Eduporiam | How STEM Teachers Can 'Rev Up Robotics' in the Classroom or After School
by Andy Larmand
Jorge Valenzuela has become an influential figure in STEM education with experience in both classroom and online teaching as well as higher education instruction. He worked in the Richmond Public Schools system for 10 years, during which he helped supervise and grow the success of the district’s Technology and Engineering Education program by focusing on connecting academic and Career and Technical Education experiences. Currently, Jorge is the lead coach at Lifelong Learning Defined and an adjunct professor at Old Dominion University. He also works with the Teach Better Team and PBLWorks, but the main reason we’re excited to feature him is one of his latest projects – an in-depth educator guide called Rev Up Robotics, which has been labeled a ‘must-have’ for teachers who want to teach with robotics.
Jorge has always advocated for evidence-based strategies in teaching today’s students and maintains a commitment to that strategy in his PD sessions for teachers. He wants to help education leaders and classroom teachers redesign schools and classrooms by helping them better understand the direction of the workforce, how PBL and computational thinking can help prepare students, how to create greater equity through STEM education, and more. In Rev Up Robotics, Jorge has outlined various practices for how school leaders can more effectively incorporate computational thinking, robotics, and computer science into everyday lessons and use these techniques to actively enhance learning.
Throughout the book, Jorge focuses on outlining action steps for how educators can focus on bringing real-world computational thinking into K-8 classrooms (as the cover of the book reads). It also covers aligning these approaches with standards requirements, STEM and STEAM, project-based learning, and more, but, unlike other books on the topic, Jorge made it a point to focus on the cross-curricular integration of robotics in education.
Over the book’s 184 pages, Jorge touches on robotics and computer science in three major sections. The first part is dedicated to the basics – getting readers more familiar with educational robotics, explaining some of its real-world applications, and talking about how to teach the foundational skills students need to excel in computer science.
In Part 2, Jorge focuses on how robotics education can be put into practice. This includes the role of robotics tools in various academic content areas and also includes lesson plan ideas that teachers can use and connect to educational standards, including ISTE and CSTA standards. Finally, Part 3 is dedicated to pedagogical strategies that are backed by research and different techniques educators can take to teaching robotics whether that’s a PBL approach, integrating robotics as part of an afterschool club, or even leveraging robotics competitions to help teach students.
Overall, Rev Up Robotics serves as a pretty in-depth getting started guide for any school leader or classroom teacher who wants to start incorporating robotics in their instruction or expand on what they’re currently doing. There’s a look at how educators can move from programming basics to teaching the more complex languages as well as nods to resources from some of the major players in educational robotics and STEAM learning, like Ozobot, littleBits, VEX Robotics, code.org, and NASA. When writing the book, Jorge set out to provide a resource that educators could use to sharpen their knowledge in this particular area of instruction and gain a better understanding of the resources they can use to highlight computational thinking in the curriculum – something he delivered on.
Besides being the author of this great book, Jorge has also been a featured contributor for ISTE, been featured by littleBits, and written for Edutopia among others. He has received multiple awards from ISTE and has helped his company, Lifelong Learning Defined, grow into a trusted resource for educators. Rev Up Robotics can be found on both the ISTE website as well as on Amazon and you can follow Jorge on Twitter at @JorgeDoesPBL.