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February 21, 2018

Robotics in the Classroom

(Photo taken at the ASCD annual conference April 2016)

Recently, some of us at Learners Edge attended the ASCD annual conference in Atlanta. Walking around the conference, we noted robotics displays in abundance!

Robotics certainly are an active and kinesthetic way for our students to learn, and meets many of the standards for STEM education.

Mark Browning, a teacher who enrolled in course 996 –the iCourse submitted his coursework on robotics using the text: Getting Started with LEGO Robotics: A Guide for K-12 EducatorsISBN-13: 9781564842985 which he highly recommends.

Here is a sample of what Mark shared regarding teaching robotics.

Enjoy learning!

Why Robotics? What will this teach kids besides the art of making a Robot?

LEGO Robotics has recorded phenomenal growth over the last 20 years as a curriculum to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Perhaps no other curriculum has grown with such vigor in the world of Education.

What caused this to happen? What do others know that I do not?

There are a few factors that elicit LEGO Robotics extreme popularity. First, must be its popularity with the students working with the Robotics Kits. Nearly every kid in the World understands what a robot is. They are exposed to movies with cute anthropomorphic robots, and to T.V. shows and cartoons about robots on a near daily basis. LEGO Robotics harnesses this affinity for robots that kids have through their use of design and color of the kits. On the news, robots are an everyday part of life: drones, self-driven cars, Mars Rovers, industry, and the association with the ubiquitous Smart Phone. Robots have saturated the world as we know it. Another aspect of students intrigue with robots, is the self-empowering component of students imagining, designing, and creating their own robots.

It is play at its finest!

What do I Need to Know as a Teacher about Robotics?

This question is easily answered. You can choose to know as much or as little as you choose to. The exploratory nature of Robotics allows a teacher to take a different role in the classroom than the “Governor of Education” that teachers usually maintain. Students are required to play and search for their own answers through the process of imagining, designing and playing with the Robotics Kits. Students are most often self-regulating once they begin. It truly takes very little. A teacher can spend 20 minutes with the programmingand know enough to introduce it to the class. And all the physical materials that students use need no explanation what-so-ever.

Teachers must:

Allow students to gain an understanding of what is being taught: lay out for students the standards being taught and what they will be assessed on. Rubrics are available in many different forms that teachers can use to provide purpose for students in conjunction with their desire to play and to allow students to work towards given the idea they will be assessed. Reminders and questions are continually asked keeping these questions at the forefront of what kids are thinking as they work and play. Set up work flow throughout the classroom to make sure that time is not wasted in locating materials, groups are working in their own autonomous spaces, time management processes to ensure that accomplishments are met. Essentially teachers become questioners and prompters.

Teachers are attempting to ensure all kids are reflecting on their work.

We use such simple questions as:

Why are you doing it this way?

What problems might you run into?

How did you do this?

Can you think of any ways to solve this problem?

Teachers become the “Keeper of Materials.” This, perhaps, requires the most work. Student must be trained with systems to both remove and put away equipment taking care to track where parts and pieces are going. Questions about how things will be brought out and put away must be asked early on and taught explicitly.

Teachers become problem solvers.

Small problems will arise throughout, but there are most often numerous solutions at many different levels that a teacher can pursue at their comfort level.

What Teachers do NOT Need to Know:

It is a mistake to think that a teacher entering into Robotics needs to have any experience with the Engineering of Robots or of the Programming of Robots. They do not. One of the beautiful aspects of LEGO Robotics is that it has been designed to be highly intuitive for students, and all parts and pieces of the program run at such simple levels that they are nearly infallible in allowing students to discover on their own.

The more a teacher becomes experienced in Robotics, the higher the level of teaching can be accomplished, however the threshold level for instruction is already set at a high level merely by opening the box and beginning. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible not to become entranced by the student work and begin to learn alongside of them. Within a few classes a teacher can garner a good understanding of the process and what will be required of them. After this, helping kids overcome problems that they encounter is about all that is required at a minimum level. Problems such as, they need an extra piece in their robot – “Go borrow it from those guys!” Or how do I save my work – “File…Save as to your desktop!” Or I can’t get my robot to turn- “Let’s look at what you got and see where we can change it. Hey Johnny, come over here and help this kid!”

Solutions exist at very rudimentary levels and through time can become more advanced. However even at these rudimentary levels instruction is still taking place at a high level – nothing will collapse and fall apart; children will never rebel and stop working with robots in front of them. A teacher with zero programming experience, a working knowledge of computers and no robotics experience can easily prepare and present lessons that address standards at a multitude of levels.

The greater the teacher interest in learning the basics of robots and programming the deeper the lesson can go, but even at its most basic level, there is much to be accomplished in the classroom using LEGO Robotics kits.

Resources for teachers:

Teacher resources abound online to begin using LEGO Robotics in the classroom to teach all subject matter. Here are a few places to begin to explore:

Learners Edge is passionately committed to providing you with continuing education coursework, materials, and tools that will help you succeed in your classroom and in your career.

Offering more than 100 print-based or online courses for teachers, you can earn the graduate credit you need for salary advancement and meet your professional development needs. Contact us today to get started!


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