3D Printing Journeys 

The children in Year 4 at my school have taken a new role this term. They are city designers. 

Their task?

Design a city. Starting off consider the services and facilities a city needs. 

We identified five categories of building: 

  • -energy and water 
  • -food
  • -education and culture
  • -entertainment and leisure
  • And finally governance

In each category separate teams argued for and against specific options. 

‘We need a supermarket to provide food more than a green house to grow it because we need a wider range of foods than a greenhouse can provide for our city.’

‘We need a police station more that a parliament building to keep our people safe.’
When two options in each category had been selected we did some research. What would a swimming pool building look like?

Then it was time to design our own accommodation. Think big! There were solar houses with roof gardens and high tech transport options. 

The design research process for the buildings focussed on zones in the city. It was quickly established that the desalination plant should be near water and the airport should be away from house. While our cinema should be much more central and accessible with public transport. 
So many thoughtful connections and knowledge was shared. 
Each element needed information and two dimensional diagrams. The ideas came thick and fast. 
We started transferring the concepts to 3D with Tinkercad, a straightforward online tool. When we work in 3D we have to consider new relationships between object. Are they lined up horizontally and vertically. We learned to group objects that were solid with holes to make arches and doorways. 

As we reached the next phase. The files had to be converted to .STL format for the Ultimaker printer. 

We thought about dimensions, overhangs and gaps. Would the structure of our build work in 3D. Some decide they shouldn’t print as success wasn’t guaranteed. 

The outcome?

A city was born without a name. That’s the next step. To choose one. 

Why do we 3D print?

Printing this way is revolutionizing manufacturing. A 3D building has been printed in Amsterdam. 


The Netherlands is developing 3D printing in many fields from construction to clothing. 3D is also a form being explored in medicine to support prosthetics production. 

The Dutch city of Venlo is soon to host a conference with a focus on 3D printed food.


Who can tell what will be 3D printed in the not too distant future? 


MOOC week 2: Art in The Environment 

The second week of this MOOC was last week. So I’m starting to catch up. The next focus is art. 

More specifically Art in The Environment. Now this week I can find a real hook. Although the Andy Goldworthy concept of making art from found objects in nature wasn’t entirely appealing as it’s one I’ve seen before there were many other things. That got me thinking. 

My biggest challenge is to do something on our residential with year 4 this week. I’m going to focus on Me as the pencil. The limitations are that I want to do something with one iPad and 48 children. 

Here’s my plan.  I’ve got two ideas. 

Hitting the Dunes 

Our Dutch location is a challenge as it’s flat, flat, flat. However on our trip we are visiting a dune. So I think we can use a time lapse to create a artistic event. If we base the iPad at the top of the high dune we can be an image filmed from there. 

I had this in mind. 

Maybe it will work.  

I’d like to do this as a collaborative challenge thats on a large scale. It’s unusual to do something really large. I want the children to explore the process of working together.

To structure the activity we will discuss animals that work together. I’m a beekeeper so bees might be a good stimulus. We can start in smaller groups then come together into a bigger formation.

After we’ve captured the activity I’ll bring it back to school to see if we can create something in an urban context.  

Virtual Sculptures

My second idea would add to a project we are doing in a few weeks time. We’ve been designing a city with a tool called Kideville. The buildings in the city are being designed by Year 4. They’ll be 3D printed in a couple of weeks time. I’d like to explore using the green screen to place the mini models in a real setting. 

This way we can examine the suitability of the 3D designs in real settings in nature and the city. It should create an opportunity for reflection that’s more valid than ways we’ve tried before. 

DLab Erasmus MOOC 2017

I’ve recently joined a MOOC from DLab Erasmus. I signed up a few months ago and anticipated looking forward to the MOOC after really enjoying one last year. 

Time rolled on and the MOOC start date arrived two weeks ago. As is often the case a commitment made in January doesn’t always seem as appealing come May. Last year I participated in March -April and found it stimulating and thought provoking. This year it’s been a different story. 

Unfortunately it’s trips season which means I’m off site and off grid a lot this month. The mooc has a technology in the outdoors theme so I’d thought it would be ideal. It hasn’t been yet. But I’m working on it. 

It also means that I’m not in class as much as normal but I’m working on that too. Though I can’t put much into practice this half term I’m already inspired. 

Assignment: reflect and share 

So week 1 assignment involves the theme of   Creating Trails. We’ve had five sets of stimulus to develop ideas. What a great range. DLab Erasmus is a collaborative project involving schools and teachers in different countries. 

Mapping Nature

The school that explored bird migration caught my imagination. Norwegian children visiting Rune Aae to look at birds up close and personal. 

Immediately I was inspired. I’ve done citizen science myself but hasn’t thought of ways to do it with my teaching. I’d really like to do some data capture using this type of reality. In our location I could see us exploring a number of possibilities with frogs and frog spawn perhaps or with the local parakeet populations. 

Though we don’t have the expertise to trap the birds the prolific numbers could be an opportunity. I was inspired because of the value of the reality of this project. 

Hacking Nature

We do so much work with image now I’d like a way to give pupils a sense of power over reality. Hacking Nature has given me lots of ideas. What I think I’ll do is explore statues in nature. I’ve previously done a ‘make an advert’ with the app Spark Video in Year 2. We used lego figures as the stars. (I’ll find an example if I can) the interesting part was the ‘voiceover’ element. The children’s imaginations were explosive. I’d like to explore ways to add themselves to a scene or landscape in a literary way e.g as a book character. We can do that using green screen. ‘Bring your character to life’ style.


Newscast gave me a different angle on a familiar theme. Broadcasting to an audience in another school is often tricky but using etwinning could be the answer to my prayers. We often tried to do this before but failed when seeking an audience. I have a colleague doing an emailing experiment. Using a different medium to convey ideas shared in this way will be helpful.  
Outdoor Games

Now this topic could be an opportunity. This week on our trip I’m going to explore ways to illustrate a game in our play area on the trip. Or it could be a tool for spare time activities. I’ll see what’s feasible though it could be a small scale. 

Spare time activities

This idea was actually more familiar. We’ve been using a project in Year 6 for three or four years that we’ve called digital CV. The students create their own CV to present their whole range of skills and attributes beyond school. They have complete flexibility for the outcome. Some use iMovie as the basis, others use keynote. The Include writing and art, cooking, music, languages. For art, time lapse is a popular choice and the capture images as they draw for example. 

Although the DLab project has been a slow start I’ve got plenty of ideas. The next challenge is exploring them. We shall see. 

Reflection and content

It’s like a New Year’s resolution when you decide to commit to a blog. Bright and keen setting out with the first post may be easy, fueled by the initial commitment, but blogging regularly may be the goal and it becomes an uphill struggle very fast. 

Seeing blogging as a reflection rather than a writing process is one way of finding content. 

I have two blogs. One is environmental Green Lizard Blog started about four years ago with two tentative posts. Then there was a lull where I wrote little. After about a year I found momentum and commitment. I was able to reflect on specific things which helped the posts roll. 

Identifying topics for this blog has been harder. I’m well aware that there are many Edtech bloggers who are covering the strongest topics. So I’m going to need to start again with a Content focus. Making a list will help.

What can I write about? 

  1. Tools I’ve used. Given the massive possibilities with apps and tools that are available now it’s useful to reflect on things I’ve found useful. 
  2. Events. If something happens it’s beneficial to reflect on it. It might be a learning breakthrough, an organizational decision a teaching technique. 
  3. Reading. Sunmerising interesting articles and documents can help to galvanize their impact or just relate an annotation for later use. 
  4. Colleague wisdom. When we are surrounded by people exploring the same journey we often exchange and discuss. It may be useful to record and contemplate those interactions as beneficial insights.
  5. Lists. This is a standard blogging tool. So what kind of list can an educator share? Weirdly I think educators use lists all the time. Yet do we see that they could be beneficial to others or to keep. That start of year list, the list of strategies for a specific maths topic or learner struggle. A list that helps us prioritise or keep focus. 

So five elements is likely enough. It’s half term. 

Or maybe blogging about how to unwind and get perspective is a good idea after all it’s something teachers find very hard to do. 

What’s your key to finding inspiration? 

Top Tip

This week some of my learners reflected on each other’s work. They focused on positives and shared to a big screen. It was great for them to celebrate each other’s work. 

Enjoy the break! 

Trainspotting 2 and Web2.0: lessons from Spud about blogging

Trainspotting 2 hit the screens in a special Double Feature marathon last weekend in Den Haag. 

The erstwhile anti heroes of 1996 have struggled through two decades and survived. Just. 

Fast forward 20 years

Their earlier selves have timewarped into the present day, to some extent still in their past for the viewer and the character. As an audience we picture them there, back in a simpler world. One has been in prison which metaphorically fits their absence from public consciousness in the gap since then. 

Today their world is confusing. Their characters have feet in the past. One scene of remeniscence over football, features a quote that they ‘live in the past’. The girl who states this says that in her country the past is gone. 

How does this link to blogging? I hear you ask

I remember sitting in a meeting in a slightly unfocused way in around 2007 when a colleague voiced concern about the potential of Web 2.0

At that time I wasn’t clear, initially,  what she was meant and listened to the doom and danger she was concerned by. 

 A Web 2.0 website may allow users to interact and collaborate with each other in a social media dialogue as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to the first generation of Web 1.0-era websites where people were limited to the passive viewing of content. 


Fast forward ten years

Living in the past is a straightforward fall back procedure. It’s a place that seems familiar and comfortable. 

When Trainspotting came out in 1996 I was living in west London. 

It was the year before I moved to The Netherlands. 

I’d been teaching five years and I was 27 years old. It was the year I became a vegetarian. 

In 1996 In the UK Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales get divorced and Mad Cow Disease hits Britain (BSE) causing the mass slaughter of Herds of Cows and new laws to stop beef being sold on the bone. A severe Meningitas Epidemic occurs in West Africa. In technology DVD’s are Launched in Japan and the number of users on the Internet exceed 10 million. This is also the year Ebay and Ask Jeeves is started and the first ever cloning of a mammal Dolly the sheep. Fifteen children were killed in a Dunblane primary school. John Major was prime minister. (http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1996.html

In the 20 years in between many things have happened. In 1996 I would have hardly been able to imagine publishing my thoughts in a public space. Yet today I am doing exactly that from the comfort of the couch. 

The internet reached a million users in 1996. But that internet was flatter and content based. It was a library of information not one of authorship. 

Ten years later the concept of Web 2.0, which had been coined in 2004 presented a very different story. 

To become a web author is straightforward. Tweeting, facebooking, blogging, vlogging and instagramming are all familiar concepts. They don’t frustrate the spell check. They are common terms just like ‘Google it.’

Modern day T2 character, Spud, has found a new addiction #spoileralert -he’s a writer. 

This made me contemplate the modernization process. Although T2 is based loosely in a book set ten years after the original story and then brought to 20 years, it seems the screen play of Irvine Welsh’s book has missed a trick. It seems to me Spud should’ve become a blogger. 

“Why would I blog?” 

This very common question is answered by this example. Spud needs a voice. In fact he has a voice. Yet his thoughts, ideas and concepts are stifled by circumstance. He needs to organise them and write them down. His medium is note paper and complex notes. 

 In the book version, when he has written his ideas he approaches publishers. They dismiss him.  
Being able to write changes Spuds life and his outlook. He gains a great deal. Self respect, clarity, purpose and hope. 

Yet his ideas go unread. He is still isolated and alone. When he finally finds a reader he is liberated. 

If the context of 2017 were available to this man of 1997 I believe he would have blogged. He would’ve gained a following. He could’ve become an internet sensation. 

It’s interesting that for some Web 2.0 created anxiety and a worry yet it has provided a creative channel that holds anything but anxiety. 

These are aspirations for a potential blogger today. 

If you need a voice or might find one

If you want clarity or purpose

If you need feedback 

If your thoughts could be shared

…… then blogging may provide. 

Missing Maps: Big Data saves lives. 

Free pizza? Yes please!

A simple idea with big consequences. 

A Tuesday night and thirty volunteers registered with an organisation called Ready2Help. An element of the Red Cross. 

In a spacious university room with wheeled tables and chairs and our own laptops, a group of strangers assembled on a Tuesday night. 

The reward: Pizza! 

The challenge: Map Malawi. 

Missing Maps has a simple idea. Get crowdsourcing to generate big data so that remote area of this planet can be mapped more effectively. 

Human geography for places which are poor is very thin on the ground. By bringing people together aerial photography from satellite can be studied and used to indicate human details in these remote areas. 


Without such information a country is a mystery. It is impossible to know where communities are based, what resources they have and how they can be supported in times of need.

Missing Maps are filling those gaps. 

The skills are simple. Using open street maps (the geography equivalent of Wikipedia) and a simple editor our team scanned the images and mapped buildings and roads. In the thee hours we were working, we identified 5000+ potential buildings and 800 km of roads. 

In the next stage these will be checked locally so that the type of building can be clarified. This means that in an emergency a hospital is identified and if it is damaged it will be easier to provide help for example. 

A community of houses that is hit by flooding can be supported. 

Missing Maps also undertakes crisis mapping when disasters hit to provide information in extreme need. 

Our team of Humanitarian Opensource Street mappers (known as HOTties) can now be called upon to help with this work too.  

At the end of the night there was a strong sense of achievement. It was great to learn how big data and digital teamwork can help solve world problems with a bit of pizza thrown in. 


It’s easy to get involved either by registering for an event of linking up with the Mussing Maps website. Access to a computer, the internet and an account on Open Street Maps are the key tools. 

Mappers can join in and continue the work after a session. 

Why not start today? 

Another option is to use the Mapswipe app to participate in mapping too. 

Getting outside with Tech and Trees

I’ve just spent a week in the woods, metaphorically speaking.

Being immersed in a Forest Schools course with Richard Wood, has been very enlightening. 

Tech is so often a target and blamed for the reduction in outdoor access for children, so how about finding a middle ground?

My plan is to bring the tech and trees together. 

In my other life, beyond the classroom I’m a bee keeper. In the time I’ve been doing that I’ve learned a lot and it’s inspired me to do different things digitally too. 

I’ve recognized that nature and tech have a lot in common when used correctly. But  both can be a cause for concern: either about the mud or about the screen time, concerns about risk can be high in both. 

Meanwhile both can inspire connections, discussions, sharing and dialogue. 

They both create a great opportunity for people of different ages to share their knowledge and work together. 


Like that famous picture of students in front of the Nightwatch in a gallery who were engrossed in their phones yet they were in fact checking their assignment, the use of technology outdoors might be misunderstood or a source of activity. 


Children can use a device in a number of ways outside. 

  • It can remind them about a task. That can be done with paper but paper gets crumpled and can’t speak.
  • It can record events and achievements by them or for them.
  • It can collect inspiration. David Hockney used an iPad as a tool to create art. Though perhaps advancing in years, he embraced the capacity of this tool to provide a huge pallet of colour in one slender piece of equipment. And his prolific work shows the powerful results. 
  • A device can guide you through an unknown land. Pokémon Go may have been a scourge of the summer for some but it was a platform for virtual reality where sharing information created connections and exploration and discovery. 

The digital world shouldn’t dominate the outdoors by any means but it can be harnessed in appropriate ways. 

Tech users can participate in citizen science projects by uploading data that tracks science and animals. Identification becomes easier with access to the internet. 
Forest Skills

How many times, when we need a skill in real life do we need to source help from You Tube? I’ve been finding out how to bake bread on a stove from Ray Mears. It’s definitely going to get me outside. 

Lost knowledge

Finding people who can light a fire or make a mallet with traditional skills becomes harder and harder. Technology allows us to share these skills and prevent them from dying out. 

Such skills are identified as positive opportunities to be in the open, to solve problems, collaborate and develop self esteem. 

Life skills which build people and teams effectively. Tech can take us outdoors.
I’m really looking forward to exploring meaningful uses of technology in the outdoors. 

What real life skill have you used in the outdoors but learned with technology?

Did you find a resource online that made a job easier to do?