“I don’t know…”

3D Printing & Sewing in the Exploratorium
3D Printing & Sewing in the Exploratorium

One of my favourite places in our school is the Exploratorium.  There are computers, both broken and functioning, sewing machines, soldering irons, saws, paint, etc.  It is quite a fun place to be when you get a handful of students going on whatever project it is that captures their interest at that given time.

Today I was sitting in a meeting in the Exploratorium, which finished soon after we had some of our Grade 4 students come in to work during their “Design Time” (aka Genius Hour). Rather than head back to my office, I decided to stay and check out what the students were working on at the time.

It just so happened that one student was looking for some dice for her project, and was about to raid the contents of the various board games housed in the space when I piped up. “Why not use the 3D printer to make one?”

She looked at me excitedly.  “REALLY?”

“Sure, why not?” I replied.

She tiptoed over to where the printer was standing, and asked, “Can I look at it?” “Of course!”

After pulling the cover off of it, and ogling it for a few minutes, she turned to me and asked, “Do you know how to use it?”

This question can either be a source of sheer terror or absolute joy for a teacher.  For me, it was definitely the latter, for I could try to figure out how to use a machine that I’ve been curious about for awhile alongside my students.  So I responded, “Nope.  I don’t know how to use it.  But why don’t we learn together?”

And away we went.

With some help from the other students, who were now gathered around the machine, to locate the power button (more complicated than it sounds!), and a quick search of the interwebs for a suitable design for the student, we were off to the races.  It was a frantic, kind of stressful and fun experience for all of us.  The students and I at least know how to do a basic 3D print, and that’s a lot more than we knew before.

In my past experiences working with colleagues on technology integration, the fear of not knowing how to use or do something with respect to said technology seems to overtake them to a point where it is easier to just avoid using the technology altogether.  I try to tell these colleagues that it’s okay to a) ask the students for help, for many of them are already far more proficient mobile and tablet users than we are and b) admit that you don’t know, and use it as a collaborative learning opportunity.  Sure it’s hard to admit this to our students, but I’ve found that generally, students enjoy and respect that we’re not the all knowing beings that we sometimes represent ourselves to be.

Until next time…


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