Potential of 3D Printing in the classroom
Education and Technology
An article on MindShift suggests that the big challenges for better using education technology today are similar to ones that have long existed. There isn’t enough professional development to help educators feel comfortable using new strategies and it often isn’t part of a school’s culture. Resistance to trying new approaches remains prevalent and the status quo continues to exert a powerful inertia on the system, preventing a broader use of good ideas.
Traditional models of schooling are experiencing more competition than ever before with a large demand for personalized learning, but the technology tools don’t yet support the goals of those who want to use it – a big gap still exists between overall vision and available tools. However there is potential for including 3D printing technologies in the classroom as shown in the diagram below:
Pedagogy and rise of 3D spatial thinking
Spatial thinking skills, as researchers point out, are an important predictor of academic achievement and professional success in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and these skills begin developing—or not—in children’s own homes. A large study called Project Talent, for example, “found that people who had high scores on spatial tests in high school were much more likely to major in STEM disciplines and go into STEM careers,” Newcombe, the Temple University psychologist, noted “Spatial thinkers are likely to be more interested in science and math than less spatial thinkers, and are more likely to be good enough at STEM research to get advanced degrees.”
We would do well to follow the example of the latter parent and begin describing the world in 3D – helping our children develop the habit of seeing the world in all its dimensions.
A demonstration of the range of beautiful and complex shapes, which are mostly generated using complex mathematical formulae could be created with 3D printing.
3D Printing in Education
Especially with the movements towards design learning, 3D printing has captured the imagination of people at all ages. Now that schools are beginning to equip themselves with additive manufacturing capabilities, teachers can use these them to explain design concepts and to prototype building projects.
3D printing, or turning digital 3D CAD models into tangible, real-life objects, is currently experiencing a boom thanks to increasingly cheaper units and a thriving community of “creators,” fans who design the CAD models and share their ideas with one another.
Pearce, an associate professor of materials, science, electrical and computer engineering at MTU hopes 3D printing will become increasingly commonplace and wants schools to begin teaching students about a technology which could be ubiquitous by the time they reach adulthood. Pearce and his team believe that 3D printers can revolutionize education.
“In addition to building 3D printers, the teachers will develop printable teaching and learning aids for their classrooms. These designs will be printed, tested, and shared with the global community so anyone with access to a 3D printer can make their own or tweak them for the needs of their students,”
“3D printers will enable teachers everywhere to save tons of money and get precisely what they want for their classroom. It’s spawning a revolution.”
A few spawning examples include:
Workshops like KIDE, an educational project founded by Dejan Mitrovic in the UK in 2009 with an emphasis on 3D printing, provide children with the tools to communicate their intrinsic ideas in 3D but also instil familiarity with computers and 3D technology as routine from an early age.
Buford Middle School in Charlottesville, Virginia, who recently opened a lab school devoted to advanced manufacturing, the first in a series of work and experience-oriented hubs that will connect K-12 students to Virginia’s state universities. To kick off the program, Buford Middle School hosted an hour and half-long workshop on 3D printing, in which students were able to construct their own stereo speakers, creating plastic components with 3D printers and subwoofers from paper.
In more local context, a Channel News Asia article interviewing Ngee Ann Secondary school and New Town Secondary school concluded that more schools are bringing 3D printing technology into their classrooms. And with growing numbers in the past two years, schools hope the technology can spur students to think out of the box like the unlimited possibilities of 3D printing.
MindShift: Six Big Trends in Education to Follow
MindShift: How Spatial thinking can improve math and science skills
3D Printing Industry: Math Mobiles made Possible with 3D Printing
RedOrbit: 3D Printers Revolutionize Education
3D Printing Industry: KIDE 3D printing workshop for kids
3D Printing Industry: Middle school lab devoted to advanced manufacturing education
ChannelNewsAsia: More schools using 3D Printing Technology in Classrooms