Technology has, and always will be part of a teacher’s toolbox. A chalkboard, textbook, a data projector, Robotics sets, speakers, a computer and a tablet are all examples of tools used in a teaching and learning environment. The focus should not be on the tool used but rather on the skill that has to be developed.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that teachers be equipped with not only the knowhow of using the technological tools, but also have a set of skills to further equip them to be able to effectively use the tools. When teachers show or master these, as I like to call them, skills I believe learners will mimic them. Skills or attributes of the 21C classroom should include patience, adaptability, imagination, teamwork, risk taking, constant learning, communication, mentoring and leadership (“9 Useful Skills for Teachers,”2019). By introducing methods and approaches such as Project Based Learning (PBL) and Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) teachers as well as learners have a platform to gain confidence in the above mentioned skills.
In addition to these approaches, skills such as coding and robotic skills cannot be left behind. The platform used to teach and learn coding and Robotics should not be the focus, instead:
- Patience should be modeled and mastered not only to teach coding but to learn how to use whatever the platform of choice will be.
- Teachers and learners alike will need to adapt to change and start to realize the importance of being able to code and develop skills in Robotics.
- Using your imagination to envision the final robot, project or program will help learners to be more goal orientated.
- Realising the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your team members through teamwork will help learners to understand themselves and, in the end, it might even improve their ability to learn and have fun.
- Taking risks should be promoted. New learning methods and using new “tools” does not come without risk, but without taking a risk there will be no reward.
- Everyone, teachers and learners should strive to be life long learners. The coding and robotics environment is one where constant learning automatically takes place.
- Communication skills should be clear, concise and to the point. Best practice coding is exactly that.
- Mentoring and setting a good example of how to handle new situations and moving past a struggle or something you do not yet know how to do i.e. coding or putting a robot together will develop learners perseverance.
- Good leadership should be visible. Learners should have someone to turn to when they do not know what to do.
A fusion and a good balance between different teaching methods such as PBL and IBL and teaching coding and robotics skills is created and should be maintained by using the above mentioned skills that are all attributes of a natural born teacher. President Cyril Ramaphosa in his 2019 State of the Nation has said that coding and data analytics will be introduced at primary school level.
We ask the question: “Does the tool used to introduce coding and data analytics matter?” We cannot ignore the fact that a tool of some sorts must be used.
“Constructionism means learning by making something. What you learn in the process of making things that you care about sinks much deeper into the subsoil of the brain than what anyone can tell you” – Seymour Papert, Professor, MIT, Boston.
Having said this, we believe the skills to be mastered is more important than the “tool” that is used.