Low-cost production of teaching materials
Teachers rely on useful teaching materials to help students understand difficult concepts. Some of these materials can be expensive or are simply not available. 3D printing can help produce much-needed resources tailored for specific learning needs in a short time and within budget.
By producing tangible, physical objects that students can feel and touch, teachers can help students understand theories and ideas more fully while increasing classroom engagement. For examples, geography teachers could create 3D models of geographical landforms for students to study close-up. In mathematics and science, 3D-printed models or other concrete representations could be created to help students visualize abstract concepts.
In History, objects like artifacts and fossils could be fabricated to bring these objects to life and foster a greater appreciation of them. Many public museums have 3D scanned data of their artifact collection that can be freely downloaded. 3D printing of museum artifacts allows students to study their details close-up, making lessons more realistic and hands-on.
Solving real-world problems
With 3D printing technologies leading the way into the future, students presented with the technology have a head start in becoming adept with its operations. Not only does it teach them persistence and patience when resolving issues during the printing process, it allows them to dream up inventions and produce them to solve real-world problems.
One such invention was the world-first sanitary unit for diabetics to store used testing strips. Inventor William Graeme, a diabetic, was only 10 when he came up with the idea to help solve a problem he had. Having been through a course in 3D printing, he was able to persist through the design and iterations with the help of his mum and a 3D printing expert. The result is a patented invention and a product that has captured the interest of pharmaceutical companies.
William is proof that children can solve problems on their own if given the right support and tools to work with. 3D printing helps them experiment and create real objects from their imagination while allowing them to acquire spatial reasoning skills and new ways of thinking.
Better classroom engagement
Many schools are adopting the use of 3D printing to create new opportunities for learning and increase student engagement in the classroom. Using 3D printers as part of a lesson makes lessons more relevant. It also has the power to transform the attitudes of otherwise challenging pupils.
While many teachers report the benefits of 3D printing technology in developing essential Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills, others have found the benefits go beyond these curriculum outcomes. As a relatively new technology, the machine is seen as a novelty, one that is able to engage students who would otherwise not be interested in learning. One school observed that a pupil with difficult behavior became the model pupil when given access to work with a 3D printer.
With teachers now having better access to online resources that help them implement 3D printing into their lessons, students stand to benefit in more ways than one when using the technology. From learning to design using CAD software, operating the machine, and seeing their designs come to life, students become more invested in their own learning. In the process, they acquire technological skills for the future.
The impact of 3D Printing in Education
The New Media Consortium (NMC) Horizon Project identified 3D printing as having a major impact on STEM+ education in their outlook for 2013–2018. With additive manufacturing fast becoming integrated into several industries, such as healthcare and aerospace, relevant skills related to 3D printing technologies will be in demand.
Schools that introduce these technologies are providing the best learning opportunities for their students and leading the change in education. For schools that have yet to invest in a 3D printer, collaborating with a 3D printing expert to put their students’ ideas to work is a start in the right direction.