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Pinball: Bounce Ideas Around

What it is: Pinball is a neat site from the BBC that helps students kick-start new ideas to get thoughts flowing and develop creative talents. There are four tools that will help students brainstorm and bounce ideas around. Dot Dash is for firing out ideas, start with a main idea and branch out with connected ideas in a web.  Drop Zone is for making quick decisions, add ideas, name the zones, click “go”.  As ideas speed by, quickly make a decision and select a zone; analyze the results.  Snap Shot lets kids play with images; here they can upload an image or select a random image or word in “Lucky Dip” and then use the tools to play with the idea. Students can reflect, rotate, scale, bend, erase or cut an image or word to get different effects.  Wild Reels is for mixing up ideas.  Students can create reels of images and words, then they can label the reels.  When the ideas are all in, the ideas can be “spun” to see what combination comes up.  In each of the tools, the results can be “flipped” to another Pinball tool.  Each tool allows students to think about a subject and explore ideas they may have about the subject. How to integrate Pinball into your curriculum: Pinball is a fantastic tool to help kids think through their ideas for writing, research, science hypothesis, making connections in their learning, brainstorming, and fleshing out ideas.  Each tool is designed to let students think visually in a way that lets their ideas flow freely.  The integration of one tool with another is really helpful for transferring loosely related thoughts into a more cohesive thought process.  Pinball can be used for whole class thinking with an interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer.  For example, as students read about a time period in history, and related events, they can use Dot Dash to show how the events and people are related.  Students can each add to the class understanding of the time period.  Drop Zone would be a great way for students to generate ideas for a creative writing, or journal project.  Students can enter the ideas they have and let Drop Zone help them decide which to write about.  Bookmark Pinball on classroom computers so that students can use them as an inspiration station center.  Any time your students need to bounce ideas around or think through their learning visually they can visit Pinball and work through their ideas.  Pinball would also be helpful for structuring thinking prior to a research report, or science experiment.  If you have access to a computer lab or 1-to-1 setting, allow your students time to think about their learning and connect new learning to knowledge frameworks they have already built.  The possibilities with these tools are endless. Tips: Pinball offers links to additional thinking tools that are available on the web including Exploratree, Mind Tools, bubbl.us, Aviary, Mind 42, and Wisemapping.  Each of these tools is fantastic for mind mapping, creative thinking, brainstorming, and visualizing ideas. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Pinball in your classroom!

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Maxwell for Google SketchUp

Posted by admin | Posted in Apply, Art, Create, Math, Middle/High School, Science, Secondary Elementary, Software | Posted on 21-11-2011

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What it is:  If you aren’t familiar with Google SketchUp-you should probably start here and here.   SketchUp is an incredibly powerful, FREE 3D modeling software that lets your students create impressive 3D models.  Maxwell takes SketchUp to a WHOLE new level.  Maxwell for Google SketchUp brings students advanced rendering in an easy-to-use package for free.  The best part: Maxwell is fully integrated so that you don’t have to export or use an external application to render an image. Rendering happens in “real-time” so as your students are adjusting their SketchUp models, they can see the changes in Maxwell.  Maxwell is compatible with Windows and OSX!  With Maxwell students can create materials, set lights and cameras and render 3D scenes.  These are incredibly powerful tools…I cannot believe that they are free (I’m a little nervous to say that too loud in case they decide to change their minds!).

How to integrate Maxwell for Google SketchUp into the classroom: Maxwell takes student work in Google SketchUp and polishes it up to a professional level.  Truly, the results are akin to what the professionals turn out!  The SketchUp/Maxwell combination are wonderful for graphic art classes, math and geometry modeling, advertising lessons, engineering classes, architecture, science models, etc.

Don’t let the impressive results fool you, I’ve had 3rd grade students who made some amazing models using SketchUp.  I look forward to introducing them to the Maxwell plugin so that students can see their work come to life in ways that they couldn’t do before.

At Anastasis Academy, we have several students from 2nd through 8th grade who are extremely interested and passionate about architecture.  Google SketchUp is where I send them!  Students can plan, create and build.  Maxwell will allow them to visualize their creations in totally new ways.

I don’t understand why more schools don’t put these types of tools in the hands of students more often.  Exposing students to tools like this, gives them the opportunity to explore their passions and interests.  The tools are getting easier and easier to use and the number of tutorials is astonishing.  You (the teacher) don’t have to know how to use these tools inside and out, your job is to let your students know they exist, and help them find the resources to use them.  No excuses!

Tips: Using rendering tools teaches students about materials, light sources, shadows, etc.  Use Maxwell to teach students these science concepts!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Maxwell for Google SketchUp in  your classroom!

Comments (1)

Totally agree, Kelly. I hope more and more teachers embrace the role of guide on the side, as parents make it clear to the policy makers this is what they want for their kids. Maxwell sounds fascinating!

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