The Lexden Springs Special School caters to pupils aged 13-14 with complex learning difficulties as well as those on the Autistic spectrum continuum. In their small gender-mixed classrooms, they used Robo Wunderkind kits as part of the ‘Exploration and discovery’ classes.
At Lexden Springs, pupils were led to use Robo Wunderkind in tasks which had problem-solving as their key objective. Nicola Paton, a specialized SEN (special education needs) educator, delivers all lessons to her class via a specialized curriculum, while focusing on computing. Hence – STEAM tools were the perfect fit to her daily job.
This was her verdict on Robo Wunderkind:
‘Robo Wunderkind is unique in its ability to be transformed into multiple different options for learning.’
The colour-coded blocks have an exceptional functionality and variety of use similar to Lego blocks, which is also a favorite tool of Lexden Springs pupils. Therefore, getting used to the logic of using Robo was not hard at all. The class mainly relied on Robo Live classes, the real-time coding option, with some exploration going into Robo Code – the more advanced stage for plan-ahead coding. Robo Live was used to navigate areas of the classroom and create obstacle courses to increase the challenge.
‘I love that my pupils are eager to take all the pieces out of the box and start fitting them together immediately. They are always so enthusiastic. My pupils with Autistic Spectrum Conditions seem particularly engaged and love to use the build visuals.’
She used an adaptive version of the Robo Wunderkind teacher’s guide to make the night light out of Robo, and wrote her own plans to support and provide details to her supporting adults. This focused on the building work itself and also on co-operation between pupils as well as their presentation work of the results.
Tools like Robo Wunderkind aren’t only great to teach specific STEM-related skills, but also communication, co-operation, presentation, negotiation, and more. This is especially relevant for special-needs children to whom some of these skills do not come naturallyl. Nicola mentioned that the more advanced functionality of Robo Wunderkind like Robo Blockly was challenging to her pupils, but the point of STEM is not necessarily just to allow students to advance straight ahead in terms of complexity. It is a means, not an end. And as with any means, wonderful insights can be gained into complex topics. In this case, Robo Wunderkind helped deliver the playful message of how empowering and enlightening exploring technology can be for any curious young mind. But at the same time – it was also so much more:
- Understanding cause and effect
- To think of different ways to solve a practical problem (broadening horizons)
- To accept ideas from partners during negotiation in order to reach a compromise (soft skills)
- To compare objects and understand correspondence, to repeat patterns and sequences, to estimate things (programming logic applied to real life)
Pupils used iPads to control their robots and explore all that could be achieved with just a few building blocks. ‘The Robo Wunderkind kit is a robust, practical tool that provides the opportunity for hands-on trial-and-error approaches to problem-solving with immediate effects,’was Nicola’s verdict.
Seeing our tool being used in such a highly specialized context and by special-needs children was a novelty to us as well. It reaffirmed our belief that digital literacy is an essential skill for all and STEM a universal language that can adapt to various surroundings, contexts, and complex needs. We encourage changing the conversation around STEM in a way that includes special needs pupils and are excited to contribute to this conversation ourselves. After all, curiosity and creativity is absolutely boundless.
Thank you to Nicola and the Lexden Springs Special School for giving Robo Wunderkind a go in their classrooms and for mutually broadening our horizons on what STEM education can achieve.