This article was published by K12Digest
Students are eager for high tech classrooms. Is your classroom room ready? Are you?
The transformation of education has never been more dramatic. Every teacher will confess that to succeed in the classroom today means creating an engaging environment, many times on subjects that hold little initial student interest, especially when subjects are competing for a student’s interest when they have immersed themselves in the captivating power of video games, YouTube videos, and social chat groups. Attention spans have never been shorter. The ability of today’s children to multi-process different tasks seems bewildering to many adults.
The current backstory has been the development of curricula for STEM learning. It seems most schools are still struggling to get fully deployed with STEM or what may now be called STEAM programs. The challenge has been fourfold.
First, was the question of what a STEM program should consist of?
Second, how do you define and prepare students for a multi-year curriculum that offers foundational continuity?
Third, how do you prepare and establish qualifications for teachers?
And fourth, is the always overruling constraints of budgets and qualified staff expertise.
Then comes yet another hidden element that always seems to raise its head. Teachers simply don’t have the time to advance themselves in technologies or to fully embrace and put their imaginations to work using the new classroom technologies. Learning and creating take time. This is why through experience we have learned that the best technologies for K-12 STEM programs are responsive to all these real-life challenges. Simply said, classroom technologies today must be engaging, dependable, flexible, and robust at the outset. The adoption and learning curve for teachers using new technologies must be realistically planned, considered and structured. The chasm between schools is significant. I have been to schools that replicate the “Starship Enterprise” with amazing technologies for students to use and see schools that struggle to even have basic internet connectivity. The point is that ‘one-size solutions’ do not fit all situations.
With all the above points considered this is why I have focused on classroom robots as a critical component of STEM programs. Why? The price range of robots for STEM use can fit into almost any budget. Robots can serve in multiple ways. They are engaging. They provide immediate feedback. They can be used to deliver animated educational subject matter presentations. They can be used to advance special educational needs such as working with students diagnosed on the autism spectrum. They can teach new languages. They are tireless and non-judgmental. They can be easily transported from classroom to classroom. They create a sense of excitement and visible accomplishment. Most importantly, robots in education will open the expansive horizons and insights into the future world that today’s students will live in as adults. A world where they cohabitate and collaborate side-by-side with robots at work and in their homes.
Robots in schools also generate an opportunity for students to not only challenge themselves but engage with other schools and groups in robot competitions. There are few topics that generate active participation in the sciences for young women more than robots. Many of today’s newly created robotic companies are now being headed by young women.
Robots are not like most other K-12 classroom technologies that strive to deliver and teach subject matter lessons. Robots serve as a powerful platform for developing a student’s own innovation and creativity. Working and learning with robots challenge students to bring into play the thinking about a variety of disciplines such as programming, math, engineering, physics and geometry needed to accomplish a robotic construct or a robot behavior animation. More recently students of the arts have begun adopting robots to perform ‘robot theater plays’, dance routines and to present stories or poems that they have authored. So here we see the convergence of ‘science and the arts’ (STEAM)in full bloom.
It is clear, that when positioned correctly, robots are at their best when they are used as a teacher’s assistant or a tool for learning and not deemed to be a replacement for the teacher. Maybe that day will come, with the advance of artificial intelligence and robot emotional recognition capabilities, but for now, robots are captivating and engaging students worldwide and for a reason. Today’s robot platforms and technologies put every classroom in reach of the ultimate goal, making learning fun, productive and rewarding.