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Independent schools: It's time to embrace 3D printing

3D printing helps acquire new skills and support STEM education with students' motivation and engagement

Posted by Hannah Vickers | April 19, 2017 | Technology

By Kevin Samuel, Business Development Manager, Y Soft UK 

Independent schools are in a fantastic position to better prepare their students for the future of work. With technological advances continuing to offer day-to-day and long-term benefits, enterprises and the government are looking to plug the digital skills gap. Numerous innovations in the education technology space are beginning to show potential in improving education and helping to provide students with a broader set of skills when they leave school.

An example of this is the increased adoption of 3D printers. The need for improved education in modern technologies to prepare students for their working lives has driven the adoption of 3D printers in schools with 60% of schools globally now having access to the technology, according to recent research. The research revealed that educators overwhelmingly cited motivation, creativity and use of technology with STEM subjects as the reasons their school was bringing 3D printers into the classroom.   

The technology is of particular interest to STEM teaching as 45% of schools using 3D printers, did so exclusively in STEM subjects. Complex concepts and testing of theories are a natural fit for exploration using 3D printing. Science, technology, engineering and maths subjects enhanced through 3D printing in their classroom, can help to prepare young students for interesting and relevant careers.

As technology develops, so does every aspect of our lives and as 3D printing has become more cost-efficient and readily available, independent schools can focus on implementing the technology into STEM teaching to provide students with the opportunities and skills that previous generations didn’t have

As technology develops, so does every aspect of our lives and as 3D printing has become more cost-efficient and readily available, independent schools can focus on implementing the technology into STEM teaching to provide students with the opportunities and skills that previous generations didn’t have. Innovative technology is essential to the economy in a digitally driven world and plays a huge role in improving the quality of every part of our lives, including education.

This is an opportunity for independent schools, which have the advantage of controlling their own budgets. They can focus on innovation and providing their students with early exposure to different types of technology, which will not only keep them excited and engaged but also help them to leave school with a broader set of skills.

The research also showed however, that despite recognising the learning benefits of 3D printing, 87% of educators are restricting the access to the technology, mainly due to the lack of the means to manage printer access, control costs and due to the weak guidance on adding 3D printing to classroom curriculums. To realise the true potential of 3D printers as an education tool, independent schools can take advantage of solutions that could address those issues. An educator’s main reason for bringing 3D printing into the classroom is to motivate students in the subject matter and provide a creative means to learn but without a comprehensive solution that addresses access, costs and curriculum, the technology could be wasted by restricting usage.

On the bright side, educators are not ready to give up. Despite the lack of a full solution and an inability to justify return of investment (ROI), 77% of respondents indicated an intention to increase or dramatically increase the purchase of 3D printers. A comprehensive solution will help to manage costs and justify the ROI as reporting and analytics will provide independent schools with the information to build a recommendation for broadening or reducing technology implementation throughout the institution.

Independent schools that are determined to take advantage of modern technologies, that will prepare students for work, need guidance on how to effectively implement the technology into the curriculum. With the technology readily available, and the benefits clear, it is important for educational institutions to invest in ensuring that educators also understand the modern technology themselves. The research revealed that 74% of teaching staff find 3D printers somewhat or very difficult to use. The advantages have been recognised by the education sector but more needs to be done to achieve the full value of 3D printing.

The survey, conducted by Dimensional Research, was held in November 2016. Global survey result highlights are available in a 3D Printing in Education Report Card where Y Soft has given educators – and 3D print manufacturers – a pass, needs improvement or fail grade. The full survey report is also available as a download on the Y Soft website. 

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