Taming the Tide of 3D Printing

This year, our STEM program was lucky enough to receive a grant that helped us to get three 3D printers in our computer & STEM labs. My students are all pumped about 3D printing, but getting them to understand the process of 3D design and printing has been a challenge. They see the printer and want to be able to print anything they can imagine right then and there.

In my classes, I’m always striving to get students moving at their own pace and am uncomfortable when I see students all working on the same thing, so I’ve tried to avoid having a one-size-fits-all, everyone-look-up-here lesson about the 3D printer and 3D design. Recently, during a session of my overstuffed afterschool club, Makers Gonna Make, I had swarms of 4th graders inundating me with the same questions, so I created a tool to help students more clearly see the steps in this unfamiliar process.

Enter the “Am I Ready to 3D Print?” flowchart:


screen shot 2019-01-28 at 6.42.07 pm

This simple piece of paper has helped my students to conceptualize the process we use for 3D printing and to track their own progress through the different stages. This afternoon, I had students come in and say, “I know that I won’t be printing today, because I’ve still got 3 steps to go” which was a far cry from the “MUST PRINT NOW!” cries that filled our first session together. I’m excited to roll this out in my general classroom contexts as well, because I think it will help all of my learners better understand the roadmap for getting to print their awesome and creative designs.

If you’re interested in using and/or modifying this document to suit your needs, feel free to grab a copy here!


Epistemological Humility

Explorations with Sewn Circuits & Makey Makey at Constructing Modern Knowledge

My primary activity this summer has been learning! I spent time in May developing a comprehensive summer learning and professional development plan and, as a result, my brain is bursting with new ideas, connections, and an even-longer list of things that I need to spend more time exploring. It is this familiar run-in with the need for epistemological humility that has me most energized about going back to school and working to help broaden the perspectives of my Curious Questioners to show them that the world contains more information than they could ever learn in six lifetimes.

Here are some of the highlights of my summer learning:

  • Constructing Modern Knowledge – For four days this summer, I was immersed in 21st century MAKERspace land at the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. The learning space allowed me access to all of the technologies that I’ve read about but never seen — Raspberry Pi, LittleBits, Arduino, Lilypads…the list goes on and on. There was no set schedule during these four days, so we were free to dabble and create. Many of the other attendees worked on large, complicated projects, but I was so overwhelmed by the choices that I didn’t want to limit myself to one idea. I spent most of the time exploring sewn circuits, finally figuring out how to use my Makey Makey kit, and integrating projects into Scratch. The experience was rich, tremendously uncomfortable in its uncertainty (in a wonderful way), and inspired me to continue pursuing constructivist tasks and projects with my students. Learn more about this amazing un-conference at http://constructingmodernknowledge.com/.Oh! At CMK I also got to talk about my question mark project (above) with Alfie Kohn, one of my educational heroes. I still can’t believe that actually happened!


  • Online Course: 
    • Leading Change: Go Beyond Gamification with Gameful Learning
      It remains flabbergasting that the edX and Coursera MOOC platforms offer such high-quality content for free. In this course, I’ve been learning about techniques to make learning “gamified” in ways that leverage student motivation and encourage risk-taking. The course explores what video games do so well — primarily personalized scaffolding — and how these ideas can be brought into the classroom to create more compelling learning environments.


  • Reading:IMG_0400 I’ve had the wonderful fortune of choosing excellent professional development books to explore this summer. No ho-hum or basic ideas here! A Place for Wonder and To Look Closely inspired my Nature Study program, which I cannot wait to begin in the fall. Hello Ruby is just the tool I needed to introduce my students to programming in an accessible and engaging way. Finally, Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets, which I’m still reading, is making me rethink nearly everything I’ve ever done in math. Revamping my approach to math is my focus for curriculum work in these last few weeks of summer.

I feel so fortunate to have a career that allows me the time to continually push my pedagogical thinking. At Constructing Modern Knowledge, we talked about “taking off our teacher hats and putting on our learner hats” — this summer, I’ve been able to do just that, and it’s been invigorating.