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Two-thirds of educators say 3D printing is hard for teachers to use

Many schools and educational establishments are implementing 3D printing technologies to help with the curriculum, but teachers are struggling to use the technology

Almost two-thirds of teachers are struggling to use 3D printing technologies introduced to schools, according to research.

In a survey by print management firm Y Soft, 65% of educational establishments said 3D printing technology was difficult for teachers to use, and 87% of them limited access to 3D printing technology.

The main reasons schools and other educational facilities gave for limiting use of 3D printing included inability to control access to 3D printing, educators unable to manage 3D printing materials and cost, and a lack of guidance on how 3D printing could support the classroom curriculum.

In 2014, the UK computing curriculum made it mandatory for children between the ages of five and 16 to learn computational thinking, but 3D printing was not specifically included in the curriculum.

In the survey, more than one-third of teachers said the main reason they had not used 3D printing was because they did not see how it could fit into their curriculum.

Vaclav Muchna, CEO and co-founder of Y Soft, said many schools had invested in 3D printers to give a more creative edge to the curriculum and inspire students to take a more active role in the classroom.

“Without a comprehensive solution that addresses access, costs and curriculum, educators and students will not receive the full value of 3D printing when access to the printers are restricted,” said Muchna.

Some 70% of schools felt technology was the best subject to be supported by 3D printing, with engineering coming a close second. 

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In 45% of cases, educators said 3D printing was only being used in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) subjects.

Art was also cited as an important subject to be supported by 3D printing, and 55% of educators said subjects other than Stem were also using 3D printers.

Digital skills are becoming increasingly important across all types of job, and many of the jobs today’s children will have in the future do not yet exist.

The creative industries are increasingly looking for people with technology and digital skills, and many say Stem should be expanded to Steam to include the arts as well.

Mark Yorke, managing director of Tablet Academy, said: “Educational institutions are challenged to prepare young people for jobs that don’t even exist yet. 3D printing will certainly form part of the technological advancements happening across the world, so providing educators with the opportunity to experience and understand this emerging technology can only be a positive move for all involved.”

Currently, 55% of the 3D printers adopted are in universities and research institutions, but 23% of primary schools have introduced the technology and 77% of educators in the survey said they intended to increase spending on 3D printers in the future.

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