ROBOTS IN THE CLASSROOM

The Present of the Future in Education

Robotics and programming are two skills that are increasingly present in educational environments and, therefore, will decisively mark the 21st century labor market. According to the European Commission, in 2020 there will be 825,000 jobs in Europe to cover in the field of computer science and in information and communication technologies. In this context, Princess Margaret School understands that educational robotics is not the future, but the present of the education of its students, and in this way, its curriculum includes, different applications of robotics and programming, each one designed for an age group. 

Educational robotics is a learning system that can be applied to any discipline of teaching and that uses robots and programming as a guiding thread. That is to say, they are an effective tool for the resolution of problems of any kind, since they require  abstract mental work form  in the student which he or she  has to discover the best option to overcome an obstacle. There is usually not a single valid solution, so the student learns together with the experiences shared with their peers, who may face the same problem, and form a different, complementary and also correct perspective. Robotics allows the development of basic skills such as teamwork, creativity and tolerance to manage  frustration; all of which are , competences that are directly related to the educational values of Princess Margaret School.

To work with a robot, you must first build it and then program it to give it life and make it respondrespond to the parameters that the students have ordered. The range of options and difficulty of the exercises is very broad, and responds to the needs and objectives of each of the stages of student learning. 

In early childhood education and in primary school, we use the Cubetto system. Inspired by the programming language Logo, Cubetto is programmed inserting chips of different colors that determine concrete actions. It is a tool for the first years of teaching, which allows for learning the basic  notions of programming before  knowing  how to read, in a natural and funny way, through the trial and error system, and with a structure that recalls the orderly, aesthetic, simple and real, to the Montessori teaching method for the little ones.

For the rest of primary school students, from second to sixth grade, we use the Dash & Dot system of , educational robots, with many more possibilities of programming and that allow teachers to raise curricular content in a transversal way. Concretely, they allow us to adapt the contents worked with the robots to the unit of inquiry that the class is carrying out at that moment. Being able to experience what teachers explain in class with a tangible object programmed by the students themselves helps them empathize with what they are learning, improving the student's ethical and emotional development.

With the older students, those in high school, we work on programming through the Scratch program, a free programming language aimed at teaching through the creation of games, which is known as gamification. Developed in 2003 at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it is an ideal programming language for teenagers and young people to start in this discipline. Thanks to the visual component of the program, students learn with ease to operate in programming environments and mathematical concepts that, otherwise, could be too complex. The students are those who design the idea, the product and program from scratch, so that thanks to Scratch they improve their motivation to conclude projects, as well as teamwork, since collaboration is necessary to program the system.

All this work carried out by Princess Margaret School's students on robotics and programming was recognized with the participation in the Game Jam 2018, in October 2018, this was  a meeting of video game designers that was very positive for the students. One of the most buoyant industries in the Spanish state is the video game. According to the 2017 yearbook of the Spanish Association of Video Games (AEVI), that year all the billing records were broken: in Spain there are some 16 million players (44%, women). There was no economic crisis for the video game industry and, in addition, many of the best video game creators in the world were born in our country. The creation of video games is one of the sectors with the most future, and to master that field (like many others), it is essential to teach with robotics and programming as props for modernity in the classroom.