Robotics and 21st Century Skills

We are living and learning in a technology rich world. It is widely recognized in literature that 21st century learners need to be technologically fluent, to develop essential skills to live work and operate in the learning environments of today. Engaging students in an inquiry based approach where they are encouraged to collaborate and be creative in solving open ended robotics challenges offers a unique platform to address many areas of 21st century learning.

To be productive in employment and higher education, today’s students will have to be able to learn new technology systems on their own, on demand, and embedded in different kinds of situations. Surface-level familiarity with current applications (which is often the form that technology education takes in schools) won’t be sufficient. Students need a deeper foundation of conceptual understanding of information technology systems and productive working strategies for self-learning and trouble-shooting.

The objective for education today should be one that emphasizes active problem-solving with intelligent technology, putting students in the role of creating and designing with information technology—not just using and consuming it.

Although robotics may at first seem exotic, on closer examination it provides a natural fit with good pedagogy that emphasizes meaningful problem-based learning, integration and application of knowledge, hands-on learning in cooperative groups, and demonstrable mastery of new learning.

It attracts students to content domains such as mechanics, electrical circuits, and applied mathematical reasoning that all too often are stumbling blocks for school students.

Robotics engages students in complex, strategic problem-solving and higher-order thinking—a set of skills that is a high priority for 21st century education. What is more, this kind of problem-solving can be introduced in a gradual, self-motivated way, so beginner students can experience satisfying achievements right away and can quickly move on to new challenges in a continuous progression toward greater levels of sophistication.

Robotics provides a context for inquiry and discovery, leading students become active problem solvers and to engage in their own learning. If students are given the time, space and purpose to tinker with robots and solve open ended problems, this will allow for thought and action to come together, and the opportunity for students to construct knowledge and build theories in individual and collaborative settings.

Along with facilitating the development of iterative problem solving, design thinking, computational thinking, systems thinking and critical and creative thinking, robotics can engage students in producing quality solutions to identified problems or opportunities across a range of contexts. Robotics can provide students with an opportunity to manage projects independently or collaboratively from conception to realisation and is also an ideal technology for use in STEM based (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning.

perhaps the most compelling reason for a robotics curriculum is that it introduces students to knowledge, concepts, and skills that are needed for understanding the intelligent information-based technology of the future: technology that is highly interactive, multi-modal, adaptive and autonomous. Technology is no longer the private domain of a self-selected group of “nerds,” and sophisticated technological systems are no longer reserved for academic research labs or the military or government.

Another important reason for robotics to be integrated into contemporary learning environments is that it is fun!

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