Coding and robotics can be just as engaging when students learn from home--all it takes is a little planning and some creativity

When our school shut down in March, initially, it was for a two-week period. I thought, “Well, this isn’t too bad, we can do a few coding activities from Code.org or maybe put together some Google Slides presentations for when we return.”

Then, two weeks turned into the end of April and my plan had to change.

As the technology teacher in our district, I felt I was adept at communicating with my students online (we are a Google Apps for Education school, and I’ve been a Google Classroom user since its beginnings), but I knew others in our district weren’t quite as tech savvy. I put together a few tutorial videos on how to use Google Classroom, Google Meet, and Zoom for our staff members to use to reach out to their students.

Related content: 3 key parts of a coding and robotics program

As April turned into May, the likelihood that we would be returning to school dropped substantially. Virtual graduations, meal deliveries, and Google Meets became the new normal–a phrase I quickly came to despise. As I’m sure many of you educators out there would agree, we concluded our school year, but it felt like we never really finished.

When our school shut down in March, initially, it was for a two-week period. I thought, “Well, this isn’t too bad, we can do a few coding activities from Code.org or maybe put together some Google Slides presentations for when we return.”

Then, two weeks turned into the end of April and my plan had to change.

As the technology teacher in our district, I felt I was adept at communicating with my students online (we are a Google Apps for Education school, and I’ve been a Google Classroom user since its beginnings), but I knew others in our district weren’t quite as tech savvy. I put together a few tutorial videos on how to use Google Classroom, Google Meet, and Zoom for our staff members to use to reach out to their students.

As April turned into May, the likelihood that we would be returning to school dropped substantially. Virtual graduations, meal deliveries, and Google Meets became the new normal–a phrase I quickly came to despise. As I’m sure many of you educators out there would agree, we concluded our school year, but it felt like we never really finished.

Since then, we’ve had virtual staff meetings, listened to our elected leaders try to make informed and well-intended guidelines and recommendations, and witnessed some amazing acts of humanity. As more information becomes available, it is clearer and clearer that plans need to be made for the “just in case” scenario occurring again during the 2020-2021 school year.

Teaching coding, robotics, and CAD this school year requires a bit more planning this summer than I am accustomed to doing. Our district will continue utilizing the Google Education Suite (Classroom, Meet, Chat, Docs, etc.) for communicating with our students. The folks at Code.org have really done a fantastic job at creating a comprehensive coding curriculum for students, so I want to continue utilizing that to introduce coding in my “virtual” classroom.

The physical component

However, learning to code was always reinforced for me with a physical component, which is why I absolutely love teaching robotics–seeing my program in action with a robot driving forward and moving an object just made more sense to me and my kinesthetic learning style. Kinesthetic learners feel the same way.

I had been teaching using the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 system in my junior high classes my first three years at LaBrae, when I approached our superintendent and shared with him my vision of expanding our course offerings and taking our afterschool robotics club to the next level. After researching solutions, I concluded that the TETRIX MAX solution from Pitsco Education was the next logical progression for our district due to compatibility with the LEGO system as well as the capability to scale up our build projects.

At the beginning of this past school year, I was elated to learn that my district would be purchasing PRIZM controllers, as well as the new TeleOp Modules, for each of our TETRIX MAX kits. This ushered in a whole new level of capabilities for our robotics classes. When word got out that we were using PlayStation 4 controllers in class on our robots, we had teachers and students alike peeking their heads in Room 929 to ask if they could try them out!
source: Read More, eSchool News

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