Meaningful learning occurs when students are willingly engaged in collaborative endeavors reflective of authentic experiences. The OSU EDTC PhD students have been playing with the 3D printer in the Emerging Technologies and Creativity Research Lab. It’s fun, we made a fork, but have wanted to imagine ways the 3D printer could transform the student classroom learning experience. Rachel is excited, Frances has some ideas, but I (Kathy) have been dubious. I already have a fork. It is even plastic. And it didn’t drain my budget to the extent a 3D printer would. But then Rachel showed me an object she had designed using TinkerCad and printed on the ETC Lab 3D printer. Here she is…(see below).
She was pretty excited, so I (Kathy) was happy for her. She asked if I knew what it was. I tried the teacher talk thing, “that looks so awesome, why don’t you tell me about it?” but she didn’t bite. She insisted I guess what it was. I said the top of a rocket ship. She said no. I said a hat for your garden gnome. She said no, and then threw me a bone, telling me a past culture had used vessels like this to hold food and water. Oh, so it’s a dish. Good, I think we are done. But we aren’t! Rachel went a step deeper, and asked me why I thought it was shaped the way it was (it kind of had a pointy base, rather than a flat base). My class is over, my students are gone, I have Things To Do, but she is so nice, so I kept playing. I don’t know why it’s shaped like that, to fit into a rack? To make it easier to carry? Before I realized it, I had accidentally become curious and had fully engaged with the question. I wanted to Know Why It Was Shaped So Weirdly. She kept smiling, and I kept guessing, finally in a fit of crazy suggesting they didn’t have shelves or tables so they just shoved the dishes in the dirt.
That was it! That was why the bowl was shaped oddly! And guess what…then I had even more questions. I wanted to know who the people were, when they lived, where they lived, what the dirt was like….all of a sudden, despite my former considerable disinterest, I was experiencing meaningful learning, willingly engaged, collaborating, imagining real life people in real life situations.
I would not have cared about the topic one bit if she had sent me a link to a website talking about the culture, or showed me a page in a book, told me a story, or, quite frankly, handed me a model she had found at the teacher store. But as I engaged with that funky oddly shaped bowl my friend had designed and printed on the ETC Lab 3D printer, I became hooked. Fork, schmork. That 3D printer can help teachers create incredibly meaningful classroom learning experiences! I am sold.
If you’re in the area, stop by Willard 326 (or, if you have the MakerBot app and are on the OSU campus, you can access Our Printer remotely) and explore how you can use this piece of emerging technology to transform learning! Let us know what you try and how it works out. Happy teaching!