Employing Educational Robotics for the Development of Problem-Based Learning Skills

Employing Educational Robotics for the Development of Problem-Based Learning Skills

Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch217
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Robotics activities are related to addressing a problem, and usually problems in authentic, real situations. The students are given a driving question and are requested to solve a “problem”. Having noticed this connection, the current study evaluates the integration of robotics as a tool where the problem based learning (PBL) method and the interdisciplinary approach are intertwined. Specifically, the pre-programmable floor robots, the BeeBots, were used as cognitive-learning tools in order to examine students' development of problem based learning skills: creativity-innovation, critical thinking, and collaboration. A case study approach was employed, collecting quantitative (pre- and post-questionnaires) and qualitative data (focus groups). The results revealed positive student experiences and reactions, and enhancement of the critical thinking and creativity-innovation skills.
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The technological improvements within the robotics field and its expansion to various fields such as medicine, industry and education, calls for robotics integration within the educational practice as learning tools. Robotics in the classroom has taken a global momentum especially because of its positive contributions in the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) (Benitti, 2012). Additionally, research has shown that robotics integration in education promotes the development of various non-cognitive skills, however extremely important life skills. For example, reasoning, problem solving, tinkerning, sequencing, computational thinking, decision making, scientific investigation, collaboration, knowledge construction, critical thinking, creativity, communication (Bers, Ponte, Juelich, Viera & Schenker,, 2002; Benitti, 2012; Chambers & Carbonaro, 2003; Eteokleous, 2016; Miglino, Lund, & Cardaci, 1999; Resnick, Berg, & Eisenberg, 2000; Williams, Ma, & Prejean, 2010).

Educational systems are responsible in preparing students (future citizens) for this ever-changing Hi-Tech, globalized, interconnected world. Numerous 21st century skills are reported in the literature as important to be developed by future citizens as the means to address the needs and demands of the society. The 21st century skills have been outlined and described by various researchers and reports (e.g. Ananiadou & Claro, 2009; Bybee & Fuchs, 2006; Griffin & Care, 2105; Mojika, 2010; Rotherham & Willingham, 2010; Trilling & Fadel, 2009), and can be summarized as follows: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, knowledge construction, creativity – innovation, self-directed learning, global citizenship and digital literacy. The changes in the global competition and collaboration, the focus on service economy, as well as the information growth, constitute the development of the 21st century skills extremely important. Given the aforementioned, the workforce needs have changed, the job tasks and type of work are changing and consequently the required skills are changing.

Problem solving and digital literacy is one of them and robotics and programing are becoming important elements within the educational settings. The students need to be provided with the opportunities to experience tinkering, fabrication, design and create technological artifact & interactive objects, construct their own meaningful projects, experience the scientific method of inquiry (Bers, 2008a; Bers, 2008b; Bers, Matas & Libman, 2013; Bernstein, Mutch-Jones, Cassidy, Hamner, & Cross, 2016; Eteokleous, 2016). Consequently, educators need to design the appropriate learning environments where students have the opportunity to develop the aforementioned skills.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Floor Mat: A paper or foam based mat (mainly located on the floor or high-table) which is separated in blocks of 15X15 centimeters. Each floor mat represents a specific theme/ concept and each block depicts different sub-theme/ sub-concept related to the overall theme/ concept. Each floor mat may have from 9 to 24 blocks (or even more!) Floor mats can be developed for various subject matters.

BeeBots: A colorful, easy-to-operate, and friendly little robot that can be used by students from the age of four to the age of ten, depending on the level of programming difficulty of each exercise.

Interdisciplinarity: It is the employment of various disciplines. The purpose is to relate/combine two or more subject matters (or academic disciplines) into one exercise/ activity in achieving specific educational objectives.

Problem Based Learning (PBL): The students are involved in a learning process where they needs to solve a specific problem using various knowledge and skills. This approach can be used within various subject matters even.

Twenty (21st) Century Skills: The skills that considered to be important and necessary for student to develop in survive and succeed in the 21 st century. Those are: problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, global citizenship, digital literacy, knowledge construction, creativity, innovation, self-directed learning.

Educational Robotics: The use of robotics in the teaching and learning process (in the educational practice) as a subject matter and/or as a cognitive learning tool.

Robotics Packages: In the education market there are various robotics packages that allow users/students to construct and program robots. These packages mainly contain bricks, wires, sensors and a visual programming software.

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