We are living in an age of Gen Z-ers who, as digital natives, are in tune with technological advances in communication such as social media, gaming, and conducting research almost exclusively using the internet. Their avenues for engagement are changing and teachers who are increasing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) instruction in their classrooms are exploring ways to incorporate more hands-on, immersive learning experiences that combine innovative technology with real-world connections. The motivation for doing so? To see their students’ active participation in experiments and projects, as well as strengthening the four Cs to 21st-century skills: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity.
This pandemic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Schools are working towards creating an environment where students can learn at home by equipping them with the necessary technology to make the “virtual classroom” a reality. Unfortunately, STEM learning doesn’t appear to be a focus and it needs to be.
I know I’m not alone when I envisioned a future in robotics as Rosie the robot maid on The Jetsons wheeling around dusting my furniture. When I began to see the trends in education to include more robotics and coding, I thought, “Yes! I can have my own Rosie or R2D2!” But that is a simplified vision of what robotics learning, and other advanced tech such as 3D printers, can offer. Educators who were already incorporating robotics and 3D printing could see the benefit these innovations had on their students’ learning – increased engagement, improved critical thinking skills, and enhanced conversation and collaboration in the classroom.
I really enjoy my work. Part of what I do puts me in situations where I learn new things and more about topics I thought I already understood. It is the second part of that sentence that tends to humble me fairly often.
When I talk to kids about space, I often tell them we know about this much about space, as I hold my fingers close together, and that there is this much to know, as I spread my arms out as far as I can.
As I walked out of a recent meeting, I began to think about how it is easy to become impressed with what we think we know when the simple fact is that there is so very much more to understand. We are separated from our students’ level of understanding by a very thin margin.
Robotics has become a popular activity for incorporating STEM in the classroom. Among other things, robots are engaging, eye-catching, dynamic, and more interesting than a book for capturing and holding a student’s attention. Unfortunately, the vast majority of classroom robots end up being little more than toys made to drive to and fro or side to side without really providing an opportunity for any scientific exploration and learning. When selecting robotic products to introduce in the classroom, it is important to look at the overall educational value of the system—particularly with regard to how it can be used to promote scientific exploration and learning together with the application of mathematic principles.
As educators, we know how important STEM learning is to ensure our students succeed not just in the classroom, but out in the real world as well. Students need to develop the critical skills that will prepare them for life beyond the classroom as tomorrow’s engineers and innovators.
Modern Robotics merged with Boxlight earlier this year, enabling us to introduce the Mimio MyBot educational robotics system. This system was conceived and developed to fulfill a need in robotics and coding in the classroom without the added complexity common in most systems. The MyBot system helps students engage in learning experiences, preparing them in emerging STEM fields including software, robotics, and technology.