3D Printing Facilitates Experiential Learning in K-20 Classrooms
The 21st-century is proving to be a pivotal point in human history as technology permeates every facet of our lives. In order to prepare students for life and work in the age of technology, educators are looking to 3D printing to help expand their curricula for a more hands-on approach.
A 2017 survey among educators using 3D printing in their classrooms highlights a few of the life skills that 3D printing is teaching children, including creativity, exploration, technological literacy, problem-solving, learning by trial-and-error, self-directed learning, critical thinking, and perseverance.
By utilizing 3D printing for such activities as role-playing and real-world scenarios, educators can expose students to and create stronger synergy between ideas and processes that, in the past, were much more difficult to achieve. For instance, using 3D printed models in biology can help students see intricate details in anatomy that were once only able to be seen through microscopes or drawings. Allowing students to hold 3D examples can also increase their understanding of structures as a whole, instead of just 2D illustrations, which helps build their spatial reasoning skills, cognitive load, and dual processing abilities.
Using a 3D printer for schools also improves student choice and collaboration by encouraging students to work together by imagining what designs may look like if combined together or changed. This can help challenge students to change their views and understand how preconceived notions may be changed. By fostering this collaboration we have seen innovations coming from students. Building upon these skills translates to other skills such as writing, artistic development, oral speaking, visual presentations, and more.
Outcomes of Project-Based Learning
By calling upon so many different cognitive functions, 3D printing helps students retain content longer and creates a more profound understanding of the subject they are learning. When students understand things better, it builds their confidence, improving their attitude toward learning in general. It promotes, in essence, a cascade effect, flooding the student with positive reinforcement, and boosting their success.
As soon as the machine arrives, allow students to open the box and unpack it. Even before a single model is printed, it quickly becomes clear that the machine itself magnifies our natural curiosity and students are fascinated with the process of how it works and troubleshooting problems, often engaging even the most reluctant learners. There is an air of mystery still associated with 3D printers, given the fact they are not commonplace in our society, yet. This inherent fascination with new technology is certainly key to creating overall success in using a 3D printer for education.
Additionally, there is a sense of pride when one is able to experience creating something new, which can boost the overall cohesiveness and pride of the entire school by printing objects with school insignias or models for projects of other grades and classes. Students, especially young students, revel in the idea of sharing their creations with family and friends, spreading excitement and curiosity about the technology. At school events, turn the printer on and make sure it is printing something designed by a student or class and engage parents, teachers, and students in a discussion about the future of 3D printing.
It is not an exaggeration to say that 3D printing is revolutionizing education and expanding the possibilities far beyond anything we have previously imagined. Now, more than ever, it is critical to foster an environment in schools to promote STEAM education. At Dremel, we believe in nurturing creativity, which is why we have lots of resources for educators to help them along the journey of inspiring our youth innovation.
Article written by Dremel Digilab. Find 3D printer lesson plans and educational resources to build 21st-century skills with Digilab 3D printer series. Ready to get started in your classroom? Contact us for a quote when you or your school is ready to buy a 3D printer!