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Reading, ‘Riting, & Robots? K-5 students learn programming at AES

Kindergarteners at Andalusia Elementary School have partnered with the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative to program robots as a way to increase their problem solving and critical thinking skills.

The robots are called “Blue-Bots,” because of their capability to connect to Bluetooth. Directional keys are used to enter commands, which send the Blue-Bot forward, backward, left and right. The robot is a tool for teaching counting, sequencing, estimation and problem solving.

This project is a part of their Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math Initiative or STEAM.

STEAM is a way to take the benefits of STEM and complete the package by integrating the arts.

Aria Bosley watches and learns as the teacher shows her how the robot works.

“It allows students to connect their learning in these critical areas,” Patti Taylor, curriculum coordinator of Andalusia City Schools, said. “The city council and the mayor have been very supportive.”

Along with the students, the teachers also have to receive training to use the equipment.

“We have to give proper training to the teachers as well,” Taylor said. “Especially with all the iPads we are using in the classrooms now.”

Taylor said that Sarah Mixon, a teacher at Andalusia High School, is teaching her students how to use code.

“I think what she is doing will become obsolete,” Taylor said. “Since we are teaching these kids basically what she teaches, the idea is that they will already have an accelerated comprehension of it so she will have to have a more advanced subject.”

Gary Odom, the information technology specialist at Andalusia City Schools, wants teachers to think outside of the box when it comes to technology.

“I don’t know of a time in history when we were teaching kids this early about programming robots,” Odom said. “It is all about engaging the students. When you engage them, there is not a discipline problem in sight.”

Odom said that the technology that they are using right now is only a tool to help with critical thinking and problem solving.

“The goal is to one day get this technology in the hands of every student at the school,” Odom said.

“We are training these kids so early so whenever they get in the real world, after graduation, they will be able to excel in whatever job area they are in,” Taylor said. “I think by doing this we are preparing them for whatever job they have.