I’m super excited about our guest today. Cindi Schulze is the 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. She is so excited about 3D printing in her classroom.
We have had so many educators send us emails that we need to have a great example of someone who is doing it and loving it. We have had people, especially from the Midwest, write in to us, and we have taken the time to talk to them on the phone or on Skype. They’re asking questions about where do they get started? We’re not teachers. We are in the 3D printing industry, and we know a lot about it, 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.
If you are an educator, or even a student, or you’re involved with education and considering 3D printing, or even if you’re just a parent and you want 3D printing education integrated in your kid’s school system, this interview should be particularly interesting to you because it’s a great story of 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.
Listen to the podcast here:
Studies in 3D Print Curriculum
Hi, Cindi, thanks so much for joining us.
Of course, it’s my pleasure.
As Teacher of the Year, we know you are struggling with how to teach innovatively every day in your classroom and in your school district. Tell us about the challenges relating to 3D printing and integrating that into your classroom.
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 they are learning along the way. It’s really easy to take something as cool as a 3D printer and see it as a toy, an object in the classroom, as something fun to play with—Kids are making toys to play with—but really making sure they’re understanding the value of 3D printing and what it can bring to education. Not only are students learning about 3D designing, taking a simple object that they may draw two-dimensionally on the paper and create it in a three-dimensional space is pretty challenging, but also 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. It also engages them in their learning. When you take any topic or subject matter and incorporate 3D printing into it, it allows the educational learning component to be more powerful.
That’s interesting. We have been hearing from a lot of educators who are struggling with which classroom the 3D printer belongs in. Where is it in your school district?
I teach math and science for 7th and 8th grade programs. Science is the easiest one to give it to because I think science can lend itself to larger projects and creating 3D models. But I was talking to a history teacher about some of the projects we’ve done in the past, like a China artifact project, where the kids learn about China and medieval times 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 fit into the history classroom as well.
I honestly think a 3D printer belongs in everyone’s classroom, even language arts. Think about trying to inspire students to write. How cool would it be if they could create something out of their own minds, their creativity, and their imagination and be able to turn around and write about it? I think it belongs in everyone’s classroom.
Create a visualization of the character they’re writing about. I love that. That’s interesting because we are hearing some education groups that are starting to put them in more of a lab situation. It’s like when we were young and we were taking typing classes. You were expected to use it in all of your classrooms from that point forward and type all of your reports. The computer was the same way when it came into the classroom.
Do you think the 3D printer belongs there, or do you like having it much closer to you and your lessons?
When I started as a teacher about ten years ago, one of the things that I found was we had these computer labs. Telling my students, “I know you’re finished and are 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,” I think that’s a disservice toward our students. I think our students are growing up in a technology world where it’s at their fingertips. We have to be able to teach them how to use that technology effectively, how to be able to determine that they are ready to start typing so they are going to use the computer, or they have done their 3D design work so they are ready to start printing. I think 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, understand how it works. If there is a technology problem, they need to learn how to handle it and how to problem-solve. If they see it printing incorrectly, they can fix it. To me, I have a hard time isolating subjects, equipment, technology. I think it should all be available at all times to all of our students.
I think that’s a great point. 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 at that point?
We are. For four years, we used to be self-contained in 7th and 8th grade. I used to teach all subject areas as a middle school teacher, which was definitely challenging in and of itself. Now we do blocks. There are times where we will do a special science day or a special history day where we focus on one of our projects. We have a cell museum day where we will spend the whole day showcasing our science project to the campus and to the public in the community.
Isn’t it challenging to get something printed within the time frame of your class? What happens when you have printer problems? Isn’t that distracting? That is the case that a lot of educators make for having it in a lab versus a classroom. While I really appreciate your ideology about how to teach it, which I agree with, do you find that challenging technically still?
Yeah. There are definitely challenges when you deal with technology in general. One of the apps that we use on our iPads daily is not working. But I also feel like students need to learn how to problem-solve and how to get around the problem. I feel like if for some reason the 3D printer is down for two weeks and we are in the middle of a project, what can we do instead? Let’s get the cardboard out and start building and constructing something. I think there is value in that as well.
Kids need to know that technology isn’t perfect, that the WiFi may be down for the day. If you were planning on researching today and you can’t use the WiFi to be able to surf the Web, what can we do instead? Let’s work on another aspect of our project. I feel there are some valuable learning lessons that go along with it. Yes, there are challenges, and the time it takes to print something right now is definitely 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 they have to give me their designs well in advance so I can get them printed. I print all day long. The kids walk in the door, and it’s printing. They leave, and it’s printing. When I leave at the end of the day I am printing one last project. I would love to have more in my classroom for sure.
Cindi, we have had several teachers reach out to us over recent months that are just getting into it. They got a grant and have been told that they need to start teaching 3D printing. 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?
Right now we are working on cell biology. The students have been researching individual cell parts, what their structure and functions are. We are working on building a life-size, interactive cell. Each of my classes will create one plant cell, one 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 print or build or construct them, they also have to create a QR code that goes to an analogy that explains 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 will be 3D printing their part, whereas other kids—like the cell wall isn’t something you’re going to 3D print because it’s extremely large (ceiling to floor)—won’t.
I think the powerful piece of 3D printing can’t be the end-all be-all. Your whole project can’t revolve around the 3D printer. What I have found to be the easiest way to integrate is 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.
I want to go to your school. I want to be your student. That makes a lot of sense. 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. That may be the wrong approach, but they are missing the whole application, the clause 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. That’s the same thing with technology. That’s what we have seen in the technology world for the past five years. Having this separate computer lab doesn’t benefit us. It needs to be integrated in everything we do. A student may pull a textbook off the shelf to find a definition of the word, or they may say that they need to find out more so they will do research on the computer that the book couldn’t cover. I feel like 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 and the technology and the tools we have for the kids is a huge disservice.
How to determine what best tool or tech you need for any given challenge you might have, or actually 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 then I have other students who feel they can’t do art at all. Those kids may want to do 3D design work because it makes sense to them and they are able to express themselves creatively without having to draw with paper and pencil.
Students are diverse. We know this, and we have known this forever. But we have to be able to allow them to have the tools in order to express themselves the best way they know how.
That’s wonderful. What do you wish you had in your classroom today?
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 experiencing this.
Tell us about how you got trained to learn 3D printing. Did you already know how to do it? How did this happen for you in your school?
This is a really interesting story. My principal came up to me last year and asked me if I wanted a 3D printer for my classroom. I told him, “No, I don’t want a toy in my classroom. I don’t need another piece of equipment that will sit and collect dust.” That’s one of the big disservices that the administration is doing is dumping these things in teacher’s laps and saying, “Here, have fun! Use them.” We don’t know where to start, how it fits, how it functions. The whole year last year, I thought there was no reason for it in the classroom, and until someone tells 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 will benefit the kids.
There was a gentleman in town who does a lot with STEAM in the schools, and I have worked with him a little bit over the last couple of years. Over the summer, I didn’t really have any big projects or workshops or conferences I was attending, so I was free. It was like my first summer off, which was nice. He came to me and said, “What do you think of writing some curriculum for 3D printing?” I thought to myself, I could totally just say no and walk away from it, but this is cutting-edge. This is something that is pretty revolutionary. What if I took the summer and investigated how this could be incorporated into the classroom?
The thing that I want to stress is that I was paid for that time. That doesn’t often happen to teachers. Teachers are pretty much expected to do all the investigating and training on our own without any extra compensation for our time. We are expected to do it. In this case, I felt really valued because they said, “Hey, we’re going to pay you for the summer to work on this.” I did. I dove in and said, “How am I going to make printing work in the classroom for kindergarten through eighth grade?” I created curriculum for kindergarteners all the way up to eighth graders. A lot of the curriculum in 7th and 8th grade could be incorporated into high school. I think it’s the cutting-edge, the tip of the iceberg. I think as teachers, we could easily share more and more projects as we go along. But I think for me, being able to get it started and look into the next generation of science standards and find all 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. I think it’s unfair to ask them to do so.
STEAM Maker paid you over that summer to help them create curriculum. Is that correct?
That makes sense. It was sponsored by Robo 3D in that sense.
Yes, they are the ones who said, “Education is valuable. We need to invest some time and money into this.” I so respect Robo 3D Printing for that because they are the only 3D printers that I have so far seen who have really invested the time and energy into that educational aspect, paying a teacher to dive into the curriculum to make sure that what we put out there is usable, standards-based, functional, and is able to be done in a classroom.
This is one of the topics we talk about all the time. It’s the same problem for 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’s a toy and it makes tchotchkes. If they took the time to spend on a designer to make good designs that push the envelope of what 3D printing can do without becoming art pieces so that it still has that STEAM functional focus, then I think it would do the same thing. Both the education and design components are actually what has been holding 3D printing back from tipping. That’s very forward-thinking.
Is STEAM Maker making this curriculum available to other schools?
STEAM Maker Workshop made the curriculum available to Robo 3D Printing, who has put it on their website. I know on their home page they have a spot where 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.
Last time I talked to Brayden who is one of the founders of the company. His next big focus is to try to get an organization or a group together where teachers can share ideas so that we can start to accumulate science at middle school levels, science at elementary school levels. Let’s have history teachers think about how they can have 3D printing come in handy in their classrooms. Maybe have this portal where any teacher can go and find resources based on the subject and the age of students they are working with.
You went from rejecting the idea of a 3D printer altogether to then being asked if you would help create curriculum: I have a free summer, so I will get paid. Why the heck not? To being completely converted to the point where you are using it in your classes every day. Is that correct?
You had to educate yourself on 3D printing, too.
That’s also interesting. I wrote the curriculum over the summer without ever touching a 3D printer. We had one at the STEAM Maker Workshop. There was a gentleman working with us who was doing all the printing. He was printing and designing the curriculum I was writing. I would write a project, and he would create the project and print it so we had examples. It was a way to flesh out the curriculum. Did this work? Did this not work? How can we tweak it? We did a lot of trial-and-error. He was supposed to train me on how to use the 3D printer, but we had some technical difficulties. There was back-up on one of the printers because one of the interns did something wrong, and long story short, 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 with no clue how to use it. A couple of weeks later, when I got my official printer for my classroom, I called up Victor—the owner of the workshop—and spent 30 minutes with me to give me a quick rundown, a tutorial, and then I was off and running.
That’s the thing I keep saying to people. The harder part is figuring out what to make and how to design it and how to use all of that process. Running the printer, it’s just a printer. It’s a piece of equipment.
You plug it in and hit Print.
It’s the anti-climactic part. Getting it off the print is the great part. This is fascinating. That’s such a great story. Where do you want to go next with it?
I have been grappling with this the past couple weeks. I think my struggle right now—I see it, recognize it, and want to overcome it—is I know that 3D printing can do so much more than what I am doing in the classroom. When I go to Robo 3D Printing’s workshop and see some of the things people are printing, my mind is absolutely blown. What I am doing in my classroom is the tip of the iceberg. I know that my kids are going to take it and fly with it because they are going to surpass what I can even imagine what you can do with it. My brain just isn’t holding on to that capability because I am older.
This is where Tom and I got super excited about the power of 3D printing. We have a similar story to you. Eventually I caved after not wanting a printer for so long, and when I caved, all of a sudden the light bulb goes on. What I’m so excited about is within ten years, we are going to see this generation with minds that are capable of thinking in three dimensions in a way we cannot today because it’s very hard. We work in three dimensions all the time. We are product designers; it’s what we do. But that has come from 20 years of practice. You don’t just have that skill. It just doesn’t work like that. You have to practice it every day and learn about it. The way their minds are going to work is going to open up the possibilities to inventions and how things are made that we never imagined before. That excites me.
As a teacher, my goal is not to teach the kids what I know. My goal is to teach them how to surpass what I know and how to take the little introduction into 3D printing to a whole ‘nother level that I can’t even fathom. That is the new way of teaching that we have to wrap our brains around. I am not the expert anymore, but my job is to get you, if you’re interested in this avenue, motivated to blow me out of the water.
I love that. That’s so great. I think about that all the time when we are 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 is going to surpass me is actually so exciting.
Isn’t it? I think teachers are afraid of that. I think they’re afraid of not being the expert anymore. They’re afraid of not having all the answers. They’re afraid of not “being smarter” than the kids. I feel like that is such a disservice to the kids. I feel like they should be able to go so much farther than we could even think we could go. I think that is the power in teaching that we have. We have to let it go. We have to let our kids go.
That’s fascinating. I haven’t thought about it this way until you said it. You’re saying a 3D printer is modern chalkboard. It’s another tool. That tool has evolved from the chalkboard to many other things. When it comes to education, 3D printing is just one more tools in your toolbox.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today, Cindi. We really appreciate it, and we hope that it inspires other teachers and other districts to get out there and start 3D printing. 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!
Studies in 3D Print Curriculum – Final Thoughts
Wow, was that fun? I’m so excited to have someone as excited as I am about 3D printing in the future and the possibilities of it. I am refreshed by the perspective on teaching as well as the perspective on technology. We get too excited about the concept of new printers in schools, but it’s what you do with them that counts. If you put tech in its place and you really concentrate on how to do something with technology, you’re going to get the kids’ minds energized in the right way.
My mind was really stuck in the preconception of the old industrial arts classes, like we had in school, or a home ec class where you might learn to sew. We have 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 is nothing wrong with concentrating on a new technology and teaching kids intensively how to work with it. Doesn’t it make so much sense just to make it be like a computer, like an iPad, like a regular printer? It’s integrated into your curriculum in your class. It’s just one of the things that students can use. They’re not forced to use it. That’s really interesting.
In any science class, when we were in 7th and 8th grade, we had to learn how to properly use a microscope. You’re going to have an orientation as part of your program that is going to teach you about how to use the equipment and how it works. Here is going to be the light bulb going on in other kids’ heads when they see their buddy trying this out and their girlfriend doing that. That will ignite each other to do something great, too, which I just love. Whether it’s group projects or individual projects, you’re going to get that cross-pollination of ideas and thinking.
It really made me think that some of these project packs and kits that we are starting to see come out and we have talked about Mattel and the digital sundial thing. Having projects like that are a very good thing to do. I envisioned those being used a lot more in school curriculum situations. Maybe they won’t be used there in some school districts; maybe that’s what students and parents will use to further the education and go beyond using 3D printing in the classroom for that assignment. I’m sure it will happen all different ways.
I think of it as a parent. As a parent, I feel extremely responsible for providing my child with tools. That is 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 will go out and do it herself.
I couldn’t understand why our oldest Alex didn’t love reading because I completely love reading. So I tried every method possible to get her to love it. That’s what you do as a parent. You find tools to ignite their excitement. In the case of books, I tried to find genres that I thought she would like. It took vampires; she had to be old enough for vampire love stories for it to ignite a reading bug. Earlier it didn’t work. That’s what we do as parents: we seek tools to do this.
I think teachers have to do the same thing. That’s what I found so interesting about what Cindi discussed. You provide opportunities so the ones who want to go further can. Once those that do start doing it, the other students will want to try things, too.
I’m super excited about how this is going. I hope we will get into Cindi’s classroom at some point. I would love to see some of the things the students are making and really hear how much at the end of the year they enjoyed having 3D printing in the classrooms. We will have that opportunity hopefully soon, and when we do, we will document it.
I also want to point out a blog post that I wrote recently about how you need to start paying your teachers to learn over the summer. That is a real key there. If you really want this to be done right in your districts and classrooms, you should be paying them to learn. That is a critical factor. I think it’s great that she got paid for it; that made the difference in this happening in this case. Look at the power of what she is able to do with that. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. If you are going to buy an expensive piece of equipment, you need to provide training and a paid opportunity to learn that. That is a no-brainer in the scope of a program you’re going to put in place in your school. You need it not to sit there and become a big paperweight.
If any of you listeners are educators who have had a similar or different experience in how you got started in 3D printing and how it was integrated into your school system, please reach out to us in the comments or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- PRIDE Academy where Cindi teaches
- STEAM Maker Workshop
- ThingMaker by Mattel
- Educational Digital Sundial Project
- Teach Teachers How to 3D Print
About Cindi Schultze
Cindi Schulze is a teacher at PRIDE Academy. She wrote the curriculum for Robo 3D and uses that 3D printer in her classroom.
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