Monday, August 24, 2009

Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, & Robotics...

As another school year starts perhaps school administrators & parents need to take a good look at our schools' curriculum. Are we really giving our students a complete education or are we fixated on test score? Many inner city schools focus on obtaining better test scores, particularly in reading & math, so their curriculum focus tends to teach to the tests; and well everything else is less important & fillers.

So what does this have to do with robotics!!! Just bear with me I will get to it.

OK let's say test scores improve & students graduate with decent scores; higher education & the business world is saying, yes they have nice scores but they are lacking in skills, creativity, & have not really learned to apply the concepts or understand them to put the knowledge to use. Departments of Education may brag about test scores are up, but are the students capable of applying what they regurgitate on paper?

So are our schools properly preparing our students to be productive citizens or are they graduating "I look good on paper, but I really don't know what to do with it - except take a test?"

Don't misunderstand me, there are many wonderful schools with well-round curriculum, & innovative teaching that allows students to be hands-on, who are graduating students that are creative & can apply what they have learned. However, there are also many schools, particularly in the inner cities, that unfortunately focus their monies & efforts on just raising test scores (I know because I taught in a few of these types of schools); creative teaching, hands-on learning, & "non-major subjects" have less priority - maybe that's why students are losing interest in school.

Now for the 4th R - Robotics (and yes, there are other subjects that allow students to apply the concepts through hands-on experiences)... In the early 1900's educator John Dewey professed the educational principle that we learn better and retain more by developing problem solving & critical thinking skills; accomplished by learning through imaging, experimentation, discovery, & putting it into practice: LEARNING by DOING - in the case of robotics: LEARNING by BUILDING! Besides the obvious concepts that can be learned & skills developed in math, science, & technology, a robotics program done right will also require the practice of reading & writing skills (and some history can be thrown in too).

If a school has not looked at the benefits of a robotics program, perhaps they should check the research; and then perhaps they will see how a robotics program will help encourage students to be imaginative, independent learners who think creatively, analyze situations and apply critical thinking & problem solving skills to real world problems. A bonus benefit - we possibly get students excited about math, science, technology, & school in general; plus, robotics seems to have a positive effect on test scores - most of my robotics students (of various academic levels) expressed an improvement in some of their major subjects & reading/math tests. Seems like a win-win situation to me...

Some research: