At the lowest level, Substitution occurs, wherein technology directly replaces a task, such as typing rather than writing. In Augmentation, technology replaces a task but also confers an advantage, such as an automatically graded test. The higher levels promote a significant shift in teaching and learning that otherwise would not have been possible.
When considering whether to invest in a new technology, schools need to weigh the cost versus benefits – will this technology have a transformative impact on student learning in our school, or is it simply another way for us to do what we already do? At FIS, there has been substantial recent investment in 3D technology through the purchase of 3D microscopes, 3D printers and 3D modelling software, and these technologies are having a transformative impact on STEM learning at the school.
The new 3D Cell Explorer microscopes in the Upper School Science Department allow young scientists to explore living cells without damaging or staining them by adding a chemical marker. Students can explore real cells in real time – alive, in 3D and in motion. Images and videos can also be captured, allowing students to observe and analyze cell behavior, motion and cell-to-cell interactions over time.
Biology teacher, Christopher Neumann, explains how the new microscopes have the potential to redefine microscopy at FIS: “Looking at cells in three dimensions is cool, but the ability to digitally stain structures that conventional stains ignore will open up research opportunities for our students that were previously unimaginable. For example, a sample from the pond up at the Primary School revealed Didymosphenia geminata, a single-celled diatom algae that is sometimes called ‘Rock snot.’ In this case, the 3D Cell Explorers could be used to study diatom structural metrics or even to assess the environmental quality.
3D printers and 3D modelling software are having a transformative impact on Design Technology lessons, too. As Design Technology teacher, Duncan Watkin, explains: “As part of the design thinking process, students often produce several iterations for their design proposals. By using Computer-Aided Design, students can model and test designs in the virtual world...thus reducing the amount of natural resources used in the manufacture of a product.”
Mr. Watkin continues: “With 3D printing, the time required to produce a physical prototype has been reduced from days to just a few hours, allowing students to gain valuable client feedback sooner. Add in 3D scanning technology and virtual reality, and students can scan existing items [and] interact with the product and make real-time changes to shape, color etc. as they test the product. The resulting ‘new product’ can then be 3D printed in a matter of hours. This quick and personal interaction with the product early in the design thinking process is transforming how students work and think.”
3D visuals can be a valuable learning aid to help explain difficult concepts to students, deepening their understanding of a subject. Yet, it is through the use of technology to engage students in activities never before possible, promoting creativity and fostering excitement as students collaborate, problem solve and create, that the true benefit of 3D technology becomes clear.
Story by Leila Holmyard, FIS Parent