As you navigate through the growing list of ways to integrate technology into your instruction sometimes it’s hard to prioritize how you’ll use these new tools with students. There are a lot of new trends in education from Skype and Augmented Reality to BYOD and the Flipped Classroom Model. One technology that is getting a lot of attention is 3D printing. Many school libraries and media centers are turning into makerspaces for students. With a 3D printer users of all ages can take a digital model they’ve created and turn it into a three-dimensional product. Using design software and a special printer, teens can make a model of a car, puzzle pieces, utensils, or anything they choose to design.
How does it work?
In order to print a 3D model students first have to create a design. This can be done with a computer aided design program also known as CAD software. Instead of sketching out a design on paper, students will use this software to create a blueprint for the final product. When the printer receives the information on what students have created, it will move back and forth to print like a normal printer. Instead of passing over a spot just once, it will build up to make layers that form a 3D model. This is also called additive manufacturing since the final product is being made by adding layers instead of carving from a block of material.
Why are schools purchasing 3D printers?
Schools looking to engage students by giving them the opportunity to go through the creation process as they brainstorm, design, refine, and execute an idea are investing in 3D printers. Students are creating small 3D models, or printing out the pieces of larger items and putting them together. By investing in this technology and providing space and time for students to use it, schools are encouraging teens to think critically, problem solve, and use their creativity to design something new.
How can teachers connect this technology to their curriculum?
Teachers across the country are thinking about how 3D printing can fit into their curriculum. Many see it as having potential beyond the “wow” factor that initially grabs their students’ attention. Teens can design products to solve everyday problems and take their idea off of a sketchpad and into the real world. Whether this means that they are building a scale model, making parts for a machine, or creating jewelry, teachers in middle school and high school are embracing the wide range of possibilities. 3D printing has applications in lots of careers, from the medical to manufacturing industries. Teachers can definitely make connections to jobs of the here and now, not just those that may be available to teens in the future
If you want to introduce your students to 3D printing without investing in the technology, share one of these TED Talks that discuss a variety of perspectives related to this trend.
Monica Burns is an Education Consultant, EdTech Blogger, and Apple Distinguished Educator. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.