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6 Reasons I’m Super Excited About 3D Printing in Education

October 22, 2016

A few weeks ago I signed for a delivery that has totally changed the way I think about a hot topic in educational technology. I’m no stranger to skepticism of technology in the classroom. As someone who travels to schools to support teachers with technology integration and who wrote a book on QR Codes, I find great joy in watching the “ah-ha” moments on someone’s face as they get it. It’s so fulfilling to see a teacher’s wheels spinning after they’ve been introduced to a new concept or tool and start to think about the way technology tools can totally transform learning in their classroom.

Get Started with 3D Printing

So this package came to my door and I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I knew it was coming and I was excited, but also a pretty hesitant to dive into a new project. The folks at Makerbot had reached out to me and asked if I wanted to try their Replicator+. I said yes and now there was a massive box sitting in my tiny living room. Full disclosure – the folks at Makerbot sent me one of their printers for free so I could try it out and share my experience.

Well… setting up Makerbot’s printer was so easy. They have a mobile app I opened on my iPhone that took me step-by-step through the entire process. Instead of a pamphlet of directions this app had super quick videos on the screen. It didn’t take long to set up filament, connect to my wireless network and print out a test item.

3D Printing in Education

Here are 6 Reasons why I’m super excited…

  • It’s really easy to get started. In just a couple hours with my Makerbot Replicator+ I was totally up and running and printing items I found on Thingiverse – Makerbot’s site for sharing 3D print designs.
  • There are lots of resources for teachers on Thingiverse’s education page including lesson plans and inspiration for the type of items you can print.
  • Students can design their own 3D printable items using tools like Tinkercad on a web browser. I’m just starting to scratch the surface with this tool. I have found it pretty easy to use and my prints have been successful.
  • Teachers are using 3D printing in so many different ways. I’ll profile more in upcoming posts but right now my mind is totally blown with Karen Bosch’s Flat Stanley 3D printing adventures – learn more here.
  • Students can see a real-world application for math in minutes. Making connections to the real world is essential for creating a sense of purpose for your students.
  • Your class can become problem solvers with 3D printing, designing solutions for issues that arise in everyday situations.

Next steps

Right now I’m falling into the category of the crazy lady who pulls out things from their purse to show anyone who will listen. If you’ve run into me at a conference while I’ve been on the road the past few weeks, it’s pretty likely that I’ve reached into my bag to show you a keychain I customized or the Apple Watch charger stand I found on Thingiverse. Over the next few months I’m going to share my 3D printing journey in a series of special posts – sign up here to get my weekly newsletter in your inbox and keep up with my 3D adventures!

I want to hear from you! Share your 3D printing stories in the comments below.

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Dr. Monica Burns is a former classroom teacher, Author, Speaker, and Curriculum & EdTech Consultant. Visit her site for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

9 Responses to “6 Reasons I’m Super Excited About 3D Printing in Education”

  1. My brother wants to replicate a piece of his toy that was damaged by my nephew last night. It was discussed here that the process of 3D printing can be accessed online. Moreover, it’s recommended to go to professionals when considering online 3D printing.

  2. I’ve been using a Makerbot Replicator 2X for the last two years and I’m amazed at how easily this 3D printer can be used to support different curriculums throughout my district. The possibilities are really endless! My favorite projects come from supporting Social Studies and Science classes. When students are given the opportunity to create historical objects from a specific culture and time period or build their own Mars rovers, they have a better understanding of this content through the significance of their 3D models. Below are two such examples:

    Ancient Roman Weapons- created in Tinkercad (6th Grade):
    Mars Rovers- created in SketchUp (4th Grade):

  3. I’m not quite as excited, about 3D printing in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong; it’s fun to play with a 3D printer and I have one in the classroom. But you can only make so many low-quality keychains, frogs and gears. Let’s face it, these classroom-type printers produce poor quality products, and they take significant time to do so.

    • Hi Peter, thanks for your comment! There is a lot more you can do with 3D printers than printing key chains. I encourage you to check out the links in the post for some terrific educational resources and applications.

  4. Monica I have been reading you for about 5 years now . I am glad to find a teacher technology enthusiastic . I am after education technology for 21 years now . But still I did not understand what the 3D printer that 3 dimensional printer right .
    What you do in 3 dimesion. Just a model of something out of some soft material . Please let tell us what it is . Best regards
    Muvaffakj GOZAYDIN

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