I was working in a school today and was determined to get their 3D printer up and running. I had spotted it earlier this year sitting on a shelf in the photocopy room, jammed in between boxes of paper and at the bottom of the shelf. It had clearly been there for a long time.
3D printers can be so awesome in a learning environment, so long as what the students are printing out is worthwhile and not just novely stuff. This is when the purchase of a 3D printer runs out of steam educationally.
So today I got it going, got the kids going, got the teachers going and the printer is out of the photocopy room and actually in the classroom. I have furnished the teachers with a range of ideas, backed by teaching resources I have created that fully and meaningfully integrate 3D printing into a curriculum area. My Matariki 3D printed LED badge project is a good example of this.
Once the machine was up and running it acted like a magnet, drawing the students in, they still think its cool, the task now is to maintain that momentum and ensure that the printer is constantly used to print out educationally significant content, designed by the students.
We have been creating resources to support the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories Curriculum #ANZH and taking the opportunity to integrate different technologies into this curriculum area to engage students in their work and to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the differing perspectives of the past that weave together.
Using TinkerCad and CoSpaces we have created a resource that enables students to understand learn and investigate the how of Māori Pacific migrations, an epic undertaking. As part of that resource we also created support tutorials to help students acquire the skills they require to be successful with the technology needed to investigate and model deep water navigation by Māori.
What is a robot? There are plenty of off-the-shelf robots that schools can purchase, but these can also be “black box” robots where there is no construction just problems to solve. If a robot is just a series of set problems to solve it can make them very prescriptive and potentially limiting, reducing robotics to a programmed slot in the timetable, rather than integrating them into what the students are actually working on.
We have developed a range of simple robots that can be built by students from simple component parts. We believe that building a robot, actually builds understanding and ownership. A key element of computational thinking is actually de-bugging, so when a robot that a student has built themselves does not perform as expected, they have a much better base of understanding to start from if they have actually built it.
We have designed this robot using Fusion360 and have 3D printed the chassis, but the students could easily do the same to adapt their robot to fit/suit the needs of what they are investigating.
Continuing my search to create deeper learning opportunities and high engagement with the content of the Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum, I have just begun to investigate lithophanes. I am in the process of creating support materials for teachers to enable them to use this technique for students to combine technologies to present their work in a different way. I am still ironing out the kinks of the workflow, in order to make the integration of lithophanes accessible for both teachers and students, but the initial results are looking really encouraging.
Below is an image I took whilst at Te Papa at The Scale of Our War exhibit and then turned that image into a backlit, 3D-printed lithophane. I think the results are stunning.
I have been thinking about how to use technology in innovative ways to make the new Aotearoa New Zealand Histories curriculum accessible and engaging to students. I like to use technology not only as a presentation tool, but as a tool that can be used to engage and draw students deeper into their understanding of the work they are doing. I have created a Pacfic Migrations unit that combines two different technologies to meet the goal of engagement and deeper understanding.