Learning initiative to enhance teachers’ coding, robotics skills

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As plans for SA’s coding and robotics curriculum get under way, the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ’s) TechnoLab is helping to upskill teachers in these crucial subjects.

The Department of Basic Education’s coding and robotics curriculum is planned to be introduced as a new component of the national schools’ curriculum.

The curriculum is envisaged to equip learners in all public schools with skills and competencies for a changing world, and will be rolled out from grades R to 9.

While the news of the rollout of a coding and robotics curriculum was publicly welcomed, some issues were raised, particularly on the lack of sufficient teachers really literate in the topics and fundamentals, and availability of resources.

According to a statement, UJ’s TechnoLab new learning project aims to equip teachers with skills in robotics and autonomous systems, to facilitate academic success.

The project, led by Herman Sekoele, manager for engineering technology at UJ's TechnoLab, will use Lego’s Education WeDo kits, which is a platform for the development of programmable robots based on Lego building blocks.

It will be piloted for one year, with teachers from 20 different schools in Limpopo and North West, across foundation and intermediate levels, creating robotics clubs in their schools.

The teachers will also get an opportunity to participate in the World Robot Olympiad competition, notes the statement.

“If we are to use more robots and autonomous systems, then we need more people who have the skills to use these technologies,” says Sekoele. “We will help some teachers to be equipped with content knowledge for offering this subject in their school.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has left SA with an urgent need to kick-start its economy and boost productivity. A key to doing this will be increased automation and deploying the next generation of robotics and autonomous systems in the education sector.”

The project is currently funded by Standard Bank SA, notes the statement.

As part of promoting a community of learning, UJ TechnoLab has also created a platform where teachers are able to share their experience with other participating schools. “This platform allows for teachers to brainstorm technical challenges they might face. Teachers are also able to share multimedia of the activities they are doing at their respective schools.

“With equality and diversity being a key priority for the project, the educational resources are being developed with the aim of helping more of those who are currently under-represented in robotics and coding to see where they can access learning opportunities and make their own contribution.”

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