Friday, August 29, 2014

3D Models to iBooks Author

Welcome back everyone! I hope this year is going to be a great one!

This is a quick post. I hope.

The Inspiration
After spending an amazing week in San Diego at the Apple Distinguished Educators Global Summit I really wanted to use iBooks Author as a tool for students to document and share their learning. It's so much more engaging and interactive than other methods.  

The power of the software is that students are now the authors of their own content and have a HUGE amount of flexibility in what that looks like. The finished products will also serve as exemplars for future students in my multimedia class. 

The Classroom Need
We use Sketchup a LOT in my Multimedia a Design Studies class, and I've always wanted students to have a way of sharing their models in a meaningful way. We usually use screen shots from Sketchup to share our models, but iBooks author has blown me away. 

Full disclosure, this is not a new process,  iBooks author has always handled 3D files call .dae files, but what's awesome for my class is figuring out that Sketchup can easily export these files. This is also not new but I'm excited because it's new to me!

The WorkFlow
I tried it today with a low poly mammoth model from Thingiverse . To import it into Sketchup you need an STL importer plugin which can be downloaded from Trimble's website. Installation is a breeze from the Preferences menu. 

From Sketchup I exported the mammoth files to a .dae file that iBooks Author likes. 

I then dropped in a 3D Widget into my test iBook and I chose the mammoth.dae file and it worked great! The 3D model was fully interactive in Preview mode in iBooks Author!

Uses in Other Classes and Hiccups

I see this being very useful in many classes, not just Multimedia and Design. Students could access any Thingiverse .stl models, and design immersive 3D environments in Sketchup for say, a unit on ancient Greece, illustrating the life and times of Greek civilization. These environments could then be exported as a .dae file and brought into a iBook as part of their project. The pros of having so many 3D files at the fingertips of students on Thingiverse or even the Sketchup Warehouse is that they don't necessary have to spend a ton of time with modelling it themselves, and can focus on the content and outcomes in the curriculum and analyzing how life in an ancient time might have been like. 
For my class where understanding, creating and presenting 3D objects is in the curriculum, we will focus on construction in Sketchup.

One thing I would caution is using models with a large polygon count. You might find that complex models with a lot of curves, and bumps will take a long time to import into Sketchup, or may even crash Sketchup. This temple took about 15 seconds to import for example. The Gnome model was so complex I had to force quit Sketchup because there were just too many polygons making up his body. 

There are ways to smooth models before importing them, but that's another post on its own. 


I'm excited to see how my students will use this workflow to share their learning of 3D modelling techniques with iBooks Author.

All the best everyone! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Narrative Care Project

 This week my student broadcasting class is moving on to an exciting project called The Narrative Care Project. This project connects my students with senior citizens in care a our local senior care facility.

The students have been given the challenge to answer the following essential question: "How can we use music as a catalyst to evoke memories and how can we preserve these stories?". The ideas for this project came from a program in New Brunswick, Canada where university and high school students have been working to document the stories of seniors. 

It's a huge undertaking. Working with our school counsellor, we have presented them with the challenge and have had several classes where we have asked students to brainstorm and develop a list of thing they need to know and things they need to do. The list is quite extensive.  Students have done lots of research about what 'preserving memories' might look like, and we have agreed to use video of the seniors to make iBooks for each of the seniors, with an iPad being left at the seniors home for everyone to access, and DVD and other digital copies of the videos being made available for family members.

We recently spend an afternoon at the care facility where students were introduced to the senior they are going to be working with, as well as members of the seniors' families. The kick off visit was a huge success! My students were treated like family members by the seniors who started sharing so much about their lives

What is most rewarding and exciting about this project is that it is rooted in empathy. My students are truly going to understand and value the experience they have because they can take pride in not only making a final project for a class, but something that will be treasured by the seniors and their families for years to come. Hopefully at the end of the project students will truly appreciate how things were different when their partnered senior was growing up, and how many things are still the same. 

On the equipment side of things, there is also a challenge for myself and for my students. We are going to be using iPad minis to record, edit and share the video content for each senior's iBook. We're going to use our existing mics and rotolights with the iOgrapher case for the minis. I really want to challenge my students to use the minis to their fullest capacity with video.

Photo source: http://

One side note that is interesting is that I have also connected with a senior in the facility and I had a wonderful chat with her about her family. I'm looking forward to doing the project along side my own students!

Has anyone out there used iPads for documentary style interviews? I would like to connect and share ideas about which apps worked well for them!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Prototyping and More Prototyping

This originally started as an outline for a post last year that never materialized and now is very relevant again this semester in my multimedia class.

Students in multimedia this semester will have more choice than ever before. After completing two compulsory modules (one to learn about Photoshop and the other the basics about Illustrator), students will then get to pick from 6 modules depending on their interest, and complete 4 of them.

The Idea
One project that I'm really excited about right now is a design project where students will design their own speaker enclosure for an mp3 device. I'm ordering mono speaker kits from a supplier which will allow students to solder together all of the electronics and then design the enclosure.

Students will sketch, prototype from cardboard, make mistakes, and do it all over and over again until they create a speaker enclosure that is uniquely theirs, all the while blogging about their work. In the ned they can make it out of wood, cardboard, acyclic sheets, or even recycled materials they've found around the house.

The kits have been ordered from a supplier in the UK call Kitronik. If anyone knows where I can get these kits in North America PLEASE let me know!