Sunday, May 31, 2015

My students actually printed in 3D

Students watching Pinkie Pie at work
Since I first saw a 3D printer demonstration, I've been thinking about how to put that technology to use in my classroom. Luckily I was able to work out a partnership with my local library to make it happen.

Tinkercad was an ideal design platform
We kicked off our project with a visit from Nick Madsen, the teen services librarian, and his 3D printer, Pinkie Pie. He printed a mustache for our class while explaining the basic idea behind 3D printing: "It's like a computer-controlled hot glue gun that shoots out plastic instead of glue." My students were amazed, as was my principal, custodian, and many other staff members who poked their heads in the room to see 3D printing in person.

My 4th grade math class used Tinkercad to create their own 3D printed nametags. I was really impressed with how easily they could create with Tinkercad: after spending two class periods on tutorials, students were able to make their own designs in under an hour. Plus, Tinkercad worked flawlessly on Chromebooks. I gave my students some parameters on size, but the designs were entirely up to them. I also used the design process to sneak in some instruction on perimeter and area.

I uploaded using the library's Skyforge site
The finished nametags were great! Nearly all my students were happy with the way their designs turned out. I wish we had more time to use the finished products to do some measuring and scaling work, but testing schedules and end of the year field trips made that impossible.

I definitely want to do more with 3D printing next year and integrate it into more lessons. I'll start by seeking some grant money to fund a printer at our school. Our art teacher has a lot of ideas for it, too, so we'll probably collaborate on a way to bring 3D printing to our school.

The finished product
Do you have any recommendations when it comes to 3D printing equipment? Or maybe you have an idea to share on using 3D printing with elementary students. Please share your ideas in the comments below or contact me on Twitter. And I'll keep you updated as I continue to experiment and refine...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The swinging new sounds of professional development

Since becoming my official Building Technology Leader, I've been working to provide meaningful professional development to my colleagues. I often share a new tool or idea with my staff at our collaboration sessions or staff meetings. I have made it a priority to give teachers time to discuss, experiment, and play with new technology in my sessions, but everyone seems a little reserved and hesitant and I can tell that many are much more concerned with the impending morning bell and preparing for the day to come. I knew I could make professional development more engaging and memorable. Press 'play' below, read on, and see what I mean.

Welcome to Monday Morning Appy Hour!

Care for a drink? It's okay, these mimosas are made with 7-Up, not champagne. Fire up that iPad and learn about a few new apps.

Stemware & iPads: what a combination!
The content of Monday Morning Appy Hour wasn't radically different from my other PD sessions. I shared SeeSaw, ChatterPix, Shadow Puppet EDU, and Telestory, discussed the importance of moving students from consumers to creators, and gave everyone some time to try the apps and generate ideas on how they could be used in the classroom. The attitude and level of participation, though, was a huge improvement from my past morning trainings. Everyone was having fun, and they were really discussing how they could use these tools in their classrooms.

So, is providing refreshments the key to engaging PD? I don't think so. I transformed my classroom and broke everyone there out of the expected environment. I've done it before for my students by disguising myself as a signer of the Constitution and being my own substitute teacher for the day or starting class with kindergarten-style circle time for fifth graders, but I'd never transformed a presentation intended for other teachers.

PD featuring the smooth instructional stylings of
Jim Windisch
In Teach Like a Pirate, author Dave Burgess devotes an entire chapter to transformation. In the chapter, he asks a powerful question: "If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching in an empty room?" Teachers are busy; they have a lot to do to be ready for the day each morning. As much as they want to learn new technology, I know my PD sessions wouldn't be everyone's first choice for that precious before-school time. This session was optional, but most of my school's staff was there. In fact, after the first couple teachers came in, received their drink and heard the lounge music, they went and grabbed others because "Mrs. X just needs to see this!" It went from a training to an event.

Making it fun loosened everyone up. They were excited to participate. The room was full of terrific conversations about giving students opportunities to create. I jumped in to support and tell some lousy jokes, but I refrained from actually doing any lounge singing. 

It was also a memorable experience. I feel like breaking away from the ordinary got the morning's content stuck in the participants' heads. Instead of having teachers ask me to remind them the names of the apps, they're coming to me to share how they've incorporated them into lessons and looking for support to take it a step further.

I'm sure this is only my first foray into transforming professional development. I'm already thinking of themes for future sessions. And I'll keep you updated at I continue to experiment and refine. 

Thank you, thank you, and especially, thank you. Remember to tip generously. I'll be here all week!