Jun 5, 2016 | By Kira

New research from the 3D printing Lab at Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) has revealed that 3D printed tactile teaching aids, including 3D printed replicas of historical monuments and maps, can improve the literacy comprehension, and potentially even writing skills, of blind and visually impaired students.

For both students and teachers, relying on text-only material to teach complex subjects, from geography to history and even math, can be frustrating, if not impossible. While theories can be tentatively explained, visual aids such as diagrams, illustrations, or even physical models provide a much deeper understanding, and are already frequently used in classrooms across the world.

Visually impaired students, however, remain quite limited in this aspect of their education. While accessibility standards are on the rise, the focus has been on upping the number of Braille textbooks or audio guides, which still rely on dry textual descriptions.

Jang Hee I, one of the researchers at the 3D Printing Lab, explains that he and his teammates knew 3D printing could help these students, but it wasn’t until they actually began working with teachers and students that they understood how. Originally, he explains, they wanted to use 3D printing to enhance the Braille reading materials already in use in the classrooms. They soon realized, however, that the visually impaired students would benefit far more from actual physical models that they could feel and touch rather than yet more textual descriptions.

Examples of the 3D printed tactile maps and historical artifacts

They thus redesigned the research project and began 3D printing educational models, such as monuments and maps discussed in their history class. Specifically, the researchers 3D printed 11 tactile maps and 27 different relics. Over a period of three months, four students from the Seoul National School for the Blind used the 3D printed aids (in tandem with traditional text-based materials), while the research team monitored their progress.

Not only did the 3D printed tactile aids help with the students’ overall comprehension of the material, but they also helped the students become more engaged and motivated with their history curriculum.

“[It] used to be that you have to explain in words, so they were able to see what those monuments look like,” explained Jang Hee I. “But they were able to touch it, they were able to figure out what it looked like and they could not only motivate them to learn more about history but to also help them with comprehension.”

Both teachers and students agreed that the 3D printed monuments helped explain and/or understand the course material more easily than textbooks alone. Because 3D printing is affordable and customizable, there’s no reason to stop at just one subject. 3D printed planets could help students comprehend the solar system, while 3D printed organ models have already been a boon in biology classes.

Having demonstrated that 3D printed educational aids can help visually impaired students improve their memory and literacy comprehension, the research team plans to extend their project to see if visually impaired students can also use 3D printed aids to improve their writing abilities. The results of that study are expected to be published soon.

KIST's report can be found via the American Foundation for the Blind. You can also watch Jang Hee I describe his part in the research in the IENN video below:

Of course, this is not the first time researchers and educators have realized the great potential of 3D printing to improve the quality of life for the visually impaired. 3D printed tactile maps, 3D printed tactile books, and 3D printed art are just a few examples, and even more excitingly, Canadian company Tactile Vision Graphics is working on a 3D printer designed specifically to 3D print Braille onto everyday objects, bringing enhanced accessibility well within reach to those in need.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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thoot wrote at 6/10/2016 2:34:28 AM:

And more is yet to come. An interested use of 3d-printing in teaching was described in recent article called "3D-printed anatomical models for tactile teaching visually-impaired students".

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