Classrooms today have drastically changed from 10 years ago. By embracing and adopting new technologies, educators are now presented with opportunities and possibilities to improve on how they teach students and help them reach their full potential.
In art teacher Adam Gebhardt’s classroom at Jefferson Elementary School, 3D printing comes front and center. From architectural models to chess figures, 5th-grade students are able to print their own designs using a LulzBot 3D printer. Gebhardt considers 3D printing as a way to help students develop new skills that they could use in their future careers.
“It is not enough that students know how to solve rote questions and standardized questions,” says Gebhardt. “Students need to be able to use the information that they learn to be innovative problem solvers and find unique solutions.”
While 3D printers are expected to play a more concrete role in the curriculum, the reality is that not all schools can afford a basic 3D printer, which ranges from approximately $1,200 to more than $6,000. Some schools, like Gebhardt, turn to grants to buy their printers.
Lori Stahl-Van Brackle, New York City Department of Education’s (DOE) Instructional Technology Director for Manhattan, knows for a fact that the cost of printers can be an hindrance to educators. As a former middle school teacher in Rego Park, Queens, she had one running in her classroom almost all the time.
From science classes printing DNA strands to physics students building parts for a catapult, Stahl-Van Brackle appreciates seeing what schools are creating with their own devices. One teacher who didn’t like his 3D printer used it to help his class build a mold to make clips for potato chip bags, which students then produced and tried to sell.
Stahl-Van Brackle is also very aware that if teachers don’t get proper training, 3D printers can easily end up as another technology apparatus gathering dust in a closet.
NYC’s DOE teamed up with MakerBot to offer the company’s STEM certification program to teachers so they can learn how to work with 3D printers and incorporate them into existing curriculum. While Stahl-Van Brackle says she would never tell a teacher a certification is required, she admits “it’s nice to have.”
“The old days of shop should come back,” she says. “We should give kids the opportunity to harness their creativity.”
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