Primary schools and University to explore learning benefits of computing and robotics

Primary schools are being given an insight into the potential benefits of computer science and robotics thanks to a research project involving Plymouth University.

Robo21c aims to complement recent changes to the school curriculum by developing teachers’ skills and understanding of robotics and programming.

It also plans to enable primary school pupils to use and apply their acquired skills to become responsible, confident and creative users of ICT.

The three-year project, funded through a €262,000 grant from the Erasmus+ programme, involves 11 schools and higher education institutions across Europe.

They include Plymouth University and three local schools – St Andrew’s C of E Aided Primary School in Buckland Monachorum, Ermington Primary School and Ugborough Primary School – alongside partners in Spain, Malta, Lithuania and Denmark.

Dr Jan Georgeson, Research Fellow in Early Education Development, is working on the project alongside academics from the Plymouth Institute of Education and the School of Computing Electronics and Mathematics. She said:

“There have been changes to the schools curriculum for computing, which place far greater emphasis on introducing younger children to coding and programming. But in order to do that, you need teachers who are comfortable with the technology and who are able to give pupils the best grounding in this 21st century field. Using robots is to proven as a great way of connecting with young people, and we hope they will enable us to engage the potential programmers of the future.”

The Robo21C project will work with children aged four to 11 through the use of Blue-bots, iPad and Bluetooth compatible systems which can help children code, debug and devise their own algorithms.

It will also support current teachers and influence the content of initial teacher education, with a series of questionnaires assessing any changes in their comfort in using the technology.

There will also be elements exploring ways to introduce young people to entrepreneurialism, and how to incorporate lessons learned into ongoing and future education research.

Justin Jones, the Deputy Headteacher at St Andrew’s School in Buckland Monachorum, Devon, has worked on many school and university projects throughout Europe. He said:

“The fast pace of development in recent decades means our pupils are growing up in an age dominated by computer technology. It is crucial they have an understanding of its potential impact on their futures, and that we as teachers are in a position to provide them with the level of information and skills they need. This exciting project will hopefully go some way to meeting both those aims, and our students will learn and apply new skills by the means of collaborative learning and project based learning across Europe.”

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