High expectations create successful coding program

Image: Children learn about how to use the Beebots

A robotics program at Fernhill School Glenmore Park has helped students exceed expectations and build problem solving skills.

The program used Bluebots to teach block coding skills and encourage a love of technology in students at Fernhill, a school for specific purposes (SSP) catering to students with moderate to severe intellectual and physical disability. It was developed in conjunction with the department's School Services division and local Penrith Public School.

Staff undertook professional development with their peers to learn how other schools in the area had been working with robotics, and their enthusiasm inspired school leadership to purchase a set of Bluebots for ongoing use.

Robyn Dundas, a Learning and Wellbeing Coordinator in the department's School Services directorate said the tailored support initiative was co-designed with the school and grew out of a desire to ensure students could access the new Year 7-8 (Stage 4) Technology syllabus in a way that met their needs.

"We wanted to develop a teaching and learning program for Stage 4 students, however coding and robotics is now beginning to be embedded across the school," Ms Dundas said.

"In addition, communication, engagement and problem solving has increased, and it's been great to see that a lot of students are outperforming expectations."

Department and school staff also rolled out the programs for Year 5 and 6 students, and have produced two videos about their experience. These include observations from school staff that the engaging nature of the Bluebots and the activities they're used for at school have been key to student outcomes.

"They've been so excited as soon as they come out, they really value the technology," said Alyssa Youart, a Relieving Assistant Principal who also teaches a Year 3 and 4 class.

"They've done really well at experimenting and working out what all the buttons do and using their trial and error to have great achievement with them."

Schools interested in engaging students with STEM Learning using a robotics kit (including Bluebots) can find out more in the STEM.T4L Share Library.

Is an exciting or innovative program having great results for students with disability at your school? We'd love to hear about it! Email us at disability.strategy@det.nsw.edu.au.

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