The 80s were revolutionary in a number of ways. Big hair, neon aerobic garb, and the King of Pop made headlines. But in the realm of educational technology, the personal computer stole the show.
Today, we’re experiencing a similar revolution. Setting aside the popularity of man buns, boho chic wear, and unfortunately, “Beliebers”, the edtech world is again taken aback by cutting-edge technology.
PCs, time to make room for 3D printers.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has surprisingly been around for decades. It’s only now that its recent gains in accessibility and affordability have placed 3D printers in offices, homes, and even schools.
So how do schools benefit from having 3D printers in the classroom?
Support visual and kinesthetic learning styles.
Evidence has proven time and time again that tapping into multiple learning styles helps students understand and recall information. Having a physical object that relates to a lesson enhances student learning by supporting visual and kinesthetic learning. This is especially helpful when teaching subjects that involve physical and spatial concepts that can be difficult to visualize. In a study measuring knowledge retention, “about 20% of knowledge is retained when only abstract conceptualization is involved, but as much as 90% is retained when the concrete experience is involved” (source). With a 3D printer, teachers and students can print models related to their lesson to improve understanding, all while staying engaged in subjects that they may have previously found uninteresting.
Promote collaboration and problem-solving skills.
There’s no denying the organic fit 3D printers have with school curriculum that asks students to think critically toward a resolution while working with a team of their peers. With 3D printing, students can create objects that solve real-world problems. Guiding students through the necessary stages of design and development, to evaluating the final product, 3D printing is a powerful tool that brings minds together to think critically. The iterative process of tinkering with design, troubleshooting prints, and noting areas of improvement for the next round of printing will keep students focused and even frustrated, but fulfilled when they reach success.
Access models that are otherwise inaccessible.
“Typically, students are not allowed to handle fragile objects like fossils and artifacts; 3D printing shows promise as a rapid prototyping and production tool, providing users with the ability to touch, hold, and even take home an accurate model” (source). Instead of going on field trips for students to see artifacts enclosed in glass cases and hidden behind velvet ropes, students can make their own replicas of famous objects, see them up close, hold them, even take them home.
VariQuest® Trifecta™ 800 3D Printer can fulfill the above goals, and then some. Designed exclusively for the education market, Trifecta makes 3D printing approachable to educators with little to no 3D background. Before Trifecta, I had toyed around with about three other 3D printers. The pure look of these other printers certainly had the “cool” element, and I was fascinated. But after playing with them for hours, it was difficult to understand the software, and even more difficult to get an actual print. Once I tried Trifecta, I was hooked by its ease, elegance in design and quiet nature, (I compare it to a hybrid car–you can hardly tell that it’s running!), and high quality.