The Gothic and Romanesque, in plastic (LS-PT-119)

This year, we challenged two groups of students to participate in activities based on the use of Europeana resources. Two classes of students were tasked with creating 3D projects. Some of them 3D printed, using Europeana resources as visual references.

This project was developed in ICT and History class, in an interdisciplinary model. In History, students learnt about the Gothic and Romanesque periods in European history. That acquired knowledge were translated to physical objects in an ICT class. There, students learned 3D modelling techniques. Using Europeana resources complemented the project with a deeper knowledge of European heritage.

Norman in plastic

After learning about the Gothic and Romanesque periods in History class, the next challenge was to discover Europeana. This happened in two stages. First, pupils got to know Europeana and its resources. They also learned how to use the internal search engine to search for references pertaining to topics. Afterwards, students were tasked with searching for visual references to create 3d projects.

For this task, students were divided into groups and issued guidelines. Items searched and chosen had to be relevant to the project (specifically, Gothic and Romanesque architectural or decorative elements). If possible, they had to find more than one image of the same chosen object.

Then students had to choose elements adequate to modelling skills. After choosing visual references, students also sent to the teacher an email with information about the chosen model. In the email, they had to attach a copy of chosen images and write a text with information about the title, type of resource, original archive, copyright status and Europeana URL. This could also be done using a document template, but ICT class in Portugal has a very limited yearly time. Email allowed us to gain time during the search phase to have more time for the modelling phase.

3D modelling tools

The next phase was 3D modelling chosen projects. Each group worked with their preferred 3D modelling tool. Therefore, they could choose to use Tinkercad, a primitive-base modeller, or Sketchup, a surface subdivision tool. This was the longest part of the project. Indeed, we dedicated 3 to 4 classes for this phase, in order for our students to have the time to take their project as far as they could. Still, this was also the most problematic phase, for two reasons.

Obstacles to the activities

The first, running the risk of repetition, is time. ICT class in Portugal can be organized in weekly 50 minute slots on a semester, or yearly 50 minute fortnightly slots. Our school is organized yearly, which meant that classes are bi-weekly. Each month has two ICT classes. This makes it a bit difficult to manage projects. Also, a very low number of classes means that students don’t have much time to focus on their projects and create complex 3D models.

The second problem is with Europeana itself. It’s a great resource, but not very suitable for our specific project. In order to recreate objects in 3D, students have to have a good grasp of the shapes to model. They need several visual references, from different viewpoints, from the same object. Europeana is not optimized for this. Its visual archives stem directly from their sources, and in case of photographs, generally, each one is about a specific object or theme. Something that makes complete sense for activities related to History or social sciences, but not in our case, where Europeana is used as a referential image database for 3D models.

Still, this kind of 3D projects focuses on heritage as a means to learn more about specific subjects using ICT tools. In spite of its drawbacks (for us), Europeana gives us an amazing ability in this kind of projects: make students aware of our common European heritage. This is why we like to use Europeana, and not a common online search.

This activity was organized on The Romanic, in Plastic Europeana learning scenario. There, we detail learning goals, key competences, specific Europeana resources and structure of the activity.

Some images of 3D models and printed projects.

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

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The original featured image used to illustrate this article belongs to the public domain.

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