Robotics (when you look hard enough) are all around us, but why does it belong in the classroom?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, robotics is defined as the branch of technology with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots. But, robotics is undoubtedly, so much more than that and has been dubbed as the ‘gamechanger’ in attracting children to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics subjects. Technology is changing rapidly and it is no surprise that robotics is becoming increasingly popular in education worldwide.
So, why should you teach robotics in your classroom?
1. It’s Fun!
Firstly, robotics is fun! It’s a hands-on activity that all children are captivated by. If children are having fun, they are more motivated to learn and less likely to engage in challenging behaviours.
2. It Can Be Taught at Any Level or Ability
From K-12, robotics can be altered to suit any class level or individual student. Research has shown that children as young as four can successfully build and program simple robotics projects. There is also substantial evidence that confirms that using robots is particularly suitable for engaging children on the Autism Spectrum. They respond well to the calm, clear, consistent interactions that robots can provide.
3. Improves Fine Motor Skills and Eye-Hand Coordination
By utilising robotics kits, children are involved in manually manipulating sensors, motors, blocks, remote controls, gears, joints, switches, and axels. They are continually synchronising the use of their hands and fingers with their eyes to grasp small pieces, connect parts, dismantle objects, and manipulate robots. Children are capable of mastering complex fine motor skills when constructing a robot!
4. Provides a Base for Teaching Computer Programming
Computer programming can be quite an abstract concept and can be difficult to grasp without the base knowledge of robotics and coding. By beginning with robotics, children have a physical robot to experiment with. They can test out what works, and what doesn’t and have a better understanding of the importance of precise instructions. Research also indicates that by starting children early in robotics, the gender bias in STEM subjects is decreased significantly.
5. Meets National STEM School Education Strategy
The National STEM School Education Strategy has been renewed to ensure that all students finish school with strong foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills and are inspired to take on more challenging STEM subjects. Teaching robotics is definitely a step in the right direction to achieving this.
6. Practical Hands-On Learning
Robotics provides students with practical hands-on learning experiences where they can work as a team to communicate, collaborate, apply critical thinking skills, and produce tangible outcomes. Children find it easier to learn when they have a physical robot to observe, manipulate and pull apart.
7. Prepares Students for 21st Century Workforce
Our digital world is changing rapidly and it is predicted that the students of today will be working in jobs that don’t even exist yet! 50% of jobs in the 21st century workforce have been predicted to require high level digital skills and 75% of the fastest growing occupations require science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. By involving children in robotics, we are better equipping them to be innovators, leaders, and successful participants in our new economy.
8. Become Part of a Wider Trend
On a global scale, teaching robotics and coding in schools has increased significantly. The United Kingdom has introduced mandatory computer programming for all students aged 5 to 15 years. Finland has also integrated coding across subjects for students aged 7 to 15 to support their ongoing digital transformation. On our own home soil, the Queensland Government has introduced compulsory robotics and coding in schools, which will see students begin their digital literacy journey in Prep (Kindergarten). Teaching robotics will ensure our children will not get left behind.
9. Develops Computational Thinking
Computational thinking is the process of recognising aspects of computation in the world and being able to think logically, algorithmically, recursively, and abstractly. Robotics can help develop computational thinking by teaching children how to “think like a computer” and use concepts of computer science to solve problems. The Australian Government considers these skills to be essential for future careers and places heavy emphasis on computational thinking skills within the curriculum.
10. Promotes Innovation and Entrepreneurial Skills
Working with robots requires innovation and creative thinking to solve complex problems. By allowing students to explore, experiment and investigate with robotics they can create their own programs, load them onto the robots and watch them perform the programmed tasks before their very eyes. The sky is the limit to their imagination and programming!
So, what are you waiting for? Get started with some robotics today!
About the Author
Written by Renee Irving-Lee
Renee has a diverse background in Education in a variety of settings; including Early Childhood, Special Education and Tertiary Studies.
Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2017). Digital Technologies. Retrieved from Australian Curriculum: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/technologies/digital-technologies/structure/
Davies, E. (2017, Febuary 23). Robotics : The Future of STEM Education. Retrieved from The Australian Education Reporter: http://www.edureporter.com.au/robotics-the-future-of-stem-education/
Education Council. (2015, December). National STEM School Education Strategy : A comprehensive Plan For Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education in Australia. Retrieved from Education council: http://www.educationcouncil.edu.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/National%20STEM%20School%20Education%20Strategy.pdf
NSW Education Standards Authority. (2017). A Guide To Coding and Computational Thinking Accross the Curriculum. Retrieved from NSW Government: http://educationstandards.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/k-10/learning-areas/technology/coding-across-the-curriculum
Queensland Government. (2015). Department of Education and Training. Retrieved from #codingcounts : A Discussion Paper on Coding and Robotics in Queensland Schools: http://advancingeducation.qld.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/Coding-and-robotics-booklet.pdf
Sullivan, A., & Umaschi Bers, M. (2015). Robotics in the early childhood classroom: learning outcomes from an 8-week robotics curriculum in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Springer Science+Business Media, 1-18.