Friday, November 28, 2014

Using LEGO materials for Common Core Math Instruction

Interesting article (from EdTech K-12) on LEGO's recent announcement about the impending release of an item to address Common Core Instructional needs. I don't see why this idea can't successfully be extended to LEGO Robotics and Math Instruction in higher grades, as well. Seems like instructional magic waiting to happen, to me.


"New Lego Classroom Tool Is Building a Bridge to Common Core Readiness

Lego Group’s education division announced Wednesday that it is preparing to release MoreToMath, a package of 48 block-based exercises that target first- and second-grade math coursework.
The product comes at a time when many elementary school teachers are adapting to tougher standards for mathematics. The new Common Core standards encourage critical thinking, collaboration, technology use and digging deeper into the concepts behind the subject matter.
MoreToMath was designed to help students grasp math problems by modeling them with blocks and solving the problems in creative ways, says Leshia Hoot, Lego Education's senior segment manager for preschool and elementary education.
“We had educators saying they were really struggling with these (Common Core) math practices,” Hoot says. “We designed this to support those practices and real-world problem-solving using Lego bricks.”

Lego's curriculum development team, which is composed of former educators, created the exercises. The instructions are divided into solo and team-based exercises, allowing for differentiated learning. They also incorporate interactive whiteboard software that helps an entire class of students learn together. Using the included Mathbuilder software, teachers can also create their own activities.
In one of the simpler activities, students must construct a snake using only five bricks.
"You quickly realize there are multiple ways of solving this problem, and you have to think through the underlying counting and sequencing to solve it," Hoot says."

Read the full article at its source:


Robotics represent 3 out of 5 suggested tools for STEM Instruction on ISTE website!

Nice little article from ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education)

"5 STEM tools you can use for any subject

By Manorama Talaiver, Paula Klonowski Leach and Stephanie Playton 9/23/2014 Topics: STEM, Maker movement
Exposing students to STEM experiences can be an extremely engaging and effective way to foster the skills they will need in a global, competitive workplace. But don’t save these activities for science or math class. You can incorporate STEM learning tools in all core content areas to encourage critical thinking, collaboration and creativity while reinforcing valuable skills.
Of course, even for the most experienced STEM educators, picking the right tools can be tricky. To make it easier, we’ve come up with some factors that will help you choose the most appropriate and effective STEM tools for your classroom.
Grade level
Before settling on a tool, you should consider not only your students’ cognitive abilities, but also their motor skill development.
Squishy CircuitsSquishy Circuits (right) is a wonderful tool to teach very young students about basic concepts in electricity using conductive dough. Students can easily manipulate the materials and get the circuit to work.
MaKey MaKeyMaKey MaKey is a tool for slightly older children. With MaKey MaKey, students can make any conductive material act as the input device for a computer. Because it comes preprogrammed, students with no coding experience can use it. But MaKey MaKey also allows those who want to try coding to experiment.
LilyPadLilyPad Arduino (right), a sewable microcontroller, also reinforces concepts about electricity but is geared more toward older children, as the manual dexterity for sewing the components may be a bit challenging for young students. The LilyPad is also a wonderful introduction to some basic coding using the Arduino platform.
Subject area
You also need to think about what tool will work best for your subject area.
Finch RobotFinch Robot (left) is appropriate if your intent is to teach basic coding very quickly. This robot is ready out of the box and can support more than a dozen programming languages and environments.
Hummingbird Robotics KitHummingbird Robotics Kit (right) also allows students to develop basic programming but is different from Finch in that it offers users great flexibility and creativity in designing their robots.
If you don’t have enough time in a core content class to use these tools to their full potential, consider teaming up with your technology or computer science teacher to develop collaborative learning projects focused on a particular concept.
When factoring in the cost of these tools, make sure you don’t forget any extra materials you’ll need and whether the items can be reused.
Some tools, such as the Finch Robot, Squishy Circuits and MaKey MaKey, can be used many times by different students. After purchasing the kit, additional costs — such as buying ingredients for making dough or supplying conductive materials for students to explore — are typically minor.

Other tools, such as LilyPad Arduino and Hummingbird, are generally an annual expense because reusing them requires destroying existing projects.

Finding STEM learning tools that will fit your students’ needs, as well as your budget and time constraints, lets you provide learning experiences sure to engage your students while inspiring them to practice creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.
Manorama Talaiver, Ph.D., is the director of the Institute for Teaching through Technology & Innovative Practices at Longwood University in Virginia. Her leadership in offering STEM learning opportunities for students and teachers has resulted in many national and international awards. Mano has been a member of ISTE for more than 25 years.
Paula Klonowski Leach, Ed.D., is a STEM learning specialist at the Institute for Teaching through Technology & Innovative Practices at Longwood University in Virginia. She has been an educator for 17 years and enjoys working with teachers to introduce them to new technologies and strategies that provide engaging opportunities for students.
Stephanie Playton is a STEM learning specialist at the Institute for Teaching through Technology & Innovative Practices at Longwood University in Virginia. As a former classroom teacher and instructional technology teacher, she is passionate about finding technology tools that support a creative learning environment."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Robots Are Making Chinese Students Smart!

Lest anyone think that Student Robotics isn't a global phenomenon, here's a wonderful little article from China Daily...
"Building young minds of the future with all-things-robotics

(China Daily)Updated: 2014-11-10 09:35

Building young minds of the future with all-things-robotics

Students watch intelligent robots developed by a Beijing company for use in education, elderly care, household chores and security purposes. [Photo / Providede to China Daily]

China is embracing high-tech products like never before, and the country's love of robotics especially has meant a surge in the number of companies determined to find the next big thing to attract high-spending consumers.

One of brightest prospects of recent years has been Union Brother Technology Co Ltd, or UB Tech - a Shenzhen-based enterprise set up in 2008 that specializes in manufacturing robotics that help children learn.

Liao Ke, its deputy general manager, explains the company has developed a range of products that allow children to sort, count and connect any number of different types of building bricks into whatever they want.

Liao said that ever since US blockbuster films such as Transformer were introduced to China, children have had a fascination with developing and building their own toys, which inevitably end up looking like futuristic machines.

Already partnering with retail giants, Tencent Holdings Ltd and the Walt Disney Co to sell its products, UB Tech has sold more than 1,000 units of its Alpha Intelligent Robot this year and expects to increase that to 50,000 next year, according to Liao.

More than 100 digital stores already sell its products across China, and Liao says he hopes to add another 400 by the end of next year.

The company claims its Delta robots now have a 70 percent market share among similar gadgets in the Chinese market.

"Children love it, and so do schools and training institutions, which form a key market for these products." Liao said.

This demand to bring robotics into the classroom has also spurned a huge rise in the number of courses being run by educational organizations.

Hou Jinggang, the president of Beijing Roborobo Education Technology Co Ltd, introduced South Korea's largest educational robot provider and training institution to China six years ago. Roborobo manufactures various educational Robo Kits that work in succession in order to expand a child's knowledge of robotics.

Roborobo now has 36 main institutions and 62 franchises in more than 22 cities across the country, taking in students as young as four years old. The average annual revenue of one institution is 22 million yuan ($3.6 million).

Simply explained, their programming uses visual punch cards that contain code blocks. Students can program their robots simply by adding and removing cards..."

Read the full article at its source:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Five Tools That Can Transform STEM Education - That Is, IF Teachers Use Them!

"Five Tools That Are Transforming STEM Education

The K-12 classroom doesn’t look the way it used to."

Here's a very nice little article from Atlantic Magazine that identifies 5 different "tools" that teachers can use to transform the instructional experience in STEM subjects (SCIENCE, Technology, Engineering, and MATH). The article points out that integrating these new tools into their lessons can help teachers reinforce theoretical concepts by demonstrating their real-world applications. By showing students that the knowledge is relevant and useful, teachers can help them unlock new realms of creativity in all scientific realms and possibly change their future career trajectories.”

I agree, it is inspiring to know that these tools are available (largely at accessible prices, as well) and that some teachers are already using these in their work with today's students. The very unfortunate and inexcusable downside to this, however, is that it is still a rarity for students to have this as part of their experience, at least in the all-important context of their regularly scheduled, required classes. Alas, even for that minority of students who get to work with these instructional tools, the majority of their use is relegated to After School and Summer "extra" interest classes and clubs where they help but don't really bring about the transformation that the author of this article alludes to. I've been speaking out to change this for a long time, now.

Robotics, and the other tools and approaches listed here should be part of every student's experience in an ongoing fashion. And there really is no reason for us to accept anything less than our schools actively using important technologies like the ones described here to captivate and educate our students. This should not be a curiosity or an extra or a special treat for our kids. It should be part of the very core of the education that they receive. That's why I wrote Getting Started with LEGO Robotics, so that the average teacher, without need for elaborate training and professional development, can bring these magnificent learning tools into their classrooms across the curriculum, even in subjects that are not thought of as STEM subjects (yes, there are important connections in Social Studies and Language Arts, too, as students study the impact of robots on our society and use language to describe the human experience of technology development and use).

"Twelve-year-old Shubham Banerjee creates a braille printer out of Legos. (Wikimedia)

Since ancient times, scientifically minded people have tried to figure out the mechanisms behind the physical world. Astronomers observed the movement of the sun and stars, biologists watched humans and animals interact with their environment, engineers noticed the angular similarities behind structurally sound buildings. They may have had simple tools to aid them—a basic measuring device, a compass, perhaps an early telescope.

Today, teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics mostly stick to the theoretical aspects. Students must know the number of degrees in a triangle, but rarely do they get to put that knowledge to use through structured lessons.

The tools listed here are transforming the way teachers approach STEM education. Integrating these new tools into their lessons can help teachers teachers reinforce theoretical concepts by demonstrating their real-world applications. By showing students that the knowledge is relevant and useful, teachers can help them unlock new realms of creativity in all scientific realms and possibly change their future career trajectories.

LegosUsed as manipulative teaching aids, raw materials for the next great robot, or simply building blocks for young students, Legos are great tools in the STEM classroom. Lego itself has developed a curriculum for how to use its products in schools. Lessons range from helping young students pair math concepts with how they are written to creating sophisticated robots that can complete specific tasks. Lego also organizes a number of robotics competitions for students from age 6 to 18..."

Read the rest of the article at its source: