During the recent SONA address, one of the things President Ramaphosa announced and one that struck a very good cord with us is the introduction of Robotics and Coding in local schools. Specifically, the President gave clear signals that resources are going to be put behind the development of STEAM curricula which includes Robotics, coding and 4th IR technologies in SA schools. This is an area which needs to be addressed urgently – even where expensive resources are not yet in place, experts say.
“There is agreement that students need 21st Century skills like critical thinking, problem-solving and ICT skills as well as the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively if they are to be equipped to cope with a future in which the jobs they may land up doing hardly exist yet,” says Quinton Mulder, Academic Development Coordinator at ADvTECH Schools, SA’s leading private school group.
The means of doing this can range from the creation of dedicated spaces at schools such as the Makerspace at ADvTECH’s Crawford International campus in Ruimsig campus, which focuses on giving students the opportunity to explore, create, collaborate and communicate whilst using new age technologies such as 3D printers, iPads, laser cutters and Robotics.
But Christopher Seewald, Head of Technology and Information Technology at ADvTECH’s Pecanwood College, says while it can be daunting to start introducing Robotics at schools, particularly where high-end resources are not yet in place, it is essential for educators to start doing what they can to prepare for the entirely new economy of the future.
“Of course, not all schools can afford robots, but they can start introducing the basics of robotics. There is a myriad of resources online which can help start the ball rolling, and which can assist educators to see how they can enhance the existing curriculum and offering with theory and then application,” he says.
Mulder adds that schools need a clear vision and plan on how they will be implementing and developing skills within Robotics, coding and the maker revolution which should start as soon as Grade R. This is the approach taken at all ADvTECH schools – including the Crawford, Pinnacle and Trinity House groups of schools.
“The focus is on developing our students and getting them ready for a world full of possibilities and the unknown as well as focusing on vision 2030. By doing this we will contribute immensely in growing our future leaders,” he says.
But it is key for programmes to develop problem-solving and innovative, creative thinking and digital skills, and for them to be integrated into curricula rather than being approached as stand-alone extra mural activities, says Seewald.
“The skills needed can be built starting with the plethora of free resources available on the internet. And although we are privileged at our schools to back these up with some of the more exciting equipment, this is not necessary to get started,” he says.
*Educators can visit the following sites where free resources are made available:
- Swift Playground on iPad
Welcome to 21st century learning, what a time to be alive!
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