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Getting kids to learn 3D Printing is not just about getting 3D Printers into the classroom, it’s about how to teach teachers. This is a realistic struggle going on in the education systems worldwide. It’s a completely new subject with new technology and the knowledge programs to teach teachers are still in formation.
If you are a school district administrator running the Denver public schools or other large city district, you have to be asking about how to integrate 3D printing into your district and programs. After all there are high-profile cities like Montclair New Jersey who are implementing 3D Printing in their public schools from elementary through college. Access to funding resources to implement this kind of massive integration is more complex than just putting money to it – money and resources help though.
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Take the Time to Teach Teachers
You really need to think about the preparation required for that implementation, giving the teachers plenty of both time and resources to learn what they need to learn before they start teaching. You have to equip them to do it; you can’t just throw them in and ask them to do it. It takes some concerted effort and planning. Pushing back this preparation on a teacher to accomplish all on his/her own is just not viable.
Many teachers find out in June that they are going to teach 3D Printing in September. That’s not enough time to learn, get comfortable with the installed 3D Printers and develop or incorporate 3D Printing into their curriculum. Imagine what happens when the printers don’t show up until a week before school starts or that is the first time the teacher has access.
Teachers Pay Increase for 3D Print Studies
Many teachers use summer work to supplement their teacher pay to help pay off their student loans. Perhaps instituting a teacher loan forgiveness program would free up some summer time and/or time throughout the year. Programs like the Obama student loan forgiveness program have been very popular with college grads. A program like this could go a long way to incentivize teachers to really dive deep into learning to 3D Print or attract and keep qualified 3D Print teachers who might otherwise go into industry.
Make sure to give them the class training plus the money, not just comps like loan forgiveness. Pay them to go take the class and don’t just pay for the class. 3D Printing is not as easy as take a class and you are good to go. It requires lots or trial and error; lots of homework. Failure to compensate properly for that time only invites teachers who really invest their time to learn 3D Printing to go where the better paying job with greater appreciation for their time and effort. So then you’ve trained them only to lose them and have to pay to teach teachers yet again.
Cross-Training in More Than 3D Printing
You have to really think about it. It’s not like you have a teacher who teaches both physics/a science of some kind and math and art. You’re asking them to delve into an area that they may not be comfortable in. Schools are already struggling as to where to put the 3D printer. Do you put it in your computer classes or your science rooms or your art room? Any one of those poses a problem if those teachers are not completely educated in all of those areas for STEAM.
3D Print Education expert John Bokla, who knows how to teach teachers and teach students 3D Design, told us about a teacher who uses the principle “ask three before me.” Students are supposed to ask three other students their question before coming to the teacher. That just says to that the teacher isn’t properly trained and doesn’t really know the answers. The kids know more than the teacher does, which is dangerous. Teachers need to be leading a classroom, so if you don’t give them the resources and the time to learn enough to be able to be leaders in the classroom, then you’re doing the teachers and the students a disservice.
Resources to Up the Odds on Teacher 3D Printing Success
- Make sure to purchase manufacturer’s training packages or buy 3D Printers from a company that offers a complete program. Many printer manufacturers today come complete with learning programs, sample prints and even curriculum.
- Buy the full service packages from whoever is supplying your machines because that should not be the teacher’s burden to service those machines too.
- Have a plan and system set up for managing your deployed fleet of 3D printers, even if it’s a small fleet. You need IT managers or someone on staff who can handle that who is not the teacher.
- Check out books like Makerbot in the Classroom that can help to illuminate the issues with integrating 3D Printing into your schools.