Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Miller and Melissa Clark from RoboKids to explain how they can help promote robotics in education. RoboKids is an award-winning business and I am sure you will find what they can offer benefiical.
You find the replay in my ICT in Education Teacher Academy where you can become a member for just $33 AUD per month.
Here is what went down!
Can you tell us how RoboKids got started?
Teacher brought robotics into my high school teaching program where I was working part time to develop and coordinate a technology program. I had a very proactive principal at the time Dean White, he encouraged the program's development. During its success we offered robotics incursion days to our feeder primary schools. Primary students would come onsite for the day. My network of principals and teachers then asked for workshops in their school. This is where Robokids was born. I began running workshops on the days I did not work as a teacher. Then brought on a colleague as the level of interest grew.
- 2016 & 2017 won a year of mentoring with PwC
- 2017 partnership with education changemakers, nominated for Telstra Businesswoman of the year award
- 2018 CBA women in focus leadership award
- 2019 to current Partnership with Toyota projects in NSW & VIC
Who is involved in RoboKids?
8 team members NSW and VIC
How does RoboKids support teachers in their use of digital technologies in the curriculum?
Robokids preschool to year 8, our programs are aligned to the national curriculum and all specific state STEM outcomes. We integrate the use of digital technology to KLA programs, specifically Science and Technology. Furthermore, through the use of digital technology we explore literacy and numeracy outcomes, for example procedural and narrative writing in literacy, measurements of time, angles, turns, estimations in Maths
- A variety of moduled incursions during the school day ranging from 1 off visits to being onsite 2 days a week for the school year, rotating through each year level.
- Assessment rubrics aligned to reporting outcomes
- provide all the equipment and expertise to schools.
- Schools do not need to allocate funding where more often than not equipment lays idles on teachers shelves in their annual budget.
- TPD courses for those schools who wish to upskill their teachers' digital capacity.
We bring the technology to our school, we are a hands on service which enables a creative, inventive and enquiry based environment where students design, build and code robots. Students are paired with 1 robot kit and either 1 iPad or laptop
In what way does Robokids support students?
STEM stands for Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics. But it's more than that. STEM has grown to represent a unique approach to teaching and learning, one that centers around individual students' learning styles and interests. It's a very student centered environment. We differentiate student needs, we do not develop completely prescriptive courses, our programs are quite fluid to enable students to meet outcomes and flourish at their own pace. No student coding or design solution is the same. Students' confidence thrive throughout our courses. Teachers are quietly blown away by the level of student engagement, in particular those who do not always thrive in a read and write environment. Students are essentially learning through play and experimentation.
“We believe that digital play holds tremendous potential to enrich children’s lives, we feel a deep responsibility to deliver a digital environment that creates the best possible outcomes for children. We do this by anchoring the well-being of children in how we design our modules. Robokids will continue to strengthen our leadership in this space.
This important research, which aims to provide guidance for how digital design choices can support child well-being, demonstrate how learning through play can act as a vital tool to help children develop confidence, resilience, manage stress and anxiety.
How does STEM education equip schools with the effective tools and strategies to create an innovative learning environment?
Differentiated, inquiry based and cooperative learning where students learn at their own pace and level of understanding. STEM education also develops the softer skills while working with a partner, such as problem solving, resilience, confidence. STEM teaching develops 21st century skill set which was previously reserved for uni graduates entering a grad program. These transferable skills are now being taught to students as early a preschool
What role does RoboKids have in achieving this?
We are an award winning nationally recognised STEM provider. we have run our courses to over 120 000 students and teachers. Currently we service schools NSW QLD & VIC.
Robokids specialises in delivering curriculum aligned programs during the school day. Our programs are designed by teachers for teachers.
Robokids takes the headache away from schools of managing resources, equipment and developing 21st century programs for their students. Purchasing robotics is expensive. Often robotics equipment lies dormant on shelves for most of the year or all year. Teachers are time poor, their curriculum is jam packed.
There is a huge gap between underrepresented schools in STEM and those who have the capacity to develop robotics programs for all their student population. These schools run the risk of remaining underrepresented.
Robokids solves all these issues. Our services are cost effective starting from $11 per hour.
Robotics in Early Childhood Education
What types of robotics do you provide support for in ECE?
There are two types of Robotics that ROBOKIDS can provide that support Early Childhood Education.
- Bee Bots- are a colourful, easy-to-operate, and friendly little robot that is a perfect tool for teaching young children. (SHOW )
They have Directional keys that are used to enter commands in a sequence which send Bee-Bot forward, back, left, and right. Pressing the green GO button starts Bee-Bot on its way. Bee-Bot is child and classroom friendly and boosts enthusiasm for experimentation and learning.
- Botzees are our other type of Robotics we can provide. (SHOW)
This kit allows early learners to build a robot. The blocks are like Duplo blocks, and are perfect for younger hands. Using an Ipad children cooperate with a partner to follow easy, visual instructions to build a variety of robots that can then be coded to move in various ways.
The coding is also done on the Ipad and utilizes simple blocks of code, to program a robot to move, make sounds, and perform simple tasks.
In what way can robotics be used in early childhood?
- Robotics in Early childhood can be used across the early childhood curriculum, and is an excellent way of giving children both discovery and intentional experiences that are play based, but can also be used to teach specific skills such as - counting, sequencing, estimation, problem-solving, in a really fun and engaging way!
- It really can be integrated across any area of study and can actively promote children’s learning through worthwhile and challenging experiences and interactions that foster high-level thinking skills.
- Teaching Collaboration, and learning to work with a partner, is another way of using Robotics in the Early childhood classroom-
- In a Robotics lesson children need to collaborate and practice using appropriate body language, such as facing each other, communicating with each other in appropriate ways, and sharing or taking turns to complete a task together.
- Robotics is a great preparation for getting ready for school years.
- Encouraging the initial stages of sequential step by step learning which is paramount in 21st century education.
Can you provide an example of how early childhood practitioners can integrate robotics in their teaching and learning?
Robotics can introduce STEM concepts to children in a playful way, thereby encouraging them to be excited about further exploration in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.
After initial “discovery” play, where children discover through trial and error what makes the Bee Bot move, (what do each of the buttons do?) Persistence is a big part here, to keep trying different ways and share their ideas with a partner.
After discovery time is catered for, and children feel confident, some intentional lessons can be planned for and incorporated:
For example, children can practice counting, and counting on, with a Bee Bot Robot.
By rolling a dice, counting the dots, pressing the forward key and programming the Bot to move forward a certain number of steps.
Along a number line, they can add onto their “program” to get their Bot to reach the number 10 or move across the floor to their partner or a taped “finish line”.
They can then add more steps to their program (Bee Bots will remember up to 40 instructions) with 90 degree turns, and then start engineering their own pathways (using paddle pop sticks, blocks, or real life materials such as sticks, boxes etc ) for Bee Bot to navigate through. This could be integrated into a neighborhood type theme. Where children design and build a neighborhood and then Bee Bot finds his way home, or to the shop, or the playground.
Are there any other case studies/examples that you would like to share with us in relation to the use of robotics in Early Childhood Education?
- Robotics can even be incorporated into Literacy or Storytelling- such as Beginning, middle and end
- After listening to a story- children could draw parts of the story, or use pre made cards- they can sequence pictures on the floor- Bee Bot is coded to move from one picture to the next in the correct order- as Bee Bot moves from one part of the story to the next - children can tell their partner (or Bee Bot) the story in their own words.
Robotics in Primary Education
How are Robotics different in primary education?
There is a developed national curriculum where robotics and coding is mandatory for every student in Australia. Each school must develop in their scope and sequence programs, a digital literacy course for each student from K - 6.
To support teachers and schools in providing this mandatory curriculum- ROBOKIDS has 3 more levels of Robotic kits and Robotic programs that are suitable for all primary students as they progress across the year levels. These Kits and programs increase in complexity and offer a range of increasingly difficult coding languages. (SHOW- WeDo Kit, Spike Kit and an EV3)
How does robotics progress in primary education from early childhood education?
- There is a developed curriculum in primary education where specific outcomes are nominated for each year level from K- 6 focusing on 3 Areas-
- Working scientifically, Design and Production and Digital Technologies.
- And as I previously said, the equipment and the coding becomes increasingly complex.
- We introduce algorithms, and that idea of “sequences of instructions” becomes more challenging.
The programming languages we use become more complex as we move through from K - 6.
- Code moves from :
-pressing buttons on the Robot (Bee Bot) in pre K
-to code that is programmed on a device- a visual block code for K-2, to Scratch code for Years 3-5 and then onto Python coding (which is a text based coding system) for Year 6.
What are the transferable capabilities that can be applied in both sectors?
- We move from play in early years to a more structured approach that is still fun and engaging- (like play and discovery for older students) meeting intentional age appropriate curriculum needs.
- Cooperative learning skills remain important Pre K-6- students as they continue to work in partnerships
- Persistence remains important Pre K-6
- A range of Pre K-6 skills and processes- such as problem solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching and investigating are transferred from Early Learning through to the Primary Years.
Can you provide any case study examples of how robotics can be integrated into the curriculum?
Primary education example: year 2 unit on Living Thing over 3 weeks x 2 hour lessons. Students design code and invent Phasmids, Gorillas and Tadpoles.. MM to talk about our Phasmid Lesson
We link to industry robotics , students see what is happening in their outside world and what potentially a STEM career make look like.. ie Self driving cars, Search and Resue Robots, Automated ice cream stores, Tesla Factory, Robotc cocktail makers. Pizza parlours, Logistics warehouses, drone parcel delivery, robotic kitchens. robotic chefs and hospital aids.
The role of STEM in developing ICT capabilities
The development of ICT capability is prominent mostly throughout primary education. How important is it for teachers to apply STEM practices in the curriculum?
STEM stands for Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics. But it's more than that. STEM has grown to represent a unique approach to teaching and learning, one that centers around individual students' learning styles and interests.
As educators, we need to ensure young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past.
STEM practices can be integrated into all KLA areas, every school has a varying approach. Every young person leaves school with the innovation and technological skills that they need to thrive in their everchanging, automated world that lies ahead of them. STEM develops critical thinking, creativity, curiosity and resilience.
Australia’s first innovation generation need to be prepared for their future by creating the shift from digital users to digital creators, fostering computational thinking which underpins much of our modern society, STEM engages students in 21st century learning helping them become the innovative and creative problem solvers that the world needs. We believe our students will have the capacity to create a better world.