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

The new mayor of Trail is …

Preliminary results after voting closed Saturday at 8 p.m., includes results from two advanced polls

Fruitvale votes in a new mayor

Preliminary results after voting closed Saturday at 8 p.m.

Mayor of Warfield re-elected

Preliminary results after voting closed Saturday at 8 p.m., includes results from two advanced polls

A new mayor for Montrose

Preliminary results after voting closed Saturday at 8 p.m., includes results from two advanced polls

Austin Engineering takes expertise from Trail to Quebec

“It’s really a privilege to be … presenting at this level,” says Mary Austin, director of development.

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Prank pizzas delivered to B.C. mayor on election night

The fake orders happened throughout Victoria mayor’s re-election campaign

MLA to become Nanaimo’s next mayor, could weaken NDP’s grasp on power

Leonard Krog’s win will trigger a byelection when he gives up his provincial seat

Horvat nets OT winner as Canucks beat Bruins 2-1

Young Vancouver star had spirited scrap earlier in contest

Team Canada gold medal winners for first time in world curling championship

Team Canada earned gold in Kelowna at the 2018 Winn Rentals World Mixed Curling Championship

B.C. passenger caught smoking weed in a car issued $230 fine

Saanich police did a field sobriety test on the driver and deemed it safe for him to drive

Payette invites critics to ‘come and spend a few days’ with her

Governor General Julie Payette made her first official to B.C. back in March

More pot stores expected in B.C. in coming ‘weeks and months’: attorney general

Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth visited the new BC Cannabis Store in the province’s Interior

Telus launches charitable foundation to help vulnerable youth

The Telus Friendly Future Foundation complements other social initiatives by the company, including Mobility for Good

Most Read