Across the globe, innovative educational programs are preparing students to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These subjects, usually called STEM, can open up new passions for students, in order to succeed in the 21st-century workforce.
The Office of Educational Technology reviewed research literature on how technology can enrich STEM learning and created an extensive report on the impact of integrating innovative digital technology in STEM and computer science curricula and classrooms.
The first 5 ways in which teaching robotics can boost STEM learning are:
- Immediate and Individualized Feedback.
Robotics provides students learning STEM skills with immediate and individualized feedback, beyond right or wrong. Programming and building the robot offers students a hands-on approach to their project, allowing them to fully understand how both hardware and software work together.
2. Science Argumentation Skills.
Students use technology that supports science argumentation skills including presenting and evaluating evidence about scientific or mathematical claims. More than that, by using robotics, students enhance their digital literacy while also working with abstract concepts that help them get a better understanding of the professional workforce of tomorrow.
3. Design Thinking Processes
Students plan, revise, implement, and test problem solutions using robotics design processes and programming. Therefore, they enhance their thinking processes by focusing on multiple solutions rather than just the problem.
4. Computational Thinking.
Students use robotics to formulate and analyze problems and their solutions, reason abstractly, while also automating procedures through algorithmic thinking.
5. Real-Life Problem Solving Skills
Robotics helps students elevate understanding of problem-solving techniques and eliminate the fear of failure. Working with robotics also allows students to materialize their ideas in no time and put them to the test.
For more info about how robotics can boost STEM learning in your school and classroom, contact us!
Article inspired by: https://tech.ed.gov/stem/.
“How can I teach kids coding if I don’t know how to code?”
A growing number of schools are now incorporating teaching methods that are more in line with STEAM education (Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) as it has become clear that arts education makes learning more fun and keeps children more engaged.
According to AllEducationSchools, “STEAM aims to strengthen the foundation of STEM by helping students enhance their critical thinking skills and recognize the intersection of art, science, technology, engineering, and math.
“It gives students tools and methods to explore new and creative ways of problem-solving, displaying data, innovating, and linking multiple fields. The arts and STEM subjects naturally complement and inform each other, so implementing STEAM principles into education allows for more understanding, innovation and a cohesive education in the classroom.”
How can teachers approach this perspective change in regard to teaching and how are they going to teach a subject if they don’t know it that well?
1. Take the course you plan on teaching
Find a coding course either online or offline and start attending it. Learn how to
We recommend teachers to think outside the box even when they’re preparing the lesson plan. Search for youtube videos, articles, interviews about teaching coding to kids. Try to integrate the new concepts in a fun and engaging way, including examples, real-life situations, and a “trial and error” approach.
2. Connect with peers and share your fears
Usually, the best approach when dealing with a new challenge is to ask others how they approached it. Sharing fears, asking questions and discussing with other teachers might help raise ideas about the best practices that one can follow. At Shape Robotics, we encourage the teachers we work with to share their experiences with others and inspire them into starting to work with coding in the classroom. Our software is free, therefore you can try to explore it as first steps into coding.
3. Prepare a fun lesson & emphasize the importance of “trial and error” approach
The beauty of working with coding is that you get instant feedback about your work. Guide the students towards a more open approach, where there is no “right” way, rather they should focus on trying to fail and learn from their experiments. As Winston S. Churchill mentioned: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Moving on to planning the lesson. Where do you start?
Answer these 5 questions and get ready:
- What types of computers will you be using?
If you have access to computers that are under 3-4 years old, you will have a lot of choices as far as curricula. If you have Google Chromebooks or older computers as your only option, you will likely need to use web-based curricula.
The most important thing that you do when evaluating curricula is to check its hardware and other technical requirements before you begin.
2. Will you have Internet access?
If you have Internet access you will be able to use any of the online curriculum resources available. If you won’t have internet access during the class, you can pre-download our software Fable Blockly and use it to teach coding with or without a robot.
3. What is the age range of the students you’ll be teaching?
We recommend teaching kids of similar ages and levels of knowledge in coding.
Especially as a new teacher, you might be overwhelmed if you have a wide range of ages, and you won’t be able to provide the kind of personalized attention that you’ll need to.
4. How large should my classes be?
As a new teacher or club facilitator, we recommend that you keep learning groups small. You will likely need time to familiarize yourself with the issues that might pop up during your first run through the curricula.
If you are teaching elementary-age students, we suggest limiting the class size to 8-10 students at first. You can bump up class sizes as you get more comfortable with the curricula.
5. What are some examples of coding concepts that I will need to learn and understand?
There are several universal coding concepts that are found in nearly every programming language. Most of them will have slight changes in syntax, but the concepts are still easily understandable.
Here are two common concepts:
Conditional statements tell a computer program to run a segment of code based on whether a condition is true or false.
A loop continually executes a command while a condition is true, and discontinues the command when the condition is no longer true.
Article inspired by https://codakid.com/
Do you also think about combining teaching coding with robotics? That sounds great! You can book a demo with one of our representatives, at your own convenience and learn all about how you can get started, Fable’s benefits for teaching and the importance of STEM skills in education!
What is block based programming?
Computer programming is a way of giving computers instructions about what they should do next. These instructions are known as code, and computer programmers write code to solve problems or perform a task.
The end goal of programming is to create something: that could mean anything from a web page, or a piece of software, or a program. That’s why computer programming is often described as a mix between art and science; it’s technical and analytical, yet creative at the same time.
Moreover, compared to natural language, programming is a structured, but reduced language based on rules of formal logic and mathematics. It resembles natural language in the fact that it uses grammar and symbols. But very often it lacks the context and nuance of a very well established language.
Block-based programming uses a puzzle-piece metaphor as means of providing visual cues to the user as to how and where commands may be combined and used.
Block-based programming environments have been designed for children as young as five years old but most environments are designed for kids ages eight to 16. Writing a program in a block-based environment takes the form of dragging-and-dropping programming instructions together. If two instructions cannot be joined to produce a valid statement, then the environment prevents them from snapping together.
What are the benefits of using block based programming in education?
- Accessible and fast
Block-based programming emerged as the best solution to the above problem. The idea is to create a code in a way that is both visual and similar to traditional text-based coding . All the developer has to do is to connect visual “building blocks” in a logical way.
- Syntax-free programming
Block-based coding lessens the burden of using complex syntax and lets the users focus on programming in a fast and clear manner. The code written in visual blocks has strong expressive power and can be mixed with text-based code written in mainstream programming languages.
- Co-creating knowledge reinforces learning
When students can share and talk about their work, the feedback they receive from other students reinforces their learning. Therefore, they seek to make improvements and add new features to their code as they progress. This creates a community of learners that is truly “constructionist” — co-creating knowledge together — instead of “instructionist” — taught by the teacher, the same way for everybody.
Article inspired by David Weintrop | Communications of the ACM, August 2019, Vol. 62 No. 8, Pages 22-25 | 10.1145/3341221
If you want to kickstart coding or teach robotics, try Fable Blockly. Download our software here and try some activities that you can do without a robot.
Download our latest activity sheet “Show and Tell”, and start working with robotics in the classroom!
Fable is a modular robot designed for education. It’s composed of three different types of modules: Function modules, Build modules and Extension modules.
The function modules are Fable Joint and Fable Spin, the ones you can also program.
The build modules come in different shapes and sizes to maximise the creativity of the students.
Moreover, Fable is an open-ended system with advanced functionality. You can 3D print your own parts and easily connect it with the modules you already own. The extension modules make it possible to combine Fable with other systems such as a smartphone running Skype, a robot hand, a 3D-printed robot head or a laser pointer. Fable encourages students to be both creative and innovative as they build robot prototypes to meet needs in the real world.
Why should you bring Fable to your classroom?
1. It’s an easy start for coding in the classroom
“We were thrilled when Fable arrived, and we found it easy to get started. It is really well made and easy to put together. We also loved the blocky editor and found it easy to navigate round. It complimented the other work on blockly we had been doing. We set it up and got a few pupils to try it out. They got Fable to monitor movement, then wave and smile. The best thing though was the discussion between the pupils. The problem solving and thinking skills were a joy to witness.” Karen Fleming, Keble Prep School, UK.
The programming interface is divided into different levels depending on the students’ level of competence. This begins with very simple visual programming with Blockly, to more advanced Blockly programming and finally versatile programming with Python. This helps students gradually progress. It is also possible to perform simple data processing on the interface with graphs or to log data to files for later processing e.g. in MS Excel. The interface provides an easy-to-understand introduction to get started.
2. It’s dedicated to small kids and geeks
The Fable System assists learning at all levels, from the comprehension of technology in primary and secondary school, through to the teaching of more advanced mathematics and informatics in vocational training programmes in industry and construction. The Fable System invites anyone from the age of three through to grown-ups to get to grips with the programming languages Blockly or Python.
3. It teaches STEM & 21st century skills
“Due to its ease of use and applicability, Fable can be used to teach everyone – from inexperienced children to robot scientists. Its resemblance with professional robots also means that it can be used at vocational training programmes for training programming, automation, computer vision, CAD design and artificial intelligence. Fable covers the entire spectrum and is designed for 21st century learning,” explains Moises Pacheco, CTO and co-founder. Fable also tackles nurturing other skills in students such as communication, by fostering the development of language and creativity and logical skills by developing their psychomotricity through construction, achieving greater ability over time to solve problems. Moreover, the trial and error approach to teaching helps students get instant feedback to adapt to and to learn from.
4. Limitless creativity in the classroom
Combining function, build and extension modules gives pupils untold possibilities to create different types of robots that are able to walk, drive, see, throw, use laser or ‘pick and place’, i.e. to pick things up and place them correctly, which is in great demand in the industry right now. Moreover, students have the opportunity to create something tangible and make it perform the actions that they program it to do. Not many fields combine creativity with engineering and technology—but robotics does. When students are given the opportunity to create something interactive that they think is cool, their engagement levels increase, and they retain more information. You might be surprised with the things kids can create when given the right information and tools.
If you want to kickstart coding or teaching robotics, give Fable Blockly a try. You can download our software here for iPad and Chromebook, and try some activities that you can do without a robot.
Download for free our latest activity sheet “Do-Re-Mi”, and start working with robotics in the classroom!
The Educational Process
We saw the value of working with Fable in the processes the learners follow.
Some of the students found it cool to get immediate feedback, while others found it rewarding to act in the roles of “product owners” and developers.
Most of them also liked the learning strategy “trial and error”, where the understanding of true and false gave students the motivation to keep trying and not give up. The students were challenged in troubleshooting, planning, execution and collaboration.
As Olivia says about her students:
“I find that some of the students who sometimes can’t sit still for more than 10 seconds suddenly sit concentrated for 2 hours, without taking breaks even if there is a break. It’s pretty crazy what it can do to have a job you want the robot to do and want it to succeed. I also find that those who usually work together would like to work separately, as they know they usually disturb each other, and here would like extra focus. And it’s not just something I say, it’s what I experience. ”
Our didactic expert, Jacob Kiellberg, visited School of Slotsvænget where he held a workshop with Magnus Pedersen:
“Doing what we usually do was put to shame the day Jacob Kiellberg from Shape Robotics came, partly because he presented the students with something new and potentially difficult in a warm and vibrant way. Moreover, he is helped by a charming and functional robot. In addition to Jacob’s straightforward approach, Fable robot’s design made it very easy for the kids to get started with building something that worked. Something as simple as being able to assemble a robot makes the process of learning fun and playful, instead of something you should be nervous about or even afraid of. “
Magnus continues: “In the work of programming it is important to set the mindset that we actively choose to work with trial and error, and to be able to fail and not see it as a failure, but an opportunity to change and test again. This is unusual for many children, which is why the instant feedback in coding is really valuable. ”
What we observed when visiting these schools was how well these learners worked together. The children are often forced to cooperate when working with Fable, and the robot becomes a kind of common third. We observed that they could not stop sharing knowledge, and “peer to peer” came into play.
During our visit to the schools, we found that the students were very open to challenges and needed less help from the teachers, after the experience they had with Fable.
As Magnus says:
“The students were challenged to come up with problems that could be solved with robots, both in general, but also specific tasks where Fable is shown as a solution. Based on the examples available on Shape Robotics’ website, on Youtube and Workbench, students can easily see through functions and possibilities in the various builds of the robot and last but not least how to link programming with hardware. My students built a trash-robot that could find a trash can, cars that could find obstacles and a robot that could sort M&M’s by color. If they are not the future workforce, then I don’t know what else to call them!“
Playful learning is an approach all children can benefit from, when working with STEAM subjects. The teacher Magnus explains how the construction of the hardware combined with the software gives the students a playful learning environment that enhances the work with technology.
“Technology as a subject can be supported with methods and subjects, but also with hardware and the right approach to research. With Fable robot, Shape Robotics has developed a hardware product that supports a playful and investigative approach to technology. The “lego-like” construction method helps the students dare to experiment, making meaningless mistakes, as everything can be changed in an instant and without consequences. The same goes for the Blockly programming interface.
There is a schism in how to make the best education for “my” kids. They usually work best in familiar settings, with adults they are comfortable around and clearly defined tasks. At the same time, they must be able to be curious and investigative, be able to define a problem themselves and be part of group work and develop their own solutions. ”
Special education, also known as special-needs education, is the practice of educating students in a way that addresses their individual differences and needs.
The lessons they follow are designed to help achieve a higher level of personal skills and success in school, which may not be available if the student were only given access to a typical education.
Special education includes learning disabilities (such as dyslexia), communication disorders, emotional and behavioural disorders (such as ADHD), physical disabilities, developmental disabilities and many others.
Students with these special needs are likely to benefit from additional educational services such as different approaches to teaching and different resources, the use of technology, a specifically adapted teaching area, a balanced teaching framework and visual guidance for socially oriented exercises.
In this article we would like to share the learnings that we have gathered by collaborating with schools for special needs.
“It is striking how easy it was for my students to get started with both the design of the robot and programming. Students who are experientially reluctant to new things, respond positively to challenges with Fable Robot.” This is what a teacher who works with these wonderful kids expressed.
Fable in Schools for Special Needs
“The kids met Fable with a curious mind. It was quite clear that the robot’s “non-threatening” design is perceived as harmless and something you dare to play and experiment with. The fact that the whole concept at the same time largely invites problems to be divided into small chunks, both practical in hardware and theoretically in software, makes the challenges edible for our kind of children.” – Magnus Pedersen, teacher at Skolen ved Slotsvænget.
With the Fable Robot, Shape Robotics has visited and collaborated with several schools for special needs around Copenhagen, including Tårnbygårdskolen, The School at Slotsvænget and VIKASKU.
It has been a pleasure to see how students and teachers worked with Fable, finding the benefits of learning with robotics and seeing the results of this.
Magnus Pedersen, teacher at School of Slotsvænget, finds that there is a schism in how to make the best teaching for his students. He says the following:
“They usually work best and most safely in familiar settings, with adults they are comfortable with and clearly defined tasks. At the same time, they must be able to be curious and investigative, be able to define a problem themselves and be part of group work and develop their own solutions. ”
Working with robotics technology in teaching provides the teacher with the opportunity to create a good learning environment that supports the students in their learning processes, Magnus mentions.
As Olivia from VIKASKU backs up by sharing her experiences from a professional angle in working with Fable:
“I experience a great deal of interdisciplinarity. Students are both challenged to create a problem, program a robot to solve it and then communicate about processes. Communication, research and modeling all take place in the same work process and from the same perspective.”
Christmas is just around the corner and we’re pretty sure the schools have already started to dedicate special classes for preparing Christmas activities. Let’s skip the dull Christmas workshops this year and instead let’s involve Fable and reshape the way we think about creativity and learning!
You’re still not sure why you should start working with robots in education?
Take a look at these 5 reasons for which you should start teaching robotics in school:
- Creative thinking
Studies have shown that robotics is one of the fields of knowledge that incorporate creativity and fun simultaneously. Students love to partake in activities in which they have full control and immediate feedback, something that is possible with robotics.
Hands-on learning activities enhance concentration and attention levels, because students are involved in these activities directly and they learn physical skills that also increase their motivation and interest in a certain topic.
With advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, driverless cars, and IoT technologies taking shape more vividly every day, the present generation of students needs better tech skills than before.
Building and programming robots is challenging. However, working with them helps students develop a never-give-up attitude. It helps improve determination, which is crucial for any technological or scientific undertaking.
Robotics help increase a range of skills, and thus promote a learning environment for people with different approaches. If properly harnessed, it also promotes a culture of teamwork. It can even be used to help students who might struggle to learn in traditional classroom environments.
If you’re eager to start with robotics now, we have some Christmas robots ready to serve as an inspiration for your classroom. After checking these out, sky’s the limit for what students and teachers can achieve while working with robotics.
Christmas robots inspired by Shape Robotics’ team
- Storytelling Fable
Build a humanoid Fable and program it to tell one of your favorite Christmas stories.
Download the Storytelling Fable pack that includes images you need to place in “My Fable Pictures” folder and .fab code you can load as an example!
- Santa Fable
Build a humanoid Fable, get creative with its Christmas costume and press play after uploading this .fab file with our example! You can program it to welcome students and teachers, do a little Christmas dance while playing different songs or just driving around and greeting everyone!
- Rudolf Fable
Telling the story of Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer in an updated version, or maybe just any other Christmas tale. Check out how you can use all the benefits of coding into one funny activity!
How about one last challenge for the final example of a Christmas Fable?
- Pick a Candy Fable
Build a tiny box made out of paper, secure it with tape on top of the castor wheel and program Fable to go around the classroom and offer candies to the students.
Keep in mind that if you want to place the plow in front of Fable, you’ll have to think about controlling the Spin Module backwards.
Take a look at our .fab code for inspiration and build your own Christmas Fable!
Merry Christmas everyone and don’t forget to share with us your Christmas robots!
How can teachers get students’ attention and motivation easily?
Learning processes in school might seem old and boring, both for teachers and students. In a world where keywords such as innovation and STEAM skills are everywhere, the challenge arises: How can we stay up to date with the latest knowledge gaps for the younger generations? How can we prepare the kids for an employment market where the requirements are constantly adapting to the newest tech releases?
We don’t yet have a solution to fit all the educational institutions’ pain points, but we do have several action plans that will reshape the way teaching STEM skills is approached.
Let’s start with competitions!
Research shows that competitions encourages students to work harder, study further and in the process – boost their confidence. When competitions are being organised in the classroom, the students are far more focused on outperforming their rivals, but most important: they start with outperforming themselves! Group competitions encourage teamwork while individual competitions nurture soft skills.
And it’s not always about winning, competitions are mostly about the energy & spirit that enhance its benefits. While winning gives the adrenaline, happiness and motivation, losing is the best teacher – it allows students to further develop and research intro way of getting better and wiser – therefore, winning next time! Moreover, that’s when the teacher plays an incredible role – the one of a mentor, whose presence will guide and encourage students to look further into the issue and don’t give up!
Competitions, if managed correctly, have an amazing outcome for both teachers and students and are also a great way to switch the boring curriculum lessons to engaging activities that develop more than hard skills!
Fable Spin Football Tournament
With all these reasons in mind, we put together an activity sheet specially designed to challenge your students’ coding skills, creativity and innovation.
First, start off with dividing the students into an equal number of teams taking into consideration the number of Spin Modules the class owns.
Our recommendation would be to have groups of 2-5 students for each team.
After setting up the teams, you need to decide which coding option comes first. Our advice is to organise three different phases, one for each coding option provided. Therefore, each team gets the chance to code Fable Spin using three different programming options.
IDEA! Top 2 teams are challenged to play one final round of Spin Football and to control Spin using another coding option. No clue what to use? How about Follow the Leader? How about trying to code Spin in Python directly? If you’re running Fable Blockly on a PC/ Mac you can easily switch to the Python Editor by pressing the last icon from the menu bar.
What do you need to set the Tournament in motion?
- One Fable Spin module for each team competing in the Tournament
- One Smartphone holder for each Fable Spin
- One Smartphone with Fable Face App installed and running
- One Fable Hub for each Fable Spin module
- One castor wheel and one plow per module to assure the stability of Fable Spin
- A Construction Bundle for each Fable Spin Module to build your own Fable Spin Robot
- Creativity BOOST – Get two empty cardboard boxes and build your own Football Goals – no rules implied!
Do you want to discover the instructions, coding options and tournament rules? Download the activity sheet here!
Don’t forget to share with us on Social Media videos & images from your Tournament using #FableSpinFootballTournament
In October, our Fable team had the opportunity to organise a workshop at ReDi School in Berlin. ReDI School offers education to break down barriers and connect the leaders of tomorrow. They use technology to connect human potential with employment opportunities with dignity and humility. ReDI is a non-profit social enterprise who values reliability, usefulness, care and playfulness.
They are doing a great job in inclusion, educating and sharpening the 21st century skills of the children involved, reshaping the way they are used to being taught STEM skills – just like Fable does!
Our amazing International Partner Channel Manager – Shân Mari Linnet Nissen is sharing her experience of teaching coding with Fable to a passionate group of students aged 7 to 14 years old. The digital leaders of tomorrow worked in groups exploring playful activities and challenges while also building humanoid robots.
Collaboration, Innovation and Coding
The students’ age differences made them work with peers and also develop teamwork and collaboration skills. Within the teams that were created, the students explored different roles such as: product owner, developer, creative thinker, and so on.
Students had to complete two different tasks that challenged their creativity as well as their problem solving skills while also combining lesson based themes like Newton’s laws. Our approach was based on a cross-cultural experience that combines coding and aspects of various subjects.
The first challenge was based on working with the Fable Joint module. Using the throwing arm, the teams of students had to throw as many balls in the net as possible.
The learning goal: working together as a team on coding the correct angle of the throwing arm based on Newton’s laws and experiencing the debugging process based on trial and error.
The second challenge was created around the Fable Spin module. Using Fable Spin, the students had to collect as many toy parts into a given field as possible while also competing against other groups.
The learning goal was focused on developing teamwork skills, communication skills for discussing the strategy and coding the best solution for winning the challenge. Moreover, the mission also followed a debugging process based on developing trial and error problem solving skills.
Moreover, both challenges followed the red thread of offering students the opportunity to take ownership of their learning.
By being part of these educational workshops, our main goal is to facilitate children the skills they need to own in order to become part of the future workforce. Only by developing STEM skills starting with early ages we can help secure a brighter future for the children of today.
“The whole experience felt like a lesson for both parties involved.”
After the challenges were over, Shân and the students explored different solutions for today’s professional challenges that Fable can solve. The students came up with lots of great ideas that emphasised how the world can be changed with the necessary knowledge and a good heart.
“Working with kids never ceases to amaze me! Even if some of the students don’t have the same advantages as lots of other kids around them, they were incredibly smart and empathetic, generating more and more ideas about how Fable can solve everyday’s problems in people’s jobs. We talked about different labour groups and which chores these people would find difficult or time consuming. Together we continued to explore how we could use Fable to solve these problems. One child said that a hotel receptionist might be lonely, so we should create a robot friend to spend time with. A young girl told me she would love to make a robot that was able to paint and help caretakers so they don’t have to bend down that much and get tired easily. It’s amazing how much we as adults can also learn from kids’ ideas and concerns. The whole experience felt like a lesson for both parties involved.” Shân Mari Linnet Nissen – International Partner Channel Manager
Lots of problems of today’s world can be solved by technology and these amazing kids are part of the future – they need to have access to coding and tech resources, to develop problem solving skills, creative thinking and teamwork in order to grow into adults concerned about improving the world around them!
We are grateful for the opportunity to be part of these educational workshops while also following our main goal – to facilitate children the skills they need to own in order to become part of the future workforce. Only by developing STEM skills starting with early ages we can help secure a brighter future for the children of today.