The growing need to integrate technology within the classroom is no new concept for Canadian educators.
Between the rise of a digital generation of students, ubiquitous access to the internet and increased demand for skilled workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the future of education hinges on the successful adoption of technology in Canadian pedagogy.
In fact, some provinces are responding to the need for a modernization of learning environments with shifts towards 21st century curriculum.
British Columbia led the charge in 2016 with their revised ADST curriculum, introducing design thinking and coding. Alberta followed suit with proposed changes to the K-6 curriculum, including an emphasis on numeracy and practical skills like computer coding. Finally, Ontario is next in line to introduce major changes, with brand new Science and Technology curriculum rolling out in September 2022.
Educators Canada-wide are carefully considering their strategies for facilitating 21st century learning, and one of the methods gaining widespread acceptance is the use of robotics kits in the classroom.
Aside from the practical, hands-on experience robotics give students in the areas of coding, programming and engineering, there are multiple benefits that might surprise you.
Here are 6 of the reasons robotics kits are one of the best ways to bring technology into your classroom:
1. Robotics kits in the classroom can promote diversity and inclusion
According to 3M Canada, STEM positions in Canada, particularly in areas of leadership, continue to be held predominantly by individuals who are male and white. According to 3M Canada:
- 75% of the STEM workforce is men, with women making up 25% (although women make up 50% of the population)
- 75% of the STEM workforce is not a visible minority
- Indigenous people make up only 1% of the STEM workforce
It's clear that there is much work to be done to increase the level of diversity represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
A lack of equal opportunity is one of the major drivers of this issue – without classroom exposure, STEM-related activities are often only available to families that can afford them, further perpetuating gaps in their accessibility and adoption within underrepresented groups. To combat this, it’s paramount that the accessibility of STEM-related curriculum and programming is increased at primary, middle and secondary school levels to create inclusive learning environments.
When the use of robotics kits is introduced and encouraged in classrooms, it can spark an interest or passion in coding and programming among those who may never have considered STEM-related activities otherwise.
2. Robotics kits teach problem solving and critical thinking
On their own, robotics kits inherently support the creative thinking process. Providing students with unassembled components, a framework for programming and a common goal requires critical thinking.
However, robotics kits can be taken a step further – when coupled with standards-aligned curriculum surrounding real-world problems, they can be tools to help students develop out-of-the-box solutions and become tomorrow’s leaders.
The InkSmith Climate Action Kit allows students to do just that. A micro:bit powered inventor’s kit, the Climate Action Kit introduces students to coding and robotics while creating purpose-driven learning experiences. Using the components in the kit, students can build, protype, and program their own working solutions to real-world climate change issues, from deforestation to advanced agriculture.
The more often students can exercise the design thinking process (empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test), the more comfortable and confident they will become when encountering complex problems in real-life.
3. Robotics kits prepare students for tomorrow's jobs
Canada is home to some of the world’s most prominent technology companies, and as these companies expand, the demand for employees with STEM-related skills will increase. Jobs in the trades and fields of science, technology, engineering and math are on the rise, meaning the hard and soft skills that graduates need are evolving as a result.
Despite the lucrative pay in high-tech careers, Canadian employers still struggle to fill their staffing needs. STEM-related skills are also required for many of Canada’s skilled trades roles, an industry that approximately 700,000 workers are projected to retire from between 2019 and 2028.
Fewer graduates and a lack of diversity within STEM and trades have contributed to a skilled-labour shortage, creating an ever-growing need to educate, recruit and train thousands of employees over the next decade.
The need to bolster enrolment in STEM programs across Canadian universities and colleges begins with an interest in primary, middle and secondary education. Incorporating hands-on robotics education throughout K-12 curriculum increases the likelihood of students pursuing skilled trades post-secondary.
4. Robotics kits foster teamwork and collaboration
Grouping students together to solve a problem or achieve a common goal using robotics kits is a fantastic way to develop teamwork skills.
After years of online learning, creating opportunities for collaboration amongst peers is more important than ever. Each student brings different strengths, knowledge and ideas to the problem-solving process, and their need to rely on one another, respect different ideas, and value each members’ unique contribution can improve social and communication skills.
Not only can robotics encourage students to take responsibility for the part they play in a classroom environment, but a general interest in robots, coding and/or programming may contribute to higher levels of involvement in STEM-related clubs, competitions or community activities. For example, organizations like Skills Canada host hands-on coding challenges that allow students to work within a group to develop solutions to real-world problems, creating more opportunities to develop teamwork skills.
5. Robotics kits promote learning through play
According to LEGO® Education, playful experience sets the stage for learning development in the first 3 years of a child’s life. Between the ages of 3-12, play contributes to a richer understanding of the concepts and skills they’re learning, and beyond age 12, it promotes collaboration, innovation and problem-solving.
Educators can create opportunities for students to learn through play using robotics kits, allowing students to become active participants in their learning experience by supporting rather than directing.
The hands-on, open-ended nature of robotics is also sure to encourage classroom engagement, bolstering attention levels and the need for focused concentration among students. Students can explore, build and trial their solutions at their own pace, using their imagination to develop out-of-the-box solutions.
6. Robotics kits can support social and emotional development
One of the best ways to help students develop mental fortitude and cope through distress is by creating opportunities to practice computational thinking, a skill that involves problem solving by breaking things down into simple steps.
Robotics kits are an excellent way to encourage computational thinking in the classroom. In fact, a study published by the International Journal of STEM Education provides empirical evidence that educational robotics activities can promote “trial-and-error-behaviour, foster cognitive processes related to problem understanding, idea generation, and solution formation” and provides students with an opportunity to build a “well-settled strategy to approach problems”.
Computational thinking promotes self-awareness, self-regulation and empathy, skills that can be applied to all areas of life. The more opportunity a student is given to practice computational thinking, the more confident they will feel in their problem-solving capabilities.
Robotics Kits: The Future of Canadian Classrooms
There is a world of opportunities available to students when robotics kits are introduced into classrooms in an effective, inclusive way.
If you’re ready to get started, InkSmith is here to help. We help educators build hands-on, experiential learning opportunities to introduce their students to STEM competencies and design thinking. Not only do we offer the latest in edtech products including robotics kits, 3D printers, laser cutters and more, but we also create standards-aligned curriculum and provide training services to empower educators in bringing 21st century technology into the classroom.
To learn more about how we can help you introduce robotics kits within your classroom or board, click here.