Engaging students with technologies such as drones, voicebots, AI, and 3D printers is helping to teach coding, physics, electronics, chemistry, geography, forces and motion, art, literature, ethics, civics, estuary science, as well as the history and future of flight.
Even at an educational technology conference like ISTE 2019, disparaging comments about edtech and edtech vendors are likely to meet with applause. That may be due to past over-hype, failed tech projects or perhaps misplaced fear of technology ultimately replacing teachers. On the other hand, edtech conferences are wonderful showcases of how emerging technologies is transforming education in a way that teachers, parents, potential future employers, and students can all agree is positive. Drones have emerged as one of those emerging technologies.
No less than eleven sessions and papers at ISTE 2019 used success stories and case histories to extol the benefits of implementing a drone program. The sessions went well beyond student enthusiasm and engagement and described results in terms of academic, social, and behavioral improvements. It’s not all STEM-related, either, as was explained in Pairing Drones With the Arts in Elementary and Middle School Programs, which took a “journey into the world of dance, music, and studio arts where drones are an integral part of the medium”.
Jon Jarc and Leah LaCrosses, teachers at two schools in the Cleveland area, Saint Ignatius High School and Huron City Schools respectively, described the employment opportunities related to drones.
[Drone-related employment opportunities described at ISTE 2019]
Jon and Leah explained how drones have been integrated into subjects and topics ranging from estuary science, forces and motion, coding, physics, electronics, chemistry, geography, literature, ethics, and civics. In one class, drones were built using the school’s 3D printer. The teachers found that the students had varying interests; not all are pilots. Some specialize in spotting, designing or repairing. In terms of the financial commitment needed to kick off a drone program, Jon and Leah found it can be done with $2500 for a 12-15 student pilot program. They have posted a copy of their presentation.
[A look into the drone project and results at the Baltimore County Public Schools]
At the Baltimore County Schools, Christopher Salber has implemented an 18-day program to teach flying, managing, and designing drones. His students learn the history of flight and explore the future of flight using hands-on activities with drones to enhance their experience. They begin with simulated flying, then move to Parrot drones navigating through an obstacle course in the media center, then on to Mavic Pro drones flying outdoors. As with the Cleveland program, students are able to design and 3D-print drones. The class culminated in fantastic student presentations delivered to invited visitors.
[Speakers from Cleveland area schools brought examples of the drones and drone controllers that they use in the schools]
Our work as educators, administrators, and educational technology vendors is clearly still ahead of us as indicated by these statistics presented by National Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning of Spokane. Mandy is an English language learning educator at Joel E. Ferris High School. Across the US 10% of students are English language learners and 10% are without parents. Access to the Internet is still an issue. There are whole communities without Wi-Fi connections, and that can affect access to transportation as well. Mandy points out that there is “intense inequity within our school system.” According to the annual Gallop poll of students, only 43% are hopeful about the future, a decrease from 2017. The percent feeling stuck is 26%; actively disengaged 20%; discouraged 21%. Our goal is to engage, encourage, and connect all students, and ensure they are well-prepared for the world as it will exist when they graduate.