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Above Ground Level

 Follow along with my various adventures through the official blog of AGL Initiatives.

Five Physics Lessons

May 30th, 2013


Since becoming one of the first Google Glass Explorers, I’ve had a ton of fun creating bite-size physics lessons through Glass. Check out my top five physics favorites below, or explore the entire STEMbite YouTube Channel.

Entropy of the Playroom

Conservation of Angular Momentum


Energy Conversion

Charles’ Law


STEMbite at Brookside

May 29th, 2013


Yesterday, I visited the second graders at Cranbrook’s Brookside Lower School. I was invited by one of their teachers, Erin Klein. Erin is a fabulous teacher and a queen-bee education blogger. I had so much fun visiting her students, sharing Glass with them, and answering all of their awesome questions.

The students even helped me created a new STEMbite video – it was awesome!

Hopefully this was the first of many opportunities to create STEMbite videos with students and new friends!


STEMbite Live!

May 23rd, 2013


I’ve been having tons of fun making a bunch of STEMbite videos, but I wish I could interact directly with students while exploring the amazing science of everyday life. Well, here’s my solution…

Join me on Wednesday, May 29 at 1:00 p EST. I’ll be broadcasting live from my kitchen through Google Glass while we explore a science mystery in the refrigerator.

The whole broadcast will only last 10-15 minutes, with the majority of that time devoted to student questions and ideas. Our session will be targeted to a broad age-range, so everyone is welcome to come.

To join us, simply follow this link to Google+ at the appropriate time, and you’ll see a post that looks like this:


Click “Join Hangout” and you’ll be in (you will need to be logged into your Google account). I can’t wait to see you there!


Duck Pond Weirdness

May 16th, 2013


Just the other day, I was walking by the ‘Duck Pond’ – a place I frequented as a child. I noticed a really unusual effect in the fountain at the middle of the pond. Fortunately, I had my glass on and was able to capture it to share with my students. I’m still not 100% sure what was going on, but I’ll see if my students can figure it out.

I’ve been having tons of fun creating STEMbite videos using glass, and I’m eager to keep making a new video each week. I find that I keep my eyes more open each day as I look for opportunities to demonstrate math or science concepts in the world around me. I can tell that I’m refining the ‘habit of the mind’ to see STEM wherever I look.

It makes me think – “looking for STEM” would be an interesting assignment for my students… maybe a good spring break assignment: “During spring break, find 5 examples of science or math from everyday life. Write them down and come back to class ready to share.”

Actually, maybe spring break is a bad idea. They could find themselves “Looking for STEM in all the wrong places… ”


The Power of Glass

May 10th, 2013


Today I went to the MACUL Mobile Learning Conference at the Kalamazoo RESA. (Yes, there really is a town in Michigan called “Kalamazoo.”) I was giving a presentation on how to create your own iOS apps, but the highlight was definitely meeting some new friends… all thanks to Glass

Being a mobile learning conference, of course I brought my Glass along. I was a little nervous walking into the conference, though, as I expected to be mobbed by a crowd of tech-enthused teachers all eager to try out the latest and greatest gadget. I was relieved (and a little disappointed) when I walked into the building and no one really seemed to care that I was wearing Glass.

After a few minutes of standing around exchanging awkward glances, Brad Waid (@TechBradWaid) came up and started asking me about Glass. I quickly learned about the cool things that Brad is doing with Drew Minock (@TechMinock) and their Two Guys and Some iPads blog. I went to their talk (which was awesome) and made plans to have lunch with the dynamic duo.


Immediately after Brad and Drew’s “Game Changing Apps” talk, I (almost literally) ran into a tidal wave of enthusiasm in the form of +Doreen Barnes, +Megan Bowens, and +Sara De Voogd – three instructional tech experts from Forest Hills Schools. These ladies are a walking party, and before I knew it they were snapping pictures, trying on Glass, and asking me about my experience at CERN. I decided right there and then, if I were to ever have a “real job” again, it would have to be working with these three amazing people.

I gave my talk, and then went out for lunch with all of my new Glass friends – we had a great time! This is what conferences are supposed to be like.

I always knew that Glass would be a powerful and tranformative device, but I never expected it to transform my social connectedness face-to-face. Today, Glass greased the social engine and allowed me to make genuine connections with some amazing educators. OK, Glass!!


My CERN Adventure

May 3rd, 2013


My experience as a Glass Explorer has been rather unique, and I’m really excited that I can finally tell you about it. To help set the context, you may want to watch the video below.

It all started with a rather unbelievable invitation – “Would you be willing to bring Glass to CERN and visit the Large Hadron Collider?” Of course I said yes (!) and over the next several weeks a plan emerged that would bring me and my family to Geneva, Switzerland.

As a physics teacher, visiting the world’s largest particle accelerator was a dream come true. As an online physics teacher, I knew that Glass could help me turn this into a once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity for my students when they inevitably ask “what is a hadron collider“?

I received my Glass device a few days before the trip, and I quickly became acquainted with it – it turns out that traveling with Glass is actually super fun (I highly recommend it)!

A trip to CERN means a flight to Switzerland, which represented many firsts for our family – my wife’s first international flight, our first flight with our two kids, and my first time drinking Swiss Miss with the Swiss (again, I highly recommend it).

The day visiting the Large Hadron Collider was incredible. Starting early in the morning, we visited the CMS detector, ATLAS, and then the LHC tunnel. The two main detectors are housed in enormous caverns – the scale is truly difficult to comprehend. Looking at these incredible machines, I just couldn’t help but marvel at all the effort that went into designing, constructing, and running the enormously complex equipment.

The highlight of the visit, though, has to be our time spent in the Large Hadron Collider tunnel. Access to the tunnel is very restricted and even fewer people get to actually bike in the tunnel. In fact, less people have biked in the LHC tunnel than have climbed Mount Everest! Needless to say, I’m the first person who has ever taught a science class from inside the LHC tunnel. Seeing just a small portion of the whole loop, I was overwhelmed by the size of it all. The fact that I was able to share this experience with students, even answering their questions in real-time, is simply mind-blowing.

Throughout our visit to CERN, we were welcomed by many scientists and staff – they were all simply fantastic, and I am so grateful that they took the time to patiently answer my questions and show me around their impressive facility.

Ok, so what have I learned from this experience? Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Put yourself out there. Had I not applied to be a Glass Explorer, I never would have been invited to such a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  2. Human ingenuity is awe-inspiring. During this adventure, I directly experienced two impressive technological achievements (although at very different scales). Both the LHC and Glass were made by teams of scientists and engineers working to achieve a seemingly-impossible goal. The human mind’s capacity for creativity is truly worthy of awe.
  3. It’s not about the technology. As an online teacher, I frequently say, “It’s not about the technology, but what you can do with it.” We have now reached an inflection point in the evolution of technology where each new advance means we see technology less and can do more with it. What a tremendously exciting time to be in education!


Introducing STEMbite

April 22nd, 2013


I’m excited to introduce a new project: STEMbite.

STEMbite is a YouTube channel of brief first-person videos illustrating cool science/math concepts using objects found around in everyday life. I’m super excited because this video series will be an awesome way for me to use Glass to teach science to the masses. It will also help me fulfill my #ifihadglass application by “making every moment a teachable moment.

I’ve made my first video in the series (using ‘Frugal Glass’ since I don’t have the real thing yet) – you can check it out below.

My goal is to post one new video each week. Enjoy, share, comment.


Glassware in Class

April 20th, 2013


There’s been a flood of information about the Glass developer toolkit (Google Mirror API) in the past week. And it makes me wonder just how feasible it would be to develop original glass apps with and for my high school students.

I already have some experience making apps in the classroom for mobile devices, and it seems like making original apps for Glass would not be that much more difficult. My favorite part of the developer toolkit is the “playground,” where you can modify several templates to make your own glass timelines.

Here’s a quick example I whipped up that could be used by students while they work on problems in an astronomy class.


I think this represents yet one more engaging platform where students can apply their knowledge to create something original, useful, and cool.


Glass + TED-Ed Flips

April 16th, 2013


I just found out about an amazing new tool from TED-Ed, and I think it has some awesome applications for teaching with Glass.

TED-Ed “flips” are simple lessons centered around a YouTube video.


You can choose the video, build some simple multiple-choice questions, share other related resources, and prompt a discussion. If you find someone else’s lesson that you like, you can flip it again and customize it to make it your own.

What I love about this concept is that I can use Glass to make an awesome first-person video and post to YouTube. But then I can use the TED-Ed flip tool to provide an instructional wrapper for the video.

So cool, so easy to use, so easy to share. Thanks TED-Ed!


Of Glass and Sneetches

April 12th, 2013


One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books of all time is the story of the Sneetches. It’s a beautiful allegory of the way we work as humans – always coveting those who have something we don’t – even if it is just a star on our belly. As a Glass Explorer, I can’t help but feel like one of the star-bellied Sneetches.


My goal, though, is to not act like the sneetches. Rather than be exclusive or gloat my access to this new technology, I want to be inclusive and share it with others.

I have lots of family and friends who work in education. I’m excited to share my Glass with them so that they can share it with their students. I’m curious to see and hear how they use it and what new applications they can come up with for it.

The Glass Explorers program is an exciting adventure to be part of, and I’m excited to share it with those around me.