This fall, we are undertaking several improvements to our technology offerings. Elementary schools are all getting Dremel Idea Builder 3D printers. Middle Schools are getting courses in robotics. All K-8 tech apps courses are being updated to include a greater emphasis on coding, multimedia production, and 3D design. The aim is to make our offerings more current and engaging to our kids by taking them out of the keyboarding-and-Powerpoint routine.
The 3D design and printing aspects of the program are a work in progress, and we will be practicing what we preach by taking some risks, making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes. For the present time, we are only planning on piloting 3rd thru 5th grades. Here are the basic goals:
- Foster creativity and innovation.
- Develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
- Develop visual/spatial reasoning.
- Apply geometry and math concepts to authentic tasks.
- Support core subject area curriculum whenever possible
Campus technology staff received their first round of training in September. I chose to train them on Autodesk’s Tinkercad for the design tool and Project Ignite for the curriculum and introductory activities. Both are free and share 1 account per student. Accounts can easily be created by the teacher through the Project Ignite dashboard and require no student emails. Project Ignite allows teachers to assign projects and enables them to monitor student progress. Students learn to use Tinkercad as they are taken step by step through the
assigned projects within Tinkercad’s actual work interface. Dremel also has a few very easy, browser-based projects students can personalize and complete in just a few minutes, albeit without a lot of the real design benefits of the Tinkercad projects. Once a student has finished a project that will be printed, they simply save the .stl file to their Google Drive and share it with their teacher or save on a USB drive to move to the printing computer.
Here are a few of the starter projects our students may be taking on this semester to get their feet wet:
- Fall symbols (leaves, pumpkins, ghosts, etc.)
- Things for which they are thankful. These might be made into charms for rubberband bracelets or necklaces.
- Personalized dog tags
- Holiday ornaments
- Election badges/get out the vote buttons
- Pencil toppers
For the time being, our elementary schools are focusing on 3rd through 5th grades. Primarily, this is to work out the kinks and give teachers time to develop greater mastery. We’ll eventually move to the primary grades, though (In fact, a first grade teacher approached me after school just yesterday with a specific project in mind for her kids.).
Because of the sheer number of student projects involved and the serious time required for printing on a single campus printer, we are implementing a staggered schedule for learning, designing, and printing. It works basically like this:
I am very interested in having classes create their own projects and purposes for 3D design and printing, and the details of that still must be sorted out. Will we require some sort of reservation? Will the printers travel (Most are on rolling carts), or will student projects have to come to them? Will the campus technology teacher print everything, or will the librarian or the classroom teacher be equipped to do so?
Down the line, our goals will evolve, as will our standard for these types of projects. Among the improvements I will expect to see by the end of the year or beginning of next year:
- Students in all elementary grades creating original 3D designs and projects.
- Students create advanced, collaborative 3D projects (Think of different assembly lines creating one automobile.).
- Student projects integrate other components, such as electronic lights, motors, sounds, Arduino computers, etc.
- Create a 3D design competition fo elementary students.
I’ll continue to periodically post updates as we move forward. If you have questions, please add them to the comments or shoot me an email. I’d appreciate the opportunity to connect!