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Pros: Provided lessons and tutorials help classes get set up and started.
Cons: Without more accessibility and multilingual features, some kids might struggle.
Bottom Line: Full-featured site and app make iterative 3D design accessible, social, and relevant.
Tinkercad could be used in numerous ways, whether that's in creating designs based on a scientific concept or being featured in a unit or class on 3D design and printing. For example, in a challenge-based lesson, students could design a solution to an authentic problem from their community and then be given a couple of weeks to design and test their solutions. There are tons of sample videos out there that teachers can show to inspire kids to think of the possibilities and see other kids in action. Alternatively, students who are engaged with Minecraft in schools can extend their play-create experience by importing Tinkercad objects. Imagine giving students the opportunity to bring science, literature, math, and even foreign language concepts to life by designing and printing objects around class content. Even if a classroom doesn't have a 3D printer, students can order prints of their creations from Tinkercad partners who produce and ship them.
Options to share and improve upon others' designs bring a high level of collaboration with one another and the wider community of creators, as well as opportunities to teach students about creators' rights and derivative works. And the rich resources available on the site give students a chance to experience the design process in meaningful and relevant ways.
Tinkercad is a free, kid-friendly online computer-aided design (CAD) program enabling users to design, modify, and print 3D objects, experiment with circuits, or learn to code using blocks. Available to anyone with an internet connection via a web browser or app, Tinkercad makes it easy for students to learn a staple of the design process: combining multiple simple objects to make more complex shapes. The Codeblocks feature offers students even more chances to develop their design skills and bring together creativity and coding for a true STEAM experience. Many students will also be delighted to find out that they can import their creations into Minecraft. This offers an excellent opportunity for students to level up their gaming skills by designing more complex structures in Tinkercad and then refining them in Minecraft. Students can see all angles of their designs or jump between projects to experiment with circuit design, block coding, or Lego-like bricks. Students also get a slew of other tools at their disposal, enabling them to test and improve upon their creations. Even better, designers can order 3D prints, making it very easy to make their own smartphone cases, custom brick designs, or whatever they can imagine making with flexible combinations of 3D objects.
Teachers can create classes and add, import, or invite students so that they can see everyone's designs on the dashboard. There are lesson plans, tutorials, and galleries of cool projects for each of the functions (Designs, Circuits, Codeblocks). Plus, there are other resources for teachers if they want to communicate with caregivers, start a maker group, and more. For students under 13, teachers can enable Safe mode to limit the amount of interaction with other users.
New users of Tinkercad are immediately introduced to a series of scaffolded mini-lessons and interactive tutorials on how to use its various tools. Along the way, they also make some pretty cool things. The best part is the ability to move in and out of the lessons whenever they want to and immediately incorporate lesson ideas into their own design projects. Less-experienced makers will benefit from additional classroom and site support as they learn the basics, but there's plenty of help throughout the site. Tinkercad users can share their projects with others through its online community; this is essential to the overall Tinkercad experience. A huge part of the appeal is that designers can share and discuss custom tools, shapes, and projects. Designers can also allow or prohibit derivative works, teaching students the ins and outs of creative credit and legal protections.
For students over 13, the Community Forum encourages feature requests -- it's rich with suggestions and, inevitably, some complaints. But it creates a great opportunity for kids to engage in thinking about not just problems but also solutions. And with new features, such as the circuit modules, students are able to interact on an even wider scale to grow the ideas from seeds, ultimately, into tangible objects and meaningful skills. In terms of being accessible to all students, it could definitely benefit from more features. That said, with its teacher resources, myriad tools, and methods to make designs come to life, Tinkercad is an exceptional tool.