Last week I spent a most interesting day in the tech lab at a Michigan middle school, showing a group of five (a middle school technology teacher, an 8th grade science teacher, a high school technology teacher, a high school science and robotics teacher and the school’s technology director) how to use SketchUp and how to teach SketchUp to their students. Like most schools these days there is a push towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) so that students will be prepared for further education or jobs after graduation in areas where jobs are projected to grow.
The middle school was waiting for delivery of a 3D printer (thanks to a grant) and the technology teacher wanted to make the best use of that resource. She had done her homework on finding the printer and the software to use it effectively. She tracked me down through the SketchUp website where I am listed as an expert trainer. I did my homework and prepared a one-day session tailored to their needs. This is the type of teacher who makes things happen in a world where teachers are often handed complex tasks without all the preparation and resources they really need.
3D printers are wonderful devices, and many schools are getting them. In the course of doing my homework I spoke to a printer manufacturer who told me that many schools get 3D printers but are content to simply download projects and watch the machine run. That surprised me on several levels. The key to a good education is the development of problem solving skills. What better way to teach that (and to engage and excite students at the same time) than to turn an idea into an object? Why not take the gifts our children have and enable them to use the gifts of technology? Why not teach them how to 3D model with SketchUp?
3D printing is just the tip of the iceberg of how SketchUp is used in schools. Today’s kids are far more interested in what’s on screen as opposed to what’s in a book and more likely to be engaged when they take an active part in the lesson. SketchUp can model points in time for specific locations to help teach history and geography. Geometry class is interesting if you can watch what happens in three dimensions. Robotics classes can 3D print custom parts for their projects and 8th grade science students can problem solve the construction of bridges before moving on to the real thing.
If you’re a teacher, or just someone interested in learning SketchUp for use in the classroom, leave a question or a comment below. I’m one of many resources to help you become adept at SketchUp so your kids can do amazing things.
- If you have an interest in a training session for your school, click here to send me an e-mail and we can get the process started.
- There are a number of posts on this site about using SketchUp, you can find them by clicking here.
- One thing that almost every new SketchUp user struggles with is getting around in a 3D model as it is displayed on a 2D computer screen. Click here to read about Navigation and see a video about the easy way to get around a SketchUp model.
- My interactive PDF book with embedded videos “Building Blocks of SketchUp” teaches SketchUp using simple geometric forms. When you master the basics, you can model just about anything.
“Building Blocks of SketchUp” includes a 47 page “SketchUp Tool Guide” a great reference for how to do this to create that. Like the rest of the book it features short video lessons embedded within the text.