Tech Edge - August 2012 - (Page 7)

● ● ● LEADING WITH TECHNOLOGY It’s Not All About the Robot By Jennifer Flood T his fall, thousands of students will pour over robotics equipment, dedicating themselves to solving engineering problems. They will be joined by educators, industry professionals, and community members, all of whom will spend hours building and programming robots. It is a beautiful thing: a symphony of student interest, engagement in STEM, and 21st century skills, all possible through competitive robotics. Extracurricular robotics programs provide our students with the hands-on and mind-on experiences needed to make thoughtful decisions on future involvement in the academic process and STEM, but it takes more than a robot to engage them. What can be done to better engage all students in STEM at every level? WHY ROBOTICS? To a certain extent, it is about the robot and the excitement that it can generate. There is something truly amazing about automating LEGOs. Those little pieces of plastic, unassuming and colorful, beg to be snapped together. These small bricks can create things as concrete or as abstract as their creator intends. And then, at some point, you can make them move on their own! LEGOs elicit nostalgic feelings of previous successes over mastered materials. LEGOs are special. They can be dropped, left in the yard, chewed by the dog, but can still connect. There is no fear or failure associated with those little plastic pieces. Capitalizing on the toy-like nature of LEGOs and students’ comfort level with them, robotics facilitators can coax students to take that leap into STEM and problem solving. WHY EVERYONE? All groups should receive this kind of authentic learning experience. In my classroom, students learn to think and engage in authentic science, technology, engineering, and math experiences. My students are engineers with LEGOs. And even if students decide they truly do not eventually want to work in a STEM field, that choice would be based on experiences and first-hand knowledge. SO HOW DO YOU ENGAGE EVERYONE? Start early and include the girls. Too often I hear from secondary students, “I wish this had been an option when I was younger.” And too often those experiences are available only by chance. Children as young as 4 are capable of the necessary logic and reasoning skills to be able to program robots, if they are given an age-appropriate input method. First-grade teachers are using a “train the trainer” approach and letting robotics spread organically through their classroom, allowing the students to choose when to integrate robotics into their learning. Upper elementary classrooms are receiving sets of robotics to use as teaching tools within identified science objectives. And, yes, target the girls. When we reach out to girls, using language designed to be inclusive, creating open-ended activities, and focusing on the collaborative nature of STEM, we include a hugely under-represented group in STEM. And this influx of new robotics engineers can only positively impact the engagement level of typical STEM participants. So how will you use your robotics knowledge and passion this fall? I will be organizing our robotics teams across the district, encouraging and supporting our fledgling after-school programs. I will also be leading our teachers in the robotics classrooms. But what I am most excited about and what gives me the greatest hope for our students and education in general are the classrooms and campuses where robotics will become a new learning tool for science objectives – not a special experience or unit, but rather another part of the educational landscape. How will you move beyond the robot? ● Jennifer Flood is a technology specialist at Bastrop ISD where she helps create magic both with students and robots at the classroom and district levels. Issue Three 2012 >> techedge 7

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Tech Edge - August 2012

AT A GLANCE: Classroom Tips to Help Support a BYOT Initiative
TECA Professional Development
Resources for a BYOT
LEADING WITH TECHNOLOGY: It's Not All About the Robot
BYOT: From Potential Distraction to Real Integration
CREATING CLOUDS: From Sharing to Storing, Clouds, Help Clear the Way for BYOT
BYOT TO THE LIBRARY: Student's Learning Options Continue to Expand
TECH SMART: Tips to Promote Responsible and Ethical Digital Citzens
MOBILE LEARNING: Paving the Way for BYOT and Responsible Uses Policies
IN THE CLASSROOM: Think, Are You UP for This Robotics Challenge?
ADVOCACY UPDATE: Connecting in the Community

Tech Edge - August 2012