3D Printing in the Classroom

This past week, I introduced 3D printing into my classroom. Next week, we will receive 3D pens from Dim3printing, an Austin-based 3D printing distributor. This technology has brought about an excitement for learning I have never experienced in my classroom before.

Revolutionize Learning

3D printing will revolutionize learning because it lends itself to low-risk, low-cost innovation. Since ideas can materialize within minutes, students can see their work as tangible products. When students have access to 3D printing, abstract concepts in science and mathematics have the potential to be transformed into concrete (plastic) visuals.

Students will begin to see objects differently — “That’s cool! I want to buy that.” becomes “That’s cool, but I can design that better.” Students will be transformed from passive consumers of goods to actively-engaged inventors who are in control of their own learning. 3D printing also allows students to interact with a global network of creators. Designers around the world upload files to be shared with other printing enthusiasts, and students will be able to contribute to this exchange.

Students Want Hands-on Applicable Technology

3D printing has opened the door to serious conversations about education. My students have incredible ideas! As we discussed the possibilities for printing in my classroom, they began to consider how this might apply to their education. My students expressed a desire to learn math as it applies to computer programing, building websites, coding and designing, in addition to creating apps for smartphones and programing robots.

They showed interest in real-life applications for investing, banking, loans, and the financial aspects of business, such as credit, buying a house, and financial responsibility. They wish to create innovative and inventive products for interior design, entrepreneurship, and graphic design. We also discussed alternative learning environments, the need for collaboration, and project-based learning. Students agreed that they want their learning to be applicable, specialized and meaningful.

The Possibilities ARE Endless

This week, I have students designing blueprints of architectural sculptures to be constructed using 3D pens. Watching YouTube tutorials to learn Google Sketchup and CADD, students are designing products for a department fundraiser. They are designing custom jewelry, smartphone cases, and simple parts for electronics. Information sharing and collaboration are running rampant in the art room!

3D printing is relatively new to my classroom, but we have big plans for the future on our campus. Students can apply the use of 3D printing to everything from solving algebraic equations to designing custom products. Science classes can download DNA construction sets, frogs for dissection, and manipulatives for molecules. Business classes can design and print prototypes.

Interior design and architectural classes can print models of interior and exterior spaces. Art teachers can print clay tools, paint palettes, art history visuals and human models for figure drawing. Thus, teachers can have easy access to instructional tools for each lesson. The ideas and options are, indeed, endless.

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