About the Research Study

3D printers are disruptive technologies that are transforming everything from manufacturing to medicine. A cardiothoracic surgeon in Louisville was able to use a 3D printed model of a child’s heart to develop a surgical plan and perform a challenging heart surgery (Karman III, 2015). NASA is exploring the possibility of printing food for astronauts (NASA, 2013). The Smithsonian is digitizing its entire collection and providing free access to its 3D models of artifacts (Clough, 2014). Local Motors created the world’s first drivable 3D-printed car that only takes 44 hours to print and assemble. With free 3D modeling software and the price of 3D printers becoming more affordable, consumers and professionals alike will be able to design and print anything they can imagine.

As a result of the increasing popularity and declining costs of 3D printers, many schools are buying 3D printers. For the schools and districts that do not have 3D printers, MakerBot is a mission to put at least one 3D printer in every school in America (Franzen, 2013).

3D printers have the potential to transform teaching and learning. However, there are limited resources, support, and training opportunities to help K-12 teachers learn how to maximize the potential of 3D printers in their classrooms. Teachers play an integral part in the adoption and integration of new technologies in school. According to Bitner and Bitner (2002), teachers need to learn how to use technology and allow it to change their pedagogy before technology can effect changes in the classroom. Additionally, teachers need to learn how technology can be leveraged to create powerful learning experiences for students (Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2014).

Purpose of the Study

This research study aims to address the need for the development of learning opportunities and resources that will support teachers in using 3D printers as tools for transforming student learning. For this project, we will research how new teacher candidates and their cooperating public school teachers go about integrating 3D printing in lesson plans and instructional practices. The study offers a unique opportunity to document the attitudes, knowledge, and practices of current and future teachers at a time when a dynamic new technology is just beginning to be integrated into K-12 schools.