Our module for this week was challenging for me to wrap my head around. I tend to be a minimalist – I like to integrate technology that will make my life easier and less complicated. I was really on the fence about (as Sansing, 2015 refers to it) “the hype” for not just 3D printing, but all of it. However, after reading through the articles, watching the videos, and doing some independent research, I can see the educational and social value. Here’s why:
Technology is always a bit rocky at first. We like to watch it improve, but that places us in the position of absolute consumers. When we work to integrate new technologies like 3D printing and robotics, or new skills like coding, into our curricula, we are grooming students (and ourselves) to become both producers and consumers. They are learning how to democratically participate in a tech and media saturated world. This is of the utmost importance. In his article, “Coding Skills Empower Us All,” Sansing (2015) quotes Paul Oh as saying “…an inability to code—only widens the participation gap, with all that implies racially and socioeconomically.” Sansing sums this up by reminding us that “If we don’t use code and other participatory ways to interact with technology in our classrooms, students will never own it as a learning tool—they will be owned by it.”
There are so many wonderful ways we can use these bits of technology in the classroom. Teaching coding like we teach language would give students an enormously broader understanding of their world, problem-solving, and decision-making. When we teach students to be problem-solvers, we are pushing their creativity and imagination. These skills could make amazing projects with a 3D printer, but could also be the hands that get to hold the Lincoln Death Mask or a human heart that has been printed. Robots have the potential to do the teaching that humans can’t do. Maybe they are more fascinating, or less intimidating, or both. But as we know, practice makes perfect and they seem to make outstanding partners (see Musio).
For all these reasons, wading through the arduous hour-long process of 3D printing is worth it for the 3D printers to come, for the products it gives us, and for the sense of “anything is possible” that people feel when they hear about them. Coding is worth it so our students speak the language they are expected to mindlessly consume. Robots are worth it because of their faithful companionship as teachers and helpers. Technology always seems daunting until you’re in the thick of it (and even sometimes then), but that’s no excuse to disregard it. As 3D printing novice, coding dummy, and robot gawker, I consider myself sold on trying new things. I’ll be on Code Academy if anyone needs me.
Sansing, C. (11 May 2015). Coding skills empower us all. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2015/05/technology/coding-skills-empower-us-all-the-maker-issue/