Nov 1, 2018 | By Thomas

Makerspaces have been widely advocated as a way to develop STEM abilities and soft skills. However, until recently, there has been little research that investigates the learning and teaching outcomes possible with makerspaces, particularly for younger students.

Now, researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, have conducted a year-long study into the benefits of learning 3D printing and 3D design in primary school makerspaces.

From August 2017 to July 2018, Macquarie University’s Department of Educational Studies partnered with the NSW Department of Education, Carlingford West Public School, Parramatta East Public School, Oatlands Public School and Makers Empire for this research study.

The research study examined how maker activities using 3D design and 3D printing technology could enhance learning and teaching outcomes: 27 teachers from three schools undertook Makers Empire’s Learning by Design professional development course and 500 participating students used Makers Empire’s 3D modelling software.

The research study revealed that makerspaces can be highly effective at developing children’s creativity, critical thinking, design thinking and digital skills. Students were highly engaged with the 3D technology, and the idea of solving genuine design challenges - it helped boost their confidence and resilience when dealing with setbacks, particularly for those less capable students.

“Many of the students interviewed were highly positive in their reviews of the Makers Empire 3D app, with verbal ratings offered such as “100%” or “11 out of ten”," according to the study. "Eight students (23.5%) chose to voluntarily use the app at home for fun, often with members of their family” There were 32 students (94.1%) who wanted to use 3D design and printing once they left school, for instance as a career (“build houses so like… maybe people living in the street can have houses for them to get and live in”) or for fun (“like a toy, because I [already] made a toy ball for my dog”). There were also repeated stories of student transformation, for instance, where one of Kindergarten teacher Julia’s previously reluctant writers had later become “a shining star.”

The 27 teacher responses to the post-implementation questionnaire responses were compared using a
seven-point scale from (0) “Strongly Disagree” to (6) “Strongly Agree”. 

In a different way, the research study showed that teachers became more comfortable with technology, and more collaborative and flexible in their teaching. All of the 24 classroom teachers who participated in the focus group expressed a desire to integrate 3D design-based makerspaces into their future classes.

“Teachers indicated that the well-structured, pedagogically grounded, hands-on and situated professional learning enabled them to develop a better understanding of makerspaces, how to teach in them, the technical skills required, and 21st-century capabilities,” according to the report.

“Several teachers indicated that they had shifted to be more collaborative, flexible, and comfortable with technology. Many teachers entered learning partnerships with students, and as a result, students came to see their teachers as models of lifelong learning. Some teachers related how these changes had transcended beyond their makerspaces modules – for instance, in the form of more inquiry-based, problem-based, and collaborative units of work. Several teachers also pointed out that they appreciated how the makerspaces project enabled them to implement an integrated curriculum.”

Jon Soong, CEO of Makers Empire commented, “It’s wonderful to have our work validated by this kind of rigorous academic research. Makers Empire works with thousands of educators teaching hundreds of thousands of students and it's vital for schools to know that our products are genuinely effective and engaging teaching tools.”

The study was authored by researchers from the Department of Educational Studies at Macquarie University: Associate Professor Matt Bower, Dr Michael Stevenson, Professor Garry Falloon, Dr Anne Forbes and Dr Maria Hatzigianni.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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