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Unlocking the Code for Robotics in the Classroom

November 13, 2017

In President Obama's final State of the Union address, he expressed the importance of "helping students learn to write computer code." In a recent YouTube video for Code.org, Obama spoke to students, urging them to "master the tools and technology that will change just about everything." Obama is correct. Our students' focus must shift from passive purveyors of technology to creators of programs, apps, and inventions. We must push them past low levels of static reception into a dynamic mindset, highlighting and nourishing thought and imagination to improve our world.

The elephant in the room is the cost associated with computer science technology. Programs like Code.org, Khan Academy, and others offer a viable solution. They're free to educators and parents, offer motivational incentives, and attract students with highly colorful graphics and relatable character interfaces, such as zombie attacks or familiar video game characters. Sites like these are the first step to introduce coding into the classroom.

 

Robotics is the next step. Over the past few years, the market has witnessed the rise of robotic tools -- like Sphero, Wonder Workshop and Lego Mindstorms -- that teach students how to code. At its core, robotics moves students away from the solitary interface of a computer screen and into an active social community. Not only does the space of the student's world increase in size, so do the benefits that computer science has to offer.

 

Teachers know what their students need emotionally, socially, and academically. Therefore, teachers should be properly armed to advocate for change, when needed. Here are five reasons to consider purchasing robotics for the K-12 classroom.

 
1. Sensory Learning

Children learn with all of their senses, and robotics aligns more naturally with the active, hands-on development of a K-5 student. Studies have shown that a multi-sensory approach activates a larger number of cognitive connections. Robots like Dash and Dot from the Wonder Workshop encourage students to touch, build, measure, follow, run, and skip beside Dash, as this bright blue bubble on wheels treks across a grid, avoiding obstacles or launching ping-pong balls. Students are emotionally and physically engaged, making increased neural connections that result in active learning and enhanced long-term experiential recall.

 
2. Improved Socialization

Social learning is nothing new. Back in the 1970s, Albert Bandura established the most well-known theory of modern social learning, which purported that people learn from each other through observation, imitation, and modeling. This line of thinking still holds true today. Communication and collaboration are critical skills to prepare young people for the world outside the classroom doors. Robotics challenges offer students opportunities in all forms of socialization, including (and most importantly, developing) burgeoning listening skills, and considering and evaluating alternate perspectives.

 

By now, you are probably wondering, "Why robotics?" While it's possible to integrate hands-on learning and opportunities for increased socialization by other means, the third reason is critical to robotics.

 

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