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Learning Through Robotics – SCOE Reaches out to Schools to Teach Coding 

You are startled awake from the vibration of a device attached to your wrist. After stumbling out of bed, you almost trip on a machine actively searching for debris in your room. Before you are fully awake, you smell coffee brewing. Technology has changed the way we live. FitBit personal activity tracker alarms, robotic vacuums, and automatic coffee makers all prove that we live in a digital age – one where the idea of robots as a part of our daily lives is no longer science fiction.

While said robots may not be in the guise of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, you can see just how important some of these programmed devices have become. While it may be new to us, as digital immigrants, it is common to digital natives (those born in the last ten to fifteen years).

But who is teaching our children about these devices? Who is building on the technology that they see, and use, every day? Luckily, today’s teachers are doing just that.

While many schools in our county already have robotic clubs, the Technology and Learning Resources Division at the Stanislaus County Office of Education has recently reached out to schools to teach students the basics of programming by using robots in the classroom. From incorporating math concepts, to using vocabulary words for language arts lessons, using Dash the robot in the classroom has actively introduced students in the county to block coding. Block coding is a programming language used at schools like M.I.T., Harvard, and UC Berkeley to establish the basic fundamentals of computer programming. With Dash, a product from the Wonder Workshop, and an iPad mini, students can drag and drop code onto a workspace (using their fingertips), and program the robot to complete specific tasks.

Students are learning to use code to do things such as program Dash to move through a taped off course, use angles and degrees to draw shapes, push things through goals, race other robots, and even knock a toy off a tower. The best part about these activities is not integrating state standards into the classroom, nor is it solely about being introduced to a computer language that will help students secure a place in college or a job in the future. The best part, instead, is that students participating in these types of activities do not realize they are learning. They believe they are being rewarded. Students are working with concepts that will help them succeed in school, and more importantly, in life, all while laughing and having fun. You do not need to speak robot to recognize there is no better way to help students in our county learn than by making it fun!

By Brandon Schut, Applications Support Specialist, Stanislaus County Office of Education

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