Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Guest Blogpost: Beginnings in 3D Technology

As part of our TLLP learning and sharing this school year, I connected with several teachers to bounce ideas off of and gain a variety of perspectives about our learning and ideas for new learning. One of the teachers I have been working with is +Jessica Weber, an Intermediate teacher in Kitchener. She recently had an interesting experience with respect to 3D printing - actually, her first venture into the 3D technology world. Below is her blogpost about her experience. You can connect with +Jessica Weber on Google + and Twitter.  

This year I have been fortunate to spend time with +Rolland Chidiac-WCDSB at different points of his journey incorporating 3D printing into his grade 4 classroom. A few ah-ha's for me include the role of discovery, tangibles as gateways to student learning and improvement, and the inevitability of failure (and how we use it to feed-forward).

This opportunity to learn, discuss, ideate, and share has been especially beneficial as I am being provided with a 3D printer in my classroom next year as part of a research study on spatial reasoning. One of my goals is to explore how mathematical concepts (eg. scale) and the design process can be intertwined to improve students' spatial reasoning skills. I also hope to discover ways to incorporate design thinking into other subject areas (with students leading the way I imagine). 

The chance to get started with 3D printing came before I knew it. 

As a final culminating activity in history, students were challenged to synthesize their learning from the time period explored in any manner they choose. Ideas included creating virtual timelines, counterfactual videos, and news broadcasts. A pair of students thought that they might like to create a monument commemorating the War of 1812. This intrigued me and I thought it was a great opportunity to give TinkerCad a try. The two boys were more than willing to experiment! 

Below is a screenshot of their TinkerCad design.

The gates on each side represent the countries and the chain represents an unbreakable bond. I noticed the depth of thought as the students worked away on their design. Each element carefully considered and adjustments were made throughout. 

The students were quite satisfied with their design remaining on TinkerCad (which highlighted for me that the ability to print was not necessarily needed required). They projected their design on the whiteboard and shared their ideas and design with their classmates. 

To their surprise, I asked +Rolland Chidiac-WCDSB if he would print the design for them. I was able to download the .stl file and send it to him (woot woot)!! To my knowledge, he needed to make a few adjustments to their design so it would print properly (and in a reasonable time frame). Aspects I need to learn more about next year. 

A few days later it arrived in the courier! 

In one of his previous posts, Rolland stated something that really stood out for me.
"THAT is where the rubber meets the road."

It's the THINKING behind the artifacts that is truly powerful. All made possible by giving students opportunities to design and create in ways that bring meaning to their thinking. 

Back to my 'ah-ha's:

The role of discovery: Rolland didn't know all the answers (or all the questions for that matter) when he started with 3D printing. He discovered alongside his students. This is empowering and motivating for all students. 

Tangibles as gateways to student learning and improvement:
 Who doesn't like to see their ideas come to life? Rolland shared many instances where the tangible object facilitated learning. An example of this was the characters they created as part of storytelling. He noticed what a difference it made having the 3D printed objects on their desks during the writing process. This was evident with my students as well. When I showed the students the printed monument, their faces lit up. I could see the pride and excitement in their eyes. 

The inevitability of failure (and how we use it to feed-forward): 
Rolland's blog on failures was my very favourite. Things don't always go according to plan. Sometimes we end up with just a mess of plastic. We need to adjust and move on. One of the students who designed the monument stated that he was disappointed that the gates did not fit perfectly into the arch. He had included small slits in the arch that were suppose to hold the gates in place. His slits were not quite big enough, so without careful balancing, the gates fell over. He went over to his laptop and changed it on his design. Awesome! 

A big thanks to Rolland for his willingness to share and discuss! 
Looking forward to collaborating on design projects in the future!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sharing the Learning and Learning from Sharing

I recently invited several educators to visit our classroom to see our 3D technology setup, look over student work, and to reflect on their visit by providing my students and I with some of their "wonders". It was a pleasure having +Kellie Grant, +Jennifer Duarte+Mary Diemert+Diane Laverty+Michael Leonard, +Katrina Gouett, +Sean Ferguson, and +Jessica Weber participate in looking at the ideas my students brought to life and helping me reflect on the learning that my students and I have experienced this school year. 

Prior to our visits and meetings, my blog posts about our learning journey were made available to them to provide some history and context. I have spent a lot of time sharing our learning and gathering feedback about it via social media and face-to-face conversations with people at my school. It was a treat to meet up with and share the learning with educators in my school board who I consider to be cutting edge, open to new learning experiences, and critical thinkers who don't hesitate to ask tough questions about what they encounter. 

As a result, my students and I have been provided with a lot of great "wonders" to reflect on and address. My students and I are grateful for the different views/perspectives that "outsiders" have provided us with. We are using their questions and comments to build our capacity and assist us in growing as we wrap up our time integrating the 3D technology into learning and demonstration of learning. Here are some of the wonders that our visitors provided us with:

  • Did most students catch on to Tinkercad easily? 
  • Is it difficult to find the time to print all of the 3D objects during school time?
  • How does integrating technology, in particular the 3D printer, “meet the multiple intelligences?” (Visual-Spatial; Bodily Kinesthetic; Musical; Intrapersonal; Interpersonal; Linguistic; Logical mathematical ).
  • How did students who have difficulty visualizing establish a ‘design mindset?’
  • How frustrating was it when the 3D design did not work?
  • Did the students ever build a 3D design with other materials?
  • The narrative story looked like a lot of fun. I liked how their characters came to ‘life.’
  • Were the characters created on the 3D printer before writing or after?
  • If before, was it easier to write the narrative?
  • I’m curious about the cost of the 3D printing post TLLP budget, is it expensive?
  • What made some students use clay etc instead when doing social studies Early Societies representations? 
  • Are students aware of the differences in the process between using the tech and using their hands? 
  • Can they articulate why they choose the format they did?
  • If you can code can you Tinkercad?
  • Did your students have any experience with coding before your project?
  • What were some of the challenges when using Tinkercad?
  • How did your students handle their successes and failures?
  • Did your students rely on each other to problem solve?
  • I would think perseverance would be a trait that your students demonstrated through some of the activities. Was it difficult for your students to picture their characters in 3D form and transform that image into real life?
  • What will your students do with their new knowledge? Can they apply this knowledge to other subject areas?
  • The 3D printer really made me wonder about how I could best use it in visual arts and integrate it with measurement in math (cylinders and circles).
  • I wondered also what types of paint could be used on this plastic? (model paint, nail polish, etc).
  • I also wondered how using a 3D printer would propel students forward in a growth mindset.
  • Because of the newness or ‘novelty’ of this technology do students overcome the failures and challenges of design with ease?
  • I keep wondering if this is something I could financially pull off in my class...thinking about funding options that might work.
As you can see, we have been provided with a lot of great questions to consider. What I have been doing is posing one or two of the questions above to my students each day. We form a classroom meeting circle and I ask the question. At first the students felt a little worried about the questions - they wondered whether people would judge them based on their thoughts/opinions. I reminded them that the purpose of questions were to help us grow as learners, that there is as much value in being able to easily answer the questions as there is in struggling with them.

Taking risks and trying new things has been an over arching theme in our class this year. I reminded them that I think of myself as the chief risk taker in our classroom and that when I invited my colleagues to enter into this process with us that it was a big risk and that I felt the same as them. I also reminded them that my growth and learning has benefited because of the risks I have taken and that my teaching practice will improve from the feedback I receive.

We are lead learners in this area now and as responsible citizens and life long learners, we have a duty to lead and teach others. As we go forward, my plan is to continue to integrate 3D technology into my classroom community and into the general population of the school. This year's group of students know that I want them involved as we move forward - that I expect them to assist in teaching and mentoring the students who start to integrate this type of technology into their learning during the next school year.

With a little less than two weeks left in the school year, we will be spending a lot of time processing the questions above and figuring out what we know, what we don't know, and what we want to learn. I am confident that our reflections will lead us to great insight about ourselves and the directions we want to take to improve and how we want to keep sharing our learning so other will do the same.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy 3D Father's Day!

As we were preparing for Father's Day, the students and I wanted to do something unique. We started with a quick Google search that led us to the stereotypical Father's Day stuff that almost everyone has seen over and over again.

As we searched and discussed out options, one of the students suggested that we print something using the 3D printer, as we had for Christmas with out ornaments. The students agreed that it would be a good idea. Since we didn't have a lot of time on our hands, we searched for 3D files that already existed and found one that we liked - a key chain!

At this point, the students got together in groups and started talking about what we could do to the file to make it our own, to customize it a bit and to make sure that we could print 30 or so of them so that everyone would have one.

The first thing the students suggested was that we shrink the key chain so that it would take between 20-25 minutes to create. Then we talked about print quality to make sure that even though it was small, it would still look good. After a couple of test runs, we had our key chain set to be made in about 23 min with a regular print quality setting.

Everybody got one and we even printed one for an older student who saw what we were doing and showed interest. I picked up the key rings from the Dollar store and tada, Father's Day 2016 would prove to be a unique one for all of our dads.