3D Printing Technology in Teaching and Learning

As a science instructor at Calgary Science Network (CSN), one of the challenges is to find an appropriate strategy of introducing scientific concepts to very young children in Grades 2 to 5. Most of the time, I introduce a scientific concept using pictures from books or pictures generated from google search. Pictures certainly help in understanding a concept to some extent; however, they raise interesting, curiosity related questions. From my experience, having a prototype or a model that can be used to introduce a subject matter helps answering most questions in class. Hence, 3D printing can be very helpful over here since it can “build a tangible model or prototype from the electronic file……using plastics and other flexible materials” (Johnson et al., 2013).

When I introduced the concept of magnetism to grade 5 students, I showed them physical models of different kinds of magnets and how each kind behaved differently with other magnets and objects around it.  This helped because “it enable[d] more authentic exploration of objects” (Johnson et al., 2013). Moreover, the students played with different models and after careful investigation and collaboration with others in class, they came to know about polarities of different magnets. Thus, using magnets created by 3D printers provided me with an opportunity to establish an inquiry driven learning environment where students explored and investigated independently (Chase et al., 2011). I mostly acted as a supplier of different magnets and an initiator of the learning opportunity. Therefore, this clearly shows “[w]ith access to technology, learning is in the hands of the students. The teacher, then, fills the role of knowledge node rather than fountain of knowledge” (Chase et al., 2011)

Some of the issues I am concerned about 3D printing is the longer time it will take to get adopted into our educational system. Provincial educational funding cuts may not put 3D printing in their list of priorities without realizing its benefits in teaching and learning. Also Johnson, Smith, Levine and Haywood (2013) mentioned “as the technology becomes cheaper and more prevalent in schools and afterschool programs, access will no longer be an obstacle for the widespread adoption of 3D printing”. However, we should ask ourselves: how much would the schools spend in maintenance of 3D printers, printers’ technical support and ongoing training on proper usage of these printers? 3D printers are certainly beneficial to schools but before adopting this technology, the schools should know its future implications through costs versus benefits analysis.


Johnson, L., Smith, R., Levine, A., and Haywood, K. (2013). 2013 Horizon Report: K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Chase, Z., and Laufenberg, D. (2011). Digital Literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(7), 535-537.

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2 Responses to 3D Printing Technology in Teaching and Learning

  1. Lisa R-L says:

    Hi Rahim,
    You bring up some really good questions that need to be answered when dealing with 3D printing. I think that in the next 3-4 years, the technology will mature. When I attend the 3D printing workshop, I saw that the 3D printers currently being used were far more for hobbiest and not for most teachers. There was one company that was aiming to pioneer a cheap, user-friendly 3D printer: Pandabot, but their website no longer works and they cancelled their Kickstarter campaign in the fall.

  2. Tracey Fisher says:

    Hi Rahim,
    A great post! I am excited to hear about your positive first hand experiences with 3-D printers and your magnet exercise. I think that 3-D printers certainly are an innovative way to bring unattainable items into the classroom and create tangible learning experiences. Students would definitely be engaged with an exercise that produced an object of learning right in front of their eyes. You also bring up some good questions about the sustainability of the technology. I am also curious about the longevity of the objects created? How long can these items survive? And is part of the learning process in the creation of the object? Would a new object have to be created every time? What is the cost of this?

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