Measuring the Impact on Student's Computational Thinking Skills Through STEM and Educational Robotics Project Implementation

Measuring the Impact on Student's Computational Thinking Skills Through STEM and Educational Robotics Project Implementation

Avraam Chatzopoulos (University of West Attica, Greece), Michail Kalogiannakis (University of Crete, Greece), Michail Papoutsidakis (University of West Attica, Greece), Sarantos Psycharis (School of Pedagogical and Technological Education, Greece) and Dimitrios Papachristos (University of West Attica, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4576-8.ch010

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors present their research on how P12 students apply computational thinking (CT) skills when they are assigned simple science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) problems, which they are called upon to solve with the help of educational robotics (ER) activities. The reason for this research was the high participation and increased interest shown in an ER event, where distributed questionnaires recorded students' views on ER, STEM, and CT. Their answers were the spark to conduct a pilot study on primary school students in the form of an experiential seminar to investigate the possibility of developing their CT skills by applying ER activities when they are asked to solve authentic STEM problems. The results showed that students may develop CT skills when involved in ER activities and that educational robots enhance students' engagement with programming and create a more favorable environment for developing students' CT skills.
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Introduction

Today many academics, businessmen, politicians, media outlets refer to the 4th Industrial Revolution, (Marr, 2016, 2017, 2018) where innovation contributes to the exchange of data on production technologies or the interconnection of the physical, digital and biological worlds (Marr, 2016). Western societies are already under its influence, and the World Bank president has said that 150 million workers will lose their jobs by 2022, while 300 million newcomers will not find work (Higgins, 2013). By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist (Schwab & Samans, 2016). In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to prepare for the future skills requirements is increasingly critical, and education models must adapt to equip children with the skills to create a more inclusive, cohesive and productive world (World Economic, 2020). On the other hand, there is a growing disconnect between education systems and labor markers. Many of today’s students will work in new job types that do not yet exist, with an increased demand for both digital and social-emotional skills (World Economic, 2019). Education 4.0 initiative emerged from the need to prepare students and teachers for the requirements of 4th Industrial Revolution, and it aims to create a common agenda to transform education systems to ensure future-readiness among the next generation of talent (World Economic, 2019).

In this context students need new skills for their future. For instance, Dr. Tony Wagner (co-director of Harvard's Change Leadership Group) suggests the following seven survival skills (Singmaster, 2008):

  • 1.

    critical thinking and problem-solving,

  • 2.

    collaboration and leadership,

  • 3.

    effective oral and written communication,

  • 4.

    accessing and analyzing information,

  • 5.

    curiosity and imagination,

  • 6.

    initiative and entrepreneurialism,

  • 7.

    agility and adaptability.

Respectively, the non-for-profit organization “Battelle for Kids” suggest the P21’s Frameworks for 21st Century Learning, (Figure 1) a framework developed with input from teachers, education experts, and business leaders to define and illustrate the skills and knowledge students need to succeed in work and life (Battelle for Kids, 2019).

Figure 1.

Framework for 21st Century Learning (Battelle for Kids, 2019)

978-1-7998-4576-8.ch010.f01

In this framework, learning and innovation–among others- skills- are mentioned as needs for the increasingly complex life and work environments in today’s world.

These skills include:

  • 1.

    creativity and innovation,

  • 2.

    critical thinking and problem solving,

  • 3.

    communication, and

  • 4.

    collaboration.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Educational Robotics: A broad term that refers to a collection of educational activities, programs, resources, technology platforms, and pedagogical theories of learning within and outside schools.

WeDo 2.0: The term WeDo 2.0 (or Lego WeDo 2.0) refers to Lego’s educational robotic hardware and software platform specifically designed for Kindergarten to Grade 2 students that follows a process for developing computational thinking skills.

STEM: An acronym (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that is used to refer to teaching and learning in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Fourth Industrial Revolution: A term used to describe the 21st century’s economic, social, political, and cultural changes. It is often used interchangeably with Industry 4.0, however, the last one is a subset of it that concerns the industry.

Computational Thinking: A term to describe a set of skills or analytical methods that involve human and machine elements to solve problems. These skills usually include problem decomposition, generalization, algorithmic thinking, evaluation, and abstraction.

Educational Robotics Platform: A robot technology platform that consists of hardware, software and educational material for educational use.

Evaluation Tools: In educational evaluation, this term is used to describe instruments, tools, and methods to collect evidences of the student’s achievement that are generally classified into quantitative and qualitative techniques.

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