How do educational technologies shape the leaders of tomorrow?
Brittany Ballou, elementary school educator, knows she is helping students prepare for jobs that don’t even exist yet. She believes it is her job as a teacher to set her students up for success in their futures, and bringing technology into her curriculum plays a significant role in that.
In this Teacher Spotlight, Brittany gives us the inside scoop on her experience with techy tools in the classroom, and how these tools are having a positive impact on learning amongst her students.
Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with us, Brittany. Can you please tell us about yourself, your school, and some of your goals as an educator?
I am a K-5 STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) teacher at Grange Hall Elementary School of Chesterfield County Public Schools. I had the privilege of helping establish the STEAM program in the fall of 2017, and prior to that I taught 5th grade as well as 4th and 5th grade gifted math and science.
"My classroom is best described as organized chaos where students are laughing, learning, and building!"
I believe in ditching the worksheets and focusing on inquiry learning as students explore through project based education. Students are tasked with a problem in which they develop a solution by going through the engineering design cycle.
Students work collaboratively to create plans, build prototypes, test, improve, and present their findings, as well as reflect on the whole project. This approach to learning also gives students an opportunity to see how their knowledge and skills can be applied to a multitude of careers in STEAM fields.
What notable benefits have you found using the 3Doodler Start pens with your students?
I have found numerous benefits through adding 3Doodler pens into my classroom, most notably being that it bridges the gap between all ability levels. Students are highly engaged when using the technology, no matter if they have no prior experience with 3D printing, nor if they have used a variety of 3D printing tools. The easy-to-use pen allows me to differentiate lessons for my gifted students, students with Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs), and multiple learning types.
In fact, the first time I used 3Doodler pens I was blown away at how quiet my room was. To me, quietness in a classroom is a bad thing because it means students are probably not engaged, collaborating, or they are laboring over a test of some sort. However, in this situation it was quite the opposite. Students were so engaged with their 3D pens that they didn’t have time to be bothered to talk with their teammates! It was such an eye-opening moment in my classroom as I saw them grow as learners who could work hard both individually and as a group.
What subjects have you used the 3Doodler Start pens in?
I strongly believe that 3Doodler pens can be used across all subject areas! Personally, being a STEAM teacher, I tend to focus my lessons in math and science. The 3Doodler pens provide an avenue for me to seamlessly integrate the arts in with them.
"I want students to see that what they are learning in school is not isolated by subject matter, but all interconnected, just like their future careers."
Can you give some examples of lessons you have administered that integrate 3Doodler pens?
My favorite lesson that used 3Doodler pens was my Food Chain Project. In 4th grade we reviewed all the parts of a food chain before students got into groups and began researching food chains of their own. They were given the following problem.
“The kindergarten teachers want you to teach their students about different food chains. Can you make 3D animals that will attach to pencils that you can use like puppets to teach the students about the flow of energy?”
As a group they conducted research and determined what food chain they wanted to make. Each student was responsible for a different animal in the food chain. They drew their animal and traced it with the 3Doodler pen. Once they finished Doodling their animal, we turned it into a pencil topper by hot gluing the animal to a pipe-cleaner, which wrapped around their pencil. Students wrote scripts to record videos in FlipGrid, so the kindergarten teachers could show their students.
I have had 2nd grade students Doodle snowflakes and turn them into jewelry, I’ve had 3rd graders make and test bubble wands, and my 5th graders built dream catchers. I love how 3Doodler pens are so versatile and provide students of all grade levels with an opportunity to learn the basics of 3D printing!
What other EdTech do you use in the classroom?
I’m constantly trying to look for the newest EdTech to enhance my students’ learning experiences. I currently have the following technologies incorporated in my classroom lessons: 3Doodler pens, Wonder Dash robots, Sphero SPRK+, Lego WeDo 2.0, iPads, Osmos, green screen materials, Ozobots, WowWee Coji robots, 3D printers, Botley robots, Code and Go Mice, and Breakout EDU kits.
How have other educational technologies enhanced learning amongst your students?
Beyond 3Doodler pens, I created 2nd grade lesson plan reviewing the concept of digital and analog clocks. To get students moving beyond a worksheet, they received multiple clocks that needed to have their times matched. Afterwards they used Code and Go Mice to code the mouse to “pick up” the times at the end of the maze. This easy lesson combined a multitude of curriculum standards, including elapsed time, coding, collaborating with others, and problem solving. This type of lesson occurs all of the time in my classroom with the EdTech we available.
How do you feel that EdTech is impacting the students of today for the jobs of tomorrow?
We are fortunate enough to teach in a time period where technology is abundant. I constantly tell my parents that we are helping students prepare for jobs that don’t even exist yet, so it is our job as teachers to lay the groundwork to prepare them. For example, while I am by no means a coder, I fully feel that it is my responsibility to teach my students how to code. I feel lucky enough that the EdTech exists that will teach my students and me at the same time!
Before I received 3Doodler pens, I had no previous experience with 3D printing. 3Doodler pens taught my students the basics of 3D printing through a hands-on experience that I would never have been able to teach otherwise.
"When we moved onto TinkerCad and printing with our 3D printers, they gained a better understanding on how the design process worked on the computer."
I now have students who want to seek careers that use 3D printing, which would not have been the case without these experiences.
Would you like to share any successes from your classroom?
Since my instruction is guided through the engineering design process, students always create plans before they build. Oftentimes students feel confident in either the planning or building stage because they see themselves as either more artistic or more hands-on. The 3Doodler pens allowed me to transform this singular thought process for many of my students. For example, students who classified themselves as “bad artists” saw their plans transform into 3D masterpieces. The students no longer looked at themselves as unable to draw, but rather saw themselves as being capable of creating a plan and build.
I also teach some students who have limited vocabulary and tactile skills. The ergonomic design of the 3Doodler Start pen gives them an easy grip to be able to print on their own. Even though they are not able to describe their plans in detail, they are able to print exactly what they plan. The details are clearly shown in their final product!