Thursday, September 26, 2013

Virtual Design and 3D Model Creation in the Classroom with Trimble SketchUp and Blender

Have you ever wanted to try and bring a virtual design or 3D world into your classroom?  Are you looking for a way to reach those students in your classroom who are more visual and spatial learners?

Well, then I have a couple of possible solutions for you to try and they are both free!  Trimble SketchUp and Blender.  Both of these programs will work on PCs or Mac and they don't have very restrictive hardware requirements.  They are great for a 1:1 school that uses Macbooks or PC laptops for instance.

Trimble SketchUp

I am a Technology Education Teacher by trade, and I have a lot of experience with teaching students about computer aided design software and virtual modeling of various things in our world.  I have found that many of the students in our classrooms are visual and spatial learners.  They need to be able to see something and interact with something to make that meaningful connection that we are all striving for in our classes.  I have done all kinds of interdisciplinary units with coworkers in my districts that used SketchUp and Blender to bring something new and fun into the classroom.

Blender is a great option if you want to do animation and more advanced modeling within your classroom.  My experience has been great with the program and there are so many free tutorials and guides that will take you and your students through using the program.  I would say though that you will want to have a little time devoted to using the program, as the learning curve at the beginning can be steep for many learners.  This is also a great program if you are trying to incorporate any kind of Virtual Reality aspect into your classroom.

Trimble SketchUp (formerly Google SketchUp) is another great program that I used when working with other subject areas, and is typically my go-to program for a quick unit.  SketchUp is easy to use and understand, and students will pick up the software skills very quickly.  I will list a few collaborative projects that I've done below, know that you are really only limited by your own imagination.
  • Social Studies - City Planning:  Design your own city using SketchUp
  • English - Model a scene from the story:  Modeled a party from the Great Gatsby
  • Science - Virtual Molecule:  Created a visual representation of a water molecule 

If you are looking for something new and fun to try in the classroom, give Trimble SketchUp and Blender a try!  If you know of any other great softwares or project ideas for modeling in the classroom, feel free to share those comments!

~Jeremy Cooper


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