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13 Νοε 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 11 μήνες)

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LEGO WeDo

Steve Coxon and Kim Chandler

Overview


A robot is a machine that acts autonomously

via computer programs written to use
motors to respond to input from sensors
.
All LEGO robotics systems allow children

to create
working
, autonomous

robots using L
EGO bricks, motors, and sensors.

LEGO WeDo
robotics
system
is similar to other LEGO robotics systems such as the NXT, but scaled down for
ages 6
-
9
.
The WeDo includes one motor and two sensors

along with hundreds of other LEGO elements
and software
.


Studen
ts can build any of 12 robots by using the step
-
by
-
step directions in WeDo’s
software tutorial.
However, because of the nature of LEGO bricks,
possible
student creations are
only limited by
children’s

imaginat
ions
.
The LEGO WeDo not only includes the usual

bricks,
but also has gears,
wheels,
rubber bands, string, sensors, and motors.

Bui
l
ding provides many
opportunities for learning about simple machines, especially gears, wedges, and pulleys.
Other

physics concepts can be incorporated, such as kinetic and
potential energy,

along with
engineering princip
l
e
s including gear ratios, design processes, and creat
ive problem solving
activities.


Students write programs
using an
easy
-
to
-
learn, drag
-
and
-
drop block programming
language

to tell their robot what to do.

Student
-
written programs tell the WeDo motor how to
react based on input from its sensors.
The motor can be turned on and off, left or right, at
multiple power settings for any desired length of time.
LEGO WeDo has two sensors, one for
motion and one for t
ilt, as well as a timer and random number generator. For example, a student
can build an alligator that closes its mouth
(i.e., the motor turns one direction for a short length
of time)
when the motion sensor detects motion.
Computer programming provides o
pportunity
for learning logical thinking skills.


The WeDo is now also part of an academic competition for children ages 6
-
9, the Junior
FIRST LEGO League (JFLL). The JFLL is similar to the
FIRST LEGO League (
FLL
)

for ages
9
-
14 and the FIRST Robotics compe
tition for high school students. The competitions all involve
students building and program robots to compete with other teams while also studying an
annually
-
determined real world science theme of current interest.

Research


The LEGO WeDo
has only recentl
y been released and there is no research

regarding its
educational value

has been conducted
. However, as it is very similar to other LEGO robotics
systems, such as the RCX and NXT, it is very likely that the more substantial research findings
from those sy
stems
, particularly the research from the FLL which involves students of similar
age,

will be applicable to
children using
LEGO WeDo.

The educational benefits of using LEGO
robotics are numerous for children, particularly in science, technology, engineerin
g, and math
(STEM) domains. Melchior, Cutter, and Cohen (2004) conducted a survey of several hundred
FLL

participants, t
heir parents, and their coaches

and found that
94% or more of all students
participating in
FLL

had increases in interest in STEM

subjec
t
s
, programming skills, problem
-
solving skills, teamwork skills, and leadership skills.

Coxon (2010) reviewed the
FLL

competition and suggests that

s
tudents involved in the year’s science theme can become active
researchers, turning it into a tangible and
meaningful inquiry experience that can then be shared
with a real world audience.
Geet
er, Golder, and Nordin (2002) conducted a study of m
iddle
school students competing in FLL gained a better understanding of engineering; improved
creative thinking, criti
cal thinking, and problem
-
solving skills; and increased self
-
confidence
levels, interest, and involvement in science and math.


LEGO robotics use is also
potentially
beneficial
for enhancing
students’ spatial abilities

(Coxon, 2009)
, which are needed in ma
ny STEM fields including architecture, surgery,

dentistry,

engineering, design, and the physical sciences (
Wai, Lubinski, & Benbow, 2009
).
Verner (2004)
has used pre
-

and post
-
measures of middle and high school students participating in a robotics
curricul
um using kinematics, point
-
to
-
point motion, rotation of objects, and robotic assembly of
spatial puzzles and found significant student progress in the tasks related to spatial ability
,
suggesting that treatments with spatial tasks, such as LEGO robotics, c
an improve spatial ability.
Oppliger (2002) suggests its use to increase the pool of future engineering students.
Petre and
Price (2004) conducted a qualitative study and determined that the use of LEGO robotics gave
students an

e
ffective understanding of
programming and engineering principles.
Most
importantly, the researchers found that the skills they learned building and programming with
LEGO robotics were transferable to other engineering and computer programming situations.
Williams, Ma
, Prejean, Ford
, and Lai (2007)

found that p
hysics content knowledge was
improved in a study of robotics in a middle school summer program.
Waks and Merdler (2003)
found that d
esigning, building, and programming a
LEGO

robot pushes students’ spatial
reasoning and
creativ
e problem solving

abilities.


Educational Applications


The time for incorporating technology simply because it is available has passed. Despite
“gee
-
wow” factors, teachers must ensure appropriate educational applications of any technology
to be used in to
day’s standards
-
based classrooms with high
-
stakes testing. In the case of LEGO
WeDo, there are many connections to national and state standards, particularly in science. While
the correlations are sometimes not direct, they are sufficiently strong to jus
tify the use of LEGO
WeDo in an elementary science or math program, especially one for spatially gifted students
who should be challenged daily in their areas of strength for positive academic and affective
outcomes (Coleman & Cross, 2005; Rogers, 2007).

T
he Standards of Learning (SOLs) in the state of Virginia will be used for illustrative
purposes in this paper. LEGO WeDo activities can be correlated directly to the science standards
kindergarten through fourth grade. The teacher, however, must be capab
le of making strong,
deliberate linkages between the science content and the LEGO activities.

Virginia standards related to force, motion, and energy (i.e., SOLs 1.2, 3.2, 4.2, and 4.5)
are most relevant for utilizing WeDo in the science program. In parti
cular, students can observe
many of the characteristics of simple machines by constructing working robots. Wheel and axles
(including gears), pulleys, wedges, screws, inclined planes, and levers can all be incorporated in
WeDo creations.

The standards rel
ated to scientific investigation, reasoning, and logic, including the
scientific method (Virginia SOLs K.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.1, and 4.1) may also be met through use of the
WeDo materials. Teachers could instruct students to design and conduct experiments relat
ed to
concepts such as force, motion, and energy. Many possibilities are also available for embedded
measurement skills such as designing a car that will travel a specific distance.

Standards related to ecosystems (Virginia SOLs
K.6, 1.4, 1.7, 2.4, 2.5, 3
.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.9,
and
3.10
) may also be covered. As students construct various animals, their work could be
extended through a study of an animal’s ecosystem. For example, students could build an
alligator and study swamps, food webs, or natural resourc
es.

Human senses can be understood through WeDo robotics. A teacher could have students
investigate how robots sense the world and compare and contrast this to how human beings use
their senses. This is often appropriate to kindergarten standards (e.g., V
irginia SOL K.2).


Additional educational applications of LEGO WeDo that may or may not be incorporated
in state standards are engineering, spatial skill building, and computer programming. The
materials are ideal for introducing basic concepts of enginee
ring and computer programming.
Additionally, spatial skill building, which is seldom taught directly in school, but is necessary in
many STEM fields (Wai, Lubinski, and Benbow, 2009), is easily reinforced through the use of
LEGO (Coxon, 2009). For gifted

education programs in which the identification protocol
involves a spatial reasoning test, this offers an ideal solution for meeting the needs of those
students who are highly able in regards to their spatial abilities.

Affordances and Constraints


There
are numerous affordances and constraints that may be associated with the use of
LEGO robotics in the instructional setting. The educational applications should be considered in
view of these factors in order to make a judicious decision about the use of r
esources and
instructional time.


A major affordance of the LEGO WeDo system is the hands
-
on, active nature of the
learning that occurs. The program is highly engaging to students because it provides a real world
experience that seems like play; as studen
ts participate in the tutorials, problem
-
solving, and
building activities, they are practicing the skills of the discipline of science. Because students
are typically working in pairs, they are also practicing the important skills of collaboration and
co
operation.


The LEGO WeDo materials develop and challenge spatial abilities, which are correlated
with STEM success. The building component requires students to view the figure in a two
-
dimensional drawing and then build using LEGO bricks in a three
-
dimen
sional setting. Such
skills can be transferred to other spatial reasoning problems.


The LEGO WeDo materials lend themselves to an interdisciplinary approach, as students
can integrate their knowledge from several subjects in order to resolve problems. A
dditionally,
the teacher can craft an instructional unit so that multiple content areas ar
e covered through the
use of their creations
. A case in point is the example mentioned previously where the students
build an alligator and study swamps, food webs,
or n
atural resources.

I
n such a unit, the teacher
could cover multiple science standards, geography standards related to the location and nature of
the ecosystem, mathematics standards related to data collection and recording, and language arts
standards r
elated to writing, research, and oral presentation skills.


Another affordance is introducing children to the logic of computer programming in a
simple and entertaining way. Through the use of
drag
-
and
-
drop blocks
, students can learn how
programming work
s

including the use of repeat loops
, without having to worry about learning
a
complex

language.

The WeDo can also work with MIT’s Scratch programming language,
allowing students to create computer games that interact with their WeDo robot.

This
understand
ing also allows students to “see behind the scenes” about how gaming works.


A final affordance of the LEGO WeDo materials is the support available in the form of
tutorials

included with the software
. With little assistance, a young child can easily prog
ress
through the building process by viewing the step
-
by
-
step pictorial directions. Students view the
figure in a two
-
dimensional drawing and then build using LEGO bricks.


One constraint of the LEGO WeDo materials relates to financial issues. The cost o
f each
kit is currently about $140. Additionally, access to a computer is required to use each kit.
Related to this is the fact that the program can only be done in the classroom; a student cannot
generally
take home work

related to WeDo
.


A second const
raint concerns the instructional aspect of the program. The teacher must
have at least a minimal background in basic tenets of computer programming; this may represent
a significant learning curve for the teacher working with the materials for the first t
ime. There is
also a time factor, as initially a great deal of direct instruction and guided practice for the
students must be built into the schedule. Although there are many connections to national and
state standards, particularly in science, some tea
chers may feel that the program cannot be
aligned sufficiently to justify the time commitment for the program.

A final constraint relates to classroom management issues. The affordance of promoting
hands
-
on, active learning could also become a constraint,

if the teacher has not carefully
considered how to manage the classroom environment. Like any LEGO product, the WeDo
system contains numerous bricks and other small pieces; this requires the teacher to be
systematic in his organization of both instructio
n and materials.

References

Coleman, L. J., & Cross, T. R. (2005).
Being gifted in school

(2
nd

ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock.

Coxon, S. V. (2009). Challenging neglected spatially gifted students with FIRST LEGO League.
Addendum to Leading Change in Gifted Educ
ation
. Williamsburg, VA: Center for Gifted
Education. Retrieved from http://cfge.wm.edu/Documents/Festschrift
Supplement.pdf#page=25

Coxon, S. V. (2010). FIRST LEGO League, the sport of the mind.
Teaching for High Potential,

Winter, 6
-
8.

Geeter, D. D., Gol
der, J. E., & Nordin, T. A. (2002).
Creating engineers for the future
.
Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual
Conference & Exposition.

Melchior, A., Cutter, T., & Cohen, F. (2004). Evaluation of FIRST LEGO League. Waltham
,
MA: Center for Youth and Communities, Brandeis University. Retrieved from
http://www.usfirst.org/who/content.aspx?id=46

Oppliger, D. (2002, Nov. 6
-
9).
Using FIRST LEGO League to enhance engineering education
and to increase the pool of future engineering

students (work in progress)
. Boston: 32
nd

ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference.


Petre, M., & Price, B. (2004). Using robotics to motivate ‘back door’ learning.
Education and
Information Technologies
,
9
(2), 147
-
158.

Rogers, K. B. (2007). Lessons le
arned about educating the gifted and talented: A synthesis of the
research on educational practice.
Gifted Child Quarterly, 51
(4), 382
-
396.

Verner, I. M. (2004). Robot manipulations: A synergy of visualization, computation and action
for spatial instructio
n.
International Journal of Computers for Mathematical Learning, 9
,
213
-
234.

Wai, J., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2009). Spatial ability for STEM Domains: Aligning over
50 years of cumulative psychological knowledge solidifies its importance.
Journal of

Educational Psychology, 101
(4), 817
-
835.

Waks, S., & Merdler, M. (2003). Creative thinking of practical engineering students during a
design project.
Research in Science & Technological Education, 21
(1), 101
-
121.

Williams, D. C., Ma, Y., Prejean, L., Ford
, M. J., & Lai, G. (2007). Acquisition of physics
content knowledge and scientific inquiry skills in a robotics summer camp.
Journal of
Research on Technology in Education
,
40
(2), 201
-
216.