Can you share a bit about your school and your teaching journey?
I am lucky enough to teach in the elementary school that I attended as a child, so working here feels like coming home. I am in my 8th year at this school and have worn many different hats, from special education teacher to technology integrationist and my current role as a specialist teacher teaching both art and technology. A typical day is never typical! Each day is different and that’s what I like most about my role. My technology classes are working on building computational thinking skills by coding robots so my morning is lots of troubleshooting and runaway robots. My art classes are operating on a choice-based curriculum so in the afternoon I feel like a “creativity coach” teaching mini-lessons, managing the space, and meeting with student-artists.
How are your students using Fab@School Maker Studio?
My students used Fab@School Maker Studio to create houses as part of an architecture project we did last year in art class. We looked at different types of buildings and the students designed their own to become part of a “Paper City." They created everything from monuments, to tent camping sites, to skyscrapers and one student even recreated the Eiffel Tower! After the buildings were fabricated the students used LEDs and coin cell batteries to light up the city. After this first project, some students used the software again to create stencils for an apparel design screenprinting project.
What has been the “aha” moment?
I discovered Fab@School Maker Studio at last year’s MassCUE conference. I was so excited the first time I used it because the options are limited only by the imagination of the designer. The software is the perfect combination of “kid-friendly” without being limiting. I had wanted to bring 3D printing into my classroom, but felt that my students’ experience would be diminished due to the expense of the filament and the time the printing takes for each item. Seeing how fast the paper cutter works combined with the affordability of the paper and cardstock made this so doable for my students and me. My PTA generously purchased the licenses and the paper cutter for my classroom and we began using it with Chromebooks last spring.
How are you integrating Fab@School with your current school curriculum?
This year I am hoping to expand the use of the software by having technology classes fabricate “cars” or “boats” that will be driven by the robots we are learning to program. The robots are waterproof so hopefully students will be able to design and program them to drive on dry land or be propelled through water. Check back with me in a few months and we will see how this grand plan comes to life!
As an Art/Tech teacher you really put the A in STEAM- can you share a bit about your role at Oak Ridge and how you incorporate arts with technology?
I am always looking for new ways to incorporate technology into the art curriculum and vice versa. The technology and art curriculums overlap in so many ways because creative problem solving and the design process are so critical to both content areas. In addition to the 3D design work they have done with Fab@School Maker Studio, my students have used software to edit photos or create unique compositions, iPads to create digital artwork, and digital cameras to learn about perspective, create illusions in photography as well as stop-motion animation.
This year we are experimenting with green screens to add interesting effects to our photos and videos. I find that my job is evolving to the point where I am putting students in the driver’s seat and empowering them to come up with ways to creatively use the technology available to them. I try to learn as much as I can about each tool or device so that I can help to guide them and troubleshoot problems. Often students know what they want the technology to do, and just need help getting there. Experimentation can sometimes feel scary because the teacher has to give up control, but the results are usually far beyond what I would have thought of or expected!
What is next?
I am excited to continue to connect with educators who are using this software because the sharing of ideas is so valuable. I would love to add a second printer so that more students can fabricate within a single class period (wish list item!). I am also open to bringing the software to other teachers in my district as part of a possible makerspace to be built. With this and other technology tools I will continue to be inspired by the creativity of my students!
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