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By itself, 3D printer not enough for education

A global research survey among education professionals shows that almost two-thirds are using 3D printing to help teach, but need more resources

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A survey among 1,000 education professionals around the world shows 63% using 3D printing to better prepare their students for the workforce. However, the research by 3D printing leader MakerBot shows they want more than just a 3D printer in order to be successful—respondents want a full ecosystem of 3D printing resources.

It should be noted that the study, “Trends in 3D Printing and STEAM Education”, had a strong bias towards developed markets and members of MakerBot’s own network. As a result, it dramatically overstates the proportion of teachers using 3D printing worldwide. Conducted from 21 to 26 August 2020, its respondents were based in North America (60%), Asia (15%), Europe (14%), South America (8%), Oceania (2%), and Africa (2%), meaning at least three quarters were from Western industrialised markets.

The professionals interviewed teach a range of disciplines, including 3D printing, art & design, mathematics, engineering, language studies, and history, and more. Key findings from the report include 65% of respondents saying that online training programs would help them to implement the technology better, while 63% and 56% of respondents respectively cited lesson plans and educational webinars as useful 3D printing resources.

Nadav Goshen, CEO of MakerBot, says, “We are at a pivotal moment in education. We have seen the use of 3D printing in education increase steadily over the past years due, in part, to the availability of more products and services geared toward teachers and students. Affordable and easy-to-use 3D printers, training and certification programs, integrated lesson plans, and online 3D printing resources have made the technology attractive to many educational institutions. In addition, working with 3D printers can help students develop practical and usable skills that can be used outside of the classroom.”

Additional key findings from the Trends in 3D Printing and STEAM Education report include:

  • Authentic learning experiences are becoming a popular new teaching method. Design-based learning (57%), integrated learning (51%), and collaborative learning (49%) were identified as the top teaching methods among respondents. Only 42% of respondents stated that they still use traditional learning settings with students.
  • Teaching STEAM subjects requires resources that schools may not have. Budget constraints (56%), insufficient equipment (45%), and lack of technical training (39%) were cited as the top challenges to teaching STEAM subjects.
  • 3D printing is widely used to develop practical skills that can be used beyond the classroom. Respondents cited developing problem-solving skills (63%), skill sets for future careers (63%), and creative thinking skills (63%) as their top reasons for 3D printing adoption.
  • Educators want more than just a 3D printer. They want a full 3D printing ecosystem. 82% of respondents cited 3D printing resources (i.e., lesson plans, training programs, etc.) as important factors when choosing a 3D printer.
  • Costs, reliability, and ease-of-use play important roles in decision-making. 95% of respondents rated reliability as an important benefit, while 90% said ease-of-use was important and 89% said costs were important.

“The importance of 3D printing in education cannot be overstated,” says Goshen. “The report revealed the shift from traditional learning environments to more interactive and engaging approaches. By teaching visualization, design and creation via 3D printing, 3D printing opens up opportunities for students and brings ideas to life.”

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