Common Sense Review
Updated April 2015


Make learning meaningful through 3-D design
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Nutrition Label Project
  • 3D Warehouse
  • After building a house, design the interior
  • Example of a modern house with nature
  • Use the labeling tool to add details about your creation
Students can design anything for any content area, building new connections and becoming more involved in their learning.
Although SketchUp provides a few helpful intro videos, students will still need significant ramp-up time.
Bottom Line
SketchUp is a fantastic, subject-agnostic tool that does take time to learn but helps students gain truly useful, transferable skills.
Amy Cox
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

SketchUp is an adaptable, engaging 3-D design tool that gives users the power to create whatever they desire, from buildings to abstract designs. It's fun, stimulating, and guides students clearly. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Students take charge of their learning. They'll be motivated to learn more so they can improve their designs. SketchUp requires users to understand math concepts, but it also easily connects with other content areas.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

There's a strong foundation of tutorials for learning basic features and functionality. From intro videos to blog updates, there are tons of supports. Additionally, it's designed to support many types of learning styles.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

SketchUp can be naturally paired with math because of its use of spatial design. Students will need to consider perimeter, area, measurements, and how to fill space effectively. It can also connect to social studies to help students better visualize a time period. Similarly, SketchUp could be a platform for students to develop their understanding of setting and its influence on characters. Furthermore, less authentic projects can be built as the focal point in a presentation (look for an example in this review's images). SketchUp can even be used to prepare for 3-D printing projects! Because there's so much flexibility, both students and teachers can adapt the tool to what they need. It's user- and classroom-friendly, and after a strong foundation has been explicitly taught, students will be learning multiple skills and content at the same time.

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What's It Like?

SketchUp is a 3-D design tool that can be connected to any content area and is a nice mix of simplicity and complexity. While it's user-friendly as far as digital design tools go, students and teachers will need to watch the introductory videos to get a handle on how things work. Once you're comfortable with the basics, get creative; SketchUp can be used in just about any classroom, and there's no limit to what can be built -- from small to large scale and from basic to intricate. It's a great platform for demonstrating learning, designing solutions, and illustrating concepts.

Users begin with a simple template but can build whatever they like from it. SketchUp is structured to be user-friendly -- there are shortcuts for changing tools, lines and points will snap into place when hitting a midpoint or another important position, and lines and dots change colors to align with other, previously drawn shapes. When building a model, users can type in the dimensions desired for the structure. And if questions arise, it's simple to find an answer. SketchUp has a strong community -- including a lot of educators -- on whom to rely. Plus, designs can be shared and browsed in the 3D Warehouse. The basic version, SketchUp Make, is free. The more robust version, SketchUp Pro, is free to teachers but will cost students.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Overall, SketchUp is a great tool for facilitating student learning. It's engaging and will likely intrigue students. The clear layout makes it easy for students to use, and it gives them power over what they create. Because of this flexibility, students can build what interests them. They can find ways to make this process enjoyable -- but this is where setting students up with the basics becomes crucial. It can become frustrating to use SketchUp if users still are unsure of how to complete basic tasks. Fortunately, there are many avenues for setting students up for success.

Although SketchUp provides the structure and a space for learning, teachers must still spend time planning how they will use this program to enhance student learning. The program explicitly teaches how to construct buildings in SketchUp and subtly reinforces mathematical concepts. Any other content must be thoughtfully paired with the program, but doing so is very straightforward. What’s great is that it naturally provides students with another context/tool to facilitate and demonstrate learning. They can use SketchUp to build models as well as deeper connections and meaning to the content area they're studying. Any learning feedback, however, will need to be provided by the teacher.

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