By Jason Innes
With millions of dollars of ESSER funding (as well as other federal, state, and local grants) still available, the smartest edtech investments are the ones that meet the following criteria:
- Are research-backed and deliver evidence-based solutions.
- Provide flexible, ongoing professional development.
- Offer hours of curriculum to support any subject.
Let’s dive deeper into each of these points to prove the case for bringing coding and robotics into young learners’ hands to support the development of computational thinking and invaluable science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) skills.
1. Evidence of effect is critical.
Early childhood educators seeking funds for edtech should focus on research-backed solutions. When looking to introduce STEAM robotic solutions for children in preK through 5th grade, rely on research to prove the importance of introducing coding robots at a young age. For instance, the decades of research behind the screen-free KIBO robot show that even the youngest students can learn sequencing and coding in a fun and engaging way, regardless of curriculum. Powerful, positive learning outcomes for young learners when working with robotics include the following:
- Improved sequencing ability in early childhood.
- Mastery of foundational coding and robotics skills.
- Integration of robotics across curricula.
- Positive impact on underrepresented groups in STEM fields.
2. Ongoing professional development supports success.
Effective professional development (PD) assists long after the implementation of the product. PD lets educators embrace a solution and make it their own, customize it to their school’s needs, and understand how to pace the curriculum to allow students time to explore and experiment. Thanks to significant (but time-limited!) stimulus spending in education, educators can use ESSER funds to secure technology and devices, but also professional development to begin implementation right away and feel comfortable with the solutions purchased.
3. Embedded curriculum makes all the difference.
Edtech products that are paired with out-of-the-box curriculum are also must-haves. The accompanying curriculum should be designed to engage children in the full range of powerful ideas in creative coding and robotics, from beginner to advanced use.
After working through the curriculum, young children will be able to develop their computational thinking, engineering, and STEAM skills in a playful way. Most importantly, when educators are comfortable with delivering the robotics curriculum, children will be able to use robotics and coding to express themselves, explore interests, and connect and collaborate with peers. Educators should also look for curriculum that is aligned with both ISTE and CSTA standards, as well as their own state standards.
If educators find the right playful STEAM robotics solutions to take advantage of available funding, they can create an ideal early education environment—classrooms bubbling with engaged students asking questions, children learning from one another, and peers excitedly helping each other find answers. Be sure to prove the case with the tips above and bring in the funding for proven solutions that will engage young learners in creative STEAM learning and inspire their (and your) success.
Jason Innes is director of curriculum, training, and product management at KinderLab Robotics, Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.