Technology as Tools: Make It 2.0

After two years of dabbling around but not directly with 3D printing, I finally got my chance today. I've had a complicated relationship with 3D printing; struggling to find a community of people who are interested in moving beyond the "wow" factor of 3D printing to the purpose and function of the tool. Or perhaps struggling to find a community where my inexperience and awareness that I'm not stellar with spatial movement is not a barrier to my participation with the tool. In many ways, my two years dabbling around 3D printing allowed me learn all the programs and various facets of the tool WITHOUT actually trying it myself.

However, that changed today when I was a participant at Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology's (TLT) Make It 2.0. The day focused on learning about emerging technologies within the maker movement. But not only were we were able to get hands on time with these technologies, but the atmosphere of the event encouraged critical thinking on how these technologies could be use in our own educational/instruction setting. TLT highlighted three emerging technologies at Make It 2.0: 3D printing with Tinkercad, virtual reality video creation, and rapid prototyping with Little Bits. Throughout the day there were two workshop sessions and we had the choice of what technology we wanted to explore.

First up for me was 3D printing. We explored Tinkercad, a website that the students at UNCC had used this summer. Scrolling and controlling the plane continue to be issues for me but I was getting the general gist of it. After a brief tour of the online space, the group was given a challenge

My group spent a little bit of time brainstorming how we were going to transform our pumpkin. We finally settled on a pair of eyes, a mouth, and then to have a little Penn State pride, some lion paw prints we could use as hands. Half of my group went to work on the eyes and myself and a professor in entrepreneurship went to work on the paws. It was definitely a collaboration but I ran the controls on making the paw prints. I enjoyed the challenging of conceptualizing how to make paw prints with geometric shapes and using the tools to combine it into something that was printable. The collaboration allowed me to not be nervous if I had a road block; someone was ready to offer advice and do some brainstorming!

With paw prints made and on a flash drive, I crossed my fingers for a good print. We heard from other faculty members across campus about how they use these technologies for their students. I particularly liked what an English professor talked about as he described a technical writing class that used Little Bits to create something that required an instruction manual.

Those who know me well know that I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to an expert and what expectations come with that title. I'm a firm believer of recognizing the strengths each individual brings and I think that's what the tweet above gets at. Not only can we use technology to recognize the strengths of our students, but we can also give the students a space and tools to expand their expertise. This leads to future success (fingers crossed) because we are trying to equip them with skills that can be applied in many ways and the confidence they can do it. 

Little Bits in action (blue is the power, pink the input, and green the output).

Little Bits in action (blue is the power, pink the input, and green the output).

The afternoon consisted of trying Little Bits myself. While the start up cost of Little Bits isn't cheap, the potential teaching opportunities make it more appealing for places (like TLT) that can invest in these kits. While we were discussing rapid prototyping and design thinking, a fellow librarian and I got into a discussion of how we could use Little Bits in our own library instruction. Our conversation spun off into library land, abandoning our group's idea of a prototype for a buzzer going off when a freshman's laundry hamper got heavy and needed to be cleaned out. This spin off resulted in a Box note full of semi-readable notes on how we could use Little Bits in our context and plans for more exploration and testing of our own!


Make It 2.0 ended with a gallery where my 3D printed paw was unveiled! Our Frankenstein's monster didn't turn out too bad

I left Make It feeling pretty proud. I had conquered something I had not been able to accomplish in Chambana. I'm not sure if this means I'll spend the next three weeks coming up with things to 3D print, but I know it definitely means I will be less afraid of diving back into that software and design process. And I know there is a community of support here at Penn State who thinks about technology in similar ways that I do. I can't begin to say how exciting that is to me and I look forward to seeing what we can do, using technology as a tool to aid learning and our students' success.