Open-Source Hardware For Education

Yes – the title is correct. I meant to say hardware, not software. I read a really great article on TechLearning about a new 3-D printer with educational potential. One of the features of this printer, called a fabber, is that is is built in a clear case as an open source tool. According to the article, this “means you have access to their design specifications and can modify them and develop your own improvements.”

You can read the article here: 3-D Printing a Goo Goo

The printer itself is fascinating – priced and sized to be used in homes and schools, it also uses a wide range of substances from clay to goo to chocolate to cheese to create 3-D objects. So it is also safe.

In the article, Hod Lipson (one of the gurus behind fabber) pointed out the reasoning behind making this printer open-source. He speaks of how we are becoming detached from technology, possibly to the point of not understanding it. All because we can’t crack open the case and mess with a tool without messing it up.

Could we ever hope to see this approach take root and grow in other technology markets? Sure, there are other open-source tools out there, but they are pretty few and far between. Just like open-source software, open-source hardware will not be for everyone. But for those that could benefit from it (see article above for examples), we need to see more products like the fabber.

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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