Sunday, May 17, 2009

From 2 Dimensions to 3D with Google SketchUp

I’m off today to Sicily for a while. With a few hours to spare until plane time, I thought I’d handle the post that follows – something I’ve been meaning to do for at least 6 months…

From 2 Dimensions to 3D
I taught Fine Arts in middle schools in East Harlem, NYC for close to 2 decades. I think one of the most important challenges I tackled during that part of my career as an educator was teaching kids to draw – I mean REALLY DRAW. Over the years I developed my own curriculum. As I did this I discovered there are half a dozen, perhaps 8 or 9 basic, essential concepts that elude almost everyone, but that anyone can learn if properly taught. Among this is the representation of depth or 3D. You can support learners in this by showing them how to construct 3D images out of flat 2D shapes and connecting lines. The figure below was done in MS Word.

Actually, MS Word has 3D shapes that are already drawn that may be inserted into a composition (example below).
Watch a student who has been struggling perceptually with depicting basic shapes in 3D accomplish this easily using technology and you’ll see big light bulbs illuminate over his head! However, in the strictest sense, these drawings are not accurate because the planes (rectangles) are fully frontal. This sets up an impossible situation because if the rectangle facing the viewer were absolutely frontal, then the sides would not be visible. These drawings are inelegant in other ways, but we are talking about the training of perception here. And in that sense walking a learner through this exercise is invaluable.
Moving on, though, Google’s SketchUp (free downloadable) software will take students and artists infinitely further (example below).

I hope to return to SketchUp again and again to experiment with it and its educational potential. For now, here are some worthwhile links to explore:

Google SketchUp – 3D for Everyone Student Work

Google’s Gallery of Student Work
Google SketchUp Math ProjectsStudent Built Homes Using SketchUp

SketchUp Video Tutorials
Lesson Plans Involving Sketchup

and Misc. Resources
Edutopia blog post -
3DVinci Teacher Guide -

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Art of Vocabulary

Wordle (a free web-based resource) is an easy to use engine that generates powerful images from the words you enter. Many refer to the images produced with Wordle as 'Word Clouds'. I believe the thinkingstudents put into planning a producing a Wordle image on a theme would make a wonderful activity that offers the potential for great art learning as well as foster literacy skills.

Images can be manipulated in many ways and users can develop intuitive techniques for producing images, just as one would using any other medium to make art. It requires no registration. Once an image is created it can be submitted to the Wordle website gallery and/or a screen capture can be taken of it for use elsewhere (i.e. a Picasa Web Gallery). Here's a sample I created in roughly 10 minutes. Find Wordle @