Skip to content

Learning Partners – Our 3D Printing in iTime

February 3, 2018

Im pretty new to 3D printing. About 3 months ago a few Grade 2 students asked me if they could print something on the 3D printer during their iTime (See this post by Kath Murdoch on iTime). I was pretty excited to use the 3D printer in an authentic way to help students in learning and wondering. This post is from my notes from the experience.

We’ve been engaging in iTime at my school for a little over a year now. It’s exciting and challenging at the same time. I am fortunate to work across the primary school assisting teachers and students with technology integration. We didn’t just set out to print something but had a carefully drawn up plan or attack. As Kath puts it:

We need to be crystal clear about the broader learning intentions of such things as passion projects or iTime. This means, amongst other things:

  • taking time to develop clear criteria and guidelines with students
  • agreeing on ways to ensure accountability
  • explicitly identifying the skill sets accompanying the learning tasks students design
  • building self assessment and reflection into the process

Kath Murdoch (2015)- Seeing Beyond the Cupcakes- What iTime Should Really be About 

Our criteria and guidelines for this project is briefly outlined below.

Session 1: We sat down and brainstormed and made some agreements on the way forward and what we would achieve in our meetings. Students had all sorts of questions about how the 3D printer worked. To them it seemed a minor miracle that I printed a Yoda Head that I hadn’t designed myself but merely found the .stl file on Thingyverse. Cool nonetheless right? I didn’t see much value in just finding something and printing it.  Whatever these 4 boys wanted to print there had to be some sort of independent design and thought involved. For session 1, we drew, talked, wondered and examined the 3D printer in the Makerpsace that happened to be in action printing something (no, not another Yoda head). At the end of the session, we had many ideas from 3D printing a drone to a ‘mini me’ statue to a robot. We wrote about our blue sky thinking in our Easyblog Learning Stories for documentation. Skills: communication, critical thinking, asking good questions. Dispositions: Resourceful

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 11.02.06

Session 2: I had pondered the kids ideas all week, they were imaginative ideas but not so practical. Session 2 provided more clarity for us all.  Over the week, the learners had (thankfully) changed their minds and wanted to print..a fidget spinner! My first reaction was ‘gah’! but I sat and listed to their proposal and they had some crude drawings on their plan. The had some sound ideas. They also had a few more questions of 3D printing. We addressed some of those questions and misconceptions first through teacher guided research. Then back to the plan. I had listened to the kids discuss how they could make the spinner, and then what I heard surprised me a bit, they were talking about math. Measurements to be exact. I had some sealed bearings on hand and we grabbed a ruler and measured the bearings, and roughly figured out the spinners dimensions (with my help). One of the biggest things I learned is that I had to give the kids TIME to explore the materials they needed (like the bearings) which led to more wonderings like- how does a ball-bearing spin? What is inside it? How can we open one?….The kids were stoked and couldn’t wait for the next session to print. Skills: communication, numeracy, Dispositions: Resourceful, Resilience.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 10.41.01

Session 3: Students were a bit disappointed to learn we weren’t printing today. We hadn’t designed it yet! We used Tinkercad to make our design (I had to take some time myself to learn how to do this first). We used our accurate measurements and plugged them into the design starting with the basic shapes they drew. The kids did this by themselves but took a while as each learner had their own part to design on my Macbook which was super impressive. This process was again recorded on their iPads then put in Easyblog to record their progress. Skills: self-management, patience. Dispositions: Resourceful, Resilience.

Session 4: Print Day! We hurried down to the Makerspace to print our spinners. I printed one the day before just to see if we had the measurements right and it all worked out well. We made 4 copies- 1 for each learner in the project and began the print. While it printed, we had time to further observe, record and explore our wonderings and reflect on the process. Skills: communication, data gathering, observation, asking good questions. Dispositions: Resilience

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 10.40.39


Session 5: Play and Presentation. I cleaned up the prints for them as it required sharp tools but let them struggle a bit with the tight ball bearing fit. They were pretty happy with their design and and final product. We debriefed a bit, examining the challenges, what we would do next time without over analysing it all, however the presentation part of  this  I wish we could have done a bit better. More celebration. Maybe even showing our spinners at a school assembly or making a little video clip of the process to share with the school community. Skills: communication. Dispositions: Reflective

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 10.40.06

One of the students wanted to improve the design and make a more complicated spinner, different shapes with more bearings while another wants to make a car to attach a motor to it and make it move. All 3D designed and printed of course. I’ll have to do my homework and figure it out myself because I dont really know how to do it yet. The best part of working with kids in this way is that I often don’t know myself and I need to learn along WITH the children which essentially makes us learning partners. I must admit it’s pretty fun.

I’d like to thank my 2 awesome colleagues @janeinjava and @hugoindratno for inspiration and teamwork as I love stealing their ideas and seeing the cool stuff they make with 3D printing and design. Worth a follow on Twitter and Instagram if you are interested in levelling up your maker skills.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. janeinjava permalink
    February 4, 2018 7:48 am

    iTime is so wonderful for our students. To be given curriculum time to be able to choose their own learning and then have not only the materials but access to expert support to make it happen. Having tools such as the 3D printer allows our students to create things from their imagination. Loved to read this Jay.


  1. Tinkering to Inquire | The Learning Journey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: