School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins reacts with joy after putting together a robotics puzzle at a board meeting this week. For more on how SD8 is introducing technology into classrooms, see Page 3. Photo: Tyler Harper

School district brings robotics into the classroom

Students and teachers are being introduced to new tech

Once she figured out how to connect the cubes together, Christine Perkins’ eyes lit up brighter than the DIY flashlight she’d just made.

If that was the reaction School District 8’s superintendent had to new technology being introduced into classrooms, it’s easy to imagine how students take to it.

“At the beginning they get the little power blocks and they’re like, ‘There’s a switch on it! There’s a switch on it!’ And then they turn it on and ‘there’s a green light!’” said Brent Firkser, who along with Vanessa Finnie is working to give students and teachers their first taste of robotics and coding.

Firkser and Finnie showed off Cubelets — building blocks that sense movement and distance to encourage critical thinking and collaboration — at the district’s board meeting Tuesday.

The pair were hired in November to work for SD8’s Innovative Learning Services (ILS). The latest provincial curriculum, which began rolling out in September 2016, includes a section titled Applied Design, Skills and Technology meant to introduce students to technology-based learning.

Firkser and Finnie are currently taking the Cubelets to Grade 5 and 6 classes around the district, although they’ve also already worked with younger students as well. Once they are in the classroom, the pair like to let students figure out how to work the blocks on their own.

“We let them discover. I think it’s a really important part of the process,” said Finnie.

Naomi Ross left her role as principal of Wildflower School just this week to join Innovative Learning as its district vice principal. She wasn’t surprised by the reaction of the board to the Cubelets, which were invented at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University and have been sold commercially since 2012.

“Even as adults, you see this and you just want to play,” said Ross. “So any teacher, it’s a matter of once the kids get a hold of this they are hooked. This is like the 21st century Lego for students.”

Lorri Fehr, the director of ILS, determines which tech should be adopted by the district before it is rolled out by Firkser and Finnie. Ross said the district has also consulted with Nelson Tech Club founder Brad Pommen to find out what works best with kids.

Part of Firkser and Finnie’s job is also to introduce teachers and staff to new tech that can be taken back to classrooms. Ross said the hope is that eventually each school will have enough training and equipment to make robotics and coding as important to classrooms as blackboards.

“It’s an exciting time to be in education,” she said. “It’s an exciting time for teachers and it’s a really exciting time for kids.”



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Vanessa Finnie, who works with Brent Firkser to introduce robotics and coding into SD8 schools, shows trustee Bill Maslechko how to use technology being used in local classrooms. Photo: Tyler Harper

“The Cubelets work really well as an introduction to robotics and computational thinking,” says Brent Firkser. Photo: Tyler Harper

Just Posted

Bounty on West Kootenay northern pike

$10 a head reward for northern pike caught in Columbia, Kootenay and Pend d’ Oreille Rivers.

Nelson fire department douses blaze on CPR land

Nelson police are investigating

‘The Columbia River is on fire!’

Fishing columnist Kerry Reed on the great fishing in the Columbia River and Kootenay Lake

LETTERS: Proportional representation debate not balanced

From readers Marty Horswill and Steve Fawcett

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Non-union construction industry fears exclusion in B.C.

Premier John Horgan imposes ‘project labour agreements’ for public works

Trump, Putin sit down a bit late for closely watched summit

Trump and Putin arrived Monday at Helsinki’s presidential palace for a long-awaited summit.

In TV interview, Trump claims queen called Brexit ‘complex’

Asked the queen’s view on Brexit, Trump said: “She said it’s a very complex problem.”

Exotic corpse flower begins to emit its putrid scent at Vancouver conservatory

A unique and exotic tropical plant, acclaimed for its size and abhorred for its smell, is blooming at a Vancouver conservatory.

CREA reports June home sales down 10.7% from year ago, but up from May

The Canadian Real Estate Association says home sales in June were down 10.7 per cent compared with a year ago.

Tens of thousands give heroes’ welcome to Croatia team

Euphoria gave way to a mixture of disappointment and pride for Croatia fans after their national team lost to France in its first ever World Cup final.

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Most Read