Robotics Academy Blog  

Using Robotics to Teach “Big Ideas”

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middle school curriculum continuum

I talk to teachers nearly every day and many of them say: ”I want to teach robotics, where do I start?”  I’ve developed a pretty standard reply, I asked them “What is it that you really want to teach?”

This is a pretty important thing to consider when you begin to teach robotics.  There are so many different concepts that you can teach.  Our research with the University of Pittsburgh tells us that trying to cover too many things may lead to confusion… Although kids are exposed to lots of great academic concepts as they study robots, we’ve found that it is hard to show measurable gains in test scores without foregrounding and measuring specific concepts; and of course it is paramount in today’s “high stakes testing” environment that we show academic improvement.  In this discussion, I hope to talk about how robotics can be used to teach: computer programming, engineering process, specific math and science concepts, address technological literacy, develop 21st Century Skills, and more, but the quandary that robotic educators find themselves in is “what is it that I want to teach in my class, because we can’t teach it all?”  What is approriate to focus on in a 5th grade classroom will not be as relevent in a high school class.

The book “How People Learn” suggests that today’s teachers need to focus on “Big Ideas” to prepare students for the complex world that they are growing up in.  I believe that robotics can be used to teach big ideas, but that it is critical that we have a plan that will lead students to measurable academic gains.  The picture above shows an example of an idea that we are developing at the Robotics Academy called a curriculum continuum (I picked the middle school level, that is where we will start, but you will find that we are developing the same type of plan for high school students).  The curriculum continuum is designed to foreground and measure specific concepts rather than on the generalized – eclectic mix of concepts that make up the field of robotics.

Children learn what is measured, anyone that has been part of a FIRST competition knows that there are times when the project becomes so busy, that we forget to measure.  I hope that you will share your thoughts. Regards, Robin

Written by Robin Shoop

November 9th, 2009 at 4:28 pm