This morning I attended a cool session at the Games in Education Conference on "ROBOTS: They're Not Just for Taking over the World, but for Education, too!" put on by Nick Webb, Senior Scientist at the Institute for Informatics, Logic and Security Studies at the University at Albany and Ilene Frank, of the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium. Nick and Ilene focused, understandably, on the science and mathematics education that can be gained through working with robots in a school setting. They are doing some neat work with everything from hacked Roombas to Aibos and more advanced robots to engage students from a range of ages in various hard science and math subjects.
It got me thinking about how we might integrate robotics into our Global Kids programs, which don't have an explicit science or math focus.
My thinking is that robots are naturally attractive to young (and old) people. You see an Aibo or a Lego Mindstorm robot, and you want to know about it, what it can do, what its name is. So as a marketing device, it kind of sells itself.
Beyond the initial attraction, I think there are ways we could imagine robots being used to impart valuable life lessons to our youth that connect to Global Kids themes.
One idea would be to look at how robot technology is used to help humans live in peace and productively. Robots that do research in outer space, that help elderly people, that defuse bombs, that clean our homes, etc.
Beyond that, through programming robots our kids would learn about problem-solving, logical reasoning, and the value of collaboration. Teams of kids might work together to design robots that address a particular social problem (pollution, illiteracy, conflict, etc.) And then they might have to work collaboratively to program a robot to meet some objective like run through a maze or more an object from one place to another.
And we might think of problems that are caused by or exascerbated by robots and what might be done to address them. I.e. robots supplanting human jobs, the dehumanization of services, robots that can injure or kill people, etc.
I dunno, just brainstorming. I think there are creative ways that we can pair other institutions' interest in science education with our interest in global issue education in ways that go beyond what we could do individually.
[CC-licensed image of Aibo by PT]