Know The Tools in Your Toolkit

Today’s Contributor: Mark Holland. I’m a second year teacher at Travis Early College High School where I teach Math and Physics. I studied engineering at the University of Texas and completed my Master’s Degree in Engineering Mechanics in 2017. After graduation, I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail walking from Maine to Georgia and camping in the woods for four months. I love the simple life of carrying all you need on your back.

I guess if I wanted to highlight one great feature anyone could use, it would be the Google Cloud Assignment external tool in Blend. Our physics PLC discovered it last year when we were trying to have our students submit a Google sheet for an assignment, but we wanted a template document that we could edit for them. A Google Cloud Assignment allows the teacher to have complete control over the template within their own drive until the students begin working on it. It is done completely in Blend, and students won’t even realize that it created a document in their drive. When the student begins working on the document, presentation, or sheet, it makes a personal copy in their drive which they are free to edit. Once they have completed their edits, they click submit which sends it as an assignment submission to the instructor. This type of assignment works well for physics labs where we put in everyone’s data as a class, and then the students do all the post-processing and analysis on their own. For more information on Google Cloud Assignments check out these step-by-step instructions on setup in Blend:

Travis has an abundance of potential in our student body, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my short time here. In the past year, I’ve been playing with the resources we have on our campus to help our students explore and grow. Understanding what resources are available to us raises the bar for the level we can support student ideas. For example, last year I was helping our students with the prom builds making a Plinko board. I knew how to use the 3D printers we have on campus and recommended that we use them to make the Plinko chips. I made a few quick and simple designs on Tinkercad and showed them the options. They picked out the one they liked the most, then recommended some improvements which I added. I printed the first one and showed it to them, and they were very impressed by how it looked. I let them join me in setting up the next one and used it as an opportunity to teach them how to use a 3D printer. They were very proud of how the entire build turned out.

 If 3D printing is your interest, but you don’t know where to get designs check out these resources:

  1. Thingiverse: library of free models ready to print. Simply download the .stl file and print.
  2. Tinkercad: Online solid modeling software. Super super simple designs, but easy to use.
  3. Autodesk Inventor: Download software for all your solid modeling needs, no matter how complicated. Harder to use. Educators can get a free download.

As a teacher engaging the students and faculty through technology, I have found it very important to discover the resources we have on campus and connect ideas to the right tools.

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