What Do Best Practices In The Robotics Classroom Look Like?

The robotics classroom is one of the most dynamic and
engaged classrooms in our school.
Students have the opportunity to practically implement their
problem-solving skills in a variety of different challenges using a variety of different
technology which are both based in engineering and robotics but also
programming and computer technology.
Well-structured projects and open spaces are essential to
student success and the opportunity to enable students as problem solvers.
Providing students with complex and diverse challenges which challenge them to
utilize a variety of tools expand their skills but also motivates them to
collaborate and communicate effectively in their groups. Teachers of robotics
courses also need to be guides, mentors and have a grasp on the connections
they are making in the classroom to translate how these skills relate beyond
the classroom.

My most recent observation of classroom use of technology
using a modified version of the TIM matrix happened in the middle school
robotics classroom of Chip Osgood a teacher in the North Reading Middle School. 
My goal was to identify specific activities or practices that can guide my department
and share these as potential growth areas with the group. Since I have come to
North Reading I have had the opportunity to view several different robotics
classes in the elementary and middle school levels. These classes function in
unique ways that alter traditional approaches to instruction. Teachers are
often asked to facilitate the students as project managers and embrace an
approach that supports a variety of solutions to problems.
My observation is framed to identify what environment and
context the technology are being used in and the type/level of learning based
on the rubric that I see in that classroom. I am then extracting practices that
can be identified as high growth for the students and the teachers and connect
them to our goals for practice. 
Level of Technology Integration: Infusion
At the Infusion level, a range of different technology tools
is integrated flexibly and seamlessly into teaching and learning. Technology is
available in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of all students. Students
are able to make informed decisions about when and how to use different tools.
The instructional focus is on student learning and not on the technology tools
themselves (Technology Integration Matrix).
Google Form In Which Students Document Their Daily Progress
In Chip’s classroom students are engaged in a variety of
challenges with the Lego EV3 robots. Students are organized into a variety of
roles as part of a team and use the web-based documents to document their
process and team progress.
Students continually document their process and troubleshooting as a daily progress report. Team members share a variety of roles in which they identitfy the necessary skills these roles require and can develop action lists on their experience.

Characteristics of Learning Environment: Authentic
The Authentic attribute involves using technology to link
learning activities to the world beyond the instructional setting. This
characteristic focuses on the extent to which technology is used to place
learning into a meaningful context, increase its relevance to the learner, and
tap into students’ intrinsic motivation (Technology Integration Matrix).
Students move in between the large “table tennis” table
which contains a maze and their desktop computers in which they test short
scripts for programming the robots. As they transition they are communicating
about their process and roles on completing the tasks. Each tool either
creates, documents, responds to programs or enables programming. Students
respond to these tools and utilize them for completion of the challenge.
Digital Tools Used:
Productivity Tools, Spreadsheet Tools, Web 2.0 & 3.0
Tools, Word Processing Tools, Simulation, Internet Resources, Drawing Tools,
Lego EV3 Robots, Programming Software.

What I Saw In This Lesson:

In this lesson students is the focus of engaged
self-directed problem solving. The tools in the lesson support the learning as
a way to catalog and capture their process and encourages them to continue to
ask questions and troubleshoot. It is clear the students have a deep level of
buy into the result from the conversations they can be heard having like “Did you code it that way?” or “Lets try it this way”. 
in this environment are engaged in their process and use the tools support
that problem-solving process. Students are forced to adapt to the environment
and learn and grow in new ways. This can sometimes be challenging to a student
who loses focus or direction easily but in most groups he can lean on the
support of his team/ classmates.

Conclusions & Best Practices Witnessed

  • Groups are balanced and mindfully formed. They work well together and all were engaged in the content.  Teams are able to strategize, communicate and problem-solve effectively while actively moving in the room.
  • Students are actively encouraged to move and problem-solve, program and test the robots.  This movement defines the motivation and strategies executed by the teacher to create the environment. Students are responding to roles designed by the teacher which activate authentic learning such as the “Project Manager” or “Information Specialist”.
  • Students are encouraged to be self-directed. Where one student lets up another picks up the necessary roles in the project. Shared responsibility was evident and encouraged.
  • Clearly defined areas for reflection and student process collection. Students can clearly see the benefits of cataloging their process and learning from their mistakes or success. Students recognized their problem solving was enhanced by understanding their process.
  • Student attention is based on a result of using the technology appropriately to attain a result as opposed to using the technology as the result itself. The technology tools support the process of evaluating their results.
Sources Used:
Technology Integration Matrix