Making the best of it? Exploring the realities of 3D printing in school

Selena Nemorin, Neil Selwyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Digital fabrication and ‘3D Making’ are prominent recent additions to school
curricula, hastened by the increased affordability of Computer Assisted
Design software and devices such as 3D printers. It is increasingly argued
that classroom use of these technologies can re-orientate schools towards
forms of skills and knowledge appropriate for contemporary industry, STEM
education and ‘Maker culture’. Amidst such rhetoric, questions are raised
about how these technologies are being used in schools, and the extent to
which this represents ‘new’ and/or ‘innovative’ forms of education. This paper
presents an ethnographic investigation of a 3D printing course enacted in an
Australian high school. These curricular activities are considered from three
different perspectives: (i) the artefacts and devices involved in the project; (ii)
the surrounding social and educational contexts; and (iii) the activities and
practices implicit in the implementation of the project. These different levels
of analysis highlight the complexities of technology-based schooling – not
least the ways in which possible technical and/or pedagogical ‘innovations’
associated with 3D printing are shaped by the situational constraints of
school contexts. The paper concludes by considering the likely future(s) of
3D printing and other forms of digital fabrication within the institutional
confines of school.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-595
Number of pages18
JournalResearch Papers in Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • 30 printing
  • maker
  • schools

Cite this