Being a 3D Educator

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Since I am one of those educators that’s always wanting to try new things and learn as much as I possibly can; why not take the one hour 3D printing course at the college. So that’s what I did.

Up to this point, I have had little to no experience with 3D printing or design for that matter, so this was a new experience for me. But being an educator that loves innovative tech that works well, how could I not take the opportunity. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the products that it could produce, along with the almost nonexistent learning curve (for the printing part at least). The class left me yearning to print every great idea that has been sitting in the dark corners of my mind.

The Basics

To truly utilize the printer, you have to have 3D .STL files, there are two ways to get these. The first being pre-made designs From sites such as Thingiverse, the second is through your own creations. When it came to this second option I wanted to find some great applications that would be easy for an elementary student to create on; Tinkercad and Morphi app fit the bill.

Tinkercad is an online app, which is accessible from tablets and computers, it also works across platforms such as Apple, Windows, and Chrome. When it comes to classroom integration, students can log in using an email and password; now this could be different in the educational copy (which is free for educators and students). Once a student has logged in for the first time, they are directed to complete a series of exercises that teach them the basics for the program. This app does the basic instruction for the educator, and it has the minimalism that is essential for a smooth classroom implementation.

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On the other hand, Morphi is paid app that has a steeper learning curve. The app only runs on an iPad, and I recommend that you have devices with at least a 9.7-inch screen, the large the screens provide students with a large design surface. From a financial standpoint, this app has a price point of about $13 (but this is a one-time purchase). Its design process does not include a basic tutorial but has similar functions to Tinkercad. If you have some students that are needing a higher level of difficulty and find Tinkercad to be too simplistic, this app fills the spot nicely.

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Future Classroom Implementation

Overall after trying numerous apps, I can confidently say that 3D printing will be an investment I plan to follow through with in my own classroom. After seeing how easy it was to design and print a simple keychain using simple initials, I am looking forward to purchasing my own 3D printer over the summer and refining a lesson that can include the technology.

Education is no longer simply about imparting knowledge, but now involves students expanding their abilities through exploration and experimentation. 3D printing provides a new technological channel that will prepare our students for future job opportunities. The creator mindset has to be cultivated to push our society beyond the consumption rut we are now finding ourselves.

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