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The Importance of Robotics and A.I. Literacy

From robots that can create gourmet meals to artificial intelligence that outperforms doctors in cancer diagnosis to ChatGPT that can write articles, social media posts or even create art.

Robotics and A.I are increasingly transforming the world, and the implications within education are unprecedented.

For educators, these technologies can present a multitude of challenges; from budgets, to training for staff, to figuring out how to evaluate a written assignment that may not have been written by a human… let alone your student.

But as large as these changes are for educators, the implications are even greater for students.  Forecasts show that 20% - 47% of all jobs will be eliminated over the coming decade.  Hundreds of millions of jobs will disappear globally, being replaced by hundreds of millions of new jobs that require enhanced digital and technical literacies.  The changes will be so pervasive that The World Economic Forum is forecasting 1 billion people will need retraining by 2030 – just seven years from now.

These changes won’t be isolated to a single industry or profession.  They will propagate across all industries, and people that have strong technical skills (including robotics and A.I. literacy) will be significantly advantaged.

Unfortunately, most schools aren’t offering any education in these technologies, and even in schools with programs or after-school clubs, the vast majority of students aren’t interested, the way they are currently being taught.

In middle schools, enrolment averages 5% - 15%.  In high schools, enrolment is even lower at 3% of boys and 0.3% of girls.  In a school with 2,000 students, that equates to just 30 boys and 3 girls, while 1,967 students aren’t getting any education about these two technologies that will transform all aspects of our lives.

It's truly a crisis and requires educators to rethink how they approach robotics and computer science education.  Here are four important strategies and re-thinks that will help ensure your school is preparing students for an evolved workplace.

Understanding Current Enrolment Stats 

Boys vs Girls When we look at high school enrolment stats for robotics (3% of boys and 0.3% of girls) it’s easy to assume that boys are 10x more interested in robotics than girls, but there is a more revealing way to look at those stats.  97% of boys and 99.7% of girls aren’t interested in robotics the way it is currently being taught.  That’s a difference of only 2.7% between boys and girls, but the most important aspect is that current strategies for teaching robotics aren’t generally appealing for either boys or girls.

Redefining what a Successful Robotics Club or Program Looks Like:

Three years ago, it was perfectly reasonable to judge the success of your robotics program based upon where you placed in a competition and if students had an enriching educational experience.

Those benchmarks are still relevant, but can a school truly be considered to be delivering a strong 21st century education if they win a competition with less than 2% participation, with 98% of their students not receiving any education about two technologies that will redefine the workplace?

Given the impact that robotics and A.I. will have in the workplace, any analysis of the success of robotics and computer science programs must include consideration for enrolment across your entire student population.

If you’re looking to increase engagement in your introductory programs, consider using a desktop humanoid robot such as Aldabaran’s NAO or EZ-Robot’s JD Humanoid as they have shown to increase enrolment by up to 10x overall with girl enrolment increasing by 50x or more.

Focus on Literacy vs Proficiency:

Robotics and A.I. literacy are becoming key differentiators in employability across a broad range of the workforce, including unexpected careers like business management, marketing, teaching, and fashion.

As such, it’s important to focus on achieving literacy for all students, and then proficiency or mastery for those with a specific interest in the subject.

A strong analogy can be found in how we educate about computers. The most important aspect of computer education isn’t “how computers work”, it’s how we can utilize them to enhance productivity, connect with the world, and provide us with education or entertainment.  As such, computer education begins with literacy, rather than understanding the specifics around how they work.

Don’t Start from the Bottom and Build Up:

It’s natural to start building a robotics program with your youngest students and grow the program as those students move up in grades.  This makes great sense from a “teacher resource” perspective since schools often don’t have teachers with experience in robotics.

However, the unfortunate byproduct of this approach is that it virtually guarantees your older students won’t gain these important literacies prior to graduation.

A better approach is to start at lower middle school, allowing you to stretch your robotics program up to high school and down to primary - impacting the maximum number of grades simultaneously.  Most middle school and high school students haven’t had any exposure to robotics, so a well-designed introductory course can be effective across all those grades.

Approaching robotics and A.I. education from the framework of literacy will not only ensure that the maximum number of students are gaining critical skills and understanding,it will also result in a higher number of students having confidence to continue their education towards proficiency and mastery in these areas.

CEO of EZ-Robot, Dennis Kambeitz, is widely recognized as a world leader in robotics and computer science. His keen eye toward the future, upcoming trends, and the change in the global marketplace have been the drivers towards educating people globally, and how people should perceive and face tomorrow. With a belief and passion for educational robotics being the driver of a technologically driven world in shaping young minds and equipping them with the right skills, dedicating the past 8 years to spreading awareness, preparing, and educating like-minded individuals in robotics. Through his interactions, Dennis has helped over 20,000 international educators understand the impact that robotics and A.I will have on transforming the workplace, and has trained hundreds of educators on the best practices for teaching robotics. The future is being shaped by robotics and A.I and the first step toward learning and adapting are through building a high-tech culture in schools. His presentations have been described as “Paradigm changing” and “Something ALL educators need to see” due to his ability to connect, captivate and hold the attention of all ages, while imparting knowledge, guiding, and inspiring others. His interactions with close to 20,000 students have shaped his strategies to increase engagement in robotics and programming courses, resulting in success for the students across all grades and levels of academic ability.