I am often asked by teachers what the point is in getting kids to code. Why do they need such specialist knowledge? That of course is an outside view looking in. Knowing ‘code’ is really knowing about how to organise a piece of work, identify a problem in it and then solving the problem to make the code better. You could replace the word ‘code’ with the word ‘writing’ in the last sentence. It is about effective thinking. Ironically to learn the grammar of ‘code’ is probably a lot easier than learning to read and write in english. I think any teachers and parents would back that up when they see children getting to grips on a range of levels with algorythmic thinking on different devices and different programmes. But sometimes the process is accused of having no real purpose, it is just a set of instructions on a screen. Other than the implicit development of thinking skills and the awareness raising of the career opportunities I would like to suggest that there are many ways of making code creation both purposeful and relevant.
Step forward VEX as one of those great solutions. We have been hosting taster sessions for children across the Tees Valley over the last couple of days. From 7 year olds to secondary students. The response from the schools has been unanimous ‘when can we buy a kit?’. The sessions have been run by GoAhead Training who are a fantastic, effective local supporter of connecting schools and industry. They run projects in schools as well as creating and supporting events across the area. We invited a range of schools to come and experience VEX for a couple of hours to find out if they would be interested in using them in school. The answer was….er….YES.
From basic programming of movement to the addition of sensors and appendages the robots are extremely expandable in their range of uses and international competitions feature schools from all over the UK…except the Tees Valley. So these tasters are the beginning of an exciting new collaborative approach to using robots in schools in the Tees Valley. Inspire2Learn will be looking for funding pots over the next few weeks to create a joint bid on behalf of any school in the Tees Valley who would like to be involved. Internationally there are challenges, leagues and geek-meets that focus on use of the devices that, yes, promote STEM as a key element of education but also all of the wider employability skills that children will employ when being part of a robot team. Step one of the plan is to acquire robots in schools and then ensure that our teachers get the possible training through GoAhead. Speaking to teachers over the two days it is clear that they would love to be involved now that they have seen their children so engaged. They would also love to be involved in local leagues. Yes there is an international challenge competition but what about on an ongoing basis? On a Friday night the school football team heads off to play the school down the road. On a Thursday night why couldn’t we see the ‘robot team’ head off to play another school…and not just their own age groups! It was great to se over the last few days children from mainstream and special intermingling and achieving the same outcomes through access to the technology and the right support.
So watch this space, I think you might be hearing a lot more about this over the next few months and if you want, you can be part of it, just let us know.