Being a teacher is hard work. Not only do you have to deliver lessons that are informative and engaging, but you also have to ensure that you're preparing your students for the workforce. Even in elementary school, teaching students foundational skills that are relevant to their future, such as the STEM and STEAM curriculum, is no longer optional. Educators are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to bring their students together, engage their curiosity, and teach them 21st-century skills, and it can be a challenge. However, using 3d printers for education can be a powerful way to foster creativity, communication and collaboration, critical thinking, design thinking, and iterative development.
Using a 3D printer for schools and school-related projects can help foster creativity and spark your students' imaginations. Far from being a plug-and-play technology, 3D printing requires that students design the object they want to print. The options available as far as what you can design are nearly limitless, and the ability to see tangible evidence of what they created is beyond inspiring to most students. Because classrooms are collaborative environments, creativity travels as students share ideas and build off of each other's inputs, meaning your students will also learn communication skills.
Communication and Collaboration
Learning a new skill and sharing creative ideas leads to stronger communication skills. Knowing how to effectively communicate is one of the most important 21st-century skills, especially in a corporate market that increasingly favors creative individuals who know how to communicate with a team over those who conduct redundant tasks in isolated environments. This desire for candidates who can write and communicate was covered in an article by Indeed.com recently. Learning how to use 3D printers, sharing filament, instructing members of a team regarding design, and effectively communicating ideas so that those ideas result in an accurate representation of them all require strong communication skills, making it a powerful classroom tool.
While there's certainly an art to 3D printing, there's also a fair bit of science. Learning about the different filaments required, understanding how the digital designs will translate into physical objects, and problem-solving when things go wrong all require critical thinking skills. Teachers can guide students through the steps of thinking critically about the project in front of them, and students are going to be more motivated to push through and learn those skills because the end result is a physical object rather than an idea or internal knowledge. Learning critical thinking skills makes students prime candidates for a number of jobs. In fact, the Association for American Colleges & Universities found that most companies care more about whether a candidate can think critically and solve problems than what their college major was. What's more, learning these critical thinking skills will also pave the way to design thinking skills.
In 2017, the Society for Human Resource Management published an article outlining how design thinking skills were critical for job seekers wishing to set themselves apart. Even if you're not seeking a job as a designer, having design thinking skills under your belt can help you. Why? Employers know that those who can think like a designer can solve interesting problems, see things from a creative point of view, and are likely good collaborators. Since a large part of the 3D printing process revolves around design, students attain design thinking skills that they will be able to build on for years to come. Teaching students to think in this way sets them up to be ahead of the curve when they become job seekers.
Having an available 3D printer for schools who want to help their students gain a competitive advantage is a worthwhile investment. Access to 3d printing can help educators like you teach a variety of critical 21st-century skills, but perhaps the most powerful of those skills is iterative development. In a nutshell, iterative development is any process that builds on itself throughout the project. If each stage of the process is dependent upon what happened in the previous stages, then it's likely an example of iterative development. You can find examples of this skill throughout the corporate landscape, including software development, engineering, and the lucrative field of agile project management. In fact, a recent article by PM Times discusses what's called "Agile iterative approach", a process that relies partly on a strong foundational knowledge of iterative development. Students who learn the foundational skills required for this type of development will be ahead of the game when they go to compete in the job market.
The possibilities of 3D printers for education are truly limitless. While the skills discussed above are important and while all of them can be taught through the process of teaching students about 3d-printing technology, there are many other benefits to utilizing this technology in your classroom, as well. In a corporate and social landscape that is ever-evolving towards the digital and the technological, it's essential for students to learn these important skills while they're young in order to compete when they go to participate in higher education and the job market.
If you've been wanting to buy a 3D printer for your school or classroom, we'd love to help! Digilab is an industry leader in creating top-quality 3D printers that are perfect for schools and educational products. Check out sample curriculum and educator resources at https://digilab.dremel.com/educators or find out which 3D printer is right for your classroom at https://digilab.dremel.com/get-a-quote.