Monday, May 19, 2014

The Power of zSpace: Two Teachers Reflect

This year, LASD, in partnership with a local tech company called zSpace, developed a one-of-a-kind pilot program to bring the innovative technologies of zSpace into four of our elementary schools’ STEM Labs.  As this year comes to an end, we would love to share with you a small part of our amazing experience with using zSpace in our labs.  

Springer Elementary
Contributed by Joanie Craddock, STEM Teacher  
 
Working with zSpace was an unbelievable opportunity! We were given the challenge to create lessons for grades 3-6 during a 6-week pilot period. With only the heart lesson as an example, it was quite an undertaking. Luckily, it was a team effort, which included our STEM teachers and coach, zSpace employees, classroom teachers, and anyone else I could get to listen to me. Together, we were able to come up with a few ideas to implement zSpace into the curriculum at each grade level.
6th Grade Lessons

Sixth grade spent the most time using zSpace in the STEM lab at Springer. We were able to teach lessons in math, science, and social studies. All three 6th grade teachers were on board to use this innovative technology to enhance learning for our students.
One of my 6th grade teachers met with me to discuss using zSpace for a project with her math class. They were about to start a unit on ratio, scale, and proportions. Together, we came up with a plan to use SketchUp and zConcepts to create physical models from 3D models. The students were able to manipulate the 3D models, take measurements in zConcepts, and then adjust the scale to build their cardboard model. We had quite of few issues with the rulers, size adjustment, and other aspects of the program but the zSpace engineers have fixed most of it for the next version of zConcepts. The students spent hours cutting cardboard and taping their models. It was powerful to see the same building model in varying sizes. After finishing the project, the students used zView to present their struggles and successes and to compare the physical model with the virtual model. It was a longer project than I had anticipated but watching the perseverance of the 6th graders as they measured and built their models and listening to them explain the process to their parents made all the hours of prep worth it.  
Although our current 6th grade science curriculum does not include life science, Kami Thordarson suggested teaching about the parts of the brain. Having years of experience with 6th graders, she definitely knew what would interest them. We started our lesson with a quick song from Pinky and the Brain. It stuck in their heads throughout the lesson. Students were assigned different sections of the brain to research online and given the opportunity to dissect the brain using CyberScience. On zSpace, students created slides to demonstrate the placement of their section of the brain and what would happen to a human if that part was damaged. It was a quick and enriching lesson.
Finally, we were able to make a connection to 6th grade social studies. My 6th grade social studies teacher hasn’t been able to utilize STEM this year and we were hoping to figure out something we could do together. We thought it might be possible to do some archeology in virtual reality or walk through ancient civilizations. At this point, we couldn’t make it work. However, one of the benefits to working on a pilot is being able to ask for something to be created.  zSpace found a model of the Parthenon just for us. One of their engineers even spent an entire day enhancing the original model so the details of the engravings on the frieze could be seen. It was beautiful!  The students were able to explore the Parthenon for the first lesson. The next lesson was a building challenge. In teams of four or five, students were given scotch tape, scissors, white paper and a foam board to build on. Each team could send two people at a time to review the 3D model on zSpace. They all worked diligently on the task and even requested another building day to finish. I was so impressed with their enthusiasm.                  

Covington Elementary
Contributed by Katie Farley, STEM Teacher

Now that the zSpace systems have moved out of my classroom and into another, I can say with confidence that my STEM curriculum was far more enriched than it is without them!  Using zSpace in my STEM Lab offered me the opportunity to motivate my students to learn about some very complicated concepts that can often be difficult to visualize.  The 3D technologies of zSpace allowed my students to become fully-immersed in their learning experience by being able to pull apart and analyze various parts of cells, compare and contrast skeletons from various points in human evolution, and to identify pathways for blood flow in the human circulatory system.  
Throughout my seven weeks with the systems, I was able to develop lessons and activities with zSpace across three grade levels.  From the beginning of the pilot program, it was obvious that we would need to have some classroom management variation in order to best utilize the new technology.  We had only six systems in the lab, and with almost 30 students in each class, there would be no way to have every student active on a system at the same time.  This challenge offered me the opportunity to rethink my activity formats, and to begin embracing the idea of blended learning in my classroom.  Making use of centers in my classroom allowed my students the chance to become immersed in learning instead of waiting.  The following depicts two sample lessons and one example of using zSpace as a support resource for learning in the Covington STEM Lab.
3rd Grade Lesson
           Our third grade classes decided to transition into the NGSS standards this year, which means that they needed some additional resources to support the transition.  We decided to use zSpace to help the students better visualize and understand the concept of evolution, particularly from a scientist’s perspective on human evolution.  In order to do this, I set up two centers - one for computer research, and another for zSpace model comparison.  We set up the zSpace systems with a pre-designed CyberScience 3D model of three skeletons from various points in human evolution.  The computers were opened to a teacher-made Google Doc of links and information on human evolution.  Halfway through the class period, the groups switched centers.  The following class period, we reviewed their discoveries, which led into a discussion of human evolution from a scientist’s perspective.
4th Grade Resource
Our fourth grade classes were already active in a clubhouse redesign project to correlate to their scale, ratio, and proportion when the zSpace systems came into my lab for Phase 2 of the pilot.  The students were building physical models of their clubhouses, as well as creating “3D”, virtual models of their clubhouses on Google SketchUp.  We decided to integrate the zSpace systems into this project by allowing the students to upload their “3D” models from SketchUp into the zSpace systems to see them in “true 3D”.  The students were able to independently upload their models onto the systems to view their models for precision and accuracy.  
5th Grade Lesson
Our fifth grade classes were preparing to learn about plant and animal cells in their classroom science lessons at the beginning of Phase 2 with zSpace.  The fifth grade classroom teacher and I decided to create a blended learning activity where students would rotate between three centers in the classroom - a computer research center, a microscope slide creation center, and a zSpace center.  The students were split into three groups before entering the classroom, and they were assigned to a center.  At the computer research center, the students were asked to open a teacher-created Google Doc with information, links, and labeled images to introduce the concepts of plant and animal cells.  The microscope slide creation center had students creating slides from scratch, using various materials to view under the microscope.  On the zSpace systems, we had adjoining systems pre-loaded with two CyberScience 3D models - one model of an animal cell next to a model of a plant cell.  The students were asked to compare and contrast the two cells, using either observation of both cells or discussion and communication between each group to compare parts.  The groups were rotated every 15 minutes to allow each student to visit each center one time.  
FUTURE HOPES
           zSpace will be coming to all the LASD schools next year for Phase 3 of the pilot program.  During that time, we will have the opportunity to utilize the curriculum- and standards-aligned software that is currently in development.  This software will give us the capability to extend our lessons past using models, and into creating opportunities for students to build their own unlimited learning experiences in a virtual world.  They will be able to explore forces, electricity, magnetism, and atomic composition, all while having fun. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for the zSpace and STEM curriculum alignment in LASD!  

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