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This Teacher Is Working to Make 3D Printing in the Classroom a Reality
Posted by 3DP4E

By Peter Suchmann | Inside 3DP

I don’t have time to finish my curriculum and now you want me to learn WHAT? 3D Printing?

This is a common complaint that I have heard many times over my 30 years in the classroom. My own version went something like this: “You want me to become a better swimmer – but I just want to keep treading water so that I don’t drown”. Every teacher will understand and perhaps relate to this statement.

When one is dedicated to their students and to their profession, teaching is a very difficult job. It can be quite overwhelming learning new attendance systems, new grading systems, new presentation systems and new technologies. Adding to the stress of it all, there are also many changes teachers have to contend with such as new standards, new evaluation protocols and changing attitudes about teachers.

Over the years, I have seen many technologies come and go, change and improve. Early on I remember mimeograph machines, VHS tapes, laser disks, Net TV’s and then all the new computer and presentation systems that came and went over the years. All of this was necessary to my skillset and had to be learned on my own time.

Making Education More Relevant

Now that I am retired and working as a consultant and professional development provider, I find myself on the other side of the fence. I find myself saying to lots of teachers: “I know how difficult your job is, how little time you have, how stressed out you are, but here I am to make your job more enjoyable, more productive and more relevant to your students and their future career paths.” Now, I am training teachers to accept, enjoy and master 3D digital design, scanning and printing as a useful and very promising teaching tool that they need to learn.

I am convinced that 3D printing is as important to current educational methods as the internet and the computer is and that the career paths it can promote are real and worth pursuing. I see the same old anguish on the teachers’ faces. Many are unsure how they will it as part of their curriculum and within their classroom. How will they find time to incorporate this new method of instruction? When will they learn the skills they need to become proficient at it so that they can teach their students with confidence and clarity?

I have always had an affinity for interdisciplinary projects, but I was always concerned about the shortage of planning time that enabled these kinds of experiences to occur naturally and comfortably. As a teacher of a Regents Science class, it was always a struggle to find new and exciting ideas that I could squeeze into the curriculum without sacrificing time for a required topic that had to be covered thoroughly for the all important exam at the end of the year.

Getting Teachers On-Board

One approach is to offer teachers training so they learn about exciting projects that they can offer to their students that are based upon their existing curriculum. Not to make them stretch so far that they fall over, but to offer them opportunities to weave these new technologies into their comfort zone as a logical extension of what they are already teaching and doing. These new projects need to be based upon their curriculum and they need to offer interdisciplinary opportunities to weave together art, math, science, technology and engineering in order to create relevant and enjoyable projects that cross cut all of the subjects and classes that make up the teachers schedule.

Teachers must be given time to network, to create curriculum maps and overlaps, so that everyone stays within their own comfort zones and accomplishes something both useful and relevant to all involved. One mechanism we have seen that works is to train the elementary, middle school and high school art or tech teachers with a basic understanding of 3D scanning and printing so that they can become the core that pulls in all the other teachers. They already have a basic understanding of the arts and in many cases a real grasp of the related software programs that are needed.

The social studies / history teacher can assign the creation of a 3D printed building or statue from their curriculum and perhaps pivot into a chess set based upon a time and place in history. The math teacher can create and print some dice and use them to play the wonderful game called “pig” which can be used to teach probability, problem solving and critical thinking skills. There are lots of other things like personalized protractors, rulers and manipulatives that will resonate with the math teachers. The science teachers can print out animal and plant cells, organs, skeletons, metric houses, cars, planes, etc.

Projects can incorporate the on site school store, wherein the students design and print the objects they want to see sold at the store. Product websites and customized fliers can be developed and packages can be created for the product which will involve writing skills, art skills, graphic design skills and lots of other critical thinking skills also. Surveys can be presented and a competition winner determined by school store sales that will decide the best product and ad campaign in a real world application of marketing skills. This business / entrepreneurial oriented approach can even lead to sufficient funds to purchase a second 3D printer for the school, or the scanner or accessories that should compliment the 3D Printer.

3D Printing in All Schools

The 3D Printing revolution that is sweeping across the face of the planet can and will have a place in schools- all schools – at all levels. With appropriate training, sufficient planning time and budgetary support, 3D Printing will do for education what the computer did, what the internet did in a fun kid-centric process that is both joy filled and extremely motivating for kids and teachers at all levels.

So teachers- keep treading water, you will be come a better swimmer!


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