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Full STEAM ahead with KUBO

Coding opportunities for kids today leads to workforce skills of tomorrow

Published April 15, 2019
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Ten years ago, teaching coding to elementary students might have been considered radical. Today, though, it’s necessary.

In 2018, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published The Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030. The purpose of the piece, and the goal of OECD Education 2030 project, is to help schools around the world identify the skills students will need by 2030 and develop appropriate curricula to effectively instill those skills.

“In the face of an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world, education can make the difference as to whether people embrace the challenges they are confronted with or whether they are defeated by them. And in an era characterized by a new explosion of scientific knowledge and a growing array of complex societal problems, it is appropriate that curricula should continue to evolve, perhaps in radical ways” (The Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030).

Jennifer Bozeman, the media specialist at Wildlight Elementary in Yulee, Florida, knows that a strong background in coding and robotics will give her students the skills they need for future success. “Everything kids are interested in today involves coding. They just aren’t aware of it,” she said. “When you discuss how video games, websites, apps, and so forth all use coding, they begin making real-world connections. I always introduce coding to my students by letting them know the jobs of the future don’t even exist yet. With their jobs likely involving computer science, it’s important to introduce coding at a young age and develop their skills as they get older.”

Bozeman was one of nine elementary teachers selected by Pitsco Education to pilot KUBO, a screen-free, plug-and-learn robot. In the January-February 2019 issue of The Pitsco Network, we highlighted a few of the early KUBO successes. Some of the pilot classrooms are showing exceptional promise, so we decided to dig a little deeper and gather more details on how KUBO and its accompanying resources can be used to give students a head start on their 2030 skills. Bozeman’s class was a logical starting point.

EXPLORATION TO IMPLEMENTATION

To begin with, Bozeman, who teaches pre-K to fifth grade, allowed her students to simply explore KUBO and the intuitive TagTiles® used for creating code. After students grew comfortable with moving KUBO around the map, she began implementing the free lesson plans available at KUBO.Education online. First up were lessons on routes and functions, and students progressed from there. “We will continue to progress through the lessons as they become more complex and then transition into block coding,” said Bozeman.

The lessons are a great resource to have, she said. “Any teacher will tell you, when implementing a new program or curriculum, it is always easier to have premade lessons available. Teacher time is valuable. With premade lessons, teachers are not having to think of ways to implement coding into the classroom, especially if the teacher is not comfortable teaching computer science. Teachers are also able to familiarize themselves with each lesson prior to implementation.”

INDEPENDENT LEARNING

“To navigate through such uncertainty, students will need to develop curiosity, imagination, resilience, and self-regulation; they will need to respect and appreciate the ideas, perspectives, and values of others; and they will need to cope with failure and rejection, and to move forward in the face of adversity” (The Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030).

Thanks to KUBO – and the creative mind of their teacher – Bozeman’s students are well on their way to learning these necessary skills. “When teaching the lessons, I tell the students to think of KUBO as a self-driving vehicle,” she explained. “If they aren’t using the right TagTiles, KUBO could potentially run into a wall, into another vehicle, and so forth. They have to fundamentally understand what movement each TagTile represents.”

In addition to real-world connections, KUBO helps instill problem-solving and collaboration skills. “Using KUBO has allowed a sense of freedom in instruction,” said Bozeman. “As we go through the lessons, there isn’t only one answer, but a multitude of solutions. Students work cooperatively to create paths and functions and receive immediate feedback from KUBO whether their path or function works. If their code is incorrect, they have to debug it and problem-solve the correct solution. Students are thinking through the steps prior to laying down the TagTiles. They’re mapping out their paths in their heads or discussing it as a group before deciding on a final solution.”

MAPPING OUT THE FUTURE

Bozeman is determined to continue building on these important lessons to ensure her students are prepared for whatever comes next. “STEAM careers are their future, so the more I can incorporate robotics, coding, engineering, and so forth into their day-to-day lives, the more prepared they are to tackle 21st-century problems.”

For now, that means moving from the KUBO map they’ve become familiar with to designing their own maps and challenging their classmates to code a path. “Students have just finished their KUBO mats and have had time to freely use KUBO without specific directions,” explained Bozeman, who seems thrilled with their progress. “Students are practicing vital skills such as problem-solving, cooperation, spatial awareness, how simulations can help solve real-world problems, application of new knowledge and vocabulary, and how to develop and present algorithms.”

With plans to begin learning subroutines soon, it seems there’s no end to the KUBO lessons Bozeman has in mind. And her lucky students will no doubt be ready for 2030 – and beyond!

“You don’t have to wait until they get to the intermediate grades to start teaching science because they’re very capable, science is very engaging, and it’s high interest for the little ones. It’s fun, and they can do it!”

– Shakeatha Butler, elementary science director, Duval County, Florida

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