Taking Robotics Teaching in Computer Science Digital
VEXcode VR utilises a pre-built virtual robot that features a drivetrain to help navigation, sensors that can be used to solve challenges and a pen that allows students to code a creative drawing. Students can choose from different virtual 3D Playgrounds, including a grid map, an art canvas, and a walled maze to use the virtual robot’s features.
The software contains tutorial videos that can guide students to get started and there is help available for each block. Just select the help icon and choose a block to see the features of the block and examples of how the block can be used. VEXcode VR also has a number of Activities that cover the basic movements, the sensors and more advanced challenges. All of the materials are student-facing so teachers don’t have to adjust or create anything but can, as they are Google Docs. All of these Activities are mapped to the English and Scottish curricula.
Teachers can also gain a free online certification in the use of the software and gain an understanding in how it can be used to teach Computer Science in the classroom. Visit https://certifications.vex.com/educator/vexcode-vr-certifications to access this course. VEX Robotics have long recognised the importance of CPD and the ability to work at your own pace is a huge advantage to the online learning offered here.
Educational robotics serves Computer Science education in many ways. Robots are fun and they can help bring Computer Science to life. Also, the everyday relevance of robots in the lives of students provides a natural and authentic hook for student learning. The process of developing coding solutions with a robot provides a relevant context for engaging students in Computer Science. Robots utilise physics and sensors in addition to Computer Science further integrating Computer Science into STEM. The challenges in the Virtual Playgrounds help to contextualise STEM learning and provide the authentic inquiry that best promotes student learning.
Since there is no syntax when programming with blocks, many assume that the difficulty in transitioning from blocks-to-text programming is the learning of the syntax in a text-based programming language. VEXcode VR attempts to scaffold the transition from blocks to text-based programming by providing a visual representation of the Python language as the students create their project in blocks. Students can also convert their VEXcode Blocks project to a Python project–allowing them to make additional changes in Python. If students are learning a new programming concept (e.g. making a variable), they can begin to apply that knowledge in blocks and then convert their project to Python. Using the Code Viewer allows the transition from blocks-to-text to be much easier for students and teachers.
The impact on teachers has been immediate, Michael Cronk, Head of Computer Scicence at Colyton Grammar School commented, “We are excited to use VEXCode VR in the classroom. We already use VEX IQ to bring coding to life with KS3 and this will enable us to increase engagement in lessons as it eliminates the need to wait for a robot or the field on which to test code. We plan to blend the use of VEXCode VR and VEX IQ”. This is just one example of where the virtual will link with the physical and how VEXcode VR can be used to build on the learning offered using the physical hardware.
For more information on the software visit http://vexcode.vex.com or go to https://vr.vex.com to get started immediately.
Paul McKnight, Head of Operations (EMEA), VEX Robotics