A Visit to Harrison

Posted by Michael Simkins on May 6, 2018

Last week’s TICAL cadre retreat afforded me my second opportunity this year to visit a district and glimpse firsthand some examples of what Arkansas teachers and kids are doing with educational technology. I chose Harrison because it was in a part of the state I’d not visited before and it’s home to Susan Gilley, one of our brilliant and indefatigable cadre members.

Located in the heart of the Ozarks near the Missouri border, the city of Harrison has a population of 13,000 and is the seat of Boone County.  Indians were the first inhabitants of the area, the first probably being the “Bluff Dweller”, who lived in caves in the bluffs along the rivers. Today, Harrison is home to Buffalo River National Park, a long, narrow park with over 100 maintained trails. Something I learned, in fact, is that there is such a thing as a “national river” and that the Buffalo was the first one!

Harrison Public Schools serve approximately 2,600 students. The district spends $9,453 per pupil, has a graduation rate of 90%, and a student-to-teacher ratio of 12:1. 48% of the student body is classified as low income, the percentage of English learners is less than 1%, and 9% of students are eligible for special education services.

Harrison Public Schools mascot
Go Goblins!

Tuesday morning, I reported to Dr. Aaron Hosman’s office. Aaron and I go way back. He was a founding member of the TICAL Arkansas cadre in 2002! Aaron has been a superintendent of schools for many years. Most recently, Harrison asked him to be interim superintendent and then stay on for a year to help the new person—new to both the role and to Arkansas—get oriented. It was great to see Aaron again after many years.

Aaron put me in the able hands of Adam Archer, the district’s manager of information technology. Our first stop was Harrison High School. Last summer, the school underwent a major renovation as well as the addition of two beautiful new facilities: a new gym and a performing arts center.

The highlight of my visit to the high school was the EAST lab where Kelly Regan shared some of the projects underway. For those not familiar with EAST, the acronym stands of Environmental and Spacial Technology. The program combines project-based learning with state-of-the-art technology. Students identify needs or issues that matter to them and then use the technology resources of the EAST lab to create solutions.

Kelly is completing her first year as the program’s facilitator. It was great to see both her enthusiasm and expertise as she shared some of the current projects, many of which involve virtual reality and 3D printing. For example, one group of students is working to promote one of the excellent but lesser known nearby hiking trails. To stir up interest, they are creating virtual “teasers,” each of which represents a certain place on the trail. You can literally see what you’re missing by not getting out and hiking the whole trail.

Two other projects combine VR with 3D printing. In one, students are creating a small bust of a student with the hope that it can be held by the student’s parent and serve as a comfort while undergoing some serious medical treatments. In another, students are designing a custom support attachment for use by a wheelchair-bound student to prevent the student’s arm from slipping off the chair’s armrest.

The next stop was the middle school, where there is also an EAST program.  It provided another example of 3D printing at work. In this case, students had designed a prosthetic arm for a kindergarten student in Rogers, Arkansas—over 80 miles away!

While I got to visit all four elementary schools, it is that time of year and “TESTING: Do not disturb” signs were on many classroom doors. At Skyline Heights, however, I was in luck. Second grade teacher Hannah Campbell’s students were just leaving, and she was kind enough to give up some of her prep period to tell me about how she was using technology with her students. All elementary classrooms, starting at first grade, have classroom sets of Chromebooks and Hannah puts them to good use. Clearly an organized person, she has set up systems to make it very fast, easy, and efficient for the kids to get their computer, get logged into the Google account, and get to work. She has also created custom menus for her students with just the resources and apps she wants them to have available, and no more!

Thank you to Aaron for welcoming me to the district (and for knowing where to find the best chicken salad sandwich you could ever eat) and to Adam for taking the time to be my tour guide. Once again, I’m impressed with public education in Arkansas and, in particular, how technology is being put to work in the service of learning.

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3D Printing—The Possibilities

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on January 31, 2015

Photo of a 3D printer“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh the thinks you can think up if only you try!” Dr. Seuss

As Dr. Seuss implies, there is no limit to what people can think up. An illustration of the truth of this statement is 3D printing. Current users in education tend to be early adopters in large part because 3D printing is still a bit spendy and also because it needs to become more user-friendly to entice less adventurous users to climb on board. But does that mean that 3D printing is as fanciful as “beautiful schlopp with a cherry on top?” Or, should educators be paying close attention as this technology matures? Before you decide on your answer, it might help to know some of the ways 3D printing is being used outside education. Here are a few examples.

Building construction

Several companies around the world are using specially designed large 3D printers to print buildings. One company in China produced ten single story homes in less than 24 hours using construction waste and glass fiber in a cement-based mixture. The basic house design is simple, and plumbing, electrical, and insulation are added later. The cost for each home is $5,000. Of course, these companies have an eye on printing much larger buildings down the road, but in the meantime, 3D printed homes could be a good start for recycling construction waste while providing affordable housing to people all over the globe.

Food

One obstacle to long-distance space travel is how to provide food to astronauts. NASA recently funded a project to design and build a 3D printer that can print food using edible powder in replaceable cartridges that last 30 years. NASA’s project is focusing first on printing pizza. On the other hand, 3D printed chocolate is already a reality. The Hershey Company and 3D Systems are teaming up to explore ways they can deliver 3D printed food to consumers, starting with candy. This use of 3D printing may have implications for dealing with food shortages throughout the world.

Prosthetics and other medical uses

A child’s prosthetic arm can cost as much as $40,000 to manufacture and must be replaced as the child grows. However, there are now multiple instances of children using prosthetic arms created using 3D printers at a cost of $350 or less per prosthetic. For example, a youngster in Florida can now catch a ball and climb trees thanks to a group of students from the University of Central Florida who designed and printed his first prosthetic arm.

In late 2013, Mick Ebeling, founder of Not Impossible, established Project Daniel, a 3D printing prosthetic lab and training facility in the Nuba Mountains, a war-torn area of Sudan. Sadly, missing limbs are an unfortunate fact of life for many residents here. A teen-aged boy who lost both arms in the region’s civil war was the first beneficiary of the project. African trainees continue to print and fit prosthetic arms for children and adults in the area.

In addition to prostheses, medical professionals around the country are successfully experimenting with 3D printing of ears, bones, blood vessels, kidneys, and skin grafts. And in 2012, surgeons in Michigan saved the life of an infant by implanting a specially-designed tracheal splint created using a 3D printer.

These examples just scratch the surface of the possibilities. Amazon.com how sells a variety of 3D printed items including jewelry and accessories. Some fashionistas are sporting 3D printed apparel. The University of Colorado is developing tactile picture books for children with visual impairments using 3D printing. And there are many more 3D printing projects in the works.

Given the potential for positive impacts on society, 3D printing in education begins to make sense. If you’re not sure where to begin looking for how 3D printing is being used in your area, check with local Maker groups (http://www.meetup.com/topics/makers/) or affiliates of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). In California the affiliate group is CUE (http://www.cue.org/) and in Arkansas the affiliate group is ARKSTE (http://www.arkste.com/). For a complete list of ISTE affiliates, go to http://www.iste.org/lead/affiliate-directory

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