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    Back to School: A Recap of Updates for Teachers (2020)

    Donald Bell
    Published on - August 31, 2020 by Donald Bell

    Teachers & Parents

    At Tinkercad, hardly a month goes by where we don’t have some update or new feature to share with our educator community. Understandably, it's difficult to keep up with all the announcements (especially with everything going on in the world).

    With the new school year now underway, it feels like the right time for a quick review of some of the recent additions to Tinkercad over the past year that teachers may find useful. 

    Tinkercad Lesson Plans

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    Launched just a few weeks ago, this entirely new section of Tinkercad is dedicated to providing free, standards-aligned lesson plans for teachers using Tinkercad with their students. Each of the nine lesson plans currently available are suitable for remote learning with middle school-aged students. You can learn more about Tinkercad Lesson Plans in our full blog post.

    Updates to Tinkercad Classrooms

    Introduced in August of last year, Tinkercad Classrooms is our tool for helping teachers streamline the Tinkercad sign-on process for students. With it, students can log in to Tinkercad quickly with a class code and nickname that you provide them. Once they’re up and running, the teacher dashboard within Tinkercad provides you with more control and visibility of your students’ activity in Tinkercad. 

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    Since the launch of Tinkercad Classrooms, we’ve rolled out two notable updates. The first was the addition of classroom links. Instead of requiring students to keep track of both a class code and their unique nickname, the classroom link bypasses the need to type in the class code, simplifying the sign-on process. You can learn more in our full blog post.

    More recently, we added a Class Gallery to Tinkercad Classrooms. Now, teachers can browse through a gallery that collects all of their students’ designs on a single page for quick review. 

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    CodeBlocks Sharing

    Tinkercad’s CodeBlocks editor has quickly become a beloved tool for teaching students the power of code and computational thinking. Unlike other educational coding platforms, CodeBlocks is rooted in 3D design, allowing students to turn abstract code concepts into objects they can visualize and interact with.

    When we first launched CodeBlocks in 2018, the editor offered limited options for sharing your creations. Today, not only can you export your designs as an STL, OBJ, SVG, or Part file, but you can also make your design publicly shareable just like any other Tinkercad design.

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    When you share public CodeBlocks design with your students, not only can they see and play your design, but they can view and copy the entirety of your code and make use of it in their own creations. You can learn more about sharing CodeBlocks designs in this blog post.

    CodeBlocks Activities

    While we’re on the subject of CodeBlocks we should also point out that there are many free instructional activities built for CodeBlocks in the past year. Most notably, we’ve added a selection of interactive activities to the launcher menu that greets students when they launch the CodeBlocks editor.

    Additionally, the Tinkercad for Education team created four Hour of Code lesson plans on Instructables that leverage CodeBlocks to create shapes with code.

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    Tinkercad's iPad App

    One of the keys to Tinkercad’s popularity is its ability to run on just about any computer in your classroom. If it has a web browser, chances are that it can run Tinkercad. Still, one of our most requested features over the years was to create a dedicated Tinkercad app for the Apple iPad.

    That’s why we were thrilled to unveil Tinkercad’s free iPad app this past December. For many school IT departments, installing and approving Tinkercad as an app is a much easier process than working through the approvals for students to use the website. 

    The app has undergone several updates since it launched, including multi-language support, and an action modifier button for performing some of Tinkercad’s shift key functions.

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    The Tinkercad app also includes a unique feature found only on the iPad -- an augmented reality viewer. With the touch of a button, students can place their Tinkercad design into their surroundings virtually, using the iPad’s camera system. It works like magic, and is extraordinarily effective for communicating the possibilities of transforming digital designs into real world objects (especially at a time where school 3D printers are often inaccessible).

    In the following video, teacher Rob Morrill demonstrates how students can use Tinkercad’s AR viewer to present virtual tours of their designs or digital dioramas created in Tinkercad.

    Making at Home Shapes

    It’s inspiring to think of the infinite possibilities created by digital design and fabrication. But it can also be useful to understand how digital tools like Tinkercad can help you make the most of what’s right in front of you.

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    It’s in this spirit that we created the Making at Home collection, built right into the Tinkercad shapes menu. Here, students can find items that are easily scrounged out of their junk drawer, recycling bin, or craft supplies.

    Challenge students to solve a design problem using scraps from around their home. Then, have them document and share their design digitally using the Making at Home collection along with any other items they can measure and recreate in Tinkercad.

    OMSI Hangout Space Collection

    Time and again, students seem to respond well to prompts where they design a custom room using Tinkercad. With this in mind we teamed up with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to create the OMSI Hangout Space collection within Tinkercad.

    Stocked with furniture, arcade games, lamps, and plants, the collections allows even the most novice new users to drag, drop, and arrange a room layout. Students often can’t help but add their own unique design touches, or add walls, beds, computers and other items missing from the collection.

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    Smithsonian Artifacts

    In February, the Smithsonian announced a contribution of hundreds of 3D scans of historical artifacts into the Creative Commons through the Smithsonian Open Access Initiative. We collaborated with the Smithsonian team to bring a handful of these models into a collection that all Tinkercad users could explore and use.

    Within Tinkercad’s Smithsosnian collection you’ll find an Apollo command module, a woolly mammoth skeleton, a Triceratops skull, a life mask of Abraham Lincoln, a telegraph relay, and more. We believe that history has a place in how teachers and students make use of Tinkercad, and we hope that you’re able to find interesting and instructive ways to explore these artifacts.

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    Community Resources

    We hope the features and improvements mentioned above provide an indication of our commitment to helping you bring the Tinkercad experience into your classroom. 

    We’re extremely fortunate to serve such a vital and generous community of educators and institutions who share their experiences and lessons with us. 

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    This past year, we were especially appreciative of the Tinkercad lessons published by The Edgerton Center at MIT. Because many of their lessons are suitable for younger students (primary school), they fill a gap in the mostly middle-school focused curriculum found here and elsewhere online.

    We were also delighted to see the lessons created by Spark!Lab at Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. As an institution that prides itself on hands-on activities they ingeniously adapted Tinkercad to work as a digital invention kit for students to access online. 

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    Our friends at Instructables have also created a hub for all Tinkercad-related projects submitted by their vast community of makers and DIY enthusiasts. If you’re ever feeling like you need a fresh Tinkercad idea to try with your students, scrolling through the Tinkercad hub on Instructables should provide a quick inspirational boost.

    While you’re there, take a look through the finalists of the Distance Learning with Tinkercad contest held a few months ago. Some of the ideas are more polished than others, but it’s a great window onto the wide variety of concepts and subjects teachers are using Tinkercad to communicate.

    Let us know what’s working

    Tinkercad only improves with your feedback and suggestions. We invite you to contact us directly at tinkercadlearning@autodesk.com

    We know this school year will be full of surprises and setbacks, but we hope that Tinkercad can play a role in providing you and your students with some fun and enriching moments.