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Washoe County School District Gifted and Talented Program- Case Study

Washoe County School District Gifted and Talented Program- Case Study with RobotLAB at NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) Conference 2016 

I am Cheri Di Martino. I am the Director of Washoe county School District – our gifted program. And we are really excited to talk about NAO with you today. What we did in Washoe County is we knew we needed to get into the 21st century, we knew we needed to teach kids at a level they needed to be taught, so we were looking for a partner that could take us into the 21st century and get those NAGC standards, our state standards and have this beautiful marriage together. Well, what we found was RobotLAB, and we found the NAO robot. So what we asked was could a picturesque humanoid robot achieve what we wanted to achieve in Washoe County? This is something that could really help take our 

students to a whole other level. This is something I'm feeling very passionate about, but I could feel passionate about something, but will everybody else around me feel that same passion, that same energy and want to buy into this incredible, incredible product.               

It is an educational tool extraordinaire so we have to have some first steps. So first of all, with our first step we wanted to make sure all of our stakeholders were included, we want to make sure our coordinators were included, our administrators, our teachers and our parents, but most importantly, our kids. Were our gifted kids thinking this was a great educational tool to help teach not only math, reading, science, social studies -- the whole package and that's what we have to find out. The first thing we did is we have in Washoe County eight different models of service that we reach our gifted kids: we have elementary levels, Middle School levels and high school levels.               

The coordinators got together and they fought over who should have that level of service; and let me tell you, it was pretty rule. They came in with strategies there were going to use, they had buy in completely, they were so excited. But in the end, it was the magnet coordinator that won out. We have four magnet schools and we decided to buy one robot for each of our magnet schools and see how that goes. Again, that was only our first step. We brought in all of those magnet teachers and we spend some time -- we spent a good half a day with RobotLAB and we said, “How can we use these robots to enhance our curriculum here in Washoe County?” We knew we had the mathematics, the math teachers were like, “OMG, this is like, the best thing since sliced bread. We have to have this.” But then, they were fighting with the social studies teacher who said, “Wow, I can use this for historical debate,” and then we had the ELL teacher saying, “No, No, we can actually write plays and have interaction with RobotLAB.” So in the end, we're going to split between all of the core subjects for the teachers.               

So here is Educator quotes, they talked about it being an amazing tool and how it incorporated all of the core subjects. They talked about it being a comprehensive educational tool-- it was versatile, it's supported not only our state standards but also NAG standards. It's also brought in the 21st century learning with exploration and then applying those standards to that hands-on tangible learning. We've got buy in by our teachers so we're pretty excited, next up are the parents. Will they support to spending the money that would be needed to take us into the 21-st century? Well, after playing with NAO, this is there quotes: it's engaging, it's deeper and more meaningful It can be used in any subject.

It enhances our GT program. We will be at the forefront of gifted education. And in the end, it is creative, it's imaginative and they wanted to know how they could be a part of their kids learning and use the NAO robot with them. But in the end, the student had the best quotes. They talked about being able to see their actions immediately, how to fix so if NAO was walking and NAO fell what did they have to do mathematically to get now back up and moving properly? Did they make a right turn or a left turn instead? Did NAO speak the words that they had plugged in? All of those concepts are embedded in that learning. So not only are we learning about how to do computer science; we're learning how to write, we're learning how to code.Another student talked about how technologically-advanced it would be to have NAO, and that our world is getting more advanced.

Wow! It took a kid to tell us that. They know they have to go into the 21-st century. They know that we need to change our teaching style to match theirs. Well, RobotLAB – when Elad talked about the professional development he was not kidding. They have been along with us step by step. They have been soldered to our hips with professional development. The first professional development we did was robot one-on-one because let's face it; most of our teachers have no clue how to work with robots.

They spent hours and hours with our staff teaching them just the basics of robots. Then it was curriculum building because let's face it, you could definitely use the robot, but was it meaningful? Did it meet the need of gifted students? Because we have to make sure that our students have advanced curriculum to meet their level of learning. So, we wanted to make sure so we had a curriculum day where we had all of the magnet teachers together with the RobotLAB and they started to design curriculum just for our GT students.  

The next was another meeting from professional development. This time we worked on units and lesson designing. So we took that curriculum and we brought it down one more step and to make sure that we could meet our state and NAGC standards with the robots. All right, one more step, now we had our lessons, so now we have to bring it down to small group lesson instruction so RobotLAB came back once again and they had one-on-one small group instructions with all of the magnet teachers and taught them how to implement the lessons they had designed for our GT students. These kids are smiling; they are loving it because we are reaching their level of learning.              

I talked to you earlier about the Avatar so if you can look at the screen up close you can see in the bottom corner that there is an avatar there. Kids get to try out geometry, they try out calculus, they try to that computer science in a risk-free environment. And for our social emotional kids, our perfectionism, that is key because they can use that Avatar to move forward. Another part in an NAGC for that connection is 3.4, and that is the independent investigation. By all means, kids get to be independent learners, teachers are just facilitators in a safe environment. Students get to predict, they get to calculate, they get to determine movements of advancement in angles and three-dimensional space all in a safe environment. Again, not only reaching our academic standards, but also our emotional and learning.              

I just want to show you some programming. That looks pretty complicated, anybody feel like they could do that right now? This was from a beginning student who has never coded before, never coded and did this successfully to have the NAO robot move. What that did to that child, brought him to another level that he didn't even know existed before. NAO does a lot for kids in all of our core subjects for NAGC, but in the end, it's all about the career pathway. Can we get our kids ready for the 21-st century? Are we stuck in the fifties in our teachings or can we use a robot to teach the skills that our kids are going to need? Because right now we have to think about our kids and what is not even existing yet for a career and how are we know when to get them ready mathematically, intellectually to be ready to be a success in the future.               

So my question is why NAO? Why NAO for Washoe County School District is really easy because we have the connections at NAGC. It’s supported our strategic plan, it covers 21-st century skills, it was an educational tool that was hands-on, it was visual. Best of all, it was applied to all learners: gifted learners at a novice level for coding all the way up to an advanced. Or better yet, we have after school programs that we’ll be implementing where all students will have the ability to work with those advanced gifted kids to learn how to use robotics. So we're pretty excited about that. And in the end, it does prepare our kids for the future.


  • Jun 9, 2017 12:04:57 PM

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