Sunday, November 13, 2011

Make Ideas Real with SketchUp

I've played with SketchUp a bit in the past, but I hadn't thought too much about using in an English language teaching context. This short video just gives you a flavour for what can be done in Sketchup.

Here is a recent promotion that illustrate how GOOGLE SketchUp can 'mash' with GOOGLE Earth, in terms of modeling buildings and even neighbourhoods.

And here is an example of using SketchUp to visualize a project.

How to use this with students?

  1. Even at beginner or elementary levels, students can exercise their creativity and design their 'dream' home. They could then present this to their friends, to recycle vocabulary about furniture and rooms, as well as giving a 'guided' tour using directions, etc.
  2. Sketchup isn't restricted to architecture. Inventors use it to draw designs, and my friend suggested I use it to plan our garden. So, students could use Sketchup to visualize almost anything, and then use this visualization as a basis to practice real language, either by describing their creation or fielding questions from their peers.
  3. You could set a task to redesign the classroom, and have competitions for the best overall conception.
What I like about Sketchup
  1. Well, for a starter, it is free.  
  2. It seems to be fairly intuitive, and there is a GOOGLE SKETCHUP for Educators page at and a blog, so you can get up to speed quite quickly.
  3. Students find this sort of 'virtual' reality tool quite intuitive, so as teachers we can give them licence to put their imagination to work and then use their creations as access points to focus on the language that naturally evolves.
  4. Learning vocabulary is especially enriched when students can make their own associations to images; creating their own designs would allow them to individualize their lexis development.  Especially at university preparatory schools, where students will enter their undergraduate programmes after reaching the English proficiency required, this could provide a great way to allow students to learn English in the context of their field of interest.
  5. It is part of the GOOGLE suite of applications, so you can mashup up with GOOGLE earth, publish to YouTube and easily blog in BLOGGER.
What I am not sure about Sketchup
  1. The free version does have limitations.
  2. You need to download the Sketchup program on your computer (a bit like GOOGLE Earth), so you need relatively good Internet connection.
  3. Students would need to have concrete language tasks linked to any project that is assigned, to create a solid connection to the language syllabus.

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