This week I was fortunate to participate with my esteemed teacher colleagues in presenting at the National Association of Secondary School Principals Conference in San Diego, California.  

   If you are not familiar NASSP is the leading organization of and voice for middle level and high school principals, assistant principals, and school leaders from across the United States and 35 countries around the world.   For middle level and high school principals and assistant principals who know the critical necessity of staying current, connected, and equipped for leadership, one national conference (Ignite '15)  was the clear “must-attend” choice.

  Without getting too deep into the data our school has over a 95% graduation, attendance and college success rate.   While much goes into the success of our program part of it involves career technical education and offering our students an outlet to explore and educate themselves on industries that are making an impact in their communities.   

   Part of my presentation discussed a correlation with academic performance and career skills based performance.   Now you can call " career skills based performance"   many things like culinary arts, performing arts or in my case Graphic Design.   Within the context of my course I teach Visual Communications with an emphasis on Design Thinking which is a notion of design as a way of thinking.   Now before you ask about 3D Printing let's investigate the connection between graphic and three dimensional design.   Three dimensional objects can be considered graphic but often times students are stuck in the two dimensional realm of thought.  Presentations, worksheets and applications are two dimensional and rarely journey into the third dimension so I often find that the most effective way to teach 3D Printing is by exploring every facet of two dimensional design and evolve the curriculum into three dimensional packaging design (i.e. food packaging design).  Once we achieve this scaffolded level of understanding in my classroom then I begin to explore 3D Printing and consumer product design with the same focus on design thinking to solve problems.  

   I would highly recommend this approach since core subject content allows for visual assets and physical products to be created as evidence of student understanding.  It ultimately draws down to "learning by doing" and what I communicated to many principals and administrators in the audience this week was that a new culture of learning is happening in my classroom that hasn't been given in any training but only talked about in the research articles.  Just this evening a stumbled upon this Harvard University Article stating technology can bring "a model of schooling that departs from its behaviorist past - creating a Ludic Education for a Ludic Age, promoting inquiry, collaboration, experimentation and play.  In this vision, teachers and students are partners in a joint venture.  They open up the teaching machine to peer into guts and gears - tinkering, failing, and trying again, to see what they can make of it together.  The machines can return education to what it's always been:  a project that's intrinsically human."  

   I can attest that this is exactly the level of education and engagement that is happening in my classroom and I'm beginning to see the connection from this context.  I'm excited to share these connections as I continue to dive deeper in this new culture.