calculating.

Text Mechanic has some other great tools too. Take a look at Find and Replace Text and Add/Remove Line Breaks. They have been a big help.

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 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.

Hey Google, what about the children?

With Google’s new version of Android comes improved multi-user functionality. Google explains:

Share your tablet with friends and family – each person has a separate customizable space, including personal homescreens, wallpaper, apps, storage, and more. You can also manage access to apps and content to create an experience that’s appropriate for each member of the family.

Each member of the family? Really? What about those family members under 13 years old? Here’s what you get when you try to create an account for kids under 13:


Google does this because of COPPA, a U.S. law that requires online web sites and services to get parental consent for all children under the age of 13 before they can share any information with the web site.

At the press event announcing the new Nexus 7, Google demonstrates a child’s profile and how the access restrictions can be managed by parents. In this situation, the child user does not appear to be old enough to have a Google account. This child’s profile is sort of sub-account that lives within the tablet’s environment and does not need to be associated with a Google account.

Nexus7 for child

However, without a Google account, the child cannot manage his or her own content used in other Google services. Apps like Drive, Calendar, and Maps will need an account to save content. Many parents just let their child use a parent account for these other Google services. Other parents create an account for their child with a false birthday. I suspect that most parents don’t use the multi-user features at all.

I think Google could do more for families. We have Google Apps for business and education. Why not for families? Instead of prohibiting accounts for children under age 13, Google should redirect to a space where parents can create and manage accounts for their kids. Here parents could control access restrictions for the accounts and pass the account over once the child is old enough.

Google already has a plan for the death of Google accounts. It’s time they improve the process for the birth of Google accounts.

Are you texting enough in school?

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in the spring:

Young adults are the most avid texters by a wide margin. Cell owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day—that works out to more than 3,200 texts per month—and the typical or median cell owner in this age group sends or receives 50 messages per day (or 1500 messages per month).

Here’s how the rest of the nation breaks down.

Who Texts
Wow! According to this table, I’m over 65!

Read the whole report.

This reminds me of a Dilbert I saw recently.

I’m with Dilbert, but our students are not.

Here are two ways to use text messaging with students:

  1. post announcements to Twitter and have students follow via text message
  2. use Google Voice to have students text their questions to your email

Bus routes and Google Maps help teach physics

Transit MapMy freshman have been learning about speed, velocity and displacement. I’ve also been trying help them brush up on their unit conversion skills. It’s tough because you run out of real-life examples. I can only do so many labs with toy cars.

To drive home the lesson, I had students use Google Maps to map out different bus routes in our area. Students were paired up and assigned a route. With help from our local transit system’s website, each pair had to:

  • map out the route with a line (this gave them the route’s distance)
  • find the average time needed for the bus to make a complete loop
  • calculate the average speed of the bus
  • display the results on the map

Bus StopsStudents with extra time could earn more points if they placed a pin at each stop and entered the arrival times in each stop’s description. They could also calculate the average speed from stop-to-stop.

The project was a success and the students seemed to enjoy it. The class was a full of discussions about things like: which bus goes by which landmark or which bus is always late. One group even brought in a paper map to use as a guide. It was fun to watch the students work.

All the maps were shared using the embed tags and students could see all the routes on one big map. The project made my lesson plan for the following week much simpler since I now established an example that everyone had an understanding of.

Here is an example map.