3d pens and the impact it could have had in my classroom–and should have in every classroom!!!!

clip_image002I have always liked to doodle. Recently I have been playing around with 3d pens and find that doodling in 3d presents interesting options. Traditionally in the past I would have a single sheet of paper and a pen and create in front of me a connected drawing. Now I can draw in three dimensions and that is intriguing. The drawing on the left was done with a 3doodler, just not by me. I find that while I can now expand to other dimensions I am still trapped in my inability to convey what I see in my mind to the paper now 3 times as bad as before.

You can choose one of two plastic types ABS and PLA. They work slightly differently depending upon your goals and abilities. Mine obviously are not worthy of sharing. But many people can quickly create amazing works of art in 3 dimensions. I wish I had one of these when I was teaching. No more diorama’s with plastic lions and green army soldiers. Let’s build a recreation ourselves in class. Let’s redo the world of the dinosaurs. Every year adding a few more plastic dinosaurs. My class built a HyperCard stack many years ago that was award winning. They included the sounds they felt the dinosaurs would make. Now with the various 3d pens we could enable motion and the kids could have expressed not only what they looked like and sound like but how they interacted with the environment they were in.

clip_image004Jurassic World in the classroom. Just with the ability to shut off the 3d pen and not have to worry about being eaten. Beyond wishing I had this when I was teaching I also wish I had artistic talent in some form. I can write about anything. I cannot draw anything. So doodling is my chosen art form. The combination of texture and depth makes it fun. The reality of my skills mean I won’t share my creations with the world, they are in the end for me. Still I do enjoy the works of those who have mad skillz in this space.

Beyond ABS and PLA plastic now there are other options and the options are expanding. You can buy conductive plastic that allows you to create not just things such as the images here but also electronic circuits and creations that conduct electricity. Image drawing a light bulb and creating a glow using only the plastic you are drawing with.

The first generation of 3d pens were huge. The second generation are much smaller and easier to use. They are now about the size of a Livescribe smart pen. A little bigger than a standard pen but not uncomfortably so. When they launched the 3doodler about two years ago on Kickstarter there were about 10 templates you could grab and use. There are now 160 + pages of freely available stencils and that list is growing daily. The same by the way is true for CAM designs for 3d printers. The number of free stencils is growing.

clip_image006Finally the reality of 3d scanners is coming. Today there are a number on the market. The software has improved immensely in the past year. You can now fairly quickly render an object in space. The size of the object is still limited overall but you can take time and render most things you can hold. It is amazing how this market has appeared, evolved and launched. Again I wish I had this technology when I was teaching school. Simply having my class create their vision of what a dinosaur looked like and sounded like. Scanning and recording that digitally and then being able to animate the object so that they could show motion. Applying physics and pesky gravity would change how the students perceived the dinosaurs in a real and lasting manner. You understand the need for a tail when a large dinosaur moves. But with the combination of art (3d drawing), rendering (3d scanning) and computer animation the child can take their vision and make it move in our recreated tropical environment of 200 million years ago.

All this could be done in the classroom of THIS Afternoon. Of course we would have to fund schools for that to be the case.


Scott Andersen

IASA Fellow.