Learning Robotics Online: Teaching a blended robotics course for secondary school students
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
This thesis explores the use of an online robotics course, in the context of Technology Education, for senior secondary school students in an urban New Zealand (NZ) school. The reasons for using an online course are discussed through investigating the need for quality resources to assist schools in providing students with appropriate learning experiences, and knowledge to enable them to make informed choices with respect to technology careers. There is a shortage of students pursuing technology careers and that in turn influences the NZ economy (Baron & McLaren, 2006).
The purpose of the study was to examine how an online robotics course can be used for teaching robotics and engaging students in a blended environment. The author planned, implemented, monitored and reviewed an online course in robotics through an action research approach using formative evaluation methods to determine the effectiveness of the individual action research cycles. After reflection at the end of each AR cycle, the online course was modified and updated to improve student engagement. Qualitative methods were used to analyse online discussions, classroom observations and discussions, and one to one interviews with the participants.
Research findings identified four themes that influenced student engagement with the online robotics course: access to the online course, the students’ background knowledge and skills, the students’ interaction with the online course and the students’ conation or internal motivation. The research findings are discussed in terms of areas that need to be addressed when using an online course to teach robotics. These areas are the course design, student considerations and course implementation. Course design, or how the course is structured, includes opportunities for students to develop their thinking skills, experiences and activities for learning, and opportunities for conversation and interaction. Course design must also accommodate student considerations. Student considerations focus on the needs of the learners and their readiness to ensure successful engagement in the online course in terms of their background knowledge and skills in electronics and Web 2.0 tools, their conation and their key competencies. Course implementation includes the factors that need to be taken into account in the execution of the online course such as reliable access to the online course, the students’ interactions with the online course, and the learning culture of the school and classroom, and the role of the teacher.
The thesis justifies the rational for using an online robotics course and describes how an online robotics course can address and advance student learning outcomes, how online tools can be used for assessment purposes, the aspects of course design that are successful for teaching robotics and online learning experiences that provide positive outcomes for students. Recommendations for teaching practice in terms of school-wide programmes to develop and support students’ digital literacy and key competencies, and teacher professional development in Technology Education and online robotics courses are provided. Suggestions for future research are given in terms of student conation, the development of critical thinking skills through forums and how teachers’ philosophies can be aligned to Technology Education and the intent of the NZ Curriculum.