Thursday, May 7, 2015

Evolutionizing the Classroom: Bringing 21st Century Learning to Life with the use of 3Dimensional Technology

Picture this: I'm sitting with a friend in a coffee shop and I tell him that I have a great idea - I want to get a 3D printer so that my students can bring their ideas and curriculum concepts to life. He looked at me funny, and then told me I was crazy! How would this work? Who would teach me to use the technology? How would the kids build capacity around this? How would I get my hands on the technology? He seemed worried  and had a lot of valid questions. Strangely enough, I was not phased by them.

MakerBot Replicator 2
Photo from Extreme Tech
Let me provide some context to my crazy idea. The use of GAFE and Chromebooks with my students last year transformed my practice and their learning. The students and I became more creative as the year went on and we were taking risks with our thinking/ideas. My students had gotten to the point where they were ready to start taking their thoughts/ideas to another level. The 21st Century learning that was going on had led them to a point where they were ready to "take action" - they wanted to start building and "making" things that would act as tangibles of their learning - artifacts that they could hold and talk about as they explained their thinking about their learning.

Image result for Rolland Chidiac
Photo from the Kitchener Post

My crazy idea didn't pop into my head until the summer months when I deeply reflected on the teaching and learning that happened throughout the year. That is when it came to me! Why not use a 3D printer to assist us in our "making"? It seemed like the perfect next step. My students would have been up to the challenge. They would have embraced the idea because they were hungry for more as they moved from engagement to empowerment with respect to their learning. Unfortunately, the year was over and they were no longer my students. Fortunately, I was able to take the time to put together a coherent plan of action so that other students would be able to benefit from my crazy idea.

I spoke to my Principal about it and he supported my Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) application to try and receive funding for release time and technology to bring the idea to life. The application was successful and now I have the privilege of bringing this opportunity/experience to my students next year with the hope that it will encourage them to take their learning to a higher level.

Image result for TLLP
Photo from OTF

In my project application I wrote that integrating technology in the classroom enables teachers to differentiate instruction and meet the multiple intelligences of their students. In my classroom, the use of blended learning models and GAFE (cloud based software) is used to facilitate and improve critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration among my learners. As students establish a growth mindset they are evolving into rich thinkers by producing creative solutions to problems.

I believe that this project will take my students who are being taught to explore, create, and reflect to a higher next level by combining the 21st Century skills they are acquiring with opportunity to bring their thinking/learning to life. By harnessing the power of 3Dimensional technology it is my hope that my students will:

  • transform their thinking/ideas to make them a reality by creating prototypes and tangible artifacts to demonstrate their understandings, and 
  • become transformational thinkers by establishing a 'design mindset' whereby they transform their ideas into concrete material.  

I want my students to expand their ideas from the virtual world to the real world, moving ideas to action or product.

I am looking forward to this experience and can't wait to share our learning with you!

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