3. Get teachers hands-on and on-board early. One of my biggest challenges is getting teachers on board, comfortable, and willing to take on the challenge of robotics and coding instruction. The program we selected is easy for teachers to put into practice because they don’t need any additional resources or expensive robots to implement it in their classrooms. I’ve used it with both middle schools in our county and not only did they both participate, but they also both went to the Cyber Robotics Coding Competition (CRCC) finals.
After the event, I spoke with the teachers and heard positive feedback from them. Now, they’re talking about getting robotics/coding classes for sixth grade for the upcoming school year. The CRCC helped pave the way for that because it was such a positive experience; teachers could see the success and wanted more.
4. Weave robotics and coding right into the school day. This not only levels the playing field for all students—including those who may not have Internet access at home—but it also encourages collaboration among students and creates an atmosphere of accountability. For example, students have dedicated class time to work on the coding/robotics program and are also given the links to access information if they want to continue working at home. And while in-class robotics is still a fairly new concept, it’s a great tool for overcoming truancy issues and for getting students to like school again. (We’re offering it at our Alternative Learning Center next year, in fact.)
5. Foster a love of STEM across the board. As technology continues to make its way into the workforce in all fields, being tech savvy and able to understand code are becoming “must haves” for graduates. Knowing this, teachers should be talking to students about potential careers that involve STEM, creating project-based experiences for them, integrating robotics into their standards-based lessons, and fostering a love of STEM for both girls and boys.
Our new online program has helped us achieve these goals, and now we have 4-H clubs across the county picking up robotics and offering it to their young members. It’s all about fostering the engineering and scientific fields, developing students’ abilities, and stoking their interest in these opportunities.
With more K-12 schools rising up to meet the STEM challenge, it’s a great time for all of us to embrace coding competitions, virtual robotics platforms, and other tools that are out there for the asking. The more we can do on this front, the more we can prepare students for success in school, in the workforce, and in life.
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