Exploring new ways to learn
A small robot on wheels whirs like an electric toothbrush as it circumvents a water bottle in the middle of the table in a College of Education classroom. The maneuver draws oohs and aahs from the students, and finally, cheering and clapping.
Bu this is no ordinary class. This class is made up of more than a dozen area school teachers, technology and media specialists who spent a recent morning learning how to build and program a robot in a teacher workshop hosted by the COE's Department of Career and Information Studies.
The workshop was part of a partnership the College has formed with South Korean educational robotics firm Roborobo to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in Northeast Georgia.
The partnership is bringing Roborobo's robotics education kits to the United States for the first time, according to Ikseon Choi, an associate professor in the learning design and technology program who is leading the project.
Roborobo has donated more than $23,000 worth of robotics education kits to be disseminated by UGA to local schools. The company's president and several representatives visited the College in early April to participate in demonstrations and workshops.
The UGA Educational Technology Center (ETC), based in the COE, will be the hub for this collaboration and its staff will deliver educational robotics workshops for area K-12 teachers, students and parents.
In the initial April 2 workshop, 13 robotics education kits were given to participating educators from elementary, middle and high schools in Barrow, Clarke, Hart and Jackson counties. Teachers from Timothy Road and Whit Davis elementary schools in Clarke County submitted a proposal for more kits and received six more each. Two more proposals for additional kits are currently under evaluation.
The teachers participating in the first workshop were impressed with the educational robotics kits and excited to have the opportunity to start a robotics program at their school. "The overall build quality of the robotics kit is exemplary. The content of the accompanying workbooks is well written and has educational value well above a set of basic building instructions. The Robric software was intuitive and easy to use. Finally, the price point was shockingly affordable," said Lee Bane, Race to the Top Math Integration Specialist for Barrow County Schools.
Tammi Gowen, Challenge Educator for Gum Springs Elementary School in Jackson County, said she wanted to extend student knowledge in robotics but knew very little about it herself.
"We already have our students work through Code.org. This is the perfect way to have them understand and use their code to visually see the robot moving," said Gowen. "These robotics are of high interest to my students. I showed them a few pieces of the kit that was provided to us and they were ready to build."
With underpinnings in the pedagogical theory of constructionism, which is learning when we make or tinker with an object, educational robotics provides opportunities for students to think more deeply and allows them to relate their problem-solving strategies to real-world contexts.
Robotics education often includes assembling robots according to plans or to one's own design. Students then program their robots to perform specific tasks. There are even student robotics competitions in which the best design and performance wins.
It is the vision of Roborobo, Choi and the ETC to grow robotics education, including the development of national and international competitions in the U.S., beginning with Georgia.
The ETC has a staff of four educational technology professionals working with school districts in the region and throughout Georgia to provide professional learning, consulting and service for educators to promote the use of technology in support of teaching, learning and leadership. For more information, contact: Emily Hodge, UGA Educational Technology Center at 706-542-0240 or visit: