Integrating 3D printing into learning contexts supports constructivism, hands-on learning, and design thinking, as well as fosters skill competency in Geometry. There are many different ways to use 3D printers and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) programs in learning applications. For example, students could create their own designs to print in Entrepreneurship class, design and print artifacts related to Social Studies, or create 3D composite objects from 2D shapes to extend their understanding of perimeter, area, and volume (for example, turning a circle into a cylinder).
In the area of Applied Design, Skills, and Technology (ADST) within the redesigned curriculum in British Columbia, 3D printing supports both Big Ideas and content curriculum. It is included in Grades 7 – 9 ADST curriculum, such as Grade 7 content, “function of input and output devices, including 3D printing”, and the Grade 8 Big Idea, “Complex tasks may require multiple tools and technologies”. Students also gain skills in using CAD programs such as Tinkercad to design their objects for 3D printing, which is another ADST content area, such as Grade 9 Drafting, “virtual creation using CAD/CAM”.
Ms. McKernan and her Social Studies students at Clearview are currently wrapping up their project of creating a Virtual Museum tour. Students researched artifacts related to a certain time period or country, wrote about their artifact, and designed an example using a CAD computer application. Using the 3D printers and iPads housed in their Learning Centre, they were able to print off their designed artifacts and record time lapse videos. Going one step further to create the museum tour, students uploaded their video, images of their artifact, and writing pieces into a Google Site to showcase their work.
Last year, I was enrolled in a course called Ventures in Learning Technology in which we considered learning potentials of emerging technologies. My project centred around 3D printers. While going through the critique process, a fellow student commented that my ideas were a bit ambitious as he did not believe 3D printers would be available for school use in the foreseeable future. I was fortunate to be able to inform him that our district currently had 3d printers in the secondary and middle schools and teachers are becoming fluent in how to integrate them into learning contexts.