Because 3d Printing IS Filled With Learning Possibilities

12331822_595296500629283_1750417245_nDownload practically anything you want from Thingiverse and spit it out. Instantly.  That has a certain cool factor, that will make you want to print a few things.  (Insert photo of a giant bolt I just had to try to print, and of course, the nut to go with it.)   I know that 3d printing is like being at “level VCR,” and a few years from now, we’ll be at “Level Netflix,” wondering how in the world we dealt with rewinding video tapes and messing with tracking.   It will be exciting to see how filament changes, how printing changes lives, and how being able to literally design and print anything will continue to change the world.

But HOW can this technology impact learning today?  You could by 100 3d printers, and unless you change HOW you teach, it won’t.    But what COULD the 3d printer enhance in the elementary classroom?  Plenty.

1.) Collaboration.  Sure, having every kid print something they found on Thingiverse would be fun for the class.  But having the kids design something together using Tinkercad, or MorphiApp, and you’ve drawn them into a shared purpose.  First, they’ll rely on each other to learn the program.  And if the task is authentic? They’ll be brainstorming together, sketching ideas, and creating a shared product. Teamwork makes the dream work, right?

2.) Get Characters In The Story.  Find a real problem in the school that students could improve. Design and print a game for younger learners in the school, then teach them to play it.  Develop a character, print it, write a story about it, then give it to a younger child… even better? What if the character WAS the younger child, as a super hero, in the story, and printed as an action figure?

3.) Models.  After I printed the giant bolt, I thought, printing this five times, in different sizes, would be an excellent way to talk about scale with kids – because they can see it. It could lead to excellent investigations on measurement, volume, and even elapsed time by seeing how long it took to print.

4.) Mystery Object.  Put the object in a box, let students peak.  Then ask them to write an imaginative story about where the object came from. Did the giant bolt come from the Space Shuttle?  Or is it the bolt from the handle of Paul Bunyan’s Ax?

12331923_150025495356952_1658358356_n 5.) Strength Test:  The inside of 3d printed objects is totally interesting engineering.  The squares, the honeycomb patterns.  How do they relate to animal structures in nature?  How strong are they? Will the hold the weight of a brick?  How might you replicate the pattern with cardboard to strengthen or design furniture?

6.) Design and print a shipping container for a Pringles chip or other object to protect it.   Exchange with another class and see if the design works.

7.) Historically Speaking: Develop, create, and print a new monument celebrating your state (or country’s) history.  Or, design an object that would change a historical moment. Print it and rewrite history.

3d printing probably going to be amazing to me even when I’m 80 and I say things like, back in my thirties my prints took 4 hours.  Either way, it can bring a whole new level of learning to the classroom, if you set up some situations where kids are in creation mode, or if you allow the creations to bring in new learning opportunities.    But a 3d printer also has potential to be an uninspiring “worksheet” that kids repeat, regurgitate, and reprint with.   The best part of that?  You can make sure that doesn’t happen.  Set up the possibilities, be prepared to unclog the extruder, and let them build their learning, one drop of filament at a time.  And when you’re 80, you’ll have some cool stories to tell about how you were there when it all began.



Probably Something Awesome

basicneedsYou know that feeling when you’re in a hot, stuffy elevator and you think, “Gosh, I just need some air.” It’s a terrible feeling. Stifling. Like you’re trapped and the walls feel small. It’s like being trapped in a box that is moving at a pace you cannot control. The doors open and you are so relieved that you can step off. Freedom. Fresh air, movement, and your own pace restored.

It’s just like learning. We’ve all been a student in the classroom that stifles us. I can remember it in Junior High. I watched the clock until my eyelids were heavy. Endless lectures about stuff I can no longer remember and long tests full of details that weren’t really about anything meaningful. Not my pace and the air always felt… stifling.

There are so many other ways to get from one floor to another… a fireman’s pole, a hot air balloon, a twisty slide, wings, or even giant suction cups on the side of the building.

It’s about possibilities. The kind we need more of in learning. What would happen if the doors opened, the box became filled with air and creativity? Probably something awesome.

But we’ll never know unless we try.


Ready? Set. Make!

makerspace1Create. Collaborate. Iterate. Dream. Reflect. Design. Take risks. It’s the stuff learning is made of.  Not the kind you find in a textbook or in testing practice. The kind you find in the world.  The kind that grabs a hold of your interests, ignites your passions, and launches you into a space where there are possibilities.  The kind that is messy and tangled and amazing.   We all need to be reminded of what true, authentic learning really is.  Deeper than standards, into a space where connections are made with each other and with the world.  Let’s make that happen.

Or you could just turn to page 26 and continue following the textbook company’s idea of what will engage your learners.


Click poster to open largest version, right click to download, and print on your own for FREE.   Or, visit MagCloud to order 12×18 prints.   NOTE: The posters will not automatically relinquish control of learning to the learner, that’s up to you.  


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Click poster to open largest version, right click to download, and print on your own for FREE.   Or, visit MagCloud to order 12×18 prints.   NOTE: The posters will not automatically relinquish control of learning to the learner, that’s up to you.  

What’s Your Message?

createeverydayI believe each of us has a message to the world. It’s not a brand. I’m not a Hershey bar or Nike.   And my message is not chocolate or colorful shoes, although I love both.  I suppose there are days when we believe that message is something that doesn’t make a difference, and on other days, we know our message is one that can change the world. It’s on those days that we make bold moves.  If we’re lucky, the days of being bold outnumber the days where we hold back.

I’ve made bold moves before. But, mostly the kind where I keep the ship tied to the dock, and pull myself back in. I believed so much in dreams that I succumbed to voices that told me creativity was a waste of time, and that the very person I was, was too focused on creativity. So, I held back. I tried to become something I wasn’t. I tried to turn off a part of my heart. And it broke it. This has happened more than once in my life – and it happened in school as a kid, and as an adult. I think it’s the entire reason why the passion inside me for changing school and making school more burns so very strong.  It’s why things like Project Based Learning, Design Thinking, Technology, Innovation, Maker Movement, and STEAM give me so much hope. Because I waited for those things as a kid. And I know that kids are waiting for us.

The fact is, an invitation is never going to come to truly be yourself. That is all on you. And you can start right now. This journey? It’s happening right at this moment. Your soul speaks YOUR message and once you commit to it, you’ll have nothing else to worry about. Every twist, turn, failure will only make you stronger. That strength will lead you toward your goals. That’s right. When you totally fail, it will become a rock of failure that you can climb to the top of.

And before you know it, the message on your heart will be clear because you’ll be living it.

My message is clear to me.  Creativity? It Matters. It draws out the uniqueness in every single one of us that the world needs. When it’s missing from learning? We’re not really learning, or living. It’s the very thing that draws me into schools, technology, global connections, gifted education, Swatch watches, colorful scarves, poster-making, metaphors, duct tape collections, robots, colorful Converse, creating ultimate learning experiences for teachers and kids, and having a Lego iphone cover. It’s the little things and the big things. It’s who I am.

And, never again in my life, will I allow the voices of others to drown my soul and try to squelch who I am, nor apologize for it.  Because I’ve felt what happens when I do, and that’s a darkness that is unbearable.

I’m far from perfect, but I’m perfectly imperfect. Because I’m in that space where there is failure, accomplishment, collaboration, support, love, growth, and the kind of joy that’s there when the sun rises.  I’m in that space where raw honesty makes me happy, even when it’s uncomfortable.  Because that uncomfortableness? It’s me.

And that’s about as bold as I can get.


Matters of Creativity: 10 Things to Stay Sane During State Testing

A special edition of 10 Creative Things to Inspire.  If it’s THAT time of year at your school, you know, testing time, you’ll want to remember to spend your off-testing time connecting with your kids, enjoying their conversations, focusing on the good in education. Testing can be strenuous, stressful, and so hard to get through.  That booklet full of questions?  That student who wants help but you have to say, “Sorry, I can’t help.” That quiet. Quiet. Tick. Tick. Tick.  So, breathe in, and breathe out, and get some extra creative time in.  Nothing will get kids thinking juices flowing like some FUN and inspiration… and guess what, it will get your teaching juices flowing to.

1.) Build a Catapult:   How about launching marshamallows??!  Experiment with a variety of designs. Measure and graph the data. Find the class average for distance launched. Host a tournament and create spirit flags for your teams.

2.) Host a Scavenger Hunt:  I came across this Maths Scavenger Hunt and thought about how much kids would LOVE this.  You can adjust it to fit whatever your students needs and curriculum are for the year. You could even add in some personal fun items that you and your class would know.

3.) Make a Completely Nonsense Dictionary:  It’s fun to make up words.  EXAMPLE: Badoozle: A Noun. It’s the part on a car that signals the horn to beep when someone cuts you off.   Kids just practiced parts of speech. And thinking about a new word in a new way is creative fun.  Share the words on a collaborative site like “Padlet.”   Partner with another class, Skype, and then share your Padlet.  Challenge kids to write a story with the new words or use the words in class. Some of the words will stick.. and who knows, may be a new word  in the next Webster’s.

4.) Build Your Wild Self:  This is so fun.  It says Grades 2-6, but I enjoyed it.  Kids can print it.   They could create adventure tales or use their new self, printed out and cut in outline form,  in a stop motion video with a background they design.

5.) So You Wanna Be An Architect?  In this simulation, kids select a client and create a design for them.  Why not have them try out the simulation, then interview a real client with a real issue?  Maybe the school principal about library?  Maybe interview the art teacher about challenges with space he’s facing?  Encourage kids to design a new learning space.

6.) ThisIsSand:  It’s relaxing to drop and move the sand.  Sometimes we just all need to breathe deep, destress, and create.  Teach kids how to take a Screen Shot of their sand, a tool available on the left, embed in a Word Document, and write Haikus about their sand picture just designed.  Or, gather all the sand paintings and ask a student to place them in to Animoto with some relaxing music for the class to view.

7.)  Try Social Media:  Did you know you can create a class “Twitter” like environment using Twiducate?  It’s a great little tool to set up to use in your classroom to model social media use.  Kids love to play a game called ‘Who Am I?”  You select a famous historical figure, and the kids tweet yes or no questions to you and the class tries to guess who it is.


8.) Mosaic Maker:  Zoopz has lots of thinking games.  In Mosaic Maker, kids can select colors and create a picture just like real tiles.  It might also be fun to use this to introduce mosaics and then make some with construction paper.  A fun way to unwind and also practicing spatial planning and creativity!

9.) Kerbal Space Program:  Build a spacecraft and launch it to space.  Kerbal Space Program is an awesome interactive. It has a great free demo that kids will enjoy trying out and experimenting with.  It’s also a reminder of the creativity involved in the space program.  Go STEAM!

10.) Make Sunshine for Someone Else:  What about creating a SUN with a circular shaped Tagxedo word cloud in the middle… with words about what another person means to you or your school.  What better way to spend some creative time than making someone special for someone else to brighten their day?  Consider staff around the school who might not get recognized as often, but that are very much appreciated. Ask kids to brainstorm what they might create to brighten their day.  Start a kindness campaign. Giving back will brighten your day too.

This has become a series of posts. “Matters of Creativity: 10 Things to Inspire”   The internet is filled with ways to inspire kids, your classroom, and to brighten a dreary day. I’m happy to share them here.  If you have a great creative resource, please comment and share and I’ll add it in to next week’s edition. 



Matters of Creativity: 10 Things To Inspire


Creativity in the classroom isn’t optional, it’s essential.  It’s motivating, engaging, and supports the idea of taking risks to develop new ideas. Here are ten discoveries from around the web can inspire your kids next week….

1.) Tiny Worlds in Jars:   Ever see a tiny world created in a jar?  These are inspiring to the imagination.  Give kids a jar and ask them to create a world. Write stories about the world. Design a new land, or a past land.

2.) Codea:  I have to really love an app that’s $9.99, but this one?  Wow.  Touch code.  Create games.  So many kids have ipads in their hands playing games like Angry Birds, why not give them the tools and time to create their own games?

3.) Toys in Action: Ever wonder what your toys do when you are sleeping? A photographer captured them.  Imagine if kids brought their favorite toy to school, or if you teach older kids, ask them to take the photos to provide younger students with writing prompts.  These photos could engage kids in solving math problems, writing poetry, or most of all, thinking outside the box.  It would be great if students left their favorite toy at school overnight, and the teacher snapped photos of them in the classroom as a surprise writing project.

4.) Animals On the Metro:  Just take a look at one of these photos and think of all the questions it would spark… better yet, ask kids to come up with questions about the photo.  Examples:  What would happen if a giraffe rode the metro?   How would you find the volume of a metro car?  How many giraffes, based on your estimate of their size, might fit in one metro car?  Write a letter from the giraffe to another telling about his experience on the metro.

5.) Host a MakerFaire.. on your Ipads!  Caution: Looking at this list is going to result that you end up down the rabbit hole of making… you’ve been warned. 😉  An amazing list to satisfy kids who love to design, create, problem solve, engineer, and learn.

6.) Makey Makey:  The possibilities are endless when you give kids something to create with… and that includes making something with Makey Makey.  Instead of trying to figure out what kids could make with it, just hand it over to them and ask them what they would like to create.  Oh, and that science standard about circuits that usually contains a bland “please draw a diagram of the circuit” just got real interesting. Here’s a great article about how one teacher integrated Makey Makey.

7.) Soundation: Looking for the perfect music? Create it.  What would a song telling the story of the design of the Statue of Liberty sound like?  What type of music would you play to fit this week’s chapter in our current novel?  Create a song with our partner class in {insert location in the world} using Google Hangout!

8.) Book Creator:  I’m a firm believer that giving kids a global audience empowers their learning by showing them how much their work matters.  By creating a book that is displayed on a classroom blog or shared with parents via email, their work is no longer going home in their backpack bottom.  Imagine the possibilities for any age group, working collaboratively, designing curriculum materials based on their learning, and sharing with each other.   That’s not the only app for book creation, more are shared here. 8837053882_547e64bb11_o

9.) Inklewriter.   Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure Books?  You can write those on Inklewriter.  Create options and allow the reader to choose.  I immediately thought of historical events.  What if kids summarized a historical happening, but then also contained parts where readers could choose what would happen if?  The thinking required to analyze a historical event and re-create history? Powerful, engaging, and fun.

10.) Markers and Cardboard:   I know, it’s not a link. It’s not digital.  But it’s  a reminder that creativity isn’t about expensive tools.  Some times, the only thing kids need to get creative is a pile of cardboard, markers, and freedom.  Set their creativity free.  And watch their learning soar.