Are you an educator or a student interested in 3D printing? If you are, this episode is for you. Tom and Tracy Hazzard have a conversation with Cindi Schulze, a teacher they met at the ROBO 3D in CES. This is a story of how one teacher went from being uninterested in the whole concept of 3D printing to loving it enough to participate in conferences. She was even asked to come up with an entire curriculum on 3D printing. If you are an educator, student, parent, or someone involved with education and you want 3D printing education integrated into your school system, this interview with Cindi should be particularly interesting to you.
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Studies In 3D Print Curriculum With Cindi Schulze Of Pride Academy In San Diego
I’m super excited about our guest, Cindi Schulze. She is a 2016 Teacher of the Year in the Santee School District in San Diego. We met her at CES. She was in the ROBO 3D booth and I had such a fascination. She is so excited about 3D printing in her classroom. I thought, “We’ve been getting so many educators to send us emails and other things. We need to have a great example of someone who’s doing it and loving it.”
We have had people especially from the Midwest write to us and we’ve taken the time to talk to them on the phone or Skype and they’re asking questions about, “Where do I get started? I’m supposed to teach 3D printing.” We’re not teachers. We’re in the 3D printing industry and we know a lot about 3D printing but we don’t necessarily know a lot about teaching kids anything, let alone 3D printing.
We have kids but teaching them is another thing.
I’ll tell you if you are an educator, a student or you’re involved in any way with education and considering 3D printing or even if you’re a parent and you want 3D printing education integrated into your kids’ school system, this episode should be particularly interesting to you. It’s a great story about how this school district got into it and how this teacher who wanted nothing to do with 3D printing at first now thinks it’s one of the best things ever.
Cindi, thank you so much for joining us.
It’s my pleasure.
We want to talk to you because as Teacher of the Year, we know that you’re struggling with how to teach innovatively every day in your classroom and your school district. Tell us a little bit about the challenges related to 3D printing and integrating that in?
The biggest challenge for me as a teacher is trying to find out the best way to teach it to the students but also making sure that they’re learning along the way. It’s easy to take something as cool as a 3D printer and see it as a toy or an object in the classroom and is something fun to play with. Kids are making toys to play with and getting people to understand the value of 3D printing and what it can bring to education. Not only are our students learning about 3D designing, taking a simple object that they may draw a picture on a paper two-dimensionally and being able to take that and create it in a three-dimensional space is pretty challenging. For the students to be able to see that printed and hold it in their hands and manipulate it gives them a lot of power, but it also engages them in their learning. When you take any topic or subject matter and you incorporate the 3D printing into it, it allows the educational learning component to become more powerful.
We’ve been hearing from a lot of educators who are in a way struggling with which classroom the 3D printer belongs in. Where is it in your school district?
I teach math and science for our seventh and eighth-grade programs. Science is the easiest one to give it to because science can lend itself to larger projects to create 3D models. I also was talking to my history teacher about some of the projects that we’ve done in the past. We do a China artifact project where the kids learn about China, medieval time and they create an artifact box where they show relics of the time period. They have to describe what those relics mean. The 3D printer could easily fit into the history classroom as well. I honestly think that a 3D printer belongs in everyone’s classroom, even language arts. Think about trying to inspire students to write and how cool it would be if they could create something out of their minds, their creativity, their imagination and to be able to turn around and write about it. It belongs in everyone’s classroom.
It creates a visualization of the character they’re writing about. That’s interesting because we’re hearing some education groups that are starting to put them in a more lab situation. It’s way back when we were young and we all had to take typing classes, to begin with. You were expected to use a typewriter or a computer. We didn’t take typing in seventh and eighth grade. You were taking and were expected to use it and all your classrooms from that point forward and type all your reports. The computer was the same way when it came to the classroom as well. Do you think the 3D printer belongs there? Do you like having it much closer to you and your lessons?
It’s better. When I first started years ago, one of the things that I found was we had these computer labs and as a teacher telling my students, “I know you’re finished and you’re ready to start typing, but we have to wait because our designated day to go to the computer lab isn’t for two more days. You’re going to have to wait and do something else,” is a disservice to our students. Our students are growing up in a technology world where it’s at their fingertips and we have to be able to teach them how to use that technology effectively and be able to determine, “I’m ready to start typing.” “I’m going to use a computer.” “I’ve done my 3D design work. Now, I’m ready to start printing.” It needs to be at their fingertips. It needs to be right there in the classroom with the students so they can see it, feel it and understand how it works. If there’s a technology problem, how to handle it, how to problem-solve. If they see it printing, and it’s printing incorrectly, they can fix it. To me, I have a hard time isolating subjects, equipment, and technology. It should all be available at all times to all of our students.
That’s a great point and an interesting one. At the same time, I also think there’s a challenge for you as well because you have a limited class time frame. Aren’t you doing block classes in seventh and eighth grade at that point?
We are for four years, we used to be self-contained seventh and eighth grade. I used to teach all subject areas as a middle school teacher. That was challenging in and of itself but now we do block. There are times where we’ll do a special Science Day or a special History Day where we focus on one of our projects. We have a cell museum project where we’ll spend the whole day showcasing our science project to the campus, public and the community.
Isn’t it challenging, though, to get something printed within that time frame of your class? What happens when you have printer problems? Is it distracting? That’s the case that a lot of educators make for having it in a lab versus the classroom. I appreciate your ideology about how to teach it, which I agree with. Do you find that challenging technically still?
There are challenges when you deal with technology in general. We’re one to one iPads and one of the apps that we use daily is not working. I also feel that students need to learn how to problem-solve and how to get around the problem. If for some reason the 3D printer is down for two weeks and we’re in the middle of a project, what can we do instead? Let’s get the cardboard out. Let’s start building and constructing something. There’s value in that as well. Kids need to know that technology isn’t perfect. The Wi-Fi may be down for the day. If you were planning on researching and the Wi-Fi is down and you can’t use the Wi-Fi to be able to search and surf the web, what can we do instead? Let’s work on another aspect of our project.
I feel like there are some valuable learning lessons that go along with it. There are challenges. Absolutely. The time it takes to print something right now is a challenge. It may take one student’s project 30 minutes, which is almost the whole time period of one of my classes, but they know that they have to give me their designs well in advance so that I can get them printed. I print all day long. The kids walk in the door, it’s printing and they leave its printing. When I leave at the end of the day, I’m printing one last project. I would love to have more in my classroom for sure.
Cindi, we’ve had several teachers reach out to us especially from the Midwest that is getting into it or they got a grant and they have gotten some money. They’ve been told, “You need to start teaching 3D printing and figure out how to do it.” Can you give us an example of a good project that you do with your students that not only teaches them 3D printing but also gets at some of the other disciplines within what you’re teaching of math and science?
We’re working on cell biology. The students have been researching individual cell parts and what their structure and function are. We’re working on building a life-size interactive cell. Each of my classes will create one plant cell, bacteria cell and one animal cell. As a team, they have to design all of the parts of that cell. Along with their 3D part that they either 3D print them or build them or construct them, they also have to create a QR code that goes to an analogy explaining their cell part and its function to younger kids, as well as a video that describes the importance of their cell part to the overall cell.
Some of the kids, about 4 or 5 of them per group will be 3D printing their part. The cell wall isn’t something you’re going to 3D print because it’s extremely large, it’s the ceiling to the floor. To me, I feel that the powerful piece of 3D printing can’t be the end-all-be-all. Your whole project can revolve around the 3D printer. What I have found to be the easiest way to integrate it is to find a project you’re already doing and ask yourself, “What could I do with the 3D printer that the kids have done before using cardboard or Styrofoam balls to create different objects?” Now we can use a 3D printer to replicate something, maybe even to a more precise structure.
That makes a lot of sense what you’re saying. What you’re saying is, if a school is approaching this as maybe in the past, what would have been a more traditional industrial arts class that was separated from the rest of the subjects that they’re learning, maybe that’s the wrong approach. You’re missing the application. You’re making the whole class about 3D printing but if you integrate it into your regular course curriculum, you get the benefits of it but it’s not ruled by it.
Absolutely and that’s the same thing with technology. That’s what we have seen in the technology world and the shift for the last few years. Having this separate computer lab doesn’t benefit us. It needs to be integrated in everything we do. Now, a student may pull a textbook off the shelf to find a definition of a word or they may say, “I need to find out a little bit more so I’m going to now go to the web and look up even deeper what that word means that the book couldn’t cover.” I feel that it’s important for kids to understand how to determine what the best tool for the project is. The 3D printer may answer one student’s challenge, but it may not answer someone else’s. To segregate out the abilities, technology and the tools that we have for the kids is a huge disservice.
That’s an interesting point. How to determine what best tool or tech you need for any given challenge you might have or what you’re most interested in learning as well. It helps someone expand their learning in a particular area, especially if they have much more interest in design, for instance.
We have artists who make the most beautiful pieces, but I have students who are like, “I can’t do art at all.” “I can’t even draw a stick figure.” Those kids may want to do 3D design work because it makes sense to them and they’re able to express themselves creatively without having to draw with paper, pencil, crayon, color pencil or whatever they want to use. I feel that students are diverse. We know this and we’ve known this forever, but we have to be able to allow them to have the tools to express themselves in the best way they know.
What do you wish you had in your classroom now?
I would love to have another 3D printer.
If you win Teacher of the Year in the bigger scope of San Diego County, do you get anything for that?
I don’t know. This is my first time.
You’ll have to say that’s what you want. I love that. Tell me a little bit about how you got trained to learn 3D printing. Did you happen to already know how to do it or when they said, “Here you can have a 3D printer?” How did that happen to you and your school?
This is an interesting story. My principal came up to me and asked me, “Do you want a 3D printer for your classroom?” I said, “No, I don’t want a toy in my classroom. I don’t need another piece of equipment that’s going to sit and collect dust.” That’s one of the big disservices that our administration in our district people is doing. They’re dumping these in the teachers’ laps and saying, “Here. Have fun. Use them.” We don’t know where to start, how it fits and how it functions. I went a year thinking, “Nope. There’s no reason for it in my classroom. Until you tell me the benefits of it, I am not going to use it.” It’s an expensive piece of equipment. I don’t want someone to spend that kind of money on me unless we know that it’s something that’s going to benefit the kids.
I can’t wait to hear what turned it. This is going to be good.
Over the summer, the interesting situation is there’s a gentleman in town who does a lot with STEAM Maker and STEAM Maker Workshop and he does a lot with STEAM in the schools. I’ve worked with him a little bit over the last couple of years. Over the summer, I didn’t have any big projects. I didn’t have any workshops or conferences that I was attending. I was free. It was my first summer off, which was nice. He came to me and he said, “What do you think about writing some curriculum for 3D printing?” I thought to myself, I could say no and walk away from it but I thought, “This is cutting edge. This is something that is pretty revolutionizing. What if I took the summer and I investigated how this could be incorporated into the classroom?” The thing that I want to stress is I was paid for that time. That doesn’t happen often to teachers.
Teachers are pretty much expected to do all the investigating and training all on our own without any extra compensation for our time. We’re expected to do it for your value because they said, “We’re going to pay you for the summer to work on this.” I did. I dove in and I said, “How in kindergarten through eighth grade can I make 3D printing work in the classroom?” I created a curriculum for kindergarteners, first graders all the way up to eighth-graders. A lot of the curriculum in seventh and eighth grades can be incorporated into high school. Its cutting edge is the tip of the iceberg. As teachers, we can easily share more and more projects as we go along. For me, being able to get it started and look into the next generation of science standards and find all of these amazing ways to incorporate 3D printing was so invaluable to me. I wouldn’t expect all teachers to be able to have that time or energy to be able to do that on their own. It’s unfair to ask them to do so.
STEAM Maker paid you over that summer to help create curriculum, is that correct?
Yes. STEAM Maker Workshop is a separate company and ROBO 3D printing is the company who paid them to hire me if that makes sense. They’re the middleman.
That makes sense. It was sponsored by ROBO 3D in that sense.
They’re the ones who said, “Education is valuable. We need to invest some money and time into this.” I so respect ROBO 3D printing for that because they are the only 3D printer so far that I’ve seen who have invested time and energy into that educational aspect and is paying a teacher to dive into the curriculum to make sure that what we put out there is usable, standards-based, functional and you’re able to do in a classroom.
That’s interesting because this is like one of the topics we talk about all the time. It’s the same problem for the design. None of them are taking the initiative to pay to have good designs put in to show people what it’s capable of. Now people have this perception in mind that it is a toy and it makes tchotchkes. If they took the time to spend on a designer to make good and interesting designs that push the envelope of what 3D printing can do without becoming art pieces so it still has that STEAM functional focus, it would do the same thing. Both the education and design components are what’s holding back the 3D printing from tipping. That’s fabulous. That’s forward-thinking. Is STEAM Maker making this curriculum available to other schools that you’ve created? How’s that working?
STEAM Maker Workshop made the curriculum available to ROBO 3D printing. ROBO 3D printing has put it on their website. They have a link. I’ve seen the curriculum, but I know on their homepage, there’s a spot where you can go and you can find the curriculum. It is available to the public. It’s not something you have to purchase to see. It’s available for anyone who wants to take advantage of it. Braydon who’s one of the founders of the whole company, the last time I talked with him, his big focus next, his next step is to try to get somehow an organization or a group together where teachers can share ideas so we can start to accumulate middle school level science at younger levels. What about History and have history teachers start thinking about how 3D printing can come in handy in a history class and maybe have this portal the spot for any teacher can go and find resources based on this subject and based on the age of students that they’re working with.
That’s great and good. You went from rejecting the idea of a 3D printer altogether to being asked if you would help create curriculum, “I’ve got a free summer and I’m going to get paid, why the heck not,” to be completely converted to the point where you’re using it in your classes every day. Is that correct?
Along in the process, you had to educate yourself on 3D printing.
I find it interesting, too because I wrote the curriculum over the summer without ever touching a 3D printer which is quite interesting. We had one at the STEAM Maker Workshop and there was a gentleman that was working with us who was doing all the printing, so he was printing and designing the curriculum that I was writing. I would write a project and he would create the project and print it so we had examples and things. It was a way to flush out the curriculum. Did this work? Did this not work? How can we tweak it?
We did a lot of trials and errors. He was supposed to train me on how to use the 3D printer at some point, but we had some technical difficulties. There was a backup on one of the printers because one of the interns did something wrong. Long story short, the computer the printer was dead for a while and I had to go back to school. I went to school with a printer on my desk, and I’m printing something and I had no clue how to use it. It was quite interesting because a couple of weeks later when I got my official printer for my classroom, I called Victor who’s the owner of the STEAM Maker Workshop. He came out and spent 30 minutes with me and gave me the rundown, a quick tutorial and I was off and running.
That’s the thing that I keep saying to people. The hardest part is figuring out what to make, design it and how to use all of that process. Running the printer is like a printer. It’s a piece of equipment.
You plug it in and you hit print.
That’s the anti-climactic part but getting that off the print is the great part. Where do you want to go next with it, Cindi?
I’ve been grappling with this. My struggle and I see it I recognize it and I want to overcome it is, I know that 3D printing can do so much more than what I’m doing in the classroom. When I go to the ROBO 3D printing workshop, I see some of the things that people are printing and my mind is blown. What I’m doing in my classroom is like the tip of the iceberg. I know that my kids are going to take it and they’re going to fly with it because they’re going to surpass what I can even imagine you can do with a 3D printer. My brain isn’t holding on to that capability if that makes sense because I feel like I’m older.
It completely does. This is where Tom and I got super excited about the power of 3D printing. We have a similar story to you. I said, “No printer, no printer, we don’t need it.” “What are we going to do with it?” Eventually, I caved. When I caved, all of a sudden, the light bulb goes on, “This is amazing. Look at what we can do.” What I’m so excited about is within about, I’d say years, we’re going to see this generation with minds that are capable of thinking in three dimensions in a way that we cannot now because it’s hard. We work in three dimensions all the time. We’re product designers. It’s what we do but that has come from twenty years of practice. You don’t have that skill. It doesn’t work like that. You have to practice it every day and learn about it. The way that their minds are going to work is going to open up the possibilities to things like inventions and possibilities of how things are made that we never imagined before and that excites me.
For me as a teacher, my goal is not to teach my kids what I know. My goal is to teach them how to surpass what I know and how to take the little introduction that I can give them into 3D printing and to take it to a whole other level that I can’t even fathom. The new way of teaching that we have to wrap our brains around is, “I’m not the expert anymore but my job is to get you if you’re interested in this avenue, if you’re interested in sciences, how can I get you motivated to blow me out of the water?”
I think about that all the time when we were getting our kids started in 3D printing. I keep thinking about what is she going to do? I can’t wait to see how it’s going to turn out. The idea that she’s going to surpass me is exciting.
Teachers are afraid of that. They’re afraid of not being the expert anymore. They’re afraid of not having all the answers. They’re afraid of not per se in “being smarter” than the kids. I feel that’s such a disservice to the kids because they should be able to go so much farther than we can even think we could go. That’s the power of teaching that we have. We have to let it go. We have to let our kids go.
It’s fascinating to me because I haven’t thought about it quite this way until you said it. You’re saying a 3D printer is a modern chalkboard. It’s another tool. That tool has evolved, I’m sure from the chalkboard to many other things, but the computer. Earlier, it went to the carbon copy. What was that Dido machine they used to make copies on way back when? There are different pieces of technology on the way and when it comes to education, 3D printing is one more tool in your toolbox. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Cindi, we appreciate it. We hope that it inspires other teachers and other education districts to get out there and start 3D printing because there are resources to help you and it’s super exciting to see what it’s going to do for the future.
Absolutely. It’s been fun.
Wasn’t that fun?
I’m so excited to have someone as excited as I am about 3D printing, the future and the possibilities of it. I’m refreshed by the perspective on teaching and technology. We get too excited about, “We’ve got these new 3D printers in our school, isn’t this great?” It’s what you do with them that is important. If you put tech in its place and you concentrate on how to do something with technology, you’re going to get the kids’ minds energized in the right way.
My mind was stuck in the preconception of the old industrial arts classes as we had in school or Home Ec class where you might learn to sew. Often, we’ve talked about the 3D printer being equivalent to a sewing machine in some ways. I’m sure there are schools that are doing that and there may be nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with concentrating on new technology and teaching kids intensively and how to with it but doesn’t it make so much sense to make it be like a computer or an iPad.
It’s like a regular printer.
It’s integrated into your curriculum and your class. It’s one of the things that students can use and they’re not forced to use it.
Think about it. It’s like in any science class, when we were in seventh and eighth grade, we had to learn how to properly use a microscope. You’re going to have an orientation part of your program that’s going to teach you about how to use the equipment and how it works and everything. There’s going to be the light bulb going on in kids when they see their buddy trying this out and their girlfriend doing that. That’s going to happen and it’s going to ignite each other to do something great too, which I love the idea of that. Whether it’s group projects or individual projects, you’re still going to get that cross-pollination of ideas and thinking. I love that.
I do, too. It made me think that some of these project packs and kits that we’re seeing are starting to come out and we’ve talked on our podcast about a great potential project. We talked about the Digital Sundial thing. Having projects like that is a good thing to do. I envisioned those being used maybe a lot more in school curriculum situations, but maybe they won’t be used there in some school districts as much. Maybe that’s what students or parents are going to go out and find to use to help further the education and go beyond using 3D printing in the classroom for that assignment. I’m sure it will happen in all different ways.
I think about it as a parent and as a parent, I feel extremely responsible for providing my child tools. That’s my job as a parent. My job isn’t to make her learn. My job is to inspire her to love to learn so she’ll go out there and do it herself. This is what we had trouble with our oldest, Alex. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t love reading because I completely love reading. I tried every method possible to get her to love it and that’s what you do as a parent. You go out there and you find tools that are going to ignite their excitement and interest. In the case of books, I tried to find genres that I thought she would like. It took vampires and she had to be old enough for vampire love stories for her to ignite a reading bug. I tried everything. Earlier, it didn’t work but that’s what we do as parents. We go out there and we seek tools and ways to do this. Teachers have to do the same thing. That’s what I found so interesting, by the way. It’s like you provide opportunities so that the ones who want to go further can.
Once those that do start doing it, the other students say, “That’s cool.”
I’m super excited about how these are going. I hope that we’re going to get into Cindi’s classroom at some point. I would love to see some of the things that the students are making and hear how much at the end of the year that they enjoyed having 3D printing in their classrooms. That should be interesting. We’ll do a follow-up.
We’re going to have that opportunity. When we do, we’ll make sure we document that, take some photos and create a blog post about it. For now, if this is a subject that is of particular interest to you, please go to our website, 3DStartPoint.com.
I want to also point out another blog post that I wrote about this idea that you need to start paying your teachers to learn over the summer. That’s a real key there. If you want this to be done right in your district and right in your classrooms, you should be paying them to learn. That is a critical factor. I had written a blog post about that. We’ll add that in.
It’s great that she got paid for it. That made the difference happening in this case.
Look at the power of what she’s able to do with that. It’s not too much. You’re going to buy an expensive piece of equipment, you need to provide training and payment to learn that. That’s a no brainer in the scope of the program that you’re going to put in place in your school. You need it to not sit there and become a big old paperweight.
If any of you reading are educators out there who have had a similar or even a different experience in how you got started in 3D printing and how it was integrated into your school system, please reach out to us. You can reach us on 3DStartPoint.com. There’s a place where you can submit a question or email us at Info@3DStartPoint.com.
We’d love to share your stories. Thank you again for reading.
- Cindi Schulze
- ROBO 3D
- STEAM Maker Workshop
- Curriculum – ROBO 3D Curriculum
- Braydon Moreno
- Victor Ciccarelli
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