Title: Employing Robots in Play-Based Learning for Engineering Education of Exceptional Students
Journal: International Journal of Engineering Education. 2011
Author: 台大土木康仕仲教授, CAVE團隊曾吉弘
Robots have proved effective in support of play-based teaching activities, especially at the primary education level. Here, we introduce robots as a teaching-aid for exceptional students. We have developed a new curriculum for engineering education that caters to both mainstream and exceptional students. This curriculum includes eight units or instructional sessions, which range in content from the basic principles of mechanics to advanced control of intelligent robots. The curriculum emphasizes problem solving, engineering design, teamwork, and self-discipline. The LEGO NXT educational module is employed as the basic hardware and the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio provides an easy-to-learn graphical programming environment for children. Since exceptional students do not necessarily respond optimally to traditional teaching methods, alternatives need to be researched. Learning through play could prove an ideal approach for educating students with special needs. During play, students tend to concentrate better and exhibit more self-discipline since play is naturally interesting. Exceptional students potentially learn more from playing than from conventional teaching methods, due to their keen powers of observation. To validate the curriculum we developed, we organized an eight-week summer camp called Edison Robotic Camp. Of the eighteen students who attended, two had been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), three with autism and one with a learning disability; the remaining thirteen students had not been diagnosed with any learning disorders. We divided students into six groups with each group having at most one student with special needs, and the other members randomly assigned. The teaching and observation team included an instructor, three teaching assistants, and a counseling psychologist. The observation team participated in the teaching activities to closely observe and record student behavior. Students were evaluated in three areas: learning performance, concentration, and interaction with partners. The psychologist interviewed the students’ parents, the instructor, and the teaching assistants before, during, and after the camp. It was discovered that learning performance was similar for exceptional and normal students. The level of concentration exhibited by exceptional students was acceptable for classroom activities, and special-needs students were able to complete most of the tasks. The only problems observed for the exceptional students were regarding communication and interaction with their team partners. The parents, the instructor, and the teaching assistants, however, reported noticeable improvements in the manners of the exceptional students. With such positive results, we see potential for broader application of play-based learning in engineering education for exceptional students.