Google Sketchup, an Extra Special Tool for Drawing and 3D Modelling

Extra Special Learning Resource

I met recently with a 16 year old 10th grader with autism. I wanted to know how he thought increased access to a computer might help him be more successful in school. He was quick to mention that he really needs a word processor to do any writing at all. He indicated that he usually gets pretty good grades on the assignments he hands in, but he doesn’t always get enough time on a computer to complete every assignment. This made perfect sense, and it’s not an uncommon situation.

This well-spoken young man went on to say that he was keen to learn computer programming, and also to improve his 3 dimensional modelling skills. He asked if he could show me a program on a school computer that enabled him to create 3D models. With my encouragement, he opened Google Sketchup. While we continued our conversation, he proceeded to design a house and garage. He demonstrated considerable skill, and managed an impressive project in a very short span of time.

Google Sketchup is, without a doubt, an extra special learning resource, and this is the third in my ‘Extra Special Learning Resource‘ series. I first wrote about this program more than 5 years ago. Here’s what I had to say about the free version of  Google Sketchup then.

This is a remarkable program that enables anyone to do 3D modelling. You don’t have to be an artist or an engineer, and you don’t have to learn a complicated CAD program. The drawing tools in SketchUp are intuitive and easy to use. To make it even easier, Google has provided an excellent set of video tutorials. With a little practice, you could use SketchUp to create a 3D model of almost anything–from a skyscraper to a dog house, or from a giant space ship to a digital camera. You can apply a variety of textures and shadows to add a sense of reality.

Although Sketchup has been improved and refined to its current Version 8, what I said back in 2006 remains true. This is a program that offers great potential for all learners, especially those who have difficulty drawing with pencil and paper. It is well documented that many autistic learners find Google Sketchup extremely helpful. This was recently highlighted on the Official Google Sketchup Blog. The video below shares the experience of several autistic learners.

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