Wednesday, January 4, 2017

I Like to Make It Make It....

Thanks to the GENEROUS contributors at Donor's Choose, my dream of implementing a 3D Printer into my curriculum finally came true.  Imagine my excitement when the Dremel 3D40 printer arrived in my classroom.  Ok, you don't have to imagine it, I had a friend snap my picture:

Within two hours of that box arriving, I had it set up, activated and printing away at a built in frog model that came with the printer.

I found the Dremel printer to be a perfect start-up printer for the newbie to the 3D Printing scene.  The pricetag of $1,400 was approachable with help from a grant, and the availability of materials through traditional sources (Best Buy, Target, Home Depot, Amazon) held great appeal for me.  The Dremel printer has consistently ranked relatively high against similar priced competitors and was noted in particular for its usefulness in schools by  Although the Dremel uses proprietary filament and software, I found some of the proprietary features to be beneficial due to the fact that it makes it more 'dummy-proof'.  In particular, the software provided by Dremel will take and read 3D modeling files (.stl, .obj) and check them to ensure proper positioning, sizing, supports, etc. so you get consistently more successful builds.

Action Plan

Now there is certainly an ABUNDANCE of 3D Model files out on the web for you to print, and I'll admit I became quite absorbed for awhile checking out all of the possibilities, but I forced myself to remember that this is a tool for CREATION and my goal was to integrate it into my curriculum for student use.  So I set out to figure out what resources were available for me to create a print items.

The first thing I created was a Grand Island (pork chop shaped) cookie cutter using the Cookie Cutter Customizer.  This Thingiverse tools is really pretty straightforward and allows those with a steady hand to draw any shape and the customizer turns it into a 3D Model of a cookie cutter.  (cool!)

However enthralling cookie cutter design and development might be, I was a little sketchy on the relevance to my curriculum at hand, so again I set out to find more tools and ideas.

While perusing Kathy Schrock's Guide to 3D Printing in the Classroom,  I came across Tinkercad.  Tinkercad is a 'simple, online 3D modeling and printing tool for the masses' and it's important criteria.  Tinkercad allowed me to bring the concept of creation to the forefront for my students AND allowed me to integrate STEM skills into my social studies class.

What We Did

Our first project corresponded with our unit Ancient Mesopotamia with an attempt to create cuneiform keychains with our initials on them (in cuneiform, of course).  We used Tinkercad to design the keychains and save them as .stl (.stl or Stereolithigraphic is a common 3D modeling files) files that could easily be converted by to be printed on the Dremel.

To 'teach' the necessary 3D Modeling skills I created a screencast (via Screencast-o-matic) of me explaining the project along with step by step instructions which I pushed out on Google Classroom.  When their 3D Models were finished, they simply submitted their file to me on Google Classroom.

-->Step-by-Step Instructions

Our second project paralleled our unit on Ancient Egypt.  For this project I changed the filament to gold (It was threading a sewing machine) and told the students they were going to design their names in hieroglyphics and place them on a cartouche.  I employed the same strategy for this assignment by using a screencast and a step-by-step list of instructions and also had the students submit their completed files through Google Classroom.

-->Step-by-Step Instructions

When a colleague observed the students in action working on this project, he simply couldn't believe the desire that the students had to do the project.  Hands were raised perpetually seeking knowledge and solutions.  There was an all around passion to complete the work amidst a cloud of ambiguity.  3D Modeling is TOUGH and yet they forged ahead, puzzling through the challenges that 3D work represented. I was most impressed with the way they demonstrated resilience when the project wasn't quite correct and they had to remodel, fix, rotate, view and review to see the work from multiple perspectives. Ultimately there was this inimitable drive for the end result to be not seen in traditional instruction. Oh yea, they learned too!!  Therefore THAT'S....

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sanity Saver: Find Ways to ENGAGE, Save Yourself the RAGE

This time of year can be TOUGH on a teacher.  Take a moment to BREATHE.  Our biggest challenge in the classroom is keeping students engaged and motivated as we forge ahead.  Below are some of my favorite ways to keep students active and learning as we make our way through December.

Not only does the infographic below include steps for integrating one of this years HOTTEST new trends, but embedded in infographic are links to 4 of my FAVORITE lesson ideas!!  FREE!

And as if these ideas aren't enough, I'm also participating in a Blog Hop!!  Enter the contest and check out all of my teacher affiliates sharing their great secondary sanity savers and a chance to win dozens of great prizes!

Freebie:  Hologram Template

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Vault of Inquiry...Inspire Exploration

Did you ever had that ONE lesson or that ONE activity in your classroom that clicks so well that you just want to shout it from the rooftops? Last week, for me, was one of those moments and I simply MUST SHARE!

I called it "YOU be the Archaeologist" and through some chance of enthusiasm, digital magic, inquiry based exploration or SOMETHING, my students spent a week exploring hominid fossils like PaleoAnthropologists.  Their little noses were enthusiastically buried in details about Australopithicus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthal (and of course, Homo sapiens)....but it was SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!  They had a mission...a purpose...a puzzle to ponder.  I'd opened a vault of inquiry.

It all centered around Homo Naledi...a National Geographic archaeological find that occurred within the past few years that has revolutionized our understanding of what it means to be human. To my students, Homo Naledi was introduced as mystery fossil, and all they knew was this:

The hook, of course, was digital...I gave them 3D models of fossils to evaluate.  3D models that are publicly available for anyone to use online (PC only) OR you can write Duke University for permission to download the 3D models for printing or for use on iPads (which I did, of course)!!!    

Here's an example of the Homo naledi 3D Model:

On a PC, this model can zoom in, zoom out AND be rotated to any angle for viewing!
Armed with the question, data sheets on each early hominid, and 3D Models of each hominid to explore, the students discussed their findings, and gathered their data together on their field notes.
Their discussions were compelling and their observations were incredibly detailed.  Eleven year old students were considering physical traits of early hominid fossils and how those traits impacted the lives of those hominids.  They were discussing skills and abilities of early hominids, such as ritualized burial ceremonies and how such a skill represented a more or less sophisticated species.  
They discussed, evaluated, synthesized, compared...I could bury DOZENS of other Bloom words into the description, but the one most important to me was they were inspired!

Sixth graders evaluate actual 3D Models of hominid skulls
They worked with determination, and to finalize their query, they had to make a decision.  "Where on the evolutionary chart might this mystery fossil fit?"  They used their evidence to support their decision.  This was evidence based writing with a purpose.

After the big reveal of Homo naledi, we watched Lee Berger discuss the discovery of Homo naledi.  We heard his passion as an explorer and we were inspired by the five incredible women who risked their lives crawling through the chamber to retrieve the fossils.  Tom's talk ends with a call to future generations to prepare themselves to make discoveries and use technology to inform themselves.  He continued with a message that can apply to ALL teachers at ALL levels, for it will be the hallmark of successful, engaged, critical thinking classrooms, and when he said the words, it gave me chills.

We need to inspire exploration.