|Aims and objectives
The main learning objectives in all partner countries were:
– to provide information and knowledge about 3D Printing process through theory and practise (eg. Josef Prusa model)
– to introduce 3D printing applications,
– to present, explore and discuss the teaching methods based on technical principles (slicing, modelling),
– to introduce basic software such as SugarCAD, TinkerCAD, free slicers such as CURA and SLICER PE and the variety of filaments and their properties, rigidity, the degree of difficulty to print, ecology and pricing,
– to stimulate reflection on how to introduce digital competences and technology as a tool that will be used for curricular disciplinary teaching and in a wider context.
– to give schools options to use freeware, affordable and cost effective programs which can be easily and simply used by educators and teachers with basic knowledge in their classes,
– to develop skills and attitudes in organizing and planning learning activities for teachers at local schools.
– to establish the role of technologies in the development of European key competences;
– to implement traditional didactics with the introduction of digital tools for the innovation of the teaching/learning process;
– to identify the elements of learning about the use of 3D printers, taking into account the skills and competences produced by both the knowledge and use of programming software and machine specific software.
Implemented activities and final outcomes
The implemented activities were not only based on the increase of knowledge and skills of participants but also on the design of an educational model.
All partner organizations followed a similar structure of implementing the activities which includes the following steps:
1. Careful preparation: planning of the lessons in the form of detailed learning units in which the title of the lesson, the classroom’s organization, materials and timetable is foreseen from the beginning. Such an organization allows to predict the variables and factors of risk/management of any unforeseen event and, certainly, to be able to identify and solve them. The activities were designed to be repeated in each lesson, to ensure that students can also acquire a recognizable and shared rhythm of time.
2. Presentation of the topic to the class group and sharing of the objective or product to be achieved. In this phase focus and transparency are required because it is the moment when there is an explanation of the contents being studied. An interactive discussion followed.
3. Division of the technological tasks in pairs. The couples work independently but the members support each other in dealing with the task and difficulties. The teacher in this case has the role of facilitating the execution.
4. Comparison of the outputs and group discussion. Perhaps it is the topical moment of the lesson, because it gives the opportunity to reflect all together on one’s own work analyzing that of others with a facilitator who encourages to take on different points of view.
5. The product. Once the critical points and strengths of the project have been established, each small group or couple was invited to use the digital programme chosen to create their own product, object or story.
For this reason, a series of steps followed in order to introduce to technical skills, important for the creation of the product. These steps include:
– Introduction to the Technological Intelligence (H. Gardner) through which it is possible to develop technological skills, based on a new cognitive style.
– Introduction into a basic modelling software (eg. SugarCAD)
– Demonstration of STL files export, and provision of options for free web STL pages such as Thingiverse.
– Introduction into a 3D slicer software (eg.CURA) and provision of the set-up information. This proved very effective as they already had a general idea of what each particular parameter influences during the print (speed, retraction, temperature, 1st layer setting etc.).
– Demonstration of the set-up of Prusa Printers and of the first print using Prusa Control Software, followed by only few user-modifiable settings, something which was warmly welcomed by most of the teachers who realized that the degree of difficulty was very low.
– Discussion about 3D models based on topics relevant to the class and could transfer the knowledge to the students. Although teachers’ scope was not wide enough, they were able to come up with suitable models.
– Discussion about the potential of 3D printing technology and through peer learning approaches they inspired each other on potential innovative ways that could be enriching to their classes.
Approaches and methodologies
The methodology was based on peer to peer learning and experiential and non-formal learning techniques followed by discussions.
At the beginning participants were able to express their expectations and fears. The objective was to stimulate their interest and make them reflect on that although technology may seem complex, it can actually add a great value and be a complementary element to various topics.
During the training they not only gained new knowledge and learned new skills based on what the trainer was teaching but they also shared their knowledge between themselves. Each participant was able to share personal experience and own point of view.
There was a special time at the end of each session for discussing about various strategies for teaching. It was important the fact that in each group there was a mixture of different teachers, from different levels of education and background. This allowed for great exchange of views and experiences. Discussions into smaller groups also encouraged individuals who were not confident enough to public speaking.
The learning process was controlled by one to two trainers who acted as neutral facilitators.
Some other approaches taken, according to the age of the pupils are:
– Approach to computational thinking and digital storytelling, more related to linguistic areas (primary school).
– Approach to the programming and implementation of 3D products that were useful for the conscious translation of the study content of physics, mathematics, geometry and chemistry (secondary school).
The expected results were that students who made experiences with the implementation of technologies, are able to:
– Solve life problems
– Plan experiences and projects
– Use new tools to learn and study
– Transfer study content to study objects via digital products
– Learn with more motivation and curiosity
– Develop technical skills
Main strengths and challenges
– Τeachers from different education levels had various experiences in teaching and various experiences with the topic. This allowed a very wide spectrum of discussions and examples.
– Τeachers realized the potential of 3D printing and were motivated to learn more about the technical aspects of the printers.
– After the identification of 3D printing as a cost-effective technology, teachers became more interested in it.
– Creation of an informal environment where everyone felt free to make questions.
– The teachers’ realization that irrespective of the subject and major, 3D printing can be applied in any field and develop their creative skills.
– Greater knowledge of integrated tools.
– The educational importance of innovative technologies and tools known only as leisure tools.
– Children have the opportunity to use technologies as a learning aid they can get to know, they also have the possibility to learn how to make conscious use of digital tools.
– What digital offers is an alternative method of providing classic lessons, leveraging on children’s curiosity towards these particular tools.
– Digital tools are at the service of teachers and pupils to facilitate, simplify and enhance the skills acquired through the implementation of traditional disciplinary teaching.
– Technologies, the use of 3D printers, require planning and design paths, with laboratory strategies, as the key European competences claim.
– They promote interdisciplinary paths, being a tool that involves the motivations to learn, beyond the specific contents.
– The mixture of experiences was a challenge as teaching non-homogeneous group is difficult.
– There is a gap between current educators, mostly of average age, and young pupils. The first are digital migrants who are divided between those who believe and rely on technology and those who are not interested in it, and are the most of them, while the other mainly have a playful attitude towards technology
– Teachers’ concerns about maintaining such technological tools at schools.
– In a global society, digitally educated children will have an extra gear in the world of work, but it must not become a trend, an overstretch.
– Lack of tools and technical training is the biggest obstacle – It is important to integrate new technologies in the traditional lessons, as long as it is done in the right quantity, without neglecting the classic teaching methods.
– It is necessary to be careful and to know how to use it moderately, since it cannot be excluded that it could have a negative impact, becoming a dependency.
Contents & Sequence of the activities
1. Preparation and Planning of the trainer(s).
2. Fears and expectations of the participants and discussions.
-Ideas about technology, what is it, how it works, what materials can be used for 3D printing, how printers are divided and which one is needed, limitations to 3D printing and modelling.
-Participants were asked to brainstorm randomly about the potential use of this technology and about things they think can or cannot be done with a 3D printer.
3. Introduction to the Content and Demonstration: introduction to 3D printers, 3D design, online tools and 3D printing applications.
-Participants were divided into smaller mixed groups in order to ensure that everyone’s opinion is listened and also to ensure the diversity of ideas.
-The group explored SugarCAD and was introduced to the basic functionalities such as translating, scaling, merging objects and exporting to STLs.
-Prusa Control Software demonstration and explanation of the basic parameters such as infill percentage, speed and temps.
-Testing printing: how different settings would impact the speed and quality of the printing process was shown.
4. Creation: Experimenting and discussing about various teaching methods.
-Based on what was demonstrated, the groups were invited to create their own simple project that would be applied to a possible topic in class.
-Participants designed an object up to 30/30/30 size in SugarCAD and went through all the steps shown in the previous phase.
-The task was to go as far as they could on their own. The facilitators were ready to support them at any time.
-This phase was concluded by a discussion where the participants presented their ideas to others and explained how they incorporated technology into their field of interest.
-Time was given to the participants to experiment and further discover the printers and the modelling software. Very soon the acquired technological capabilities and learned about other important aspects (support material, orientation of the model, shell count etc.)
5. Evaluations of the sessions and discussions about fears and expectations that were expressed at the very beginning.
Some important additional aspects are:
1. Specifically for 3D printers, the focus group has identified the following contents:
– Ability to work with 3D applications: SugarCad
– Ability to disassemble an object, analyze the shape and measurements of a flat object to be reproduced
– Ability to interpret solid geometric figures;
– To experiment with the functioning of the 3D printer
– To carry out projects representing the functioning of topics related to mathematics, physics and chemistry that are addressed during the teaching programs of the primary and secondary school of first degree. Interdisciplinary connections: Geometry, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology.
2. Preparation of Teacher/Trainer Material:
– 1 PC per group
– Project files that will be realized in SugarCad, images downloaded from the internet
– Use of Google Classroom to share material and images and comprehension exercises on classroom activity
– A4 – A3 sheets and pencils, rulers and cardboard for each group/pupil (only for the first meeting).
3. Intangible preparation of the Teacher/Trainer on how to:
– Give clear instructions
– Stimulate discussions on how to build a flat and 3D object
– Stimulate discussions about the use of the 3D printer
– Stimulate scientific discussions.
4. Development of planning skills in teams:
– To be able to confront and interact with each other, develop problem solving skills in case of mistakes or unexpected events.
– To evaluate the material used, printing times, know how to value errors.
– To show communicative-oral exposure skills, through drawings and stories related to the character invented, drawn and printed in 3D.
– To use the knowledge gained in school lessons to build digital products as authentic tasks.
Photos/videos and/or promotion in social media
Summarizing participants’ experience providing facts and data.
The summary is based on an evaluation form filled by the participants measuring the following questions in a scale from 1 to 5 (where 1 =”not satisfied at all” and 5= “Very satisfied”):
– Were stated learning objectives met?
– Were program activities accurate and relevant?
– Were the methodologies used appropriate for your learning expectations and training needs?
– Was the time allotted to learning adequate?
– Were the facilities / equipment appropriate?
– Were the hand out materials satisfactory?
– Were the audio/video materials and demonstrations effective?
– Were the other participants open to suggestions and feedback?
– If applicable, were individual instructors knowledgeable and effective?
– How was the coordination and support before the training?
– How was your general impression about the training experience?
The analysis of the responses of the questions as well as participants’ testimonies in all partner countries demonstrate that satisfactions level was from high to very high in a scale where 1 =”not satisfied at all” and 5= “Very satisfied.
It can be stated that the training was a big success and the answers specifically to the open questions, confirm the overall satisfaction from training.
The most striking outcomes for participants are summarized in the first and the second phase, with key icebreakers to let participants to get to know each other, and with the demonstration of 3D printing, most of them showed for the first time.
Overall, a few full models were modelled and printed during the Creation and Experimentation phase by the participants. During this phase, participants asked questions leading to an understanding of the limits of overhangs and details.
Few mini projects developed with ideas on how to incorporate 3D printing in mathematics, physics, geography, chemistry and so on. We have also seen that 3D printing invoked the idea of interdisciplinarity among the teachers as they started to devise scenarios on how to connect their subject with this this technology.
Critical points emerged on certain aspects of the process. Mainly, the long term technical and maintenance support for the technology at schools. The other aspect was the time frame in which 3D printing operates. However, after a discussion on this matter, there was an understanding that the printing itself is only the final phase of the work and can be running autonomously during the night time or after class.
All in all, the experience with the participants was very positive and they were convinced that the 3D printing with a good quality printer is far easier than usually perceived.