Jan 26, 2017 | By David
Over the last few years, 3D printed innovations have been used to expand people’s imaginations, provide knowledge about the world, and teach new skills in a wide range of sectors. So, given the enormous informative potential of 3D printing, what better place to introduce the technology than schools? As an environment where a young person's curiosity (and potential vocation) is nurtured, the classroom would seem ideally positioned to make the most of what 3D printing technology has to offer. Recent research, however, suggests that access to 3D printers is surprisingly limited in schools, colleges, and universities. In a survey carried out by Ysoft, a shocking 87 percent of schools with 3D printing technology reported that they limit their students’ access to it.
The survey asked a wide range of questions about the use of 3D printing to educators who were attempting to implement it, hoping to determine how the technology was being integrated into schools. Explaining its relatively limited use, the respondents cited three main reasons: lack of guidance, lack of control over time and materials cost, and inability to manage students’ access to the printers. According to IDC (International Data Corporation) Research Director Tim Greene, ‘‘We hear from schools that they buy 3D printers, but often lock them up so students and users cannot access them because there is no way to manage access and costs associated with their use.’’
Key factors cited as influencing 3D printer purchase included motivation, creativity, and the use of technology, while STEAM subjects (Science, Technology, Art and Maths) were all seen as areas that could hugely benefit from implementing the new technology as much as possible. Restricting students’ access to the printers and requiring special permission from teachers to use them is, therefore, somewhat counter-productive, considering that the encouragement of initiative is one of the key reasons that the technology is being introduced into the classroom. Whereas traditional paper 2D printing has long been managed in schools with the pay-to-print system, nothing similar exists for the 3D equivalent, and educators are also lacking in information as to how best the technology can be added to the curriculum.
What this all adds up to is a tragic underutilization of a technological development that, in the right hands, could be setting young people on a path for success and giving them a chance to shape their future, not to mention our own. Mark Yorke, the Managing Director of education consultancy firm Tablet Academy, points out that “Educational institutions are challenged to prepare young people for jobs that don’t even exist yet. 3D printing will certainly form part of the technological advancements happening across the world so providing educators with the opportunity to experience and understand this emerging technology can only be a positive move for all involved.”
Although the present situation isn’t ideal, and a comprehensive solution doesn’t yet exist, the survey did shed light on several promising aspects for the future of 3D printing in education. Asked about their plans for continued use of the technology, 77 percent of educators responded that they intended to increase or dramatically increase purchase of 3D printers at their institutions. STEAM subjects are the main areas where it is used, although 45 percent of educators said that they were also allowing the use of 3D printing in other departments. Higher education institutions were the main adopters of the technology, with 55 percent of respondents stating that it had been implemented, but an encouraging 23 percent said that it was also being used at primary school level. Taking all this into consideration, it definitely appears as though these educators are committed and not willing to give up on their mission to expand the possibilities for their students. Given the right conditions, we could see 3D printing bringing about a major transformation in how young people learn, and a new generation that can both gain from and develop the technology in ways we haven’t yet conceived.
Posted in Statistics
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