Just after its fourth birthday, 3D printing pen company 3Doodler saw its kid-friendly 3Doodler Start take top spot at Toy Fair 2017, when it was named the Toy of the Year. WobbleWorks LLC, the company behind the popular 3Doodler line, has come a long way since its successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2013, as we’ve seen the 3D printing pens used to create everything from jewelry and clothing to artwork and even full-sized replicas of cars. In an effort to encourage hands-on learning and tactile teaching methods, 3Doodler joined up with the crowdfunding for educators site DonorsChoose.org in November 2016 to bring tactile tech, like its 3D printing pens, to classrooms across America. 3Doodler pledged to match every public donation, dollar for dollar, that was made to projects requesting one of its 3Doodler EDU Bundles: a Start Bundle for students ages 8-13, a Create Bundle for students 14 and up, and a mix and match option.
The 3Doodler matching campaign was very successful:
- $200,000 raised in total
- 283 projects, from 272 teachers, fully funded through 3Doodler’s matching donations
- 329 3Doodler EDU bundles shipped, with 263 schools receiving bundles
- 43,943 students doodling in class now
- 48 states represented, including Washington, D.C.
3Doodler has been visiting some of the classrooms that were lucky enough to have fully funded 3Doodler EDU projects through the matching campaign, and getting an inside look from the teachers at how much 3Doodler and DonorsChoose.org helped make a difference in the creative lives of their students. Connie Bagley, a teacher at Crockett Elementary School in San Marco, Texas, and Blair Mishleau, a teacher with KIPP DC: Heights Academy in Washington, D.C., found out about 3Doodler from DonorsChoose.org emails explaining about the matching offer. Mishleau says websites like DonorsChoose.org can really open “access to tools for disadvantaged kids that they simply wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Bagley is a dyslexia reading specialist, and Crockett Elementary School has about 650 students, ranging from kindergarten through 5th grade; over 75% of these students are economically disadvantaged. Bagley says she’s motivated by student success, and spends her days using various teaching methods to teach her dyslexic learners in the ways that best suit them. She thought that the 3Doodler Start pens, available in the 3Doodler EDU Start Bundle, would be a great idea for her students, particularly the tactile/kinesthetic learners.
“Seeing students learn to read, then read to learn is what makes this job rewarding,” said Bagley. “My first thought was that these would be perfect for multisensory instruction. My students learn best with a VAKT program: visual, auditory, tactile/kinesthetic. The students could write with them, and then actually feel the shape of the letters.”
Unlike Bagley, Mishleau has worked with DonorsChoose.org before, and has completed over nine projects and raised over $20,000. The public charter school that he works at, in one of the state’s most historically under-served neighborhoods, has 450 students, 99% of whom are African-American; 90% of these students qualify for reduced-price or free lunches, which Mishleau says is “pretty useful” in terms of the families’ socioeconomic statuses. The 3Doodler Start EDU Bundle he requested was fully funded.
Mishleau said, “I want to provide my kids with choice and voice.”
This bundle comes with 12 3Doodler Start pens and 12 Start DoodlePads, 1,200 Eco-Plastics, 24 DoodleBlocks, and a total of four activity guides and project books. Mishleau says his 1st and 4th grade students use the pens in his technology classes, which teach the kids about keyboarding, computer programming, tech literacy, and, according to Mishleau, “pretty much anything else that would be helpful in providing access and opportunity around technology.”
Mishleau says that the 3Doodler Start pens have mostly lived up to expectations, and that each of his classes, while only getting the chance to use them once a week, have learned the technology quickly.
“I often find that a lot of tech projects are a lot more sexier and user friendly in videos and photos compared to when you actually get them, but once I got the pens, I realized how sturdy they were, and how easy they are to use,” Mishleau said. “No kid has said ‘I can’t figure this out,’ or ‘I give up,’ with the pens. I can’t think of a tool that I’ve used where that’s been the case.”
Mishleau also noticed that his students are advancing creatively without asking for assistance; some students started to draw geometric shapes before he’d even introduced the concept in class. In addition, they are exceeding his expectations when it comes to working with the pens in teams.
Mishleau said, “I don’t have enough pens for everyone—just one per two children—but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how kind they are. Not only do they work in groups, but I’ll see students—when it’s not technically their turn to use the pens—helping others.”
Bagley said that her students have been just as enthusiastic about the 3D pens she received in her own 3Doodler Start EDU Bundle, and have been using objects they find in the classroom, like paper cups, as bases to make towers and rocket ships, and decorating these objects with shapes, like stars. Bagley plans to share her 3Doodler Start pens with other teachers as well.
Both teachers, in an effort to fend off potential disappointment, did not tell their students about their respective DonorsChoose.org projects ahead of time.
Bagley said, “My students did not even know I had submitted a project.”
However, even though neither teacher did too much self-promotion for their 3Doodler projects, many anonymous donors contributed, and some even left comments on the project pages: one of Bagley’s donors wrote that as a special education teacher herself, she understood “the need for something like 3Doodler in the classroom.”
3Doodler explained that its decision to match the public donations was made so teachers’ projects could be fulfilled as soon as possible, and their students could get to work. We’re glad to see such a project in action; 3Doodler will be continuing to showcase teachers and students benefiting from this initiative in their Upwards blog. Discuss in the 3Doodler forum at 3DPB.com.