3D Jewelry Artists in 1st Grade Using Blokify

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In my latest collaboration with our superstar art teacher, Rita Foretich, we are crafting with 1st graders.  One of her art standards has to do with students creating a craft, which is defined as an art creation that serves a purpose.  Rita is always pushing herself as a teacher to try new things and stretch the boundaries of what kids have experiences with. Along with this standard she wanted students to work with technology and to design in 3D.  What resulted was an art project where 1st graders are designing pendants in a 3D design tool called Blokify, 3D printing those pendants, and then using them in art to create a functional necklace.

When Rita first told me about her ideas for this project, my first reaction was whether or not Blokify was the right tool.  I had made pendants and charms in other tools like Tinkercad, but I knew that Tinkercad would be very tricky to do with a 1st grade class in the time frame we had.  Blokify is very user-friendly for very early learners, but I had trouble envisioning a pendant.  I even tweeted out to ask other people what they thought.

What helped me in the end?  Tinkering.  During our book fair, I pulled out an iPad and just tinkered at making a charm.  I can’t say that I came up with anything brilliant, but I did come up with some examples to help students see. The most helpful thing was for them to be able to visualize what the hole for the string might look like.

Each 1st grade class came to the library during their art time.  Ms. Foretich started the lesson with a quick video of a Makerbot in action.

It was fun to hear students talk about what was happening in the video because at this point many of them knew that it was a 3D printer, which would not have been the case a few years ago. Then, we showed the students the Blokify program. I really didn’t go into a lot of detail, but I showed them how to zoom in and out, how to add a block, and how to change blocks.  Then, students had time to tinker at tables and get familiar with the Blokify program.

Ms. Foretich and I walked around to assist students who were getting frustrated as well as encourage students to try various parts of Blokify such as adding a row, deleting blocks, switching worlds, and switching blocks.  Tinkering looked very different this year than it has in previous years, and my hunch is that students have more experience with Minecraft now, so they make the connection to this very similar program. I saw students being much more intentional about block placement even in tinkering instead of just tapping all over the screen.

We invited students back to the carpet after their tinkering sessions and gave them the specific task of the day: to design a one-layer pendant. We showed the examples that I had made as well as samples from other classes that had already printed.

Then, students went back to iPads and started a fresh design.  They only had a short amount of work time to create their designs, and I was so impressed with what some of them came up with.  They were so much more creative than my own designs!  As each student finished we had to email the files to a central email.  I had the email account pulled up on the board so that we could see if the emails came through.  Many of them didn’t, so we were slowed down by errors.  We had to go into the outbox of the email on the iPad and resend most of the emails.  For students that we couldn’t email in time, we put post-its on the iPads so that we could email the files after they left.

Amazed at the designs 1st graders come up with for 3D pendants. #studentwork #studentvoice #3dprinting #makerspace #librariesofinstagram

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On the library calendar, I blocked off time slots for me to specifically work on prepping all of the files for 3d printing.  When you are working with over 100 .stl files to print, it’s time consuming.  I was able to put about 8 pendants on each print plate.  Each plate takes anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on how large I make the pendants.  I name each file “Pendant 1”, “Pendant 2”, etc.  Then, on a sheet of paper I write out the name and teacher of each individual pendant on the plate.  These names are also written onto Ziploc bags so that finished prints can go into the bags ready for the art teacher.

1st grade blokify charms are 3D printing this morning. #makerspace #3dprinting #jewelry #studentwork #librariesofinstagram

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I can’t wait to see how the final necklaces turn out once they return to art class.  This has been an adventurous collaboration full of challenges, but there have been many rewards along the way too.  It was especially rewarding to see some students shine at using Blokify even when they might struggle in other subject areas.

Organizing over 100 prints for art class. #makerspace #artsed #3dprinting #organization

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Using Makerspace to Extend Curriculum: A Geology Project

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Third grade studies rocks and minerals as a part of their science standards. In Ms. Hicks class, they have been extending their research of rocks and minerals to create their own Blendspace lessons to teach others facts about rocks and minerals. They are even including pre-tests and post-tests in their lessons. As a part of this Blendspace project, students started thinking about how they might design their own climbing wall for our school based on their research.

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Ms. Hicks asked me what tool we might use to design and prototype of a climbing wall, and I immediately thought of Tinkercad. We have used Tinkercad for other projects and have found it to be one of the better tools for 3d design at the elementary level. Students came to the library to learn a bit about how Tinkercad works.

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I gave them a very quick tutorial which basically showed them things like adding a work plane, dragging over geometric shapes, resizing shapes, and building up.

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I created two generic accounts that students share rather than creating an account for every student. Half of them logged in with one account and half with the other. Their goal was to tinker during the first lesson to see what they could figure out, but their tinkering was a bit more focused than usual. Ms. Hicks really wanted them to already start envisioning their climbing wall as they were tinkering. Some of them latched onto the tool and really got a jumpstart on designing, while others tried something and started over several times.

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One student thought we was being a bit silly by trying to design a chicken instead of a climbing wall, but we turned this into a learning opportunity. I thought about the climbing wall that is at our own Omni Club here in Athens. It is shaped like a giant bulldog, so I pulled it up on the screen to show that he could in fact design his rock all to look like a chicken if he really thought about how people would climb a giant chicken. Instead of shutting him down, his wheels were turning about what he might try, and he is in fact now designing a penguin rock wall.

Other students started thinking about which rocks and minerals would be the best choices for the climbing wall based on their strength and also their color. They referenced their research and the Mohs hardness scale to choose rocks and minerals that would hold up a climber. As they did this, they changed the colors and shapes of the climbing pieces on their walls to represent their different choices. Not all students were ready for this level of thinking, but when we found students who were thinking in this way, we encouraged them to share what they were doing in the hopes of giving other students ideas.

 

One student even let me record a snippet of his thinking about his own rock wall choices.

The students have worked on these designs for 3 work sessions. As they finish, they are taking screen shots of their designs and adding them to Blendspace with an explanation of their design. In the future, we plan to export their designs as .stl files so that we can actually 3d print their prototypes when they are ready to present.

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I loved this real world application of rocks and minerals because it showed students that there are actually careers where you might consider some of the facts that they are learning in science. There was so much higher order thinking built into this project, especially this design piece. I had some great conversation with students as they referenced their research to find the specific rocks and minerals they wanted to use. One conversation involved a student specifically wanting a rock that was yellow. He kept Googling different rocks he knew to see if they came in yellow. When he finally found one of the feldspar family that was yellow, he noticed that the website description referenced Bob’s Rock Shop. We had a great conversation about the importance of digging into the website to really see where the information was coming from, and he found that the information actually did come from a reliable source within that site.

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I hope that we can find ways to share the work that this class is doing in the hopes of inspiring students at all levels to apply what they are doing to really world experiences. It would be fascinating to actually see this climbing wall come to life and have o

Winter Design Challenge Using Blokify and 3D Printing

Blokify Design Challenge (5)Our open makerspace on Tuesdays and Thursdays is taking a break while UGA is having finals and winter break.  However, the demand to use the makerspace doesn’t disappear just because UGA is on break.  I decided to have a design challenge makerspace on two days and feature the Blokify app and our 3D printers. Since 3D printing takes a long time to complete, I decided to create some rules to help us out with the number of pieces we would need to print in a short amount of time.

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Rules:

  1. Design a winter symbol.  Any winter holidays or winter objects could serve as inspiration
  2. Design in 1 layer.  The more layers we have, the longer it takes, so we want our designs to be 1 layer only.
  3. Use Blokify to design and don’t worry about the colors of the blocks since your print will be whatever filament color we use.
  4. All blocks need to be connected so that your design prints in 1 piece.

Since Blokify uses blocks to design in 3D, I found some 8-bit winter designs to serve as inspiration for student winter designs.  I blocked off six 30-minute time slots on the library calendar and made a Google doc for teachers to sign students up.  I shared it with all teachers and encourage them to let any interested students come.  There were 8 slots in each time block.  It didn’t take long for the slots to fill with Kindergarten, 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.

During each session, I gave a very quick intro to Blokify and shared the 8-bit winter designs to consider.  I went over the rules as well, and students jumped onto the iPads to work.  It was a short amount of time to design something, so I told students not to panic if they didn’t finish a design.  As usual, students began looking at one another’s work for inspiration and helped one another with Blokify tips such as how to zoom in, delete blocks, or change the view.

It was fun to see what some of the students came up with and which students naturally gravitated toward this type of design because of their previous experience with block tools such as Minecraft.  We had Santas, a menorah, Christmas trees, snowflakes, reindeer, presents, crosses, and a few randomly shaped symbols too.

A few students did get frustrated, but most of them persevered through their frustration to complete a design.

Once designs were done, we had a process for getting them to me for 3D printing.  I created a separate email account just for 3D files.  Students went to “3D print” on Blokify and selected “Email to me”.  They emailed the .stl file to the 3D printing email account.  In the subject of the email, they changed the “untitled” file to their first name and teacher’s name.  This would help me in getting the printed file back to students.

At the end of the day, I sat down, logged into the email account, and started putting the .stl files into Makerware and Cubify.  Makerware works with our Makerbot and Cubify works with our Cube 3D printer.  For Makerware, I put up to 3 student files in a row on the build plate.  On a separate piece of paper, I wrote down the main file name and then wrote the student/teacher name in the correct sequence that the files would print on the plate.  For Cubify, I could only put on design on the build plate at a time, so I named each of those files with the student/teacher name.

cubify

Once all of the files were complete, I loaded them on a USB stick for the Cube and an SD card for the Makerbot.  Each day, I come in and crank up both printers right away and start printing the files.

I write the student/teacher name on a Ziploc bag and lay them out in the right order of the floor to await the finished print.  When a print finishes, I remove and bag them.  Then, I immediately start a new print.  I’m making good progress and hope to have all of the designs printed by Friday.  It takes a lot of organization to get this moving efficiently, but I finally have a process that is working faster than how I originally started.

Even with the speed I’m working at, the kids are still dropping by to ask if their design is done.

I loved the experience of having a design challenge and hope that the students did too.  I think if I offer these types of experiences more often, the students will start to develop their own ideas for 3D designs.  They will also get more comfortable with the 3D design tools.  We will try others in future design challenges along with Blokify.

Student Voice Extended Through 3D Printing

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At the very beginning of the year, a student raced into the library to tell me about his goal to design and 3D print his own Skylanders figures.  He knew what he wanted to do, but I worried about how his enthusiasm might be lost in the demands of the curriculum standards. His story led me to my goal this year of “empowering student voice”.

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I spent time showing him Tinkercad and he did design his own figure and 3D print it.

When you take time to honor an individual student voice like this, you sometimes wonder if the time with one student in a school of 600 is worth it, but it is!  Recently, this same student decided that he wanted 3D printing to be part of a book project he was working on. His class just finished reading The Westing Game and each group of students is working on a book float to highlight things that they learned about the book.  His group immediately emailed me to see if they could use the 3D printer to design a chess piece for the float.

They worked independently of me and the knowledge of using Tinkercad was passed on to all 4 members of the group.  They even branched off and made their own designs and chose their favorite from the group designs.  They were bubbling with excitement to get their design printed.  Since it had lots of hanging edges, it required supports.  Supports take a long time to remove, but the group took turns coming in and working on removing the supports with my help.

Now this one student voice has empowered 3 more, and my hope is that those 4 voices will continue to empower even more.

Providing Space for the Miraculous

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I’m a planner.  In my personal life, I like schedules, details, and wouldn’t consider myself very spontaneous.  However, in education, I’ve learned to push this part of me aside and embrace flexibility.  It isn’t always easy, but it is essential.  When I meet with teachers to plan a collaborative project, we definitely put together a strong plan, but nothing makes me happier than hearing teachers say “let’s just see where this goes”.  Phrases like that mean that we are giving ourselves permission to be flexible.  We are providing space to look for miraculous things that are taking place right before our eyes.  If we script every step of a project, then the project gets done, but at what cost?  To me, the cost is student voice.  When we structure lessons and projects too much, we miss the opportunities to listen to individual student voices and interests.  We miss opportunities that might be waiting for us out in the world with experts, other schools, developers, and more just because it doesn’t fit on our timeline.

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Here’s a perfect example of what can happen when space is provided for the miraculous to happen.

During our 2nd grade black history project, we made numerous changes to our plans.  I’ve written several posts about this, but to summarize, we:

  • made the project more authentic by creating our own award called the Barrow Peace Prize
  • established our own criteria for the award, which matched numerous character traits that students study in social studies
  • housed all of the student videos on Flipgrid and linked them on a Google site with our embedded voting tool
  • created a medal using our 3d printer to honor the person from black history who won the votes

When we planned this project, we knew that certain components would be there such as time to research, time to write persuasive pieces, and time to record videos.  One thing we didn’t know when we started was that we would actually create a medal on the 3D printer.  Because we allowed ourselves to be flexible, to give individual students voice, and to look for the miraculous, an individual student was able to design and create a 3d-printed Barrow Peace Prize.

Taylor, our student designer, has been so proud of his work.  This one moment where we provided space for the miraculous has given him and our school some other incredible moments.  Taylor was able to share his work with Okle Miller’s Kindergarten students in Tampa, FL via Skype and inspire them to make their own inventions.  He also shared his work with the Flipgrid team in Minneapolis during our Skype.

While Taylor was designing his work, I was of course sharing it on Twitter.  Brad Hosack, co-founder of Flipgrid, half-jokingly replied:

This one tweet made us think even more.  We originally just planned to print one medal and share it among all of the 2nd grade teachers in honor of the winner of the black history votes, but because we gave ourselves space for flexibility, other miraculous things happened.  We printed enough medals to put one in each 2nd grade class so that now students can take turns in their classroom holding or wearing the medal, and we also sent some to Flipgrid headquarters in Minneapolis, MN.

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Now, Taylor’s 3D creation is hanging in Minneapolis with Flipgrid’s many other awards.  How miraculous is that?

The Flipgrid team proudly displays their Barrow Peace Prize medals along with their numerous other awards.

It is stories like these that remind me of the importance of slowing down and being flexible.  Planning is still crucial, but I’m reminded that I shouldn’t plan so much that it hinders the amazing things that can happen when we let go of control and see what happens.  I encourage you to give it a try.

Using the 3D Printer to Empower Student Voice: A New Piece of Our Barrow Peace Prize Flipgrid Project

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Any time I implement a collaborative project, there are way more ideas swirling around in my head than we can actually pull off.  This year, our Flipgrid Black History Project has gone through so many changes.  Several of these changes were ideas that we had last year.  One of those ideas was the concept of moving this project to something more authentic than designing the next postage stamp.  We wanted something that was more within our control that students could actually have a voice in deciding.  We came up with the Barrow Peace Prize.  I’ve written a few posts about this project already this year.

One day an idea just popped into my head that we really need an actual “Barrow Peace Prize” to present when we announce which person from Black History will receive this honor this year.  Since we have a makerspace in our library with a 3D printer, I knew it was certainly possible for us to make a professional award.  I considered how this might happen.  Should I ask an older student who had experience with 3D printing but no real connection to the project?  Was there a 2nd grader who might work with an older student to design our award?

Then, a student voice came through during one our enrichment cluster sessions.  Taylor is a 2nd grader who has tinkered with all sorts of things in our makerspace.  At our last enrichment cluster session, Taylor brought in a pair of spy glasses.  They are glasses that have mirrors build in so that you can see what is behind you. He wanted to learn how he could design something like this by using Tinkercad and our 3D printer.  He had never used Tinkercad before, but he jumped right in and started tinkering.  He had a clear plan in his mind of what he wanted to create and in one session he had an initial design for his glasses.

Ideas and student voice collided and I knew that Taylor was the designer for our Barrow Peace Prize.  By the time this all happened it was just days before our Skype with Flipgrid and the announcement of our award, so I emailed his teacher just to see if it was possible to pull him into the library at some point to work with me on a design.  One of the things I love so much about our school is how much our teachers know each individual student and how much they want them to explore their passions.  His teacher wanted to do everything possible to make this happen.  We scheduled a time…..and he was absent.   We scheduled another time…..and he was absent.  The third time was the charm apparently because on the day before our Skype with Flipgrid, he was here.

I brought him into the library and told him about the idea.  He was beyond excited to get to work.  I showed him one of the designs that I had tinkered with.

One of my designs as I was tinkering with the idea of a peace prize

Being the kind student that he is, he said, “Well….I do like how you included the word peace, but I was thinking it should be more like a medal”.

I handed over the mouse and he got right to work.  I really sat back and let Taylor drive the work, but if I saw a tip that would help him I jumped in and shared.  For example, he didn’t know about grouping objects in Tinkercad so that they always stay together as you move them.

Within 30 minutes, he had his design ready to go and we put it into Makerware to prepare it for 3D printing.

 

Taylor’s Tinkercad Design

Taylor picked out his filament to look like an actual medal, and he pressed the glowing M to get it started.  While he was gone, this happened.

We are very used to failure in our makerspace.  I’m not really sure what happened, but I think the filament got tangled on the spool and caused some stress on the printer.  We decided to make some very minor tweaks and also to print it smaller than we were trying to print.

Taylor came in when the other print was nearing its finish and we talked about the first print failure.  He picked up the failure and started showing me all of the things that went right in the print.  It was an amazing examination of work.  Seeing a student not reach a point of frustration or meltdown, but instead, look for what was right and what needed to change was simply miraculous.

We did keep a close eye on this 2nd print, and before we knew it, we had a medal.

Even our friends at Flipgrid think this student voice is awesome.

Like many people, we are not having the best luck with weather right now, so we hope we are able to connect with Flipgrid very soon and announce the winner of the Barrow Peace Prize.  For now, we will celebrate that one more student’s voice was empowered through the makerspace in our library.

Recent Scenes from Our Makerspace and an Exciting Update!

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Our library makerspace has been a bustling place over the past few weeks.  I’ve still been holding some periodic makerspace recess sessions where students can signup to come and explore the space and what it has to offer.  Several students have been coming on a regular basis on their own.  This started as one or two students asking to come and then those students told some other students.  Before I knew it, I had a good problem on my hands.  I’ve been trying to find a good way to organize the process of students coming to use the space on their own.

At the moment, the process is that students send me an email if they want to start using the space on their own.  I make sure to put an appointment on the library calendar to introduce them to the space and set some parameters of what they can and cannot do.  Once I feel like the student is responsible, he or she can start coming without an appointment but still needs to tell me the plan of which days to come.  So far, this has been working with the exception of clean up and organization.  Often, these students are in a rush because they are using recess time.  Just when they get going with their making, it’s time to leave, so there’s little time to cleanup.  This is on my agenda to figure out, but I will have some help with this very soon.

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I’m partnering with Gretchen Thomas at the University of Georgia and some of her independent study students.  As their project, these students will be coming each day of the week from 11-12:15.  I will be able to tell students and teachers that they can come any day at that time.  The UGA students will be responsible for creating a sign in sheet so that we can track which students are using the space.  They will also monitor how often each student is coming.  Although I love having kids come and use the space, I think it is still important that they spend some time outside.  The UGA students will ask the students to limit their days so that there is space for others to try as well as time to go outside as well.  The UGA students will also help me establish a routine for keeping the space in some sort of organization.  Most importantly, they will explore alongside these students using the space.  All of this starts next week!

Over the past week or so, some amazing things have been made and tried in the space.  These have happened during our weekly enrichment clusters as well as these exploratory recess times.

A student spent time tinkering with LittleBits during enrichment clusters.  He would try one combination of bits and it didn’t quite do what he wanted.  He didn’t give up, and instead, kept trying different combinations until he made a type of microphone.  His next step is to figure out how to make this something we could actually use without having to lean right into the bit to talk.

Other students tinkered with littleBits in different ways:

There has been a lot of exploration of MaKey MaKey by using existing tools online and controlling those with the alligator clips and playdoh.

A challenge has been getting students to move beyond using the MaKey MaKey with existing tools and stretch their thinking to designing their own programs that can be controlled by the tool.  We finally had a breakthrough this week as some students began designing things in Scratch and controlling it with MaKey MaKey.

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Several students have been bringing in their own maker tools to share with the makerspace and classmates.  One student brought a robotic dog that can be controlled through an app and another student brought his snap circuits.  The Snap Circuits were very popular and students were screaming when they figured out how to snap pieces together to create an AM radio.

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I’m still seeing a lot of tinkering with Sphero.  The students love driving Sphero around and playing the various games, but this is another tool where I want to nudge students to begin programming.  I think they need this experimental stage, but I know they can create amazing things once they get going.

I’ve seen a lot of interest in duct tape.  This is the one area where I’ve seen students read the instructions in our duct tape books as well as watch videos about making things with duct tape in order to design something.  Now, a group of students have branched off to start making their own creations from duct tape.  One student made a flower from tape and then decided to add it to her headband.

So far, I feel like our 3d printing has been very teacher directed.  Because of safety concerns, I’m afraid to let elementary students use the 3D printer alone.  Now, though, I have some students who are really capable of this.  They know how to design something in tinkercad, export to Makerware, slice for 3d printing, save on an SD card, load the SD card, and get the print started.  I was startled one day when I heard the 3d printer start, and when I raced over to see what was going on a student had gone through this whole process alone.  I did remind him that due to safety I really wanted to be around when something was 3d printing, but I was also proud that an elementary student was able to go through all of the steps to print something.  Now, he has passed on that expertise to several other students.  Their designs are very simple at the moment, but I think they will get more complex as they tinker with the tool more and more.

I’m excited that Gretchen Thomas is bringing yet another fun tool for us to try when she comes next week:  Google Cardboard.  It’s sort of silly, but it’s a cardboard viewfinder that you stick your phone inside in order to create your own virtual reality on a budget.  Since Cardboard doesn’t officially support iPhones, we also used our makerspace to print an attachment from Thingiverse that will let us use our iPhones for the cardboard tinkering.

I’m still pushing to weave makerspace into classroom curriculum, and I think a next step is going to be to hold some informal teacher exploration time.  I think if teachers give themselves permission to tinker and explore, they will immediately start to see a use for their classrooms.

It is overwhelming and promising to see how many independent projects there are in our school and that students are coming to the library as a place to work on these projects.  I was amazed when I paused and took a quick look around.