Learning to Teach SketchUp

  • David Hawkey
    Google, Engineer.
  • Morrell W. Bean, AIA, LEED AP
    Consulting Architect.
  • Robert W. Lang
    Popular Woodworking, Senior Editor.
  • Christopher Sensenig
    Van Metter Williams Pollack, Urban Designer.
  • Andrew Shuman Nathanson
    Connecticut College.
  • Diego Matho
    Boston Architectural College, Director of Design Computing.
  • Terry Leonard, AIA
    shook kelley, Perception Designer.
  • Alex Calle
    iscar, Training Director.
  • Kate Marshall
    art VPS, Marketing Director.
  • Martin Cox
    art VPS, Senior Technical & Support Manager.
  • Jorge Barrerr, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP
    Gensler, Associate.
  • Dustin Seager, IIDA, LEED AP
    Gensler, Associate.
  • Mike Tadros
    igloo, President.
  • David F. Goldwasser, LEED AP
    concept3D, Lead Developer & 3D Specialist.

Key Points

  • Difficult to teach Sketchup in a short period of time.
  • Challenge to balance basic concepts and techniques/projects.
  • With Sketchup, simplicity is key.
  • Collaboration of lesson outlines would be greatly beneficial.
  • Teach the concept of using many different techniques to achieve the same goal.
  • Sketchup can be used in any way that is intuitive for the user.
  • Tools are often used together to achieve a result.
  • Sketchup is easy to use, but also easy to develop bad habits.
  • Basic fundamental concepts give confidence to experiment with more advanced tasks.

Lesson Plans

  • (Jorge) 2 evening sessions, 3 hours each
    • 1st approach: teach toolbars and other basics, then move to project. Sometimes not enough especially for quick learners.
    • 2nd approach: start project and teach tools at the same time. Sometimes too much to fast.
  • (Jorge) Mentioned successful 14-week class
    • First 7 weeks - drawing perspective
    • Next 7 weeks - doing the same thing using Sketchup
  • (Robert Lang) First teach how to make cubes, make copies, then stack them up to make pyramids, etc.
  • (Michael) go-to-school.com
    • Starts with basic abstract and fundamental concepts. Teaches students how to effectively communicate with Sketchup. Basic skills give students confidence to experiment with more advanced features and techniques.
    • Shows an example containing basic geometry and the 30+ ways it can be constructed using different tools.
    • Offered to share formal level 1 Sketchup course content
    • Interested in critiquing curriculum and looking for elegant ways to explain concepts and best practices in a live training environment.
    • “Advanced Landscape Booklet” result of multiple trainers collaborating, building on a base set of skills.
  • Idea: teach course using different approaches such as utilizing the new solid modeling feature for building a room.
  • First minutes of class:
    • Preface: explain learning is like chess, can teach how 1 piece moves in-depth, or learn basic movements of all pieces and how they all move together.
    • Minute 1: Teach “Click and Let Go” important for instancing and other operations that won’t work while dragging.
    • Minute 2: Point out measurement and status boxes.
    • Might be important to teach normals and surfacing orientation. They’re not as relevant with Sketchup but important with almost every other 3d software.
    • Importance of Layer 0 (mixed opinions)
    • Teaching Tips and Techniques
  • Students with CAD background often over-complicate their use of Sketchup. Important to teach how Sketchup works in volumes and planes.
  • Different modeling techniques and approaches can be conveyed using many examples.
  • Need to teach good habits like grouping and organizing so someone else can understand the model.
  • Some students are eager to learn on their own, but those students that complete the course unanimously agree that they couldn’t have learned everything without instruction.
  • Kids often learn quicker because they are not afraid to click buttons and explore.
  • Spatial thinkers grasp modeling concepts much quicker.
  • Easy to get started with Sketchup, but much hard to master.
  • (Michael) Hesitant to switch up his current curriculum because it has been so successful (starting with basic abstract and fundamental concepts and working up), but experiments with video & DVD lessons.
  • Tip: When moving something, click on points!
    • Ideas to Improve Sketchup Product
  • Include videos in the instructor palette suggesting how tools can be used together with other tools, i.e. line tool + push/pull tool.
  • Including examples that demonstrate more advanced techniques and the many different approaches that can be used to achieve the end result.
  • Keep Sketchup simple! Inevitably more features get added that are hidden beyond the basic toolbar, but it’s important that it not become like M$ Word where it is difficult to use the basic functionality because it is cluttered by advanced features used by only a few people.
  • Sketchup is missing more “heads-up” elements in interface that tell whats going on. Very important to have tools that show what is happening before it happens, such as innovative push/pull tool when it was introduced. Real-time feedback.
  • There are a lot of subtle features and behaviors that are easy to miss and not always documented well.
  • Instructors often encounter specific hurdles they know students will have trouble with. It would be good to communicate those hurdles to the Sketchup team to help improve usability.

Other Thoughts
  • Use plugins to create simplified toolbars for beginners (mixed opinions)
  • Sometimes trying to keep something simple makes it more complicated for intermediate-advanced users going beyond the basic functionality. Takes more steps because the features are hidden deeper.
  • Everyone doesn’t need to use every tool.
  • Sketchup is much more complicated than it was 4+ years ago, but it’s not all shown up front.