Coding and Robotics
Project code 10.2.7.A2-ESFNOP-INDIRE-2017-1
Axis I – “investing in competences, education and lifelong learning”
SO 10.2 – “Enhancement of key competences of students also thanks to the development of the capacities of teachers, trainers and staff”
Action 10.2.7 – “System actions for the identification of models, contents and innovative methods (adaptable to the local context)
Project duration: from 01/01/2016 to 31/12/2018
Extension of activities until 31/12/2019
Referent for the project and the line of research –Jessica Niewint
Since 2016, the research project, “Coding and robotics”, has been included in the multi-fund National Operational Programme (2014IT05M2OP001) “For schools – competences and learning environments” 2014 – 2020, financed under Axis I – “investing in competences, education and lifelong learning”.
In line with specific objective 10.2 “Enhancement of key competences of students also thanks to the development of the capacities of teachers, trainers and staff” and Action 10.2.7 – “System actions for the identification of models, contents and innovative methods (adaptable to the local context)”, the research project investigates if and how coding could support didactics that place the student at the centre of the knowledge creation process, and if coding can be applied to non-scientific subjects.
The themes of coding and robotics are significantly entering into Italian and European schools. There are numerous autonomous initiatives of schools, as well as training agencies carrying out this kind of activity inside or outside schools: form CoderDojo, robotics contests, innovative start-ups and Lego courses.
Indire’s interest relates to the possibility that coding and robotics may offer tools and methods functional to overcome frontal teaching and trigger off critical thinking processes in the students. Therefore, we focused on two main aspects: 1) the opportunities offered by these tools for laboratory lessons, and the designing of multidisciplinarity and verticality, involving teachers and students.; 2) the development of critical thinking and digital competences, that is, the way students face up to projects and the possible problems encountered.
These themes develop some typical aspects of laboratory activities, such as motivation deriving from students building and modelling their own artefacts creating a sense of belonging to these objects which incentivises facing up to difficulties, and reaching out for improving and alternative solutions; or contextualising knowledge with practical activities that favour the activation of inferential processes. Moreover, these activities support learning by favouring the transversality of disciplines, stimulating acquired knowledge re-elaboration and its use in different contexts.
Indire focuses its research on Coding and Robotics investigating how they can be used in the curriculum and the subjects, and experimenting with teachers didactical planning concerning curriculum and verticality. From a pedagogical perspective, these activities are based on the actions of the students who become the engine of knowledge. If adequately sustained, this process can generate increased awareness of self-learning and favour the development of cognitive processes. The action is based on student’s creation of cognitive artefacts/objects. These objects and their creation constitute a real complex laboratory activity. The teacher leads and support the student allowing the development of personalised learning paths, supporting him/her when stuck, letting him/her free to experiment, fail, retry and improve.
The first hypothesis it that this kind of activity can favour curricular innovation by acting on two specific axes: verticality and interdisciplinarity. The use of robotic mediators and coding activities create interesting opportunities for didactical design by the teachers and the consequent involvement of students of different ages. The other intervention axis is that concerning the design of interdisciplinarity, where disciplinary knowledge is used by the students to design and activate work and creation paths. Specifically, we are going to focus on the identification of what concerns the development of critical thinking and the capacity to work autonomously with complexity.
The main objectives of the projects can be summarised as follows:
- Developing designing tools to help at least two teachers in each school to carryout educational paths involving different age groups and subjects;
- verifying the feasibility of the path and highlighting its specific relation to the curriculum;
- formulating hypothesis of modification of the curriculum;
- designing paths and activities to be experimented in an increasing number of schools.
Six possible aspects of interest and impact, to be expanded through experimental activities and field observation, have been conceived for this research project: the methodology, the curriculum, the school organisation, the external agents, the knowledge of the autonomous self and the learning outcomes.
The aim of the research is therefore defining the links between its different aspects: the methodology underlies each aspect concerning the teacher and the student; the curriculum and the learning outcomes are related to the subjects that in turns are affected by school organisation and external agents. Lastly, the student achieves learning outcomes through practice that is influenced by methodology and encompassed in the curriculum, and develops his/her creativity in relation to all the other factors.
Research started with a small number of schools: 25 for Coding and 50 for Robotics for a total of 150 teachers involved. During the school year 2018/19 the experimentation will be expanded exploring possible uses of coding and robotics on a larger number of schools and examining their impact on the school system, on teaching methods and learning outcomes.
As far as coding is concerned, we are going to work on verticality by asking teachers of unified schools to design curricula experimentations involving different age groups and types of schools. As far as educational robotics is concerned, we are going to work on interdisciplinarity in the first cycle, with special attention to lower secondary school: in particular, we are going to investigate the use of robotics as a methodology through which different disciplines can collaborate during curricular time. As far as both coding and robotics are concerned, Indire will produce support tools for planning and will provide an environment to gather and publish documents.
Finally, some collaborations for the production of evaluation tools and validation of didactic activities carried out in the class, and for the study of models for the identification of excellences in the use of coding and robotics are currently underway, in order to produce best practices to be spread among the teachers’ community.