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DISCUSSION POST: Using 3D printing in real-world contexts

Technology is science or knowledge put into practical use to solve problems or invent useful tools. Enter 3D printers. These have revolutionised how we invent new things and respond to human needs. Now we can imagine, design and make just about anything (from food products and reproducing fossil bones to human organs), in unique and sometimes cost-effective ways; like making a assistive bottle opener or a house in day.

The evolution of this technology offers many opportunities to discuss the philosophical and ethical implications of advancements in our society. The Technology Learning area not only teaches our students to understand technology as an intervening force in the world (Nature of Technology strandbut puts them in the drivers seat – where they get to be the designers, innovators and problem solvers. Like this STEM example from Whakarongo Schoolwhere students have used a design thinking process (Technological practice) to develop a device/s in response to a real world issue, while making connections to Māori world views and understanding technological advancements.

For a growing number of schools, resourcing STEM/STEAM projects now include using 3D and/or laser printers and software programmes like Tinkercad (free), Autodesk (fee) to turn 2D designs into 3D objects and artefacts. Students can learn about the properties of materials used (Science) as well as Characteristics of Technological outcomes (fit for purpose, social historical contexts), Engineering, Art (and design processes) as well as Mathematical skills while Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes. 

So how do we go beyond printing keyrings? Maybe rather than saying, “Let’s make a …”, why not start with a design challenge in a context that means something to your students, like the examples shared in this 3D Print School blog. Students can ask or respond to provocations like, “What is worst possible way to solve this problem…? Or they can create 'unuseless' inventions like a Chindogu, the Japanese art of designing everyday gadgets. Sometimes, it doesn’t mean printing something as a whole, rather creating objects or pieces, that become part of a bigger collaborative project. For more ideas, check out how other students have imagined and created something new or create a class challenge with 50 Cool Things to 3D Print in September 2019.

Video from Kia Takatū ā-Matihiko Pīkau 12: DDDO PO1: Challenge yourself with PO1

Sometimes, in reality, a 3D printer arrives in school and teachers have little experience or PLD and then wonder how to make this wonderful opportunity 'work'. Want to know more?

Come join us in next week’s webinar with Karl Summerfield and Warren Hall in a LIVE WEBINAR: Using 3D printing in real-world contexts, 26 September, 3.45pm - 4.45pm where we’ll explore the potential, as well as some practical considerations and examples for using 3D printers in a primary and secondary school context. Register Now. Bring your experiences, ideas and questions - also feel free to share these below.

For more ideas see:


  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 27 Sep 2019 8:38am ()

    A big huge thank you to Karl Summerfield and Warren Hall who up-skilled us about types of 3D printers, practical tips to consider when purchasing and using them, as well as contexts and examples of effective use in yesterday's webinar. Anyone starting out or already using 3D printers will get something out of this webinar. The recording and presentation slides are available below. Please feel free to share with others.

    Also feel free to add any expertise, experiences of your own below or contact Karl Summerfield and Warren Hall directly if you'd like to discuss more.

  • Tangihia Pouwhare (View all users posts) 27 Sep 2019 6:05pm ()

    I watched the recording.  Absolutely agree with Kaiako learning with the akonga. The design process that is transferable, also watched How to make an App. The authentic context rubric, making it really purposeful.  The things to think about, especially the waste that is generated and the Who will do it?

    Thank you Karl, Warren and Tessa. 

  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2019 2:59pm ()

    Kia ora Tangihia, ngā mihi a koe and thank you for your feedback. I found the webinars incredibly insightful and a useful place to start for both.

    Do you have a wero or learning goal you'd like to trial in Term 4? Love to hear more.

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e-Learning: Technologies

e-Learning: Technologies

Where we explore how different technologies can support learning.