My experience with a 3D printer up until till doing my research is pretty minimal. My kids schools have a few and apparently Dr. Grey knows how to use them pretty darn well to print tumor replicas. ( I know right! She’s amazing) Ha! Anyhow for me 3D printers are planted squarely in the “science” realm and also the world of bits and bobs. I have not really looked into how these printers can impact education and for that matter the world.
If you are wondering what you get when you buy a 3D printer LeapFrog has a few options available for specially designed for schools. Prices on their website range from 3,000 dollars to about 9,000. This is certainly not going to be a toy! Teachers with a product like this in their classrooms are going to need to know how to use it and how to make it beneficial for learning.
This starter version runs for about 3,000 and comes with a set of lesson plans. It features a large viewing window and prints at 3mm/s. According to Federico-O’murcho (2014) on a much larger scale this printer might be used to print cars, build entire houses, create biological organs and even man-made food. So are we doing diservice to our students if we don’t let them on this? What could be the potential for students long-term in knowing how to use a printer like this one?
“As far as how this can be used in education, it’s a matter of bringing objects out of the computer screen and into the hands of students for inspection, analysis, and other processes that can benefit from physical manipulation. In that way, 3D printers may eventually be able to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital–use a screen to find what you need, then print it into existence” (“10 Ways 3D Printing Can Be Used In Education [Infographic]”).
3D printing can offer many critical thinking opportunities for our students. But 3D printing in schools has the potential to be much more than schools buying expensive fancy printers and plugging them in. Students will have the opportunity to take something created in the digital world and place it firmly in the physical one. As emerging technology 3D printing can be used to give students the opportunity to think creatively and collaborate with their peers. Students can improve on their creations and prototypes to and develop problem solving skills.