Last week the head of Printrbot Learn, Clarence Fisher, announced that he was going to crowd source a new 3D printing curriculum and it took less than three days for a nearly complete first draft of the curriculum to be created. The internet moves fast, but I doubt anyone expected it to move that quickly.
In his initial blog post, Fisher outlined the problem with the rapidly growing crowd of 3D printer lesson plans, namely the fact that they tended to be proprietary. Nearly all of the major 3D printer manufacturers have lesson plans and curriculum programs available to schools and teachers. The problem is, they are generally only available when you purchase an education bundle of their 3D printers. And while the curriculums that I have been able to see (most of them are not available to me) are generally well made and written by educators, they all tend to cover only the basic history and fundamentals of 3D printing and teach students how to use specific 3D printer technology.
When Printrbot master of ceremonies Brook Drumm does something, however, he tends to do it a little differently from everyone else. That’s part of his charm, and certainly part of his success. When it came to creating educational materials it wasn’t any different. Yes, he wants to sell printers to schools, why wouldn’t he? But he has long been a fierce proponent of supporting open source information and it’s clear that Fisher is operating on the same wavelength with this new curriculum.
“First of all, we believe that documents like this should be created by the people who are actually doing this work in classrooms, colleges, after school programs, and makerspaces. These are the people on the front lines of education who are creating learning opportunities for students using 3D printers. This is an emerging field and it needs input from the people involved,” said Fisher on his blog post. “Second, we believe that these documents should be publicly released and licensed as Creative Commons. Just as we’ve done with all of the projects that we’ve posted, we believe that this type of work should be open to everyone, providing the most benefit to everyone possible. We want to create opportunities for students and teachers, not create closed off documents or systems.”
So he created this Google doc that was open to the public and invited fellow educators and readers to participate in the curriculums development. It only took three days for Fisher and the dozens of volunteers to hammer out the first draft.
“Together, this draft is far better now than it would have been if I had worked on this project alone. This is another great reminder of the fact that open source projects thrive because we are smarter when we put our heads together,” said Fisher on his follow-up blog post. “This curriculum is not a list of worksheets or activities. It is a list of skills and understandings that people can use in their space to make sure they are teaching a comprehensive program.”
The first draft is only the first step in development for the Printrbot curriculum, and Fisher acknowledged that. Based on my reading it seemed a little heavy on the mechanics of 3D printing and light on the philosophy of 3D printing, but it did a great job of laying out the basics for educators. Fisher still needs resources like videos, challenges, lesson plans and worksheets, so there is still plenty to do and he’s still asking for help.
If you’re an educator or an engineer or even just an interested party, everyone has something to offer the development process. If you think you have something to bring to the table take a look at the First Draft of the curriculum and then go take a look at the Google doc that everyone is currently working in. With your contribution to the process you just might be helping to educate the next generation of makers and engineers.