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Why maker technology is crucial for students with learning difficulties

By Chris Elsworthy
June 30th, 2015

3D printing and hands-on learning opens up new worlds to some students

difficulties-stemI had always been good at building or “making” with my hands. Whether it was helping my dad with repairs around the house or building model airplanes, I found tremendous focus and inspiration with these types of projects.

The classroom was another matter. Throughout my time in school, I struggled greatly with traditional learning methods. My teachers quickly became frustrated with my lack of enthusiasm and focus on my work. Most assumed I was unintelligent or lazy. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of sixteen that things began to change.

Like myself, other students with learning difficulties—from dysgraphia (a difficulty with writing, mainly in spelling) and attention disorders like ADD and ADHD—respond well to visual or tactile learning and activities that allow physical participation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And these learning impediments are not as uncommon as you might imagine. In the US alone, approximately eight percent of children were identified by a health professional as having a learning disorder, according to a 2014 study. As these types of difficulties become more recognized every day, the importance of adjusting teaching methods has started to increase accordingly.

Depending on the effect of the disorder itself, some students struggle with focus, others with reading and writing skills, all of which are fundamental to a typical classroom setting. In order to garner the same results in the classroom between students with learning difficulties and standard learners, various schools have adopted alternative teaching methods, primarily utilizing technology. Not only is technology promoting successful results for students with learning disorders, but it is also spurring additional interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Next page: Inspiring STEM careers with technology