How can 3D printing change the way we think about education?

When reading the essential question this week, I reflected on it a little deeper before starting my research. My only experiences with 3D printing had been what I have seen on television. In order to gain more perspective, I decided to find out a little bit more about 3D printing and how it is changing our world today.

Leapfrog (n.d.) describes their machines as big and sturdy that have one open side. This allows students to view the printing process while it happens. Their machines are made for educational purposes and come with curriculum guides for 3D lessons. Federico-O’Murchu (2014) illustrates the way 3D printing has changed the world. 3D printing allows for the manufacturing of goods domestically, such as cars, food, etc. Further predictions state that 3D printing will make life today barely recognizable in approximately fifty to seventy five years and the demise of construction and agriculture industries could be coming. 3D printing can be used to create many things: headphone wraps, cherry pit removers, cellphone cases, etc (Business Insider, 2015), but what exactly does all this 3D printing mean for the world of education.

3D printing has many benefits for the world of education. Providing visual aides for students, gaining the interest of students, enhancing hands-on learning, and more interactive class activities name a few of those benefits (Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, 2013). There is a vision out there that every student in America will have a 3D printer on their desk in the future to help with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) principles (McCue, 2011). However, 3D technology can aid in more subjects than just those related to STEM fields. For example, geography and history. Students can create mountain ranges, rivers, etc or museum artifacts that were previously ‘no touching’ (Krassenstein, 2014). Students can have access and touch things they didn’t know where possible. This technology takes our students from passive consumers into active creators (Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, 2013).

In my mind, I can see many possibilities for where 3D printing can go in the world of education. I see students who struggle in certain areas now having access to a device/tool to help them grasp concepts. I see engaged students, who will be enthralled when watching their own creations come to life. I imagine our science fair projects no longer being projects students come up with (or replicate off the web) but having students enter into a technology fair – students becoming inventors and creators of their own inventions. Students are designing and printing their own ideas. If it doesn’t work the first time, they are reworking their idea and printing it again (McCue, 2011). It is comparable to guessing and checking work in math. It provides students with ownership for their idea and further a community focus for students working together collaboratively. 3D printers can be tied to every subject area. In reading, instead of having students draw a map of the town they’ve read about, they could 3D print it. In math, students can use the printer to bring to life equations. The possibilities are endless (Federico-O’Murchu, 2014).


Business Insider. (2015). 23 useful things you can make with a 3-D printer. Retrieved June 28, 2015, from

Educator Technology and Mobile Learning. (2013). Importance of 3D printing in education. Retrieved June 28, 2015, from

Frderico-O’Murchu, L. (2014, May 11). How 3-D printing will radically change the world. Retrieved June 28, 2015, from

Krassenstein, E. (2014, December 21). Why 3D printing needs to take off in schools around the world. Retrieved June 30, 2015, from

Leapfrog. (n.d.). 3D printing for education. Retrieved June 28, 2015, from

McCue, TJ. (2011, November 1). 3D printing will transform education. Retrieved June 28, 2015, from

PBSoffbook. (2013). Will 3D printing change the world? Retrieved June 30, 2015, from


13 thoughts on “How can 3D printing change the way we think about education?

  1. I am excited about the future of 3D printing and researched some amazing developments on the way. Even today like you pointed out the educational benefits are many. I love how 3D printing for students creates the ability it has to turn the conceptual digital work into a concrete object. For older students it allows them the opportunity to use their imagination and create something, or modify something/collaborate and then watch it come to life. Very exciting!

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    1. The possibilities are so great that my mind goes into overload when I think of all I’d like to do with a 3D printer! 🙂 I love that different companies, like Leapfrog are providing lesson plans to get us started. It would provide a time to get familiar with the product while students use it to gain a better understanding for both teacher and student.

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  2. I like your idea for reading with students creating their idea of what the town looks like. A good writer allows the student to visualize what things look like and 3D printing their version of the town would be very constructive and fun. Granted it’s not a reading process/skill they’ve learned but it does bring the topic of setting to life a bit more.

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    1. I would argue that it could tie to the reading process. If a book has described a town, it is a comprehension/synthesize skill for students to take that knowledge and create a representation from it. Another option would be to have students create the characters based on descriptions in novels. It requires students to understand and process what they are reading in order to create what they see in their mind.

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  3. Margaret- Wow that is an interesting fact that further predictions state that 3D printing will make life barely recognizable in 50 to 70 years. This is a great thing about 3D printing is things that students couldn’t touch before now they can with 3D printing. I think student will be engaged as they see their creation coming to life. I think it is awesome how 3D printing can relate to about anything. They can be active creators in all of their classes.

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    1. Yes! That was so fascinating to me. We still aren’t living in the world people predicted in movies like Back to the Future and The 5th Element, but it’s extraordinary to think we could be living in an unrecognizable world.

      Exactly. I imagine so many of my students who are tactile learners that might benefit from a 3D printer and being able to hold a tangible object. I can also imagine my more creative students using it to invent new things. I’d love to have a center with a 3D printer that students could use if they finish their work early. 🙂

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  4. I believe the ability of 3D printers to put an object into our hands is one of the greatest benefits. It gives students a better perspective compared to a 2 dimensional picture on a phone screen or Smart board. When students see how pieces fit together, it will give them a deeper understanding of how an object works. Can you imagine how much this will help our visual learners? It will take time before this technology is prevalent in our schools but I do believe it will happen. Companies like Leapfrog are bringing that reality closer. I like how they have created packages that include educational resources along with necessary 3D slicing software so schools don’t have to look elsewhere to get their printers up and running.

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  5. I had not heard of a 3D printer before this class so I was fasinated and amazed by what I learned about them. I can see how using a 3D printer could engaging and fun for students. You could easily incorporate the use of 3D printing in lessons across the curriculum. I have had students create artifacts when studying Aztecs, Incans, and Mayans for an artifact museaum that we invite other classes to see. In the past students created these artifacts with items from home, but with a 3D printer they could create the artifact right there in class. At this point I have no idea if my school will purchase a 3D printer in the near future, but it is something I will be talking with our principal about!

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  6. Wow. The possibilities of 3D printing are endless. Just imagine if we had one out in the village now how much money we would be saving on little parts for expensive machines. I like the quote that said, “The only limits are your imagination.” It would be great to have a 3D printer in the classrooms so that stories in history books or oral history story characters could come alive. This past spring was the first time I ever heard of the concept of 3D printing on an episode of, “Grey’s Anatomy”. I thought that it was just an idea that the world was toying with, but I I never imagined it was as real as making something. Oh. I do recall hearing about people getting 3D sonograms, but I really love how Japan had the idea to actually make something that would replicate how the baby looked in it’s mother’s womb. It would be something else if people did start creating body organs that would replace having transplants. The possibilities of having a 3D printer in the classroom are more than I can imagine.

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  7. I like your thoughts about a science fair transitioning into a technology fair. It seems as though with science fairs, students/parents go to the internet, find a project and replicate it exactly, but there isn’t necessarily much learning that is taking place. With a technology fair, having to develop a new piece of technology or making an existing piece of technology better through modifications, students would really have to put some thought into it. They would be able to print these new pieces off with the 3D printer and be able to share their inventions with others. This could lead to possible technology innovations being discovered by students and possibly even jump start their careers. I really like how kids can go from being passive learners to active creators with the use of a 3D printer, and the fact that they can watch it being created, which to me would be really fun to watch and I’m sure some students who were really into creating would feel the same way.

    I also like the fact that teachers or students could print off replicas of artifacts that kids could actually touch and study as well as cross sections of organs. This, to me, would make learning much more interesting. It seems like you get some of this type of learning in college, but why should it have to wait until college. If students had this type of hands on learning in the classroom at a younger age, maybe they would discover a field of study that really interests them that they never had thought of before or would have never been introduced too. I really enjoyed your blog this week.

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  8. Great post. I agree with the idea of the museum pieces, and the science fair projects, a printer on every desk?!? I don’t know about that, but in the classroom, most likely. I can see uses in math, science, SS, and possibly ELA. I look forward to the future, it will be interesting to see.


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