Friday, July 10, 2020

Laser Cutters in the Classroom

I have long been a user of the paper cutting machines you see in craft stores. I have a Silhouette Cameo machine that I use for making cards and vinyl objects for decoration. It is so much fun!

I have been intrigued by the CO2 laser cutters/engravers which can cut or engrave cardboard, wood, leather, plastic, metal, acrylic, rubber, and glass up to a certain thickness.


FLUX, a CO2 laser cutter/engraver company, asked me to take one of their models for a spin and find resources to support their use in the K-12 environment.

The FLUX Beamo CO2 Laser Cutter & Engraver ($1899), seen below, is compact and has many of the features of the more expensive cutters on the market.

FLUX Beamo


The Beamo can cut and/or engrave on various materials

   Cut and/or engrave      Engrave only 
  • Cardboard
  • Wood
  • Bamboo
  • Leather
  • Acrylic

  • Fabric
  • Rubber
  • Cement
  • Glass
  • Stone
  • Anode metal
  • Stainless steel      

                 Meet the FLUX Beamo

The FLUX Beamo includes software for designing and printing (Beam Studio), but  students can use many other design software programs like Autocad, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or any software that can export out as a JPG, PNG, SVG or DXF file.

Here are links to a few Beam Studio online tutorials: 1 | 2 | 3

The set-up of the FLUX Beamo was easy and the manual that came with it took me step-by-step through all the things I needed to do. The LCD panel was bright and easy to navigate. I attached the Beamo to the WiFi network in my home (you can also use Ethernet if you wish), downloaded the design software to my Mac, and updated the firmware in the Beamo via a USB drive. I also vented the Beamo out the window to avoid any fumes in the basement. (FLUX offers an Air Fume Extractor for the classroom so you would not need to vent it out a window.)

I used a 4.5" square piece of ⅛" wood and loaded a sample item, found in the Beam Studio software, to print. There is a camera in the Beamo that allows you to see, when in the software, where the item will be printed on your material. It took about 4 minutes for the Beamo to first engrave and then cut out the item.

Below is the finished product. And I went from unboxing to set-up to upgrading firmware to learning the software and to printing in about 1.5 hours! The learning curve was really small since the documentation was so well-done. 

Want to find out more? Here is the link to the Beamo Guide and Beam Studio Guide.

And my first project of my own design is below: 


There are many online resources that include tons of great ideas for the use of a laser cutter to support the curriculum and school community. Following are overviews of the ones I thought were most helpful. 

Most resources target student use of laser cutters at the middle and high school levels. However, as we found out with 3D printers, students of all ages can create a design and the final product can be printed out by an adult. 

One very cool feature of the FLUX Beamo Go app (iOS and Android) is that a student can draw a design on paper, use a phone or iPad to take a picture of it, send it to the Beamo and print it out. This method easily allows students to create projects with the Beamo laser cutter!


This 158-page handbook was compiled with ideas from many of the educational experts in the fields of constructing and creating. There are ideas for many constructivist projects using various tools. I did a search of the PDF for "laser". There was information on what students learn during both the design process and the machine cutting process, which included ratio, tools, unit, scale, and other math skills and also learning how a laser works. (10)

In another project, included by Susanna Tesconi, students go through the design thinking process, and, during the prototyping stage, if the laser-cut object needs to be re-worked, each student has a box where they put their "failures". At the end of the unit, students explain how their journey to success was helped by each of the prototypes. (36)

Heather Allen Pang outlines how she taught a unit on the history of telecommunications and had pairs of students create their own telegraph. She cut out the bases on the laser cutter, but students wired and tested their telegraphs. (79) 

Another project supplied by Pang is having students create silhouettes that are laser-cut. This project brings history and new technology together. (84)
Mark Schreiber has his high school students make an ugly Christmas sweater by using all types of materials, many of which include electronics for the sweaters to blink and play music. However, he has them use the laser cutter for cutting out the felt objects for the sweaters. (89)

There are many more ideas in this free book including parent and teacher collaboration. Make sure to download it! 


Dremel has launched a page with 15 laser cutter projects to support Language Arts and Social Studies. Here is a sample from each discipline.
Book QuotesHave students choose their favorite quotes from their individual or class book and engrave them onto wood or acrylic to hang in the hallway or classroom. Go a step further and have students write an essay based on one of their classmates’ selected quotations. (ELA)
Culture Project: Have students design and laser cut a logo or flag for their invented cultures; create multi-dimensional topographical maps; laser engrave their hand-drawn maps on wood or cardboard. (SS)

Although this guidebook for high school level students was put out by another laser cutter manufacturer, it includes the rationale you might need when asking for a laser cutter/engraver to be put in the budget.

This document includes ideas for both curriculum support projects and also ways in which the school can both save money (making plaques) and make money (selling school-themed keychains in the school store).


Trotec, another laser cutter manufacturer, offers another great resource which would be applicable for middle and high school. This PDF includes categories which outline learning outcomes, instructional strategies, assessments, and additional learning resources for each of them. The categories are:
  • Personal and project management
  • Science and history
  • Materials
  • Supporting tools
  • Laser operation
  • Graphic essentials
  • Health and safety

This site includes links to instructions for easy projects to have students create with a laser cutter.





    I hope I have supplied you with some great reasons and ideas to purchase a FLUX Beamo CO2 Laser Cutter & Engraver for your classroom, makerspace, or STEM lab. 

    With its small footprint, easy-to-use functions, and low cost, once you get one and start students creating projects to support the curriculum, raise money for a field trip, or make up the award plaques for the assembly, you will wonder why you did not purchase the Beamo sooner!

    Monday, July 06, 2020

    IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB Dual Mode 8MP Document Camera

    IPEVO has been offering document cameras for schools for many years. Many of us started with their their first offering, the IPEVO P2V (Point to View) USB camera with its removable camera. (Who remembers the thrill the students got when they could show a bug at close range and full screen? Ugh.) That low-cost ($69) device demonstrated to us how effective a document camera could be in supporting teaching and learning.

    IPEVO P2V CAMERA (2009)



    Fast forward to mid-2020, and IPEVO has just released their 8th gen model, the newly updated IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB document camera. This camera has functions we could only dream of in those early P2V days!

    Of course, true to its roots, the IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB can attach to a laptop, Chromebook, or computer desktop via a USB cable, and mirror what is on the "stage" for recording and sharing a screen of information with others. IPEVO offers two free software programs to support this: Visualizer and Visualizer LTSE (accessibility software to use with the document camera).


    The IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB, using the USB mode, can be used to support remote  teaching, learning, and meetings. When in USB mode, the IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB also activates a built in microphone!

    Many educators are submitting their uses of the IPEVO document cameras and sharing them with the rest of us.

    IPEVO offers printed step-by-step guides for using the IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB in USB mode with some of the most popular online collaboration tools.
    IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB plugged directly into a projector

    The IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB document camera can also easily be used to showcase items, live drawings, and book pages to the entire class, even without a computer! Since this document camera also includes an HDMI connection, it can be plugged directly into a projector for mirroring and streaming on a whiteboard with no need for a computer.


    IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB plugged directly into a monitor or TV

    Since many classrooms now use a large touchscreen monitor or flat-screen television for projecting to the class, the IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB can also be plugged directly into the HDMI port on the monitor or TV and stream live to the big screen! This document camera includes easy-to-access adjustment buttons to use in any mode, too!

    Full product manuals and information may be found here.


    • $219

    • D x W x H (when folded)
      With base-4.57”x 4.25” x 11.85” (11.6 x 10.8 x 30.1cm)
      Without base-3.07” x 1.57” x 11.42” (7.8 x 4.0 x 29.0cm)
    • 2.2lbs (1.0kg)

    • CDVH-03IP
    • Emerald Green

    • 8.0 Megapixel
    • Full auto-focus lens
    • High definition resolutions-up to 3264 x 2448 (USB mode), and up to 1920 x 1080 (HDMI mode)
    • Up to 30 fps live video capture (at full HD)
    • Sony CMOS image sensor and a powerful Ambarella integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC)

    • HDMI and USB

    Maximum Shooting Area
    • 10.6” x 18.9” (270 x 480mm) [16:9]
    • 13.5” x 18.1” (344 x 460mm) [4:3]

    • Works with Mac, PC and Chromebook

    Package Contents
    • Camera head and stand
    • Base
    • USB Type-C to Type-A cable (4.90ft/150cm)
    • Screwdriver
    • Screws x 4

    Minimum Requirements
    • Intel® Core™ i5 CPU 1.8 GHz or higher
    • OS X 10.10 or higher
    • 2 GB RAM
    • 200MB of free hard disk space
    • 256MB of dedicated video memory (For lag-free live streaming up to 1920 x 1080)
    Recommended Requirements
    • Intel® Core™ i5 CPU 2.5 GHz or higher
    • OS X 10.10 or higher
    • 4 GB RAM
    • Solid-state drive, and 200MB of free hard disk space
    • 256MB of dedicated video memory (For lag-free live streaming up to 1920 x 1080, and video recording of 1920 x 1080)

    Minimum Requirements
    • Microsoft Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or higher
    • Intel® Core™ i3 CPU 3.20 GHz or higher
    • 4 GB RAM
    • 200MB of free hard disk space
    • 256MB of dedicated video memory (For lag-free live streaming up to 1920 x 1080)

    Recommended Requirements
    • Microsoft Windows 10
    • Intel® Core™ i5 CPU 3.40 GHz or higher
    • 4 GB RAM
    • 200MB of free hard disk space
    • 256MB of dedicated video memory (For lag-free live streaming up to 1920 x 1080, and video recording of 1920 x 1080)


    Below are two of the images taken I was putting the IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB through its paces. I attached the sturdy metal bottom plate, plugged it into my Mac, open the IPEVO Visualizer software, and I was ready to go!

    You can find out more details of the IPEVO VZ-R HDMI/USB  and learn about the company's other products on the IPEVO site!

    Monday, June 01, 2020

    Summer passion projects for students

    This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in June of 2020 and is re-posted here with permission.

    Dear Readers, this will be the last concurrent monthly posting of Kathy’s Katch. Perhaps it will be back in another form at some point. I appreciate the support of Discovery Education, the DEN, and the readers of this blog from its inception in September of 2012. #loveyouall

    Back in the day, employees of Google could pitch an idea to their supervisor to be able to take advantage of the “20% Time” program. This program allowed engineers and others to spend 20% of their work time on a project they were passionate about. Many of these projects turned into important components of the Google products. I used to love Google Labs, which included prototypes of the ideas being developed. It was so exciting to see some of them “graduate” from Google Labs and become part of the Google product. Others were great tools and it was sad when they did not make it.
    One great thing for education came out of the 20% Time projects. Cristin Frodella, who worked in marketing, realized using Google products would be perfect for teaching and learning and she created the Google Teacher Academy during her 20% Time. Many of us attended these useful trainings to become Google Certified Teachers. The program launched in 2006, and I became a GCT in New York in 2008. I was an instructor at the Academy as well as a participant to get my certification.
    Here is a photo of the instructors for that 2008 Google Teacher Academy. It was a super team of very smart educators, all of whom you will likely recognize since they are still active in the edtech space!
    The Google Teacher Academy had two components. There was this formal training session in NYC, but afterward, each GCT was required to complete two passion projects using the Google toolset and share them in a spreadsheet with all of the other GCTs. My two projects were “Google Goodies: a series of online screencasts for teachers and students for various aspects of Google Apps” and “Google Tips and Tricks: a weekly note to all teachers and students (grades 6-12) with ideas, tips and tricks for using Google Apps”.
    I loved working on my projects! I was free to investigate what I wanted to research and create. The only caveats for these projects were they had to use the Google tools and be useful for administrators, educators, and/or students.


    Fast forward to today and we know many teachers have adopted this same idea of giving students time during each school week to investigate something they are interested in. This model is usually called “Genius Hour”.  Meshelle Smith has written a great overview of how she implemented a weekly one-hour Genius Hour at the fifth grade level. I feel her model would work at any grade level!
    She created a scaffolded model that served to outline the parameters for the goals of the projects without taking away the student choice of the content. For four weeks, the students explored ideas, spent the next three weeks narrowing their topics, and then spent most of the school year researching and creating each week. The last four weeks of the school year was set aside for presenting their projects to the class and to the “real world”. In addition, to keep the students on track, every five weeks they had to submit a “mini-project” about their research to show they were moving towards the goals they had set for themselves.
    As with any project-based learning, students needed to keep a journal of their ideas, discoveries, failures, and questions. Meshelle also facilitated collaborative group sessions to allow students to bounce ideas off one another, brainstorm solutions, and help decide how they were going to present their project to the “world”.
    I have created a visual overview of Smith’s scaffolding below.


    What about extending this idea of “Genius Hour” to summer vacation time for students? Since summer is much shorter than the school year, perhaps students can dedicate 2 hours in a row, per week for 10 weeks, to a passion project of their choice. Or maybe they want to investigate two areas of interest, for 20 hours per project, and call them Snack Projects.
    Here are some guidelines for these ideas.


    One great site for students to research and learn more about a topic is Discovery Education. With a huge library of assets across the subject areas, students can easily find a topic to research, learn more about, and watch videos. They can create their project using Discovery Education assets or using the notes in their journals, gleaned from their research on the site, to create their project elsewhere. There is more than enough information in the Discovery Education content for both a Snack Project or a Passion Project!
    First, I decided to be a 7th grade student who was interested in writing a book of poems for a passion project. I knew I liked listening to poetry when my ELA teacher read it aloud and also when I was assigned poems of different genres to read for class. I was unsure of what type of poetry I wanted to write, so I did a simple search in the ELA subject area of Discovery Education and narrowed the content to grades 6-8.  I found 540 resources to investigate which included videos and video segments, images of famous poets, lesson plan activities I could do, an interactive Haiku Builder, and Studio Boards that teachers all over the world had created to help their students learn more about poetry.
    Secondly, I decided to be a 10th grade student who wants to pursue meteorology or fire fighting. I wanted to complete two Snack Projects, investigating each topic. After I conducted a search on “meteorology” in Discovery Education, I got 283 results including videos and video segments, readings in the Science Techbook, instructional images to learn more about weather, and some resources from practicing meteorologists about their career paths.
    When I conducted a search on “firefighter”, I was presented with 89 results for the 9-12th grade levels. There were videos and video segments about fighting fires, firefighter equipment, and new firefighting technology. There was also a 26-minute podcast entitled “Stuff You Should Know Podcast: How Wildfires Work”.


    The idea of having students working on passion projects over the summer is interesting to think about. With some structure for the time they spend and good online resources for research and information, students can explore their passions to learn more about them and then share their findings with others.
    Do you have students working on passion projects in the summer? Do you provide them with some guidance? Do you have them using Discovery Education resources for these projects? 

    Friday, May 01, 2020

    Differentiation strategies to support learners

    This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in May 2018 and is re-posted here with permission.

    Differentiation of instruction for all students in your classroom is sometimes a daunting task. How do you ensure all students receive the curriculum content in the way they learn and understand best?
    Cathy Weselby, in a March 2020 post on the Resilient Educator Web site, provides a well-stated overview of the important research, history, and methodologies for differentiating instruction in the classroom.
    I love this practical overview.
    Differentiating instruction may mean teaching the same material to all students using a variety of instructional strategies, or it may require the teacher to deliver lessons at varying levels of difficulty based on the ability of each student.
    Teachers who practice differentiation in the classroom may:
      • Design lessons based on students’ learning styles.
      • Group students by shared interest, topic, or ability for assignments.
      • Assess students’ learning using formative assessment.
      • Manage the classroom to create a safe and supportive environment.
      • Continually assess and adjust lesson content to meet students’ needs.
    Differentiation may not mean implementing just one of these five methods, but let’s go over some specific ways teachers can use differentiation strategies by using a digital media product such as Discovery Education Streaming Plus.

    For students in middle and high school, teachers can administer a survey that asks about their preferred method(s) of learning to help when designing lessons. One useful survey I found was the NC State University Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire. Teachers could also create their own survey using a Google Form. The Georgia DOE offers a learning styles survey that might work for the upper elementary students here.
    For the younger students, this post by Michelle Baumgartner on the blog provides some practical ways to determine a student’s learning style. She suggests looking at note-taking style, problem-solving methods, observing social behavior and personal tendencies, and determining what learning aids the student turns to often. Baumgartner includes an overview of the learning styles and practical advice for each of these categories. These same strategies would work for ELL learners, too. The Georgia DOE offers a survey that may be useful for the upper elementary grades.
    For special education students, by consulting with their special education teacher and reviewing the student’s IEP, as well as observing the student, would help the educator develop strategies to support these students.

    To differentiate within Discovery Education Streaming Plus, teachers have the ability to both pick a multitude of content types, as well as assign the lesson to individual students, groups of students, or the entire class. This allows the teacher to group students by shared interest, topic, or ability.

    Discovery Education Streaming Plus also includes a ton of instructional strategies, divided up by type of strategy, and there are many that can be used to as formative assessments. Below, you can see the menu and then just a few of the summarizing strategies you can use for a formative assessment.

    Graphic organizers are included which teachers can assign to students as a quick formative assessment, too!

    As you differentiate instruction and create groupings for a safe and supportive classroom environment, it might be good idea to use the online tool, Floor Plan Creator, to create multiple classroom set-ups that students can easily view to move their desks, chairs, and beanbags around. If you create a few of these, students will not get bored with the layouts and you can ensure you are able to get around to the areas and can see all the students.

    There are summative assessment tools available in Discovery Education Streaming Plus, also, and it is easy to grade their work and suggest alternatives images, videos, or audio that they might use in their project. There is an assessment builder built-in that allows teachers to create Technology-Enhanced Assessment (TEA) from an item library that offers a variety of interactive item types. By using these tools, it allows teachers to easily adjust assessments.
    Board Builder is a tool, found in Discovery Education, that allows users to create digital bulletin boards with a variety of media, including items from Discovery Education Streaming Plus and self-­created resources. The tool can be used for topic delivery and engagement, for assessment, and to determine student understanding.

    As I wrote about in my April 2020 Kathy’s Katch blog post, there are also tons of editable assets in Discovery Education Streaming Plus that can be used with other tools like PowerPoint or Keynote, Padlet, the Adobe Spark Suite, and many other content-creation tools. Give some of them a try, too!
    How do you differentiate instruction in your classroom? Have you used DES to do so? Please share your tips and tricks on Twitter! #kathyskatch

    Wednesday, April 01, 2020

    Creating with Discovery Education

    This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in April 2020 and is re-posted here with permission.

    For the past few years, I have focused my energies on supporting teachers who are creating assessments, both formative and summative, which target student’s higher order thinking skills. Oftentimes, as I was creating an exemplar to showcase to teachers, I turned to Discovery Education for content to use in the sample assessment.
    Discovery Education includes tools within their product that allow teachers to create exemplar assessments and assignments and have students create them, too. However, I also love all the other online tools that allow students to showcase their content knowledge, so I tend to focus on online tools and local apps when conducting trainings.
    Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
    One of the coolest features of Discovery Education is the tons of assets that are found in their product! There are videos (full and also broken down into short segments), photographs, drawings, and more. These assets are searchable by grade level, type of asset, etc. What is best about these assets is, if your school has a subscription to Discovery Education, teachers and students can use the great editable content in Discovery Education with local and online tools and apps projects!

    Adobe has a suite of tools called Adobe Spark. The three tools included are a web page creation tool, a video creation tool, and a graphic creation tool and there are tons of sample templates to pick from and images that can be easily added to the project.
    A teacher can create an Adobe Spark Page and embed video clips in the Page. These editable clips will have to be downloaded from Discovery Education and uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo in order to embed them in the Adobe Spark Page. Teachers can then provide their own written overview of the content, a list of things they want students to look for in the video, and extension activities students can complete. The teacher can include links back to other videos within Discovery Education on the same page, too.

    Teachers can easily create narrated overviews of content for student access using Adobe Spark Video, which allows the inclusion of images, photographs, and Discovery Education videos on separate slides and narration of the “show” which ends up a easy-to-create video lesson! Adobe offers the Adobe Spark suite of tools — Video, Post, and Page — to districts for no cost with the ability to limit the postings to just the district, but, if your district has not yet taken advantage of that solution yet, teachers and students over 14 can create their own accounts here. Adobe also includes a ton of ideas for using Adobe Spark Education that would tie-in nicely with the Discovery Education content!

    Padlet is a great online tool that allows teachers and students to easily post and share their thoughts, videos, images, links, and much more. There are a slew of education-based templates to chose from.
    Students can upload editable Discovery Education video clips or photos to Padlet and create a collaborative information board for classroom review.

    Many teachers are already using Flipgrid to create a topic and have students leave video feedback to that topic and also to the videos of classmates. It is a super easy tool to use!
    Teachers can use the editable assets in Discovery Education to create a topic in Flipgrid and have the students respond, reflect, and build upon each other’s knowledge. You can record to this grid at

    Adobe Spark Posts allows students to bring in images and put text on them. Students can use an image from Discovery Education as a background for a 6 Word Summary or Six Word Story they create in Adobe Spark Post.
    Here is my sample, created with an image from Discovery Education.

    One of the easiest and powerful graphic design tools on the Web is Canva. Canva includes templates for wedding invitations to Instagram posts and everything in-between!
    Students can use a series of images or screenshots (from the editable content) from Discovery Education videos to create a timeline in Canva or even create an informative infographic.

    What are some other creative ideas you can think of for using the content in Discovery Education with online tools, local software, or apps? If you already have Discovery Education, have you mashed up the content in the product with other online tools to help students learn? Please share you ideas on Twitter! #kathyskatch