3D printing has the ability to change the game of education in two ways. It can empower teachers to act as designers, which they do already when designing lessons. (Teacher as Designer compliments of Dr. David Crismond @CCNY)
The MakerBot enables me to create custom hands on materials specifically for my students learning needs. Just today I created a block of brownstones to demonstrate green roof technology. I drafted the homes to look like the ones that surround my school. I included an area on top to be filled with soil and planted with grass. The students will pour 10mL of water in the planted and non-planted buildings. They will collect and measure the runoff from the drain in the bottom of the building. I would not be able to do this lesson without a 3D printer in my room.
The second way 3D printing will improve education will be when the students act as designers. My second grade students, 7 year olds, designed buildings for an erosion demonstration. Rather than show the students how water can move sand, I had them place their buildings on a model river. The impact of erosion became clear once the children saw the life hazard once a home floated down the river. We also related the project to the devastation caused by the flooding of the Passaic River in Patterson, NJ after hurricane Irene.
Letting students design and rapidly fabricate their ideas takes project based learning to the next level. By giving children the tools of a professional designer/engineer/architect/artist, we recognize that their ideas are important and should be developed. I can’t imagine the wonderful things that children will develop after having years of 3D printing before even going to high school. Teachers will be able to engage students in rewarding and meaningful lessons that are relevant to their students. A lesson that is a hit in Harlem might be a flop in Flushing.