Using 3D Printers in the Classroom

One of the biggest trends we are seeing in K-12 schools is libraries emerging as adopters of 3D printing technology for “makerspaces,” a new trend that incorporates DIY spaces where students can gather to create, invent and learn on their own time,” says Mark McPherson, executive vice president at Advanced Education.

These new spaces, which are comparable to computer labs of the past, use 3D printers in their libraries to allow students to turn their ideas into a real product. Makerspaces provide students with accessibility to tools that enable them to create on their own terms.

Within these makerspaces, 3D printers are used in conjunction with other cutting-edge educational technologies, such as interactive smart boards. “For example,” McPherson explains, “students can design a tool directly on a library smart board program, import it to the 3D printer’s software, and print it. The concept is increasingly integrating cutting-edge K-12 technology to aid in the end-product’s design, and it’s a trend that will continue to grow as 3D printers become more prevalent in schools.”

He says that the majority of educators he works with believe that 3D printers can revolutionize the classroom in ways never thought possible. “They feel that the technology fosters hands-on creativity, builds enthusiasm, and offers students a new and interactive approach to any given subject matter. And, although educational 3D printing has already generated a significant amount of buzz in the industry, principals, district administrators and teachers are just beginning to explore the technology’s countless use-cases.”

McPherson adds that all of the feedback has not been positive. “While many early adopters are already well underway with 3D printing, there have been challenges. On occasion, schools have invested in 3D printers without ensuring the proper integration of them into their curriculum, which could result in neglect or lack of use.

“It is extremely important for any interested K-12 decision maker to include a curriculum package with their 3D printer investment. By using these pre-configured curriculum packages, schools can seamlessly integrate their 3D printer into their daily lessons. This approach helps ensure that educators realize the value of their investment.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.

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