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    Meet Tinkercad Teacher Shayna Holloway

    Matthew Dalton
    Published on - March 16, 2022 by Matthew Dalton


    Shayna Holloway

    Recently, I had the chance to chat with Shayna Holloway, the Innovation Manager with the Timothy Smith Network (TSN), a Boston-based nonprofit organization that empowers organizations and individuals to access and optimize cutting-edge technology. At TSN, Shayna manages educational programs for all ages that seek to bridge the digital divide and prepare participants for higher education and futures in our modern tech-driven workforce. Prior to joining TSN, Shayna worked as an educator in the Boston Public Schools for nearly a decade. A graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, she also earned a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston in Early Childhood Education and Teaching. Shayna loves Boba tea, music, reading, and anime, and is always open to collaborating through her role at TSN!

    As part of her onboarding to TSN Shayna was asked to incorporate Tinkercad into her lessons, so I sat down to ask her about her experiences.

    Hey Shayna! Thank you for sharing how you used project-based learning with your students during the last Teaching with Tinkercad webinar (Interdisciplinary PBL with Tinkercad). Speaking with you previously, it sounded like you left a teaching job you really enjoyed to work at the Timothy Smith Network. Could you give me some background on why you made that transition?

    Up until working with TSN, I had mostly been teaching students in grades Pre-K – 2, and I found it quite comfortable. Last year, I applied for a summer opportunity at the Timothy Smith Network, and I should give a quick shoutout to my mom for setting up a job interview for me when I wanted to take a break for the summer (after working the past three summers). The position was helping create project-based curriculum and leading a class of high school students through that work. I was sold on TSN mission to broaden access to cutting-edge technology in education. The project sounded so amazing!

    Garden project sketchGarden project: product design sketch from one of the student groups.

    By the end of summer, everything exceeded my expectations. Not only did we hit our goal of every student making a working prototype, I also got to see some incredible outcomes. Two of our students are still in a mentorship program with a former NASA employee, and they’re working to get patents and put their products out on the market. It was a wonderful experience for students and for me to see their journey from base ideas, to innovation and creation, to learning about business and entrepreneurship. When TSN asked to keep me on as their Innovation Manager, I was overjoyed to take on the role.

    I imagine as an Innovation Manager you brought a lot of experience teaching Technology and STEM in the classroom?

    Actually, I come from very far outside of the tech field. Even outside of education I’ve never been a big technology or “gadget” person.

    On the education side of things, I had always taught younger students and never considered myself a STEM teacher. My classes were focused on circle time, read-aloud, show-and-tell, dance and snacks, and talking about emotions. That was my wheelhouse. There was a lot of focus on fine motor skills, but where I was teaching, there was no real connection between that and STEM. When I did teach tech, it was only to learn basic skills. For instance, I focused a bit on typing with my first and second graders since I felt it was a skill they would need in the future.

    When TSN asked me to incorporate Tinkercad into my classroom, my initial response was to look up what Tinkercad even was, and I honestly wasn’t sure how I could incorporate into the class or if I would even be able to learn it in time to teach.

    Student designed cakes
    Examples of student designs from initial cake project, which was used to teach Tinkercad basics.

    How was it having to incorporate Tinkercad, a new software for you, into a lesson that you had just developed?

    A lot of my colleagues at TSN came from a technical background. So, while creating my account, I was thinking that you already had to be a part of this field to understand it. Once I logged in though, the site really put me at ease by laying out small simple steps to increase my understanding and build my confidence. Little prompts like: start projects, just play around, here are some shapes, make a classroom if you’re an educator, try this, do that—these all really emboldened me to tinker around and try things that I might not have been comfortable with in my initial mindset. By the time we got to the Tinkercad week with the class, I was properly equipped to empower them.

    After letting them play around in the program for a bit, the first task I gave them was to make a cake. As they made their cakes, I made mine. It really felt like we were all learning together. There were times I would zoom in too much or wonder why my model was upside down, but I found that most problems the students or I ran into just required slowing down. I encouraged them to play and be creative while learning the program, so it became something we all enjoyed together.

    What would you do when a student ran into an issue that you didn’t have a solution for?

    When a student or I ran into a problem that couldn’t be answered immediately, I would turn it back and have them or the class explore it. If no one was able to answer it right then, I could always ask them to think about it, and see if anyone came up with a solution by the next day. That would give me a night to search for an answer.

    There is also a ton of documentation provided for Tinkercad, both by Autodesk and people who use it. We created a document with several sites students could use to further explore concepts. The Tinkercad Learn page and YouTube playlist were two places that provided many quick answers to questions that came up.

    If it was something we needed to troubleshoot, we found the undo function to be incredibly valuable. For those problems that ended up being too complex, it ended up being pretty quick to just delete the offending item or start over, depending on the severity. This was because once the students did something once in Tinkercad, they gained an understanding of how that feature worked, and were able to easily repeat those actions.

    Student designed farms
    Student designed farms as part of the initial exploratory phase of the garden project.

    How long did it take to get your students on board with Tinkercad as part of their design process?

    When I started teaching Tinkercad, I presented it as a way to explore, build, and start creating their ideas. Several students already had the impression learning 3D modeling was the first step to 3D printing, which helped solidify its usefulness to the class. When students initially started working in Tinkercad there was a wide variety of acceptance. Several students jumped straight in, others got off to a slower start, making themselves frustrated, and a few tried it, then immediately asked if they could just draw their cake instead.

    I built in enough time on the first day to allow students to seriously explore the space and play with their models. The cake design activity is nice because students who just got it were expanding and elaborating on their cakes without me having to prompt them. For those that were encountering struggles, I encouraged taking breaks when discouraged. I never want students to get to a level of frustration where they don’t even want to approach the concept we’re working on anymore. Finally, I challenged the students who just wanted to jump back to paper and pencil to just stick it out for that first day, and really give it a chance.

    Small prompts throughout the lesson helped them overcome blocks and allowed their creativity to really shine. Pointing out that cakes don’t have to be a circle or a square, can have more than one layer, and that elements like frosting, cake toppers, and design could be incorporated.

    By our fourth day working in Tinkercad, students were working in teams on their garden project. They had developed a level of proficiency where they were able to maneuver around each other while working on the same 3D design. They also started dividing tasks based on where they felt comfortable and taking on greater individual challenges to help support their teammates.

    At the end of each project, groups were so proud of their creations, they looked forward to sharing their work with the class. This ended up providing more inspiration to other students, as they would ask the presenters how they created something in the design, allowing the students to teach each other (and me as their teacher) different and more advanced techniques.

    What would you recommend to teachers working with younger students?

    Typically, with younger students I try to follow a “I do, we do, you do” approach. For this, I would probably have prepped more ahead of time, before we even got to the cake. This way I could ensure I had enough understanding going in to build my own cake before we started working on it together as a class.

    In this case, since I had high school students, I was able to implement more of a “we do, you do” approach, entirely bypassing me having to learn it first. Since the program was so approachable and easy to work with, it worked out well for us.

    Student designed circuits
    Circuit designs created during the prototyping design phase of the garden project.

    A lot of teachers don’t have access to 3D printers. What do you use 3D design for outside of printing?

    Our priority with designing in 3D isn’t for printing, but so students can better visualize their final project. While we just got some 3D printers and are excited for students to prototype and print things, it’s more important for us that they understand and utilize the design process when building their projects.

    When students use the Tinkercad 3D design and Circuits workspaces, they’re able to view and test their design before building. Sometimes students would expect projects to work a certain way or be a certain size. Seeing the project in 3D and being able to simulate the electronics gave students a much better understanding of how their final projects would look and work. This also gave students the opportunity to troubleshoot and fix issues before getting to a finalized version.

    How do you inspire creativity in the classroom?

    A lot of teaching has students following a pre-defined sequence of steps to accomplish the same outcome. When you give room for innovation and creation, students are hesitant. They want to know if there’s some undisclosed set of criteria they’re being graded on they should know about in order to “pass.”

    I found several things that helped me get students to break through that hesitation. First, I will try to simplify the project requirements. For example, I might stipulate a minimum size, number of shapes, and color requirements. With this, there are still a host of designs students can come up with. Second, when students are working, I encourage them by telling them to play around, just throw things into the workspace, or try putting things together they don’t feel should go together. This allows students to open up a bit more and reinforces that there really is no wrong method when designing. Finally, when reviewing their work, I’ve found the most important thing is to be encouraging. If I tell them that what they’ve created is wrong, or doesn’t make sense, they’ll revert to knowing that their creativity isn’t wanted, and that there is in fact some specific outcome I was looking for as a teacher. Instead, I try to provide challenges that build on what they’ve done and further develop their creative freedom.

    Student garden

    Pictured above is a farm that some of my students turned in. I could have let them know that a dinosaur doesn’t belong on a farm, or that it didn’t even have the correct coloring, but I didn’t. I see that as their creative expression, and as a whole, they’ve delivered on the assignment. By complimenting their project, then commending them on choosing a non-traditional color for the dinosaur, I’ve reinforced their creative freedom. As a side note, this also helps encourage design outside of 3D printing, because students have fun creating just to create.

    When students no longer feel that looming pressure of failure if they do something “wrong,” they’ll start to have fun and develop a stronger sense of project ownership. This generally leads to unique projects that the students feel much more passionate about, which can be seen in their work and final design.

    Any advice for new teachers just coming into Tinkercad?

    Have fun! Take your time and encourage creativity. If you’re not having fun with it, your students won’t either.

    Tags: Inspiration