How to integrate 3D printing in education
This article is about how to integrate 3D printing in education. A year ago, many of us still heard 3D printing and thought ‘hype’ or ‘great for others, not for me’. Today many businesses and schools realize the enormous impact 3D printing is having and will have in the near future. 3D printing is used by a wide variety of professionals, ranging from researchers, engineers, and architects to surgeons, dentists and product designers. The adoption of 3D printing grows greatly every day. The current question for many schools is thus not if they should integrate 3D printing in their teachings, but how, when, and what benefits it will bring them exactly.
Leapfrog 3D Printers’ vision
This article will share Leapfrog 3D Printers’ experiences with the adoption of 3D printing in schools, including the challenges and some emerging solutions on how to integrate 3D printing into the current curriculum. Leapfrog 3D Printers is a globally operating producer of 3D printers. Our aim is to help specific user groups to gain insights on how to add value with 3D printing. To do this, we form partnerships with our users and conduct extensive research among them. The knowledge we gain we make available to a wider audience through publications and workshops. Educational institutes are one of our main focus groups. As we see the adoption of 3D printing among a wide and increasing range of business and medical users, we want to make sure children develop the skills and knowledge needed in this new economy. The partnerships we have with schools, led to the development of two lesson packages (one for 10 to 12 year olds, one for 14- 18 year olds). The lesson plan takes both the teacher and student by the hand in mastering the design as well as the print technique. With the rapid change of pre-knowledge of 3D printing, the lesson plan is updated with input from schools worldwide to always provide an up-to-date package. In addition, teachers can follow extra workshops, provided by Leapfrog 3D Printers’ engineers to further develop their 3D printing skills. The key is that these lesson packages integrate 3D printing within the current curriculum in an accessible and affordable way.
21st century skills
Schools worldwide are trying to integrate the so-called 21st century skills. The 21st century skill set is the answer to preparing children to the shift our society has made towards knowledge society as opposed to an industrial society. Our knowledge society is enabled by technology and requires people to have certain skills to thrive. Lessons constructed around 3D printing are an excellent platform to prepare children for this. The skill ‘problem solving capabilities and creativity’ is greatly developed by using 3D printed lessons – for example solving a real world problem ‘we need a spare part which is not available anymore’. This requires a solution based on requirements and limits. For the skill ‘knowledge construction’ 3D printing is an excellent tool allowing children to synthesize knowledge they acquired in for example math, biology or history lessons. A 3D printer allows children to truly understand the anatomy of a heart for example.
Adoption of 3D printing
In the past 2.5 years of existence of Leapfrog 3D Printers, we saw a major increase of purchases of our educational 3D printer package. Our ‘classroom in a crate’ includes the 3D printer, filaments and the lesson plan at a huge discount for schools. At various educational institutes, starting first with universities, trickling down to high schools and now to primary schools and teacher academies, 3D printing lessons are becoming part of the curriculum. 3D printing is used as a tool to catch the interest of students, develop spatial visualization and shine a new light on math, art and science classes. Using a 3D printer schools can challenge children into designing business applications and offer them the possibility to create a tangible result.
For universities and high schools, we see that 3D printing is relatively easy to integrate into their current offering, since they have dedicated lessons for technique, architecture or design. In most countries, primary schools offer more general lessons, which makes it harder for them to see how 3D printing fits in their curriculum. The TPACK model, often referred to in education, prescribes that a teacher needs certain skills to seamlessly integrate technology into their lessons by navigating through three knowledge domains of content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and technological knowledge.
Revolution of 3D printing
As 3D printing is changing our world in a technological and creative manner, ‘makers’ arise. Tools, materials and skills allow everyone to transform ideas into ‘real’ objects. This movement of children becoming designers and manufacturers, suits their natural way of ‘learning by doing’.
Leapfrog Educational Package
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