16 SES 07, ICT and Educational Innovation
There have been international calls to increase the number of young people studying STEM subjects and going into related careers, along with curriculum reforms which have introduced programming and computational thinking and an ongoing drive for all learners to have 21st Century Skills. Educational robotics provides a vehicle to bring these areas together, providing a practical and real-world context to develop knowledge and skills. Educational robotics activities have already been shown to increase the interest of learners in STEM subjects (Nugent, et al., 2010), and typically implemented in broadly social constructivist learning experiences there appear to be ample opportunities for learners to engage with and develop 21st Century Skills as they work in small groups to construct and programme robots. However robotics kits are expensive to purchase, take time to maintain and what happens when a piece gets lost?
This session introduces the virtual component of the Educational Robotics for STEM (ER4STEM) project: SLurtle robots in a virtual world. The ER4STEM project, funded by the European Commission, aims to develop a continuous framework for the design of educational robotics activities for all children aged 7-18, both in and out-of-school, regardless of current interest in STEM subjects. The project aims to move beyond existing research which shows that both girls and boys demonstrate increased interest in STEM subjects following robotics workshops, by asking what works, for whom and in what circumstances.
While physical robots, which can be hand-built, picked-up and inspected are the norm; educators wishing to use this technology face a high-cost overhead for both the introduction and maintenance of robotics kits. Robot simulations provide a low-cost overhead but can limit opportunities for creativity and collaboration. Robots in virtual worlds are proposed as a low-cost solution which allow almost limited creativity in both their construction and programming, whilst the virtual environment supports collaboration with peers in real-time, both face-to-face and at distance.
This paper presents the development and implementation of SLurtle robots (Girvan, et al. 2013) within a networked virtual world, with young people (aged 10-13) studying ICT/computer science and mathematics. 3D virtual worlds provide learners with a shared environment in which to explore, construct and share artefacts of learning throughout the learning experience. Avatars provide a representation of the user within the environment and along with synchronous communication tools, they providing them with a sense of co-presence within the virtual world. Constructionism provides the theoretical basis for the design of lessons which support learners to become mathematicians rather than simply “learning how to do maths”. Unlike traditional constructionist environments such as Scratch (Resnick, et al., 2009), the SLurtle virtual world supports real-time collaboration on and the sharing of artefacts that are in development. Additionally the virtual SLurtle robots, unlike physical robots, are in almost limitless supply, any piece that goes missing can quickly be regenerated and new parts can be created in-world in real-time and in any form. Design concepts for SLurtles were drawn from a range of existing low-floor tools and constructionist learning environments particularly Turtle Graphics (Papert, 1980) and Scratch for Second Life (S4SL) (Rosenbaum, 2008).
This research specifically explores collaboration, both in the physical classroom and the virtual world, as learners use SLurtle robots to explore, test and extend their understanding of mathematics and/or ICT/computing.
Girvan, C., Tangney, B., & Savage, T. (2013). SLurtles: supporting constructionist learning in second life. Computers & Education, 61, 115-132. Nugent, G., Barker, B., Grandgenett, N., & Adamchuk, V. I. (2010). Impact of robotics and geospatial technology interventions on youth STEM learning and attitudes. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(4), 391-408. Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, computers and powerful ideas New York: Basic Books Resnick, M., Maloney, J., Monroy-Hernández, A., Rusk, N., Eastwood, E., Brennan, K., Millner, A., Rosenbaum, E., Silver, J., Silverman, B. & Kafai, Y. (2009). Scratch: Programming for all. Communications of the ACM, 52(11), 60-67. Rosenbaum, E. (2008). Scratch for Second Life. In S. Veeragoudar Harrell (Chair & Organizer), Virtually there: Emerging designs for STEM teaching and learning in immersive online 3D microworlds. Symposium in Proceedings of the International Conference on Learning Sciences – ICLS 2008. Utrecht, The Netherlands: ICLS. Abstract retrieved February 1, 2010, from http://www.fi.uu.ul/en/icls2008/144/paper144.pdf
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