Changing Tack?

I have spent much of this term working and learning in the robotics lab with my students. This includes a Spin Module (90 minutes a week), Big Project (3 hours a week) and 2 My Times (flexitimes at 50 minutes each). Right now, I’m not thinking of being in here as much in future.

To meet the needs of our students who were interested in Robotics I got involved and have benefitted greatly from external support of those far more knowledgeable in this area than I am. But over the last week or so I have begun to question how much of my focus has been on our robotics areas. Because I do not have the skills and knowledge in this area, I am constantly needing to learn more and have found at times that I have not been able to help students as they struggle with certain aspects they are working on. Youtube, Instructables and Arduino tutorials have certainly helped but at times even then I have been flummoxed. So more time being spent (in school and out) learning and curating resources to help me and the students as we progress with their projects.

Of course, this then leads to the critical reflection points of am I adding value for these students?

I still absolutely believe I am adding value and on top of that am providing time and resources for students with a passion in this area to pursue it. Not to mention the great exposure to robotics that these courses have provided for students who had never had a chance to explore it before.

Still, however, I am feeling a change of tack. Instead of “there are students interested in robotics so lets offer robotics projects and modules” I want to shift it to what I see as a more authentic approach. By taking a problem solving/design thinking approach to my course design it will allow for robotics projects to naturally occur as possible solutions to the issues. But it will also allow for the students who would rather use crafts/woodwork/e-textiles/paper/computers/animations etc. to do so as well.

Many of our students (up to 40%) of them have now learned some skills in robotics. By getting them to think how this may be used as an authentic means for solving a problem brought up in a situation it highlights the thinking behind it all. This will no longer be robotics for robotics sake but robotics (or social action or crafts or x, y or z) because it is the most thoughtful solution to the issue/problem at hand.

Will I still be out of my comfort zone at times? Yes, probably (maybe even absolutely). Because I may be managing helping out on a robotics solution and helping students write a submission to a select committee and helping a group who are making a solution out of hard or soft materials. But now, that uncomfortable feeling and the extra time it takes to help the students will feel far more purposeful.

And that to me is the crux of this. I don’t want robotics or other flashy things we have access to here just being done because they’re fun/interesting/the latest fad. I want students to develop a design thinking/Maker mindset as they solve problems and create solutions. These are purposeful, you are designing and making to meet the needs of people affected by problems. When faced with problems in future, they may then start thinking “right, what can we make to meet this need.” And then, I will truly see that pushing out of my comfort zone was absolutely worth the effort!


p.s. maybe this will also allow other teachers in the school to bring robotics into their modules too!



7 thoughts on “Changing Tack?

  1. Great to see robots in action,
    The VEX IQ Challenge, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, provides elementary and middle school students with exciting, open-ended VIQ IQ Clawbot robotics and research project challenges that enhance their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills through hands-on, student-centered learning.
    The VEX IQ Challenge fosters student development of the teamwork, critical thinking, project management, and communication skills required to prepare them to become the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.
    Students develop valuable knowledge, skills, and experience and a tremendous sense of accomplishment in building a robot and developing a STEM research project to compete in the VEX IQ Challenge.
    I know, its a challenge to work out what kits to get, so you go lego, open source, VEX?

  2. Another aspect could be this

    In the VEX IQ STEM Research Project Challenge, teams will learn more about the
    fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
    Each season, one STEM subject will be the featured Project Challenge theme.
    In this season, the Project Challenge theme is Mathematics (Math).
    Teams will use this Project Challenge to explore how math can apply to robotics.

    Click to access viq-2013-2014-stem-project.pdf

    • Thanks for these Gerard, I had looked into VEX at the start of the year but decided to focus on building robotic skills this year and look at competitions next year. I’m definitely keen on VEX’s more open source approach than LEGO’s closed system. I also hadn’t realised that VEX had this research project part so will definitely be investigating further, thanks!

  3. Thanks Steve for sharing yet another thoughtful and honest reflection. I love that you are able to question your purpose and change tack. It’s an admirable trait. I wonder what I’m doing that I’m not questioning myself deeply about.

    • It took a mini-mental tantrum to get here! My growth mindset had definitely fled the vicinity as I questioned why I was doing it at all! The reflection time afterwards was key for me in working out a better approach. Once again, the power of blogging for helping me sort my thoughts was proven

      • I channelled you today. Realised the reason my Y8 collages weren’t up to scratch was because I did great front-end teaching, but poor teaching of the skills I was looking for the girls to utilise.

  4. Pingback: Anchor Points | Steve Mouldey

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