A wide range of robot models means a wide range of learning

A wide range of robot models means a wide range of learning

 Have you ever wondered why some people love lectures, but you’re so bored you want to cry or sleep or both? Why is it that they can handle the monotonous voices, uninteresting subject matter, and dull presentation that were required for a class or workshop, while you struggle to stifle yawns? As it turns out, we all have different ways of learning that can fall into three main categories. And you may not be an auditory learner, one who loves to sit and listen. This doesn’t make you a bad student or employee, it is just how your brain works. If you look closely, many teachers are already diversifying their teaching plans to account for these differences. We just have to work smarter instead of harder, since these different learner profiles have the potential to drastically alter how we run our schools and training.

  There are three dominant types of learners, each with their own preferences. The most common are the visual learner. Since sight is such an important sense for us, most of us can visually learn in some capacity. But not everyone learns best from looking at figures, pictures, slides, and graphs. There are also auditory learners, who have to hear something to truly understand it, as well as kinesthetic learners who need to move and touch to comprehend. Almost all of us are learners who rely on a combination of these dominant senses (taste and smell don’t play quite as important roles in the classroom setting), but we do tend to favor one over the others.

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  With this in mind, many teachers try to appeal to all three kinds of students in the classroom. There is a growing appreciation for auditory and kinesthetic teaching styles, which tend to be reserved for young kids. But even as teenagers or adults, sometimes we need to touch and do and hear in order to learn. As we get into intermediate and higher education settings, it becomes even more difficult. Lectures with hundreds of attendees are still common, but more emphasis is put into breakout groups of a handful of people having a dialogue, performing a role-play for a given situation, or making an illustration to make a point. This is sometimes an unconscious way to add energy to a group, liven things up a bit. But as the knowledge about these learning styles continues to grow, more and more people recognize the usefulness of these kinds of exercises.

     In the context of middle and high schools, it can be difficult to integrate these nontraditional activities into the classroom. A math class, for example, needs to have some visual component. Even the best lecturers can’t activate the spatial reasoning parts of the brain like seeing a picture or graph can. Some classes are just better by nature for alternative learning and teaching, with robotics being one of these. It is a hands-on science, requiring construction, tinkering, and all sorts of tweaking to get your device just how you want it.

     Like anything so technologically involved, there are graphs, pictures, models, and other visual aids. It is too detail-oriented to afford not to. But the process of building a robot, as well as the final product, can involve and engage all different kinds of learners, perfect for a group project. Visual learners will want to design the build, conjuring a picture in their minds and setting forth to make it a reality. Auditory learners will find that there are many complex topics that are under the umbrella of robotics, so they will easily come across lectures and talks about how to do the electronics, mechanics, and coding on their project. Many robots interact with lights and sounds, like LEDs and speakers. And the kinesthetic learners, perhaps the most overlooked group of all, will relish in the opportunity to build something, see something move, interact with it, push buttons, and have a physical object they can hold in their hands. Making the robot move by including legs or wheels is a surefire way to get them excited about their project.

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 Baymax, a character in the popular movie Big Hero 6, is a medical robot adept at interacting with those who are more kinesthetically inclined.

    Most of all, robotics is a creative field. Anything you want to build, you can, even with basic skills and parts. Our smartphones are multimedia platforms with screens, speakers, and vibrations. But don’t let that discourage beginners like you; even the smallest project is still quite the feat. Regardless of your personal preferences for learning, robotics is flexible enough to allow anyone to express their creativity. Armed with the knowledge about your own learning style, you will find more success at anything you do. So get the parts, get a teacher or advisor, get a group of friends who will help you create a wonderful bot, and go for it.

Derek Capo