AI tools for learning

I have been experimenting with a range of AI tools since the launch of ChatGPT last November. Over the last week I have been working on a VR pick-a-path resource, with the content created entirely with AI tools, with the exception of the 3D props that I made for parts of the decision tree, these assets were made in Tinkercad. The aim has been to see how students could use these tools to explore ideas and make their presentations more immersive.

The resource created is below:

I am now creating the teaching resource and the skills tutorials to accompany this activity, so that students and teachers can easily create this kind of content in their classrooms, provided the network administrators have not taken it upon themselves to unilaterally block all AI tools in the name of “progress”.

Fusion360 tutorials

I create software tutorials not for teachers to use, although they can, I make them as a just in time skills resource for students to use and for teachers to collate. My thinking around this effort is that integrating digital technology and a suite of tools into a classroom should not require teachers to become masters of every tool. Rather, they should curate a range of self help skills tutorials on their Google Classroom, Google Sites, SeeSaw platforms etc, so that students can access these resources as and when they need them. Creating a resource bank like this can then be used by teachers as a “comprehension tool.” Teachers can get students to watch and learn from a skills tutorial and perform a low level task to practice what they have learned, as a flipped learning opportunity. In other words, the acquisition of these skills has no impact on the teachers time and minimal impact on curriculum time.

With this philosophy in mind I have created this four tutorial series of videos to orient and quickly bring students up to speed with the requisite tools of Fusion360 in order that they can produce quality content quickly.

You can see the play list below, add it to your own curated list of skills tutorials and let me know what other skills tutorials you want to see. My next series will be based on the online version of Sketchup.

3D printing

The phone clamp on one of my mini tripods broke this week. So as I write this post, the re-designed and hopefully stronger clamp is being printed off. With a few basic skills mastered in Fusion360 it has been easy for me to design and print the replacement part.

I have been asked by a school to create a series of tutorials for them to teach students the basics they need to be able to create models in Fusion360 and then send their designs to be laser cut, CNC’d or 3D printed.

If you would like to follow my YouTube channel you will find all my previous tutorials and also be updated when I publish new ones.

Makey Makey

I have been working with a class of students for a few weeks now and we have been investigating MakeyMakeys and how these students can use them as part of their science fair investigations.

This week I was showing to the students how they can make a one touch switch using paper and tin foil to enable users to interact easily with their presentations.

Green Screening

I have been working with students in their preparations for Māori Language Week 2022. In this particular class, they want to give weather forecasts for specific locations in Aotearoa, using Māori placenames and with as much Te Reo as they can.

I have been showing them how to make stop motion green screen clips of weather icons that they can use to animate weather conditions over their maps of Aotearoa. Deconstructing the process of creation has been another great example of computational thinking as the students need to be precise and sequential in their planning and execution.


I have been working in classes all week and it has been a practical week. I love weeks like this, working with the students for a protracted period of time to work through a given problem. This week I introduced Microbits to some students and showed them how to control LEDs, servos and motors.

The aim here was to provide the students with enough skills and knowledge for them to then be able to design and build their own robots, with a Microbit brain, which could move and illuminate as they moved. The students now have to design and build these robots of their imagination, but knowing how to program the LEDs to flash, blink etc. Knowing how to control a servo to repeatedly move back and forth through a set number of degrees and to remotely control motors via a second Microbit is all the knowledge students will need to make a robot that they intimately know and understand, making troubleshooting and bug fixing an easier proposition.

Computational Thinking

It has been a good week for computational thinking. I have been able to run two staff meetings this week introducing the computational thinking aspect of the revised digital technologies curriculum at two different schools.

It is gratifying to be able to de-mystify and enthuse teachers about a part of the curriculum that they are quite often intimidated by. I get the teachers to examine their own thinking process by illustrating the computational thinking cycle to them, then give them the Marching Ants challenge. I get them to focus on the thinking strategy they undertake to solve the problem and almost universally they adopt the “brute force attack” model and promptly get stuck. This is where most students would give up. I then illustrate to the teachers how to scaffold a student through the decomposition process so that they learn a pathway of success through resilience.

Marching Ants – an unplugged computational thinking activity

New Zealand Wars

I am currently reading my way through “The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800 – 2000. It is a very illuminating read. The purpose of reading the book is for me to understand the history of the land on which I stand, from all its perspective and not just the dominant, perceived history of the colonising narrative.

The work illuminates and also challenges and shocks at the same time. It makes for good study. In partnership with this, I have also been delivering a local histories curriculum contract to a local school. It is fascinating to see the imprinted perspectives of perceived history emerge. When introduced to the revised NZ history curriculum document, whose official title is Aotearoa New Zealand Histories Curriculum, it is amazing to note just how many people miss the plural in the word Histories! That in itself provides an opportunity to probe perspectives, whose and why etc. It was Napoleon after all who said that “…history is a set of lies agreed upon.” As psychologists note, we are all heroes in our own stories and that trait extends to Governments and societies.

So today, I accompanied this same school on a trip from Pokeno to Rangiriri to investigate the histories of these sites in relation to the New Zealand Wars and the unlawful land grab and clearance that it actually was. England has skin in this game, with its own enclosure acts and clearances of the Highlands etc it had the playbook written and practised. It was a moving experience. New Zealand has its own Rubicon and instead of Ceasar, we have Governor Grey and the Mangatawhiri River.


BBC Micro:Bit

The Microbit is a great tool for any classroom, it really is the most versatile of robots. Having Microbits in the classroom, drastically reduces the “black box” magic that an off the shelf robot presents. When a student has to add servos, motors and other sensors to the CPU brain that is the Microbit, they know what they have built and therefore have a stronger foundation on which to problem solve, as by definition, the problem is one that they created.

As part of our 3D printed robotic arm, we have created this Microbit tutorial that demonstrates how to build functions that can be called by Microbits.

3D Printers

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.