Getting Started with LEGO Robotics – An Interview With Mark Gura

Author - Mark GuraGetting Started with LEGO Robotics: A Guide for K-12 Educators is a new book from the The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

Written by Mark Gura the book was designed to be the “Goto” book for teachers and educators who are interested in incorporating Lego Robotics into their school environments, but don’t know where to start.

Mark was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book for The Brick Life.

Interview With Mark Gura

Brick Life: What is your background with LEGO Robotics?

Mark Gura:  As the former Director of The Office of Instructional Technology of New York City public schools, I supervised curriculum and professional development for all teachers in the areas of Science and Technology. LEGO Robotics was an important part of what we supported and encouraged teachers to do with their students.

BL: Why did you decide to write “Getting Started with LEGO Robotics”?

MG: I’ve come across so many people who see LEGO Robotics or hear about it and wonder “Is this something I can do?  I don’t have a background in Science or Science Education, what do I need to know?  How would I get started? What would I need in order to make this happen with kids?” The book answers all of that and provides all of the ‘next step’ info someone new to doing this with kids will need, as well.

BL: Is the book designed specifically for school-based teachers or is the appeal more broad?

MG: One of the wonderful things about LEGO Robotics is that they can be used in so many ways in so many situations and there is great STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning to be had in all of them.

LEGO Robotics offers a highly valuable educational payoff for students in informal settings as well as in organized school activities, and so the book is intended to be a very first line of information and support to anyone who wants to involve and guide kids in having fun with and learning through LEGO Robotics.

That could be a parent or Scout or Boys or Girls Club activity group or camp leader as well as a teacher or recreational leader in a school.

BL: My son loves Lego and he can spend hours designing and creating a model but his curriculum based school achievement is below the average of students his age. I had hoped Lego Robotics would provide a bridge to STEM subjects but he has shown a limited interest, I think it overwhelms him. There isn’t a Robotics group at his school so are there small steps parents can take to encourage a child’s interest?

Generally, kids love to work with LEGO Robotics. However, if they don’t “get it” (by that I mean, intuit how to make a robot that works, that functionally does some of the things they’d like it to do) they can become discouraged and lose interest.

LEGO Robotics really seems to work best as a social activity.

Kids love to trade discoveries, “how to” tips, and successes. If you need to encourage a youngster to engage in LEGO Robotics activities and there are no peers for him to work with, then sharing experiences online with others may be an approach to approximate much of the social dimension to this brand of learning.

A search will reveal online meeting places like “MOCpages (My Own Creation) Share Your LEGO Creations” http://www.mocpages.com. These sites are established to facilitate virtual sharing and interaction among LEGO users and enthusiasts. Adults will find useful suggestions in LEGO Education’s “Community” section of its website http://community.legoeducation.us/blogs.

Importantly, the guiding adult may want to take more of an active, playmate/co-learner role to jumpstart a lone youngster’s LEGO Robotics involvement. It is important to keep in mind that the teaching and learning experts in this area (and I present the best advice of over a dozen of them in the book) advise that LEGO Robotics truly is a ‘learning by doing’ as opposed to a ‘learning by studying first’ opportunity.

The adult need not be an expert before working with youngsters, but rather understand how to be a co-learner or a learning facilitator and the material in the book discusses this at length.

One last thing, there is a continuum in the level of challenge in students’ initial learning curve as they become adept and comfortable in working with LEGO Robotics. The Activities chapter of my book uses this as an underlying framework, suggesting that students begin by building first a static, then a moving robot, and then adding probes/sensors. The programming curve is similar. This is important because as they learn by doing LEGO Robotics, kids need to have successes to inform and inspire further exploration and reflection.

BL: Does the book address the use of the NXT generation of LEGO Robotics or the older Mindstorms generation?

MG: Actually, it covers both thoroughly. I went to great pains to demystify the materials issues – what they are, how they work, how to organize and maintain them with groups of youngsters, that sort of thing.

BL: Can you give us more of an idea of what is covered in the book?

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MG: Suggestions for activities, “How To” tutorial information, long lists of resources, deep reflections on the educational value of LEGO Robotics and where and how it can be integrated into the rest of the educational experience… and most  importantly, interviews with people who’ve been doing this for a long time and who share their best advice for newcomers.

BL: Lastly, where can readers purchase the book?

MG: The book was just published by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) and it can be purchased from their online bookstore or from Amazon and other online book sellers.

Thanks for your time Mark.

“Getting Started With Lego Robotics” By Mark Gura

Getting Started with LEGO RoboticsWouldn’t it be nice if there was a golden ticket to STEM education? Something that incorporated science, technology, math, and the most elusive of all, engineering?

What if it could be applied as part of a lesson, as a class on its own, or as an after-school club? Sound too good to be true?

Its not. The golden ticket is robotics.

Its hard to find a better way to teach STEM education. And the best part is its hands on, multidisciplinary, collaborative, an authentic learning experience, and engaging!

LEGO Robotics has exploded in popularity, but despite the obvious benefits, many educators are hesitant to begin a program in their school because it seems challenging.

Mark Gura has written this book to encourage you to give robotics a try.

Although starting a robotics program may seem like a daunting task, Gura brings together the information you need and presents it in a manageable, organized way so that you learn what LEGO Robotics is, what student activities look like, how to begin, how to manage a class, how robotics relate to standards, and much more.

Lego Robotics Kit

Gura concludes with more than a dozen interviews with educators, trainers, and even a student, so you can receive first-hand advice and recommendations.

After reading this book you will be on your way to introducing your students to LEGO Robotics activities and competitions!

Features

A comprehensive introduction to LEGO Robotics, from a description of the materials to advice on classroom set-up and curricular integration.

Recommendations for implementing LEGO Roboticsas a FIRST LEGO League team, an extracurricular club, or as a class
An appendix with more than 100 resources including links to materials, information on getting started, videos, and more

Topics include:

LEGO Robotics
STEM education
multidisciplinary instruction
project-based learning

You can purchase a copy of Getting Started With Lego Robotics now at Amazon.

 

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