A Case for Letting Students Learn Their Way
A Case for Letting Students Learn Their Way

by Bob Kahn, Middle School Teacher / Ed Tech Specialist

"Josh, I'm not sure that the scribble tool is the best one to use for this."

"It's OK. I like it."

"But it's more difficult to create straight lines and angles."

"It's fine. I like the way it looks."

A conversation somewhat like that above occurred during the Scaling 3D Design project in Susan Dickinson's 7th Grade Accelerated Pre-Algebra classes. Using ratios, the students performed some scaling calculations of a famous monument. The student above was using the scribble tool in Tinkercad to design his three-dimensional Eiffel Tower. It wasn't going very well, or so I thought at the time.

At the start of the project, we told the students that only the best designs or "good ones" would be 3D printed. It occurred to me later that ALL the students were working diligently and that we should try to print ALL of their designs. The new Middle School 3D printer churned out all of their designs, and each student excitedly received his/her 3D print of their monument.

When Josh received his, he looked at it curiously and then remarked, "Mr. Kahn, the Scribble tool didn't work very well for this, did it?" I simply agreed with him.

While this may seem like a simple moment, it speaks volumes (no 3D pun intended) about how kids, or people for that matter, learn. If his design was not printed, he would never have learned that the scribble tool was not the best tool. His experience is what taught him, not me telling him.

This is a simple yet powerful example of letting students learn their way.

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