By Dr. Gregory Firn, COO
Children begin learning immediately after birth. From their first words, to first steps and first day of pre-school, they’re filled with an innate curiosity that’s only satiated by engaging in their own unique problem-solving schemas: Hungry? Mom must have food. Tired? Time for a nap (or a meltdown). Bored? Dinosaur Train is only a click away.
Each child has his or her own process for attaining the same result, whether it’s to eat, sleep or have fun. Maybe one hungry child finds a way to sneak a few cookies before dinner while another prefers an orange. Both children have attained the same goal, yet chose different processes to do so. This learned ability to choose their own path to achieve a goal changes the moment they step through their classroom doors.
Most K-12 schools are destination-based environments, where the process doesn’t matter as much as the outcome, and students must follow the same path as their peers to achieve the intended goal. The U.S. education system follows this model, and it forces educators to teach to the middle, putting some students at a disadvantage and prohibiting others from reaching their full potential. Students don’t all learn at the same speed as their peers, and some may be visual learners versus verbal, and so on – all variables that, if not incorporated into a curriculum, can hinder a student’s ability to learn.
This situation puts educators at an unfortunate fork in the road. After years of following traditional, test-driven, “destination-based” lesson plans, too many students are being left behind, without the skills and abilities needed to advance to the next level, let alone successfully thrive in a workplace. It’s time to follow a more process-driven approach, where each student is empowered to learn at his own pace in a manner that best suits him. Instead of focusing on the results of standardized testing, we must put the emphasis on what students learn in the journey of education: soft skills such as collaboration, creativity, innovation and critical thinking among them – skills that are learned through disciplines like next generation coding and programming.
These soft skills lend themselves well to careers in any field – I challenge you to name a career that doesn’t require some level of creativity or critical thinking. Even if you’re not a mathematician or an engineer, thinking like one, applying the scientific method to problem-solving nonscientific problems, is a skill worth having. While far too many K-12 teachers are focused on preparing students for standardized assessments that benchmark the success of school districts across the nation, educators should instead consider ways to make learning more collaborative, fun and personalized for each student. Emphasizing the process allows students to analyze and problem-solve in a way that’s easier for them to understand, and ultimately, prepares them for a more fruitful future, regardless of their career.
Learn more about how RoboKind’s robots4STEM program offers all students, regardless of ethnicity or gender, a chance to learn foundational coding and programming skills at their own pace.