Digital Storytelling in the Classroom


The Importance of Digital Storytelling


Digital storytelling is going to transform education. Technology is the overarching tool that drives all industries and education is no exception.  Teachers and students have access to smartphones, computers and GoPro cameras in their school or classrooms.  Some schools are putting a device in every student's hands.  

I teach in rural Michigan and every student has a Chromebook, 40 percent of my 5th grade students have a smartphone, 65 percent of my 6th grade students have a smartphone and 92 percent of my 7th grade students have a smartphone.  This means that every student in our school has the ability to take pictures, record video, add music and edit video and tell a wonderful story and share it with an authentic audience.


Students already use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now Snapchat to communicate with each other.  Video and images have dramatically changed HOW communication takes place. Facebook allows for longer videos and longer stories where Twitter only allows for 140 characters which forces the user to make a pitch.  Snapchat only allows 10-second videos and when it is opened it only stays on for 10-seconds.  However, expeditioness plays a critical role in how students communicate their story.  


Here are some interesting facts about video:



Schools across the country want their students to focus on the four C’s (critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity) for 21st century skills and; digital/video storytelling bridges these learning skills across subjects and disciplines.  


Digital storytelling offers a unique, personalized authentic experience for the student and it is student-driven.  It gives the student an opportunity to SHOW their learning on a platform they are comfortable with and  like to use with their friends.  Digital storytelling is great for:


  • Personalized instruction and learning
  • Metacognition (students think about their thinking when they create a video of their learning)
  • Sharing learning with parents, teachers, administrators and community
  • Engagement
  • Portfolios
  • Formative assessment


Digital Storytelling also documents the lesson that is being taught.  Every time a student captures their learning they are essentially capturing the lesson being taught.  When teachers share those videos with each other, the world will have access to lessons that are being taught across the world.  The facts already say that one billion unique users are using YouTube each month.  Teachers would be able to review and rate lessons and it would not matter where they were teaching, they would have access to the best lessons on the planet.

CrossBraining understands the power of video.  CrossBraining shows teachers and students how to create 45-second narrated videos of the learning that takes place in the classroom. We have a template that steps both students and teachers through the process to learn, capture, and share. But it gets even better, our new app will be coming out soon! Stay tuned.

MACUL 2017


Here is a breakdown of MACUL 2017 at Cobo Center.


Sir Ken Robinson KeyNote Speaker

Each year thousands of teachers join together to share great ideas and tools with each other at MACUL.  MACUL is the Michigan Association of Computer Users in Learning.  Teachers come from all over to:

  • Attend engaging sessions
  • Go to the Makerspace Area
  • Learn about new STEM products
  • Learn how to incorporate new Google tools into their lessons
  • How to use video in the classroom
  • How to transform education


This year’s tagline was Learning Forward.  This amazing conference started with one of the world’s most forward thinkers, Sir Ken Robinison.  Michigan teachers packed Cobo to hear Sir Ken Robinson spread his message about change and how it starts right in their classroom.  He talked about miracles and how they happen everyday in our classrooms.  He also shared how education and standardized tests are not working.  He showed the packed crowd a picture of parents in India climbing a building to help their child cheat on tests.  He then said, “customize, not standardize!”


I don’t think there could have been a more fitting person to amp up the crowd before the teachers headed off to sessions.  I had anticipated watching Sir Ken in person since MACUL mentioned this last year.  He certainly moved me and I choked up a number of times.  


Here are some of my favorite quotes he said:

“There is something in the system that obstructs the learning.”  

“Humanize education.”

"A school is a community of learners; everything else is negotiable.”

“How do we change the education system? Don't think someone else is the system. You are the system.”


The last one was powerful.  You could just tell that every teacher in that hall went to their sessions with a purpose.


My First CrossBraining Session

I applied this past fall to have a Session on “Using GoPro Cameras in the Classroom”.  This session focused on Collaborating, Creating and Communicating.  It was an absolute honor to be able to hold this session and to show teachers how to get students to make 45-second videos of their learning using key terms from the standards.  The teachers became students and made their own narrated 45-second videos of Mixtures and Solutions.  Mixtures and Solutions can confuse students but when they plan, perform, make changes to a video creation that is student driven, they simply don’t forget.  Here are some of the videos that were made in that session.  Note, the competition was fierce because the winning team each got a GoPro Session.


 Winning team
MACUL is doing everything it can to help motivate and inspire the attendees to be the game changers because “we are the system”.  It takes volunteers and presenters like Andy Losik @mrlosik and Ron Madison @madison_ron Brad Wilson @dreambition and many more to pull this off and CrossBraining is stoked to continue learning from the great teachers in Michigan and to do its part in sharing tools that help create positive change.

Let The Student's Teach and The Teacher Facilitate

I am going to start off by saying that I know enough about computers to get by, but I am far from an expert.  I have taught for twenty years and I remember getting my first access to the Internet in 2000.  The boundaries between education and technology are becoming blurred and there is one thing that seems to be stuck in the mud:computer education.  Yes, we let students USE computers but there is little to no teaching taking place on what is inside them.  For years, I rested on the crutch of simply saying, “I don’t know how they work, so how could I teach computers.”  That has all changed and this article is about how it happened.


The third grade teacher across the hall from me had a student named “Ted”who was fascinated by copy machines.  He told me that “Ted” would be in my class next year and that Ted loved hanging with the tech guys who came and fixed the machines.  I thought it was cool that the teacher let Ted do that.  He told me again that Ted was going to be in my room next year and that he wanted Ted to have an opportunity to keep working on computers.


The following year, in my fourth grade class, the copier broke.  I asked Ted if he could fix it, even though I didn’t really think he could. Well, he did, and our lives has never been the same since.  Ted has fixed the copiers, whiteboards, coolers for the fish tank, computers, cameras and the list goes on.  I let him try to fix everything.  Yes, he still hangs with the copy guys to brush up on new technologies.  He craves up to date information. The company that sells and fixes the copiers went as far as giving Ted a one hour tour of their company and to end the tour told him they would send him a full size copy machine delivered to his house.  Not the ones that go in your home office, the ones that go in a school.  His mom said it was a dream come true because he used to ask for one for Christmas and that he had drawings of them on his wall.

When Ted was in 5th grade I had a group of adults come to observe my class.  One of them happened to be an advisor to our Governor.  Ted showed him a circuit board that he was working on and the advisor pointed to it and asked what it was. Ted looked at him, but didn’t speak for almost 30 seconds, which seemed like eternity.  Finally, Ted looked at me and said, “Mr. Nichols, this is tough to answer because it is a capacitor and those are not easy to explain to people who don’t know what they are.”  Everyone cracked up but even I really didn’t know how they worked. He looked at the Advisor and said, “It is like a battery but only works when it is needed. They are more complicated than that but that is the simplest way I can explain it.”

Ted is now in 7th grade and I am lucky to have been teaching him for the past four years because I am a STEM teacher.  So let’s circle back to the beginning.  I had never taught a computer class but I really thought it was time.  But I wasn’t going to teach the class, Ted was.  I told Ted and his buddy to make a list on Amazon of everything they would need to make a computer.  Their eyes nearly popped out of their heads as they tried to say “serious?”

My plan was to get them what they wanted so they could build a computer...on the condition they would teach the other students.  I baited them.   One became two and two became four and now ‘Ted’ has 8 which by the end of this school year needs to be 10-16.  That was the deal.

Right now you are probably wondering  how I graded them.  The answer is simple.  CrossBraining.

I told them to write out what they wanted the newbies to learn first, and how they pass in order to go to phase 2, 3 and 4.  I was thinking that question would take a few days to answer but it actually took three seconds.  They said, “Newbies have to take apart a computer and put it back together naming all the parts and what they do.  They must submit a short video to you about each phase and tell the audience what they are doing.  They must capture their plan on video, showing how they are going to take the computer apart and put it back together.  They need to point out mistakes and how they fix them.   That video will become a tutorial for the next newbie.”  They get it.

What makes this story so powerful is that school has not been easy for Ted.  Tests don't accurately describe his proficiency but now he is running the computer class like an awesome boss and keeps me informed about every move his students make.  I became the facilitator.  Do you want to know who is taking his next class?  Me!

Teachers are facilitators of a student’s journey.  Let the the students go.  Yes, it is uncomfortable at times and yes it can be a little dangerous and messy.  If you have a process in place, can guide them, and have them report back to you what they are doing and how they are learning, both you and the students win.  The CrossBraining Learning Solution gives teachers the tools they need to let their students explore their passions while giving the teacher a template that manages the learning process.
P.S.  The Advisor never forgot “Ted”.  The Advisory Board asked me yesterday if Ted would meet with the Governor.   I said, “Sure, and he can tell the governor how he teaches my computer class :)”  

Student Made Videos

Here are seven reasons why teachers should join the CrossBraining Nation in using powerful student made videos in the classroom:

  1. Promotes Creativity
  2. Promotes Student Metacognition
  3. Student Review
  4. Motivates Teachers
  5. Formative Assessment
  6. Informs Administration
  7. Instant Lesson Database

Reason 1. Creativity.  Giving a student the opportunity to be creative is not always easy but it is incredibly important.  Teachers are often nervous about giving their students the freedom to explore ways in showing their learning because, let’s face it, it means that they might not be able to do it, there are risks involved.  If a teacher guides them and gives them some tools to show off their learning, the students might just surprise you, in fact, it happens all the time.  

Yes, there will be a few students who need explicit instructions on how to create their video but when you see what some of your students do with little to no guidance, that is when you will realize that it is worth it.  Last week, my class was given the task to create a beverage container along with a 3D printed cap that went on top of their bottle.  They also needed to create their own label and make a 15 or 30 second commercial promoting their drink.  I had a group of girls who did not ask me one question all week and simply needed me out of their way.  They approached me on Friday and said, “do you want to see what we did?” I was a little nervous because remember, they were basically on their own all week, of their own choosing.  I thought, “I’m not sure.”  I asked them what their beverage was called and they said, “Ghost Water.”  What they showed me (their video), gave me chills. It was awesome.  They let their creativity go wild and you could tell they had a blast making this and putting it all together.  I started giving them high fives and all the students wanted to see it.  I told the students that they would have to wait until we unveiled all the videos the following week.  Even though not one other student saw the video yet, I could tell that others knew and wanted to up their game.  Creativity encourages competition, excites students, and reveals talents.  Teachers who give their students the space and tools to be creative are the ones who are giving their students the opportunity to find out who they are and what talents they have.  

Reason 2. Metacognition.  CrossBraining centers its lessons around metacognition.  We can't say this enough that when a student is in charge of demonstrating their learning, they catch mistakes and make improvements on their own. They think about what they learned and they own it. When teachers give them an authentic audience, metacognition goes into overdrive.

Reason 3.  Review.  Student review usually consists of going back through papers and locating the right information to review. If a student has multiple short 35 second videos of their learning and used key terms from the standards, review is now a simple touch of the button. Here is a scenario I would like you to think about. What if a teacher said, "go back and watch the videos you made on September 5th to review the Science and Language Arts concepts we went over and feel free to watch other student videos that were made in class." CrossBraining believes this is idea needs to be explored and we believe it is a method that students will respond to and love as an option for review.

Reason 4. Teacher Motivation.  Teachers rise up when they are talking about one of their favorite lessons and even get pumped when talking about it. If teachers have their students capturing their learning taking place in the classroom, you better believe that the lesson is going to be great. No teacher is going to have their students capture boring lessons. When districts adopt the Crossbraining Method, the teachers’ metacognition kicks in as well and the teachers instinctively demand more of themselves because they know there is a window to their classrooms.

When teachers begin sharing videos, great lessons rise up and become the expectation that the teachers have placed on themselves.  No principal or building administrator will have to tell them to step up, it happens authentically.  Let’s also talk about what happens when a teacher starts seeing the creative ways that students demonstrate the learning in their room.  When my students showed me “Ghost Water” and nailed every expectation, you better believe that I was pumped.  The teacher will see their lessons come alive through the interpretation of the student.  The teacher gets stoked and it drives them to go harder on the next lesson.  It is cool when an administrator says, “nice job”. It feels good, but when you get students high fiving you and other students, that is over the top.

We will explore the next three reasons later this week.  Give student made videos a try.  Let your students show their learning! The CrossBraining Method really works!

WeVideo, Soundtrap, Explain Everything Apps- CrossBraining Uses Them All

When you purchase a CrossBraining’s GoPro STEM/PBL Kit you will get 10 GoPro Session Cameras, attachments, SD cards, a guide with engaging lessons and a Teacher’s Manual that steps you through the process to teach your students  how to make 30-45 second videos on capturing the standards.  We have used all three apps being offered by Google and we will show you how they can be used independently or all together to produce amazing formative assessment that will show a student’s learning.


CrossBraining Curriculum Lessons
CrossBraining Lessons

CrossBraining has written articles about WeVideo before and we love their product.  CrossBraining students use WeVideo on a daily basis and there isn’t a time when a GoPro isn’t hooked up to one on a Chromebook.  WeVideo’s cloud based platform makes it simple to use and often students continue working on projects with each other when they get home.  When students have the opportunity to keep on working and they do, you know that the assignment is meaningful.  My students often use the WeVideo option Collaborative and Shared so that they can work on a video together or work on the editing together.  This is a great feature.  This is only the beginning because with this app bundle students can now add some more flavor to their video.I recently had the pleasure to Co-Present at a Session at CUE with Eric Patnoudes called Really Good, or Just Good Enough? Benefits of Publishing Student Work Online and then later Eric invited me back to chime in on his session, A Few of My Favorite Things: A Super Duper Edtech Geek Out.  I had a great time meeting teachers who were trying to find a way to give their students authentic audiences; and to figure out what tools would help them do it.  Even though I was co-presenting, I caught myself mostly listening to what Eric had to say because I wanted to hear his take on it.  He showed an awesome video on how high school students have other students from other schools critique their ideas.  Here is the link  In essence, students want to tell their stories and get feedback (CrossBraining Method).  CrossBraining created the GoPro STEM/PBL Kit  to get you started. There are three Google Apps for Education that are being bundled by CDW-G that are the creative tools that help put everything together.  Here are the three apps; WeVideo, Explain Everything and Soundtrap and here is how CrossBraining brings them together so that students can SHOW the standards.  


My students have used Explain Everything for years.  CrossBraining is very excited to see that it is available on Chromebooks.  Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard that gives your students the opportunity to show their learning through their voice and how they see it.  Here is an example of a student’s video on wiring. . Students can now take this explanation and put it into their WeVideo.  My students are making Mousetrap Vehicles this week out of Legos and they are using Explain Everything to explain how the lever and spring work together to make the vehicle move.  Here is a video of what it looks like when a student uses WeVideo and Explain Everything together.  (Insert Video).

CrossBraining encourages students to be creative and I am always interested to see what kind of background music students will pick for their video.  Most apps offer a variety of sounds and songs that students can use for their videos but when a student approached me about making their own, I got fired up.  That is when I was introduced to Soundtrap.  Now students can make their own music for their videos.  Every classroom has students who would love to rise to the challenge of making their own music for their video.  Soundtrap on Google Chrome Store now gives them the tool to do so.  In this final video, you will see how CrossBraining brings it all together.  

I want to make sure that everyone knows that each of these apps can be used independently and that each of these apps have a plethora of options and features that I didn’t mention.  I only skimmed the surface.  What excites the CrossBraining Nation the most is that we have tools, a kit and a method that gives kids an option to show their learning outside of summative assessment.

Here is Why Tech Ed Conferences are Selling Out

Educational Technology Conferences are turning into the “it” place to be. The people who put these on really know what they are doing.  I had the privilege to sit down and talk with Eric Patnoudes from CDW-G a few months ago and when he asked if I would come out to CUE to co-present with him, I said yes before any details of the conference, dates, flights, hotels were even mentioned.  Eric is passionate and knows what he is doing by working at helping schools create a successful path to implementing Tech Ed.  I jumped at the chance because CUE is simply the Rock Star Conference.  Here are three reasons why conferences like CUE draw in the crowds and why they sell out like a rock star concert:


#1- Tech Ed is cool. Caleb Warren and Margaret C. Campbell recently took a critical look at six studies on coolness.  “Cool is the art of being pleasant or commendable without making any discernible effort to do so”.  The subject of Teachers and Technology has been interesting  to observe over my career.  You have teachers fighting to go to these conferences and ones who are nervous and scared to change. The word technology can make some feel scared .  CUE, ISTE, MACUL, FSTE have all made Tech Ed cool.  They have made it pleasant!  They KNOW that some teachers are nervous about change and being less tech savvy than others so they made it fun.  Two Bit Circus started a Kickstarter to fund the idea of having a blast learning about STEAM.  It is all about having a blast first.  



#2- Conferences like CUE stay on top of all the newest trends and look at the things that work or have potential to work.  When Jon Corippo, Director of Academic Innovation, CUE, asked CrossBraining to be part of the STEAM Punk Playground, I couldn’t believe it.  What an honor.  This is the guy who is the creator of the CUE Rock Star Camp Series, The CUE Rock Star Admin Camp Series and planner for the CUE Super Symposium and JET Review Program. The reason why it is an honor is because Jon knows Tech Ed and also has an incredible approach to how he spreads it.  CUE brings out the toys and lets the teachers play with them and test them.  His STEAMPunk Mobile lab lets teachers sign up to use the Tech Ed kits in their classroom before they ever think of making a purchase.  I love this model.  (I never want our CrossBraining Kits sitting on a shelf not being used.) Other conferences are taking notes and this is how great STEAM kits get noticed and used.  CrossBraining is a startup made up of a few seasoned teachers, an awesome business manager and somehow Jon found out about us and is giving us a try and letting teachers in California give our kits a try.  CUE makes it possible to see it all, and test them!



#3-  They all talk to each other.  The tech ed people have a passion in them that you just don’t see every day.  They love SHARING.  I have met so many awesome tech ed people and often the emails sound like this, “I can’t wait to come to CUE and start spreading the news”,  and then I get a response like this, “We are so stoked!”  These champions love making others feel welcome and they love letting other conferences put a finger on the pulse to see what is coming and what works.  I met a guy named Andy Losik at a CrossBraining discussion and I told him that CrossBraining was going to CUE.  His eyes lit up and said, “are you talking with Jon Corippo?”  and I said, “Yes”.  He went on about how CUE and MACUL (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) share and discuss what works and how they approach their conferences and how much they respect each other.  I shook my head because this is exactly how education will change for the better.  The people who are leading the charge are not praising themselves, they are praising others and spreading the news.  I just recently found out that Andy was the Michigan Technology Teacher of the Year and he never once told me that; and all I saw in our brief conversation was passion.  No wonder Jon and Andy get along so well.


CrossBraining is honored to be a part of this movement. We will do our best to hone in on the things that we need to change to make our product better so that the world can learn how to tell their education story through the use of video---- giving parents and others a window into their learning to spark meaningful conversation.

Create, Collaborate, Communicate

Dr. Howie DiBlasi said, “"create an environment where the students are at the center of the stage." That is exactly what  CrossBraining does. We put students at the center of the stage of their learning.  In order to pull that off, teachers need to understand how important the buzzwords, Create, Collaborate, and Communicate are and that is why we are going to explore each and how you can implement these ideas into your lessons starting Monday.




Every lesson has a creative aspect to it, even doing a simple division problem.  If your students are learning how to divide, you need to implement a real life example as to why they are learning division.  

  • Put kids in groups and give them a capturing device (GoPro Session) or smartphone/Chromebook, Ipad.  
  • Tell them to capture each part of their learning in five second snippets.  
  • Ask your students to CREATE a Loop Da Loop track and use a HotWheels car to go through the track.  
  • Ask your students to then take a stopwatch and time the car going down the track, three times.  
  • Next, actually record the car going down the track with their capturing device or step it up a notch and have them put a rubberband around the car and use a GoPro camera to capture great footage from the POV of the car.  
  • Students should enter the data into a data table, add all three times and then DIVIDE the answer by three to get the average.  (Are you starting to “SEE” what I am talking about?)
  • Next, MEASURE the track.  Now you have distance and time.  Distance divided by time equals speed and now the students know how to calculate speed.  
  • Have the students take a State map and apply the skills they just learned to calculate the speed if they know the distance and time it took to get to a place on their state map.  
  • Students should then CREATE a 30 second video of the learning that took place. They must narrate the video to show their proficiency.  Here is the BIG question: can they really do this well without COLLABORATING with others?  Most of the time the answer is NO.


Students can use COLLABORATION tools like Google Docs and Google Classroom to share their narration and ideas to make a great video.  If a student is absent on vacation they can still plug in and offer suggestions to a group member.  Students should write out their narration together to create the perfect narration to their short video.  


Students can also pull up a video editing app like WeVideo and collaborate on how it is edited.  I love having my students use the Chrome App, Tab Resize,so that they can edit the video and narration side by side.  Here is screencast of students doing exactly that. This is such a fun way to get students at the center of the stage.  You know it is really working well when you walk by and ask them if they need help and they completely ignore you because they are so engulfed they never really heard you ask.

After students have COLLABORATED, it is now time for them to COMMUNICATE their understanding to people who care: teachers, parents, Administrators.  When students get to use their voice, they pay more attention to it.  They own their learning.  If you simply teach them how to divide and don’t allow them to CREATE, COLLABORATE and COMMUNICATE it doesn’t have meaning and without meaning, there is no memory and the students are in a spot where the only ones who GET it are the ones who conform  (roughly less than half).  No wonder most schools have a 50% passing rate on State tests.  We need to look after the students who don’t conform and are off task and give them center stage.

GoPro Stabilization- The Karma Grip in Schools

Today we will talk about three reasons why the Karma Grip GoPro Stabilization bar should be in every school. screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-9-43-47-pm

The Karma Grip is an inexpensive handheld device that lets the user (teacher) get unbelievably smooth footage from what I can see on these video examples.  We will soon test it out in the classroom and on the athletic field. When we do, trust me, we will post it on our site!  As a teacher and GoPro camera user, I can say that I am extremely excited to add this to my tech toolbox so that my students get the video that they deserve to have to tell their story.


  1. Students run, play, jump, crawl, roll, bump, fall… that means if they are recording their learning that the footage will and could possibly give someone a headache, but no longer.  The footage that students will be getting will look professional and it will keep the focus on their story and not the jostling movements that students make. OK, I know that not every assignment requires students to be up moving around and that my own students have captured amazing footage without the stabilization bar but there are activities and assignments that my students have captured that are ruined by all the movement that takes place. I have always wished that there was something I could do to help them.  Until now, that was a VERY expensive fix but GoPro has found an inexpensive solution and people are excited.


  1. As schools adopt more “play” and “outdoor activities” and read books like Richard Louv’s  Last Child in the Woods ,they will want to capture it, so they can SHOW what type of learning is taking place?  Teachers and the students do not want shaky footage deterring from their storytelling.  The Karma Grip can be attached to the GoPro camera and it will create ultra smooth footage so that the parent is focused on the activity and the student’s narration.  This is so important because as teachers teach in authentic ways that work that are very different from the traditional ways that most parents were taught. Teachers and students will need to prove that these methods work and there is no better way to do this than with a CrossBraining-student- made-video.
  2. The Karma Grip can not be used with the GoPro Session, but don’t worry, we include a GoPro Hero5 Black in every kit.  The bar can be charged, you can control the camera from the grip and best yet, all of this footage can be uploaded to the Quik app or Google Drive without every taking the camera off the grip.  These features allow schools to use the camera in very active Project Based Learning classrooms and when school is over they will be used to film all sorts of sports practices.  Imagine a student who has no photography training, recording practices as athletes run up and down fields and courts and coaches get ultra smooth footage.  This footage can be analyzed or used for school commercials or publications and the viewer will swear that it was a professional who took the shots.  This stabilizing bar levels the playing field and puts the focus on the narration and script writing.  


There are so many reasons to get excited and stoked about using the Karma Grip in your school district and CrossBraining can’t wait for you to show us how you are using it.  You can order the grip at

CrossBraining Tinkercad

I am going on record saying that 3D printing in schools will change the world. The earlier we start, the quicker we change the world.  Here are three reasons why schools should implement 3D printing in their curriculum. 1. Geometry  2. Purpose   3. Collaboration



I have taught students in grades K-12 and I have never seen such a simple way to teach geometry.  A teacher can sign up for a Tinkercad account at for free and start showing their students three dimentional renderings with precise measurements in seconds.  I am aware that math textbooks have helped millions of students with geometry but there are millions of students who need to “see” math and not words and symbols.  3D CAD programs give students the visuals that help make the connection between words/symbols and the actual geometric shape.  Tinkercad allows students to manipulate geometric shapes to begin building functional real life objects that hopefully serve a purpose or solve a problem.  My students are instructed to take geometric shapes and build a hinge that will support a cardboard backboard for one of our lessons called “Trash Can Basketball”.  Here are the Common Core Math Standards that the 6th grade students address and then implement into their learning to successfully make a hinge.



Represent three-dimensional figures using nets made up of rectangles and triangles, and use the nets to find the surface area of these figures. Apply these techniques in the context of solving real-world and mathematical problems.


Students take the three dimensional figures with measurements that they are studying to make the hinge that they slide into the cardboard to make their backboard.

    screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-1-26-01-pm                       screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-2-36-11-pm


I really like how students see measurements in millimeters every time they create.  It reinforces the importance of meticulous measurement and reinforces their place value understanding.  When students use Tinkercad, they are reinforcing math literacy while they are putting math to use to solve a problem.



If you have never heard of the Stockbridge Robotics program in Stockbridge, Michigan, do yourself a favor and look at what Bob Richards is doing with his high school students.  This guy devotes his time year round to make learning meaningful.  Students learn early to keep things simple and that there should always be a practical application for everything they do in his class.  His newest efforts have his students taking the skills they have learned from Tinkercad and other 3D modeling programs to make 3D printed hands for amputees in Haiti.  His students fundraise all summer, begin building and wiring the hands in early fall and then deliver specially made hands to the Haitians in need.  3D printing allows students to make things that serve a purpose.  It may be as simple as a backboard or as grand as fitting a child with needs a new hand that allows them to pick something up.  Regardless, this new technology when integrated into the curriculum far surpasses the rote memory lessons that often dominate textbook instruction.  



Direct instruction is necessary in education.  Teachers need to teach skills and go over procedures so that the whole class knows what to do.  Once that is done, it is time to collaborate.  Students using Tinkercad can sit down with one another and discuss ideas, go over measurement requirements, debate designs, reconfigure drawings and every time they are doing that, they are reinforcing the concepts that they were just taught all on their own.  If you have never had a group of three students design something on Tinkercad, pay close attention to the conversations that take place.  I am not promising that every word that comes out of their mouth will be pertinent to solving the design challenge, but I do promise that you will hear your students talk in a way that you have never heard before.  Giving your students the ability to visualize math spawns new conversations from students who may not be a great artist, might not have a steady hand, or who never realized the power of shapes.  You are essentially unlocking a door that has never been opened to some and that is really powerful because not only will the students be learning in a new way, you will be teaching in a new way.


3 Reasons Why You Should Add Video Into Your Classroom

I am going to share three reasons why you should add video to your classroom.  CrossBraining classrooms can get started after a one hour PD.  I have conducted numerous PD’s and in every instance, teachers begin posting videos of student learning the following day.  Metacognition, meaningful conversation and fluency are what makes the CrossBraining Method so appealing to teachers along with its easy implementation.


Reason 1- Metacognition defined by Google is “awareness and understanding of one's own thought processes.”  When you have students record their learning, they take control.  What you will see is awesome.  I spent years TELLING my students what to do and now those days are over.  I spend hours watching my students CAPTURE their learning every day and I rarely have to say a word.  The only requirement I give them is to insert certain words from the standards and they do the rest.  


They study and review their learning without being told to do so.  They rethink how they accomplished a  task without having to be reminded.  Students begin mentally arranging their learning in storyboard format inside their brain and visualize how they will retell their learning and I never have to say a word.  So how do you start?   Use a smartphone, Chromebook camera, Apple Ipad or GoPro camera (insanely durable) and have students take 4-6 video snippets throughout their learning of a topic.  These videos are only 3-5 seconds long.  Students and teachers upload the videos to the WeVideo App or Quik and sort out their learning.  If students are using Quik, they can write out their narration right over the video but if they are using the WeVideo app they can write out their narration and then do a voiceover. I love this app! Are students and teachers going to make mistakes? Probably, but students and teachers will catch them and fix them without being told to do so and I think that is magical and so will you.  


Reason 2-  Having your students CAPTURE their learning using video sparks meaningful conversation and it will sprout up everywhere in your class. When the video is sent home or posted on social media for parents to see, it transforms education.  Every parent and teacher that I have talked to that uses this method loves the conversations that take place after watching the videos. Parents are immediately armed with what took place in the classroom, how their child processed the learning and they get to hear their child explain it.  Now parents can ask their child specific questions about learning when they come home from school.  This is extremely powerful.  


Reason 3-  Being able to communicate effectively in any workspace is essential for businesses.  Communication is a soft skill that employers are looking for and fluency is what sets people apart.  How do we help students with fluency?  Have them write and record the voiceover videos they make of their learning.  Every video that a student makes should be narrated(articulated).  Students write out a script of what took place (more review) in their learning.  They then practice reading this script (more review) until they think it is good enough.  CrossBraining has its students use the voiceover option on the WeVideo App.  Most students will perfect their video and voiceover until they think it is done well enough.  Teachers around the United States have been asking students to practice reading for fluency and they often are asked to read articles to increase their fluency.  CrossBraining believes that students should read their own writing and practice it and then apply this fluency to something meaningful. Students now see why fluency is important and see how it impacts them.  
CrossBraining will dig deeper on each of these reasons over the course of this school year.  We currently reached out to a university to study our CrossBraining Method and its effectiveness in the classroom.  CrossBraining is excited to keep you updated on what the university finds.  Metacognition, meaningful conversation and fluency need to be a part of every classroom and CrossBraining aims to help you implement it.