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What is 3D printing all about, anyway?
One exciting new tool that is transforming the way students learn – and view education – is the 3D printer. 3D printers foster creativity and encourage hands-on learning. They enable students to walk into class with an idea and walk out the door with an artifact they can touch, test, and display. And they may be more affordable than you think.
As the centerpiece of many a makerspace or Career and Technical Education (CTE) workshop, 3D printers have opened up a world of opportunities. The creative process of 3D printing starts online, where students design three-dimensional blueprints. Then, they send their digital models to the 3D printer, which creates real-life replicas before their eyes, one layer at a time. Creativity no longer ends with imagination when students have the tools to actually bring their ideas to life. This enthusiasm for design will encourage all new levels of higher order thinking and collaboration.
A cross-discipline approach
The joys of 3D printing are accessible by students at any grade level and in any class. Younger students can start simple, comparing models or working off of pre-made templates before engineering results. History teachers can access a library of STL files (through websites such as Thingiverse), which they can download and use to print palpable replicas of artifacts like dinosaur fossils or the pyramids of Egypt. Music classes could construct their own music stands or guitar capos. In art class, students can blend their creative genius with 3D technology to produce amazing works. Students in math are able to create visuals of graphs and models or print cubes and spheres. In geography, they can analyze landforms such as basins, plateaus, and volcanoes. The application of 3D printing is limited only by the users’ imaginations.
It costs less than you might think!
For schools with tight budgets, investing in a 3D printer may not seem like an option, no matter how beneficial it can be for students. But there are ways to make it work. One way to enable your district to reallocate tight resources is by making changes that save energy – adjustments that benefit both the environment and your purchasing accounts. Fundraising activities and generous donors can also help from a fiscal standpoint. But there are less conventional methods that have proven successful for districts as well.
Online resources such as ClassWish, Fund for Teachers, or DonorsChoose can help raise awareness and funding for your district’s project. MakerBot Academy is on a mission to put a MakerBot Desktop 3D Printer in every school in the U.S. They are teaming with donors to drastically reduce prices and make that vision a reality. Your schools could benefit next.
3D printers can elevate the level of learning that takes place in your district – both when teachers guide exploration and when students direct their own learning. Every district should consider investing in a 3D printer. Engagement and innovation are at the heart of improving student outcomes. Any technological advancement that encourages those traits is worth a closer look!
We're curious to see some 3D printing in action. Tweet us your favorite creations @Skyward_Inc, or send a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll showcase your students' efforts on our social media platforms!
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