Re-Educating the Educators: Collaborative 3D Printing Education

Re-Educating the Educators: Collaborative 3D Printing Education

James I. Novak
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7018-9.ch002
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Given the rapid integration of 3D printing into schools and universities, educators must equip themselves with new skills, class structures, procedures, and thinking, many of which may be challenging for teachers with non-technical expertise. Training in 3D printing and computer-aided design traditionally requires extended instruction and experience, which is unlikely to be practical for school teachers. This chapter explores how effective up-skilling can occur through one-day professional development workshops, where educators from all areas of teaching work together during intensive hands-on sessions to understand the foundational principles of 3D printing, become aware of the opportunities and limitations, and develop strategies together for implementing it into their curriculums. Through examination of the literature around 3D printing adoption in Australian schools, and an analysis of peer-reviewed research into short-format professional development, this chapter will help inform researchers, teachers, and those developing higher-level curriculum directives around 3D printing in schools.
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3D printing presents numerous opportunities across disciplines and is fast being integrated within schools as part of broader technological shifts described by the fourth industrial revolution (Schwab, 2017), also known as Industry 4.0. Despite increasing pressure from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) policies, there is little support offered to schools and teachers to learn 3D printing and associated skills such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and 3D scanning. Such technologies have traditionally been the domain of designers and engineers, trained through years of university and commercial practice, and may be daunting for many teachers, particularly those in disciplines where computing and technical expertise is minimal. It is unrealistic to expect teachers to add lengthy training courses in these technologies to their already busy workload, so novel methods of training, driven by bottom-up engagement, must be implemented to ensure teachers and students benefit from the opportunities presented by 3D printing.

The aim of this chapter is to build new awareness of the challenges teachers face when integrating 3D printing into the classroom, and suggest how intensive workshops may be used to overcome many of the barriers when run in conjunction with local universities. This chapter begins by summarizing how 3D printing is currently being adopted within Australian schools as STEM agendas increasingly encourage teachers to embed new technologies into existing curricula. It then presents new research on the opportunity for short intensive courses to provide meaningful training to teachers in 3D printing, drawing upon peer-reviewed literature from a variety of disciplines to understand the opportunities and limitations of such short workshops. For 3D printing in particular, universities are suggested as vital partners for teachers to encourage ongoing learning, acting as hubs through which local schools may leverage knowledge and equipment free from many of the biases in existing 3D printing forums and education websites. The latter part of this chapter presents the structure of a one one-day Professional Development (PD) program run at Griffith University specifically for K-12 school teachers, which has been refined over four years with the aim of establishing a strong foundation in both theory and practice, driven by a “learning by making” (Loy, 2014) philosophy. These PD workshops in 3D printing have been found to be rich in collaboration, with teachers across disciplines and schools connecting and sharing new strategies to implement 3D printing into curricula, access equipment and funding, and create more enriching cross-disciplinary projects that suggest new possibilities for the future of education. The argument is that hands-on activities during PD courses can be used to encourage new flipped classroom teaching strategies that challenge conventional teaching models, and that one-day training can be effective for encouraging a bottom-up engagement with 3D printing. The chapter concludes with some recommendations for future research to measure the long-term effects of PD courses on teachers and their teaching, optimizing them as technologies like 3D printing increasingly permeate the classroom driven by the fourth industrial revolution.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Professional Development: For teachers this is a formal process of continued learning through coursework, conferences, and other forms of training, which is mandatory in some states of Australia.

Collaborative Learning: Groups of learners working together with instructors towards a common goal which may include creating a product, solving a problem, or performing a task.

Flipped Classroom: This is a teaching methodology that encourages students to access lecture material outside of class, devoting class time to hands-on problem solving and the application of knowledge. The teacher’s role shifts to that of a facilitator, and collaborative learning and problem-based learning are important features of the flipped classroom.

Bottom-Up: Within the context of this chapter, bottom-up refers to the intrinsic drive of individuals to adopt new technologies or processes, as opposed to top-down forces like government policy and legislation forcing change.

Problem-Based Learning: Carefully selected open-ended problems are used to provide opportunities for students to learn through the experience of solving the problem. It is largely a self-directed and student-centered approach which may involve group work.

Computer-Aided Design: The use of computer systems to assist in the creation, modification, analysis, or optimization of a design in 2D or 3D.

STEM: The learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, often as an interdisciplinary approach to education.

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