Why every classroom needs a robot
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are some of the most important fields in education because they form the foundations on which our world’s most useful innovations are made. These fields also currently offer some of the best job opportunities, yet only a small proportion of students actually pursue STEM studies.
There are several reasons for this, but one worth highlighting is that many learners struggle to grasp STEM concepts in the early grades. As a result, they lose interest in these subjects and often end up fostering a negative bias towards anything STEM related.
The solution? Robots.
We know what you’re thinking, but hear us out.
First off, what do we mean by robots? Robots come in all shapes and sizes, but most educational robots tend to be small machines with very basic, built-in computers. They may look like a little car with a screen on it, such as the Makeblock mBot, or have practical applications like robotic arms and catapults, like the Ultimate 2.0. Most of them are customizable and can be programmed by learners to perform various tasks, so it’s not hard to imagine why this would come in handy in a classroom and how robots could hold the key to teaching young learners about STEM concepts in a fun, interactive way.
Here are 7 reasons why every classroom should have its own robotics kit:
1. Robots make educational concepts easier to understand
A lot of STEM concepts are difficult to grasp at first. Robotics kits can help by presenting these tough ideas in a tangible and engaging way – learners get to build the robots from scratch, understand how the components work together and then programme them to respond to commands.
Programming is notoriously abstract but with a robot you can see how coding actually works — and in real time. For instance, you could program a robot to say “Hello”, and then see immediately if your code works. This makes for a more hands-on learning experience, where learners can instantly and continuously evaluate their outputs and understanding.
2. With robots, learners can integrate knowledge from multiple subjects
In addition to robotics helping teach tough concepts, robots can also give learners a way to integrate their knowledge and ideas from various subjects. For example, you would need to apply maths and physics principles together to make a robot walk, jump, or do the ‘robot’ dance. This kind of subject integration represents strategic, higher-order thinking — a key 21st-Century Skill.
Working with robots also provides learners with a safe space to develop their creative ideas and builds their creative confidence. After all, at GO Lab we believe in STEAM education, not just STEM, because we believe that Art is just as essential as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The combination of technical know-how and artistic expression will drive innovative thinking and inspire learners to the build the robots of the future.
3. Robots can provide a more inclusive learning experience
Robots may also help to promote inclusivity in the classroom. For instance, they have shown some promise in assisting unique-minded and even autistic learners who might struggle with face-to-face learning. The fun, non-threatening learning experience that robotics offers encourages boys and girls of all ages to develop and explore an interest in STEAM subjects. The encouragement of more girls to become interested in STEM subjects is vital, as women are generally underrepresented in related professions.
4. Robotics teaches learners to engage with information technology
The youth of today is growing up in reality that is integrated with digital technology. They will never know a world without smartphones and the Internet. While this may seem, to some, as a sad truth, it actually puts them at a great advantage where they are able benefit from the immense learning potential of a curriculum that incorporates modern information technology, such as robots. Robotics affords learners the opportunity to build on their existing technology skills. Because robots are so customizable, learners are also free to experiment and innovate, rather than just follow instructions. They get to assume a more active and interactive role in the learning environment. Robotics, therefore, offer schools an avenue through which they can encourage learners to create information technology — rather than just passively consuming it.
5. Working with robots is a great group activity
Getting a robot to function at its best requires a lot of creative thinking and effort. This encourages learners to work in groups rather than alone and makes for a wonderful team activity because it gives so many different learner minds a chance to shine. For example, learners who are creative can come up with ideas, learners with good verbal skills can explain them to the rest of the team, and learners who may be quieter but have more technical skills can lead the effort in bringing the team’s vision to life.
6. Robots help prepare kids for the future.
Technology is inevitably going to play a bigger and bigger role in our lives, and robotics will undoubtedly soon find a commonplace in the world around us. For this reason, robotics skills and knowledge is especially key for learners to acquire. Upcoming innovators need a solid grounding in this knowledge of the future if they’re going to make significant and meaningful breakthroughs. Regardless, the ability for learners to master new technical systems on their own is a skill that learners will need wherever they go in a future that is projected to increasingly rely on technology.
And the final reason:
7. Robots are fun!
Robotics is an exciting way for kids to enjoy themselves while learning.Unsurprisingly research has found that learners are generally enthusiastic about having a robot in the classroom. Who wouldn’t want to do their maths homework alongside WALL-E or R2-D2?
Schools undoubtedly need to meet real world skills needs and get more young learners interested in STEM subjects. Educational robots offer the perfect tools to help do just that, and that is why we, at GO Lab are pioneering the move to introduce robotics in to South African classrooms. The opportunity is there, and the technology is ready. All that’s left for us to do, as parents, teachers and learners, is Switch On.