Image source: https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/interview-dana-foster-3d-printing-education-18133/
3D printers have been the absolute rage in education and in maker spaces for a few years now. While the printer itself is a magical and fascinating piece of science and technology, the price tag makes it imperative that we use the printers to engage students in activities that will help them grow more creative, adept at solving problems, and skilled at applying knowledge across the curriculum. In order to have a justifiable reason to pay $500, $900, $2000, or even more for a 3D printer, there needs to be a higher purpose, laser-focused on student learning. The following are just a few ideas that might stimulate your own, better plans to get kids engaged in design thinking and applying content knowledge as they work with design teams to create original 3D models.
- All Together Now. Split class into teams who will design and print separate components of a single project. For example, teams might be producing the doors, roof, window, interior walls, or exterior walls of a model house. They might create components of a small toy, such as a car or action figure. The emphasis here is on effective communication between groups and precise calculations, as poorly planned or executed parts will not fit. This is very similar to actual manufacturing today, where components of the same object are often made on opposite sides of the globe.
Not my favorite idea!!
- A Better Mousetrap. Have students design a simple and effective humane mousetrap. Students will need to apply knowledge of biology and simple physics in order to lure, trap, and keep their quarry until it is relocated to a new home (Pro tip: Probably not a good idea to test by letting live mice loose in the classroom.)
- Baby Shark Tank. Student teams design a simple, easily reproducible and customizable object to sell for a class fundraiser or to raise money for a charitable cause. Teams will pitch their idea to a committee of teachers, volunteers, or other students. Those chosen as best will be produced and sold for the designated cause. In addition to the technology and design skills being developed, through the planning and marketing of their idea, students will build math, speech, and writing skills.
- Base-ic Math. Every math teacher has a set of base-10 blocks somewhere in their room. In this challenging activity, have students create blocks to represent different math systems, such as base-4, base-25, etc. This is a great way to really reinforce student understanding of a challenging math concept.
- Even Better. Find an existing design and improve it. There are countless sites online where students can find and download free 3D designs. Have them use an existing design, such as a pencil holder, a drinking cup, or plastic toy, and work with their team to make it more practical, stronger, more aesthetically appealing, or just plain cooler. Daniel Pink’s chapter on Design in A Whole New Mind might be a good text to accompany this activity.
- Now We’re Cookin’. Teams will design or re-engineer a utensil to perform a specific kitchen task. For example, students could create a stopper to keep opened canned soft drinks from losing their fizziness. They could create a chip bowl scoop that lets dining guests get chips without using their hands or without the frustration of using tongs (which just destroy the chips, am I right?). They could create a pepper corer that protects skin from jalapeño juice. Students could begin by interviewing parents, grandparents, or even professional cooks and asking what tasks frustrated them. They will get to practice effective communication, critical thinking, and creativity.
- All Geared Up. Students will work together to create a machine that using no more than 4 gears to produce the highest gear ratio they can. In other words, turning 1 full turn of a gear produces as many turns as they can design of a final gear. This is the principle that makes one crank of a bicycle pedal spin the back wheel several times. They could also try to turn their work into a useful object, such as an efficient fan, “motorized” toy, etc. This is a relatively easy to grasp challenge but has a lot of practical knowledge of simple machines and physics involved.
Hopefully, these are helpful as starting points for student design and will inspire you or your students to bigger and better applications. If you have ideas you would want to share, please include them in the comments, and I will put them into the post.
The following are a few ideas intended to promote future-ready, critically- and creatively-thinking students during the coming school year. They have been rattling around my head as a result of several road and plane trips this summer where I’ve been able to pass the time studying computational thinking, design, innovative schools, etc. Some could feasibly tie easily into content standards in multiple subjects. Others are big-picture, broader actions that involve life skills beyond the scope of subject-area objectives.
In no particular order, every student will have the opportunity to:
help design the most effective learning space possible.
go through a process of creating something, testing it, failing, and doing it better the next time.
communicate with someone in another part of the world in real time.
share an accomplishment or work they are proud of with an audience beyond the walls of their home or school.
study something they choose and do something they want to do with it.
work with a team and, at least once, as a leader of a team.
teach something to the entire class.
ask lots of actionable, open-ended questions.
read books of their choosing from multiple genres, including non-fiction.
effectively defend a viewpoint on an issue of importance to them.
Here are 10 things the innovators of tomorrow should have opportunities to do every single day:
1. Think critically about a real problem
2. Ask questions. Deep, probing, open-ended questions.
3. Communicate/debate the problem.
4. Envision solutions to the problem.
5. Test/prototype the solutions.
6. Solve problems arising from the solutions.
7. Persevere in the face of frequent failure.
8. Regroup and revise solutions.
9. Share what they’ve accomplished and learned.
10. Reflect on the bigger implications of what they did/learned.
More notes from this week’s conference presentations in Cy-Fair ISD. Here’s an ever changing list of some new or fairly new Web 2.0 tools that have captured my imagination.
Google Docs embed a little strangely, so if you’d rather access the document directly, you may do so here.
The video below is a very quick overview of Pixiclip, a free, online whiteboard that is a potentially very useful tool for teachers looking to create online tutorials, particularly for flipped classroom applications. The site allows text, drawing, images, audio, and even webcams to be included in presentations, and it has a very user-friendly interface.
Something I noticed today made me get all reflective…
On December 8, 2006, I wrote and shared my first blog post, something about educating parents about Web 2.0 tools. That’s a quick 372 weeks, 2603 days ago. Since then:
- 265 posts, an average of 1 every 9.8 days or so.
- 25,316 views (Half of which are possibly my mother, I’m sure.), or a little more than 10 per day (since Jun 4, 2007, actually, but close enough).
- 588 comments (not sure how many are my replies–I do try to respond), which is about 2.3 per post.
- 62 pings (other folks’ sites or blogs linking to my posts)
- Visitors from all 50 states and 135 countries
True story: I once bought a t-shirt with this on it. (Pretty much gave up being cool right after college.)
So, what does this mean? (It definitely means I don’t have the most popular blog on the Web, for one thing.) Importantly, that first post on December 8th represented the first day I started building my PLN–first blog conversations, then Twitter, Google+, etc. Too many great, professional and personal conversations to count. Imagine the challenges connecting with even a fraction of those numbers of folks only 15 years ago. That post led to others and to the first reader comment (Thanks, Jeff Whipple–my co-workers still make fun of me for an over-the-top celebration of getting a comment from a stranger.), the first conversations, numerous collaborations, and genuinely close friendships. It also was the start of some healthy and productive reflection. I never liked diaries or journals. Hated ’em, in fact. Yet blogging has somehow been something that I have enjoyed and stuck with, and it has helped me grow as a person and professional. I liken it to people who talk to themselves to sort out their thoughts, only someone occasionally eavesdrops and chimes in to find out what you are talking about.
Over these 7 years, I’ve read opinion pieces saying blogging is dead or has already died. Thankfully, those writers get paid to write nonsense (I do it for free–yea!), and I look forward to doing this for the foreseeable future. I encourage every single educator to give it a shot, too. Professional reflection is a very worthwhile exercise, even if you don’t load up on comments (Don’t discount the possibility, though!). While you’re at it, get your students blogging. It is a great opportunity to apply writing skills, share with an authentic audience, and start putting together a record of their growth as students and individuals. On top of that, it is quite simply a truly pleasurable undertaking. Thanks for reading (not just you, Mom)!