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I’ve never thought of Vermont as “poor and rural” inspite of the image I had of it as nothing but forests and maple syrup farms--or whatever they call them ... maple groves, maybe? So I was surprised to read about one school superintendent’s difficulty in upgrading the public schools in his district: Ned Kirsch, superintendent at Franklin West Supervisory Union (FWSU) in the small town of Georgia, Vt., population 4300.
He says that upon his arrival in Georgia, he was pleased with the schools that he found. The problems in the schools were not with the “hard-working teachers, committed administrators, and 2,000 excited students;” instead, those excited students needed a connection to the technological world outside Northern Vermont.
When computers first burst into the classroom back in the late eighties and nineties, most teachers were nonplussed by a new technology they had hardly been aware of, much less trained for. They stared at these new machines and wondered what were they supposed to do with them. A lifetime of teaching couldn’t provide them with a clue and what they were hearing from their administrators only added to the confusion. As a result some retired rather than deal with the newfangled things and some simply set them on their desks and ignored them.
The majority, thankfully, buckled down and decided to find out how these things worked and how they could be made to serve their students. Of course one of the first things they discovered was that the students either already knew how to use the darn things or were capable of learning to use them faster than their teachers … and teachers are still playing catch up with their students with each new technological arrival.
Conveying to kids the idea that math plays an important part in their lives is, as any math teacher can tell you, one of the most difficult things about teaching math. The blackboard, the book and rote memorization were for years the only tools math teachers had; that, and the hope that they were getting it across. As most of us are aware, for the great majority of kids over the years it wasn’t enough.
In an earlier post (Professional Development Tips) we discussed professional development courses for teachers as presented by noted educational consultant Tom Daccord of learning consultancy EdTech Teacher. Mr Daccord offered six tips that he believed would improve teacher professional development courses leading, of course, to improved teacher classroom effectiveness.
One point he made that we found particularly arresting was his insistence that it was no longer necessary or even wise for teachers to attempt to understand the “nuts and bolts of technology” when dealing with new tech teaching aids. Learning how to operate the new technology, something that students seemed to be able to do almost instinctively, was not as important as having a plan that would insure that these new tools were applied effectively in the classroom. Good pedagogy was to be preferred over technical proficiency. What adult, after all, can move his thumbs as fast as a teenager?
Can Aldebarans’ NAO robot actually help children with disabilities? According to anecdotal information gleaned from the experiences of educators and children at Shaler Academy in Ridgefield, N.J. and at Vanderbilt University, it seems that NAO’s calm, non-threatening approach lets autistic children feel they can come out of their shell safely and interact with NAO in a way they cannot with other children or adults. A new study is underway to find out how true those observations are.
This year the Soccer World Cup will be played in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The crowds, as always, will be huge. After all, everyone wants to go to Rio de Janeiro and a World Cup is as good an excuse as any. The first game will be on Thursday, June 12th, between Brazil and Croatia. Those of you who dislike crowds might want to miss this competition; but don’t worry, if you’re looking for an excuse to boogie on down to Brazil there is an even more important soccer event occurring a month later a little north of Rio in João Pesso. I'm referring, of course, to RoboCup 2014 -- the Robot Soccer World Cup!
Actually João Pessoa is more than a little north of Rio -- 1,223 miles north, to be precise. But that means three hours less flying time in a cramped airplane seat. And if you can believe the image on the Internet, João Pessoa appears to be on a bay as beautiful as Rio’s. More, it’s reputedly a safe city...a claim Rio de Janeiro certainly can’t make!
Mr Jaravata gets it! Engagement is the key to learning. Nothing engages kids like robots! And CUBELETS are engaging robots from which young kids can both enjoy and learn.
Fred Jaravata is a San Francisco Bay area educator who realizes that robots are the way to kids' minds.
According to his blog post ‘Our Students Playing With Cubelets,’ he recently decided to try CUBELETS after a period of working with Lego Mindstorm. He didn’t tell the kids much about the cubes he was giving them and kept directions to a minimum; he wanted to see what would happen naturally.
For those of you not familiar with CUBELETS, every cube has a different function. Some move the robot, some sense temperature or distance, some act like a flashlight. The cubes snap together magnetically and the trick is to snap them together in a fashion that forms an autonomous robot capable of movement in tune with its environment as indicated by its sensors. Kids have made everything from slithering snakes to writing robots with them.
With our awards winning RobotsLAB Box (Gold Edison Award, Best STEM Solution by EdTech Digest, LAUNCHEDU COMPETITION AT SXSWEDU), we here at RobotsLAB are always on the lookout for innovative companies that compliment and enhance our product and further our view that STEM education need not be boring--or unaffordable. Makerbot, developer of the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer is one such company.
Just as our robots engage students by demonstrating in real time the practical importance of math, MakerBot's 3D printers draw students in by showing them the fascinating new world of digital manufacturing. Engineering exercises like building bridges and pyramids, once cobbled together in the classroom with popsicle sticks, clay and epoxy, and taking days to build, can now be manufactured cleanly and swiftly in a matter of minutes or hours. Nor can the importance of students understanding the science and practice behind this new manufacturing method be overstated in terms of their future ability to access employment: no less a personage than President Obama has declared that 3D printing is the next manufacturing revolution and he intends that America will be the leader in this new revolution!
The first 3D printers, like the first computers, were huge and far more expensive than any school district could hope to put in the hands of its students. But Makerbot has brought the size down to little more than that of a desktop printer and the price to under $2000 dollars. Besides that, the company has made its printers available through crowdfunder Donorschoose.org; all teachers have to do is contact Donorschoose with their request. As of this writing more than a thousand schools have received printers.