Robotics and Pedagogy

Robotics and Pedagogy

Now is the most opportune time, to prepare students for hyper tech embedded future. Robotics, basic coding, ’smart’ toys are ways of getting students to be better prepared for the tech heavy future, we foresee.

There are many creative pedagogues evolving in pockets worldwide that are trying to involve robots, robotics, coding etc. into the school curricula. What forms the basis of these pedagogy is STEM (or even STEAM) ed.

Within education pedagogy there can be five types – constructivist, inquiry- based, reflective, collaborative, and integrative.

Tech based or Robotic based education allows for parts of all 5 pedagogical approaches to be part of the teaching. This has been seen as an integral part of developing students problem solving skills – much needed for the complex wicked problems the future has to experience. More has been explained below:

1. Robotics for Constructivist Pedagogy

The constructivist theories of Jean Piaget argues transmission of knowledge is an active process based on experiences of a child gained from the real world (Piaget 1972). The theory goes on to explain that the construction of new knowledge is more effective when the learners are engaged in constructing products that are personally meaningful to them. Meaning a by making things, preferably a tangible object that they can both
touch and find meaningful. The goal of constructionism is giving children good things to do so that they can learn by doing much better than they could before (Papert, 1980).

Robotics offers exactly this, it can be made into a making exercise that is a more playful way for students to engage with STEM education.  For example, In the last decade robotic education has gained a lot of attention, a great number of
initiatives had been developed and several types of robotic kits are now available; i.e.
Lego Mindstorms one of the robotics classes I witnessed, the assignment students were given was to build a device that could be robotically activated to throw a paper ball as far as possible.

2. Robotics for Inquiry- Based Teaching

As an educator, whenever I have spent time with children I have been one out of the sessions with a great sense of curiosity. It is infectious and something that children have plenty of. This curiosity should be put to more use by feeding them inquiry based activities.

it is a way to encourage youngsters to be the protagonist in problem solving rather than be passive learners. Robots represent technological artifacts and let the
students produce facts, collect data and derive concepts. For example on BrainPoP – a lesson planning platform for STEM has designed one such exercise with robots. They have provided a lesson plan for students to learn about pollution through first building a vocabulary. Using this students are to design and prototype a public service announcement on air quality in the surroundings.

3. Robotics for Learning through Reflection

A reflective pedagogy is highly dependent on the quality of experience that the students go through, as it will determine the quality of reflection for learning. It involves looking for commonalities, differences, and interrelations between the concept being introduced in the class.

When working with robotics students have to constantly test their code to see if it is doing what has been intended. So they is a constant process of building, testing, reflecting and correcting or remaking. It is through this kind of reflection that robotics in classroom can engage students for longer duration but more importantly involve the child in a learning process.

4. Robotics for Collaborative Learning

If you look up any robotics teaching plans you will notice most of them will be group bases activities. Learning to collaborate is an important educational goal. The concept of collaborative learning is differently defined by experts. Within STEM learning, or some of the new education models the goal is not only that the learners acquire specific skills (e.g. knowledge on electricity, electronics, robotics etc., but also acquire transferable skills, which can be picked up during collaborative learning.

This methodology focuses on collaboration to design and develop common projects and on problem solving skills development. The pupils work in small groups (2–4) where each one has been given a specific task. For example, in a group one student might build the robot, one may design the actions and one students may test the robot’s task. This kind of verbalisations between the group and their actions on screens or with the robots leads to  students realizing that they need each other in order to learn and succeed. Consequently, the notion of a “being a team” and the characteristics of team activities become quite apparent when students learn very quickly that everyone in the team is learning and no one person knows everything. A mindset very much needed in work environments!

5. Robotics for Integrative Pedagogy

Although there is no accepted definition of Integrative learning. It is safe to say integrated learning usually refers to a pedagogical design that integrates a set of teaching (such as individual, group or class work), learning (presential learning activities and distance work) and technological components (such as robots). For example, you could ask the class in groups to design an obstacle course through which your robotic car has to pass in the shortest time possible. In this activity concepts from different disciplines will be put to use.  The robotic car will require concepts of physics (motion and force), mathematics and engineering design (illustration and optimization)  Additionally, we developed a low-cost and resilient version of a robot car.

In conclusion…

While robotics may seem overwhelming at first, it is truly a great tool to implement in the classroom to promote a culture of creativity. Not only does it emphasize meaningful problem-based learning, it also offers unique applications for hands-on learning in cooperative groups, allowing students to gain important communication and teamwork skills necessary for the modern workplace.

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