For our final app review we have evaluated the app “Maker’s Empire”. This is a 3D design app that is designed to be very accessible for students of any age. Maker’s Empire allows students to create 3D designs with simple tools while giving students advanced abilities to manipulate and combine their shapes.
Maker’s Empire includes several of the Multimedia Learning (MML) principles. The most prominent principle is the interactivity effect, which allows students to work at their own pace. When a student leaves a project it automatically saves where they are, and they can come back at any time to continue their work. This also shows how the app uses the segmenting principle, where the app has been designed in levels. This breaks up the learning into manageable chunks that are easier for the student to engage with. When a student first enters the world they are in tutorial mode. The app utilizes the spatial contiguity principle during this tutorial by having pop up text boxes pointing to what it is referring to. This guides the learner through how to initially use the app. A con about this app would be how it manages the coherence principle. It does not exclude extraneous material, and this distracts from the overall learning goal of developing design thinking. When material is taken off of the project, the material explodes every time it is deleted. Although this may engage learners more, we found it to be an unnecessary feature based solely on the entertainment factor.
Benefits for the classroom
Maker’s Empire offers an accessible format that can be used by learners of all ages. It promotes design thinking and problem solving, and when used in conjunction with a 3D printer, it gives students the opportunity to bridge the gap between abstract ideas and concrete objects. Maker’s Empire is available on all platforms (IOS, Android, ChromeOS, Windows, MacOS).
“Among major affordances of using 3D printing technology in science education is its ability to provide students with an opportunity to explore the relationships among engineering, technology, and applications of science concepts” (Novak, 2018, p. 435).
Design thinking in education has many benefits within the 21st century classroom. Technology continues to enact constant change within our world, and education must also shift to ensure that we are providing students with the necessary skills to be successful in the classroom and as future citizens of the world. As noted by Noel, “[i]t is the appropriate time to bring design methods and pedagogies into mainstream education to help lay a sound base for the development of innovative, problem solvers who will have the needed skills for the 21st century and beyond”(2017, p. 2). According to Levine (2012), the greatest possibilities for learning occur when students have the opportunity to explore, ask questions, and advance their critical thinking and creative abilities (as cited by Noel, 2017, p. 3). The open-ended format of Maker’s Empire gives learners a multitude of exploration possibilities, leading to autonomy in their learning. Buehler (2015) notes that “[l]earning about modeling and printing was a confidence booster and a necessity in the future of education” (p. 283). Design thinking also aligns with the growth mindset theory of student motivation that has been developed by Carol Dweck, where students focus on welcoming the challenges and failures that are involved in the learning process (Noel, 2017, p. 4).
An example of design thinking and innovative problem solving in the classroom can be seen in this YouTube video where students problem solve to differentiate their bags to stop mixing them up.
The cost of having multiple printers may be a major limitation. Schools typically would not have more then one or two printers and this can lead to longer wait times for printing, especially since “[o]bjects can take minutes to hours or even a full day to print depending on their size and complexity” (Buehler, 2015, p. 283). Another consideration with this app was whether or not it can get district approval to be used on school devices. As Maker’s Empire has a range of privacy settings that can be controlled by the teacher to expand or limit the design community from worldwide, all schools, your school, or your class (Maker’s Empire, n.d.). The app does not store individual student data, such as names, birth dates, or addresses. Usernames can be created so that the teacher and students can identify individual students without giving away personal information (Maker’s Empire, n.d.). Teachers can choose to enable or disable the commenting feature on designs, and sensitive designs (eg. rifles), are disabled by default. With this privacy customization included we believe that it is likely to be approved by the majority of districts.
The App From Student Perspective
Using this app from the students perspective can be both a fun and frustrating experience. Learning to understand the user interface is intuitive for someone who has used similar online programs, but if students are unfamiliar with programs the learning curve could be limiting. Once you have completed the tutorial it can also be unclear how to look up help in where to find tools. However, the app has advanced tools that if practised and used, students can have complete freedom in what they would like to make.
https://youtu.be/go3zsmVIK3k “In the first mission that I completed, I was tasked with creating a rocketship. After completing the tutorial, I found this task to be quite accomplishable. I was successfully able to piece together a rocketship. I believe that students of almost any age could learn how to use this app quite easily. The only factor that would affect their abilities would be their own interest in the app and their prior tech competencies.” – Oliver Conn
On their website, Maker’s Empire has an extensive comment section from teachers globally. They have also linked tweets to their page. In this case study outlined on their website, a teacher explains her experience with Maker’s Empire in her classroom, noting that technology is a great equaliser for kids and can help all children be successful at innovation. The level of engagement is significantly higher in students when doing a project with this app. This can be seen when she notes that her students groan when they are asked to rewrite a story but when told they will be refining their 3D projects they show excitement and persistence.
Overall, we found Maker’s Empire to be a great app to use with students of any age. We believe that Maker’s Empire aligned with many of the Multimedia Principles of Learning. The benefits of design thinking and 3D printing are essential in the 21st century classroom and in creating innovative, creative problem solvers for generations to come.
“The future generation of scientists will be ready to meet the challenges of society if they have been provided the opportunity [to] participate in a variety of STEM activities early in their education from teachers who model a positive attitude toward STEM” (Novak, 2018, p. 425).
Buehler, E., Easley, W., Mcdonald, S., Comrie, N., & Hurst, A. (2015). Inclusion and Education: 3D Printing for Integrated Classrooms. ACM Digital Library, 281-290. doi:10.1145/2700648
Maker’s Empire. (n.d.) Student Privacy and Sensitive Content . help.makersempire.com/en/articles/867135-what-are-my-options-re-student-privacy-and-sensitive-content.
Maker’s Empire. (n.d.) https://www.makersempire.com/
Noel, L. A., & Liub, T. L. (2017). Using Design Thinking to Create a New Education Paradigm for Elementary Level Children for Higher Student Engagement and Success. Design and Technology Education, 22(1), n1.
Novak, E., & Wisdom, S. (2018). Effects of 3D printing project-based learning on preservice elementary teachers’ science attitudes, science content knowledge, and anxiety about teaching science. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 27(5), 412-432. doi:10.1007/s10956-018-9733-5