Thursday, January 14, 2021

artbotics curriculum proposal

Here’s a proposal I put to my school about a new course, called Artbotics, a combination or portmanteau of Art and Robotics.

Proposal: That a new, experimental class be created to trial an integrated curriculum STEAM approach in the Middle School in 2021. This particular integrated curriculum would combine Science, Digital Technology, Engineering skills, Art and Maths in a Design, Make and Appraise format.

Curriculum Goals possibilities: Two possibilities are mentioned here: Students would be skilled up to the level where they can, usually working in a team, design and make projects that:
A) they find personally and / or socially meaningful. These projects will be displayed publicly as part of their evaluation
B) can be used to help educate other students. These projects will be evaluated by testing them against other students in a cross age tutoring context.

Implications: For it to work well these changes would need to be made:

  • Block times of 2 sequential lessons, eg. 2*2 = 4 lessons a week. Achieve more curriculum integration by having the same teacher(s) for the same class in Maths and / or Science and / or Art.
  • Team teaching desirable for upskilling of some other teachers
  • Projects involve planning, building, coding and testing. Necessary skills include problem solving, dealing with complexity, persistence in the face of difficulties, teamwork, communication and flexibility. Assessment should be structured against these traits.

Class composition: This could be Year 7 or Year 8. Or, vertically integrated across 7, 8 and 9 (possibly a gifted class). Or, an extension of the Polly Farmer concept into the mainstream curriculum (indigenous class).

Gender balance is important so the outcomes do not reflect “toys for the boys”. The art and craft components of the projects should have appropriate weight. Artbotics rather than robotics. Build provocative, tangible sculptures with robotic actuation and sensing. The curriculum content can help build a gender neutral culture as follows:

  • Themes not just challenges
  • Encourage story telling
  • Exhibitions rather than competitions

Rationale: Different rationales can be argued:
1 The new literacy: Multimedia (music, sounds, animation) + block coding (eg. Scratch, Make Code etc. has become the new dominant literacy (replacing print). Everyone should have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the new literacy

2 The computing revolution has moved on. The new game changers are physical computing and fabrication labs (growing exponentially around the world). The inventor of Makey Makey, Jay Silver, expresses the movement of computer labs outwards in this way, “the world as a construction kit”

3 Anticipating the future:
“The future is here today: it’s just not very evenly distributed” William Gibson Fab Labs are the new big idea. A fully fledged Fab Lab is expensive but could be developed, with Government support, as a Community Drop in Centre. The global digital world interacts and informs the local physical world is where our society has evolved to. In one phrase: bits to atoms. This becomes more relevant in a post COVID world where human movement is restricted.  

Bernstein, Debra. Developing Technological Fluency through Creative Robotics (2010)
Cross, Jennifer. Identifying and Cultivating Diverse STEM Talent through Creative Robotics (2014)

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