Across most of the Northern half of the world, kids and teachers are going back to school or have been back for a few weeks already. Back to school brings with it excitement and time for new ideas.

There can be no doubt that 3D printing is a hot technology trend in schools. Over the past couple of years, the technology has moved out from being something that few teachers and students had access to, to being something that is becoming more common to find. But, as with all technology, simply buying a 3D printer doesn’t make your school a hotbed of innovation. Proper research needs to be completed and plans need to be made before any money should be spent. Anyone involved in education knows how tight budget dollars are. They need to be spent wisely.

A few thoughts to ask yourself about purchasing a 3D printer for your school.

1.) Do you have a clear purpose and plan for implementing 3D printing in a classroom or program?

2.) 3D printers require time and maintenance on to fairly regular basis. Do you have someone who will be responsible for ensuring that the printer is properly maintained and will be available to troubleshoot when problems arise?

3.) Do you plan on having students mostly design their own objects, download objects from other places, or will your program be a combination of these two things?

4.) Printing larger, more complex objects can be time consuming. How many printers do you plan on purchasing?

5.) What software do you plan on using for designing objects?

6.) What kind of professional development program for teachers will be available to help them to understand and use this new technology?

As is true of any technology, we cannot buy change and innovation in our schools and classrooms. Change and innovation are, more than anything, attitudes that we need to develop as educators and learners. 3D printers are new, cool and very exciting. There are endless possibilities to using them in classrooms. But, like anything else you are bringing into your classroom or building, they require a solid plan to implement their use effectively. Plan first. Do your research. Don’t forget professional development. This will enable you to be much happier and start up a more effective program.