When I was in college, Google was a) the easiest way I knew to research for my papers and articles; b) a verb meaning to stalk via the internet.
Although Google has since continued to sport its spare, tried-and-true, appearance, it seems that they've been busy backstage. Today as I explored my way through this extensive list of services and programs, I stumbled onto SketchUp. Despite the title sounding like the program involves finger-painting with tomato sauce, it is actually a cool, free, 3D drawing tool.
The possibilities for teachers seem endless. Google has a page of actual student work and a page of students' projects for a SketchUp competition. Teachers can download the program and design simple constructions to teach lessons on shadows (the program displays the shadow for your project) and shapes. You can cut cross-sections of your designs to show the inside. When you download the program, Google takes you to set of short video-tutorials that explain all the basic tools in the program. There is also a database of pre-made objects that you can use in your own lessons. And, Bonnie Roskes has designed a kids' curriculum for SketchUp including free activities and free teacher guides for all grade-levels.
The applications for student-use are really far-reaching. Kids can design and present projects for advanced classes like architecture and engineering. Younger students can use the tool to show comprehension of geometry and science objectives. Social studies classes can create scaled maps. Little kids can create their own 3D shapes, products, and projects.
Images from SketchUp.google.com