April 21, 2014

The Hillman Files

There are a lot of good things happening with educational 3D across the country, yet I find that most of the great stories about 3D in classrooms somehow seem to fly under the radar. Good things are in fact happening, but often no one knows about them. That’s because educators rarely toot their own horn; it’s also because the education industry is highly isolated and successful programs are often geographically pigeonholed. Rarely do successes get the broad recognition they deserve. 

This is a story about 3D project that began at Cedar Creek Community School (Cedar, MN) and is now extending district-wide.

The St. Francis Schools are no stranger to innovative technology use, being well-equipped with projectors, SMARTboards, document cameras, and other innovative technologies. More than two years ago, however, they began a planning process to bring teaching with depth—stereo 3D visualization—into their classrooms. Led by 4th grade teacher-innovator, Holli Hillman, this project represents what I believe to be the single most successful district-level 3D implementation in the nation. Bar none. And for that reason, there’s much to be learned from these humble yet daring St. Francis innovators. Let’s continue our story.

Holli Hillman
Hillman, a seasoned and bright educator, summarizes the St. Francis project in this way:

We are exploring stereoscopic 3D content, currently in the areas of Science and Mathematics, for our STEM initiative. Because many of the 3D lesson topics were produced using the Common Core Standards, many directly correlate with our Minnesota state standards, making this content worthy of replacing some curriculum.”
The content being used by Hillman includes stereoscopic 3D simulations created by DesignMate. She explains the advantages of teaching with depth in this way:

 “3D brings concrete, abstract concepts to life and allows for optimum visualization and comprehension of some very conceptual topics. This content is fascinating and the sky is the limit for how it can be used. I believe this to be a ground-breaking approach to instruction as well as comprehension for students. The color and imagery are beyond bold and attention-grabbing.”
Remarkably, Hillman’ innovative efforts began with her 4th grade classroom. That is significant because the far majority of 3D projects in the nation are being implemented in middle and high schools.

Folks, there’s so much more to this story. That is why I am turning this piece into an off-and-on-again series. I consider Holli Hillman to be the best 3D educator in the U.S., and in future installments, you will clearly find out why. 

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