VEX Monthly Newsletter: March 2023

In Research News…

Studying Teacher Perceptions

We know that educational robotics is an engaging and effective teaching and learning tool for many reasons, however, in order to optimize these benefits for students, teachers need to feel comfortable, confident, and knowledgeable about implementing robotics in their classrooms. A new study, published as part of the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference this month, analyzed survey data from nearly 500 teachers who had completed VEX Robotics Educator Certification Courses, and looked at how their perceptions of their knowledge and confidence around teaching with robotics changed after the course.

A key finding was that nearly 90% of participants surveyed “agreed that the certification course increased their confidence and knowledge, indicating the certification program was a beneficial professional development opportunity for the vast majority of teachers”. This research not only helps to highlight the benefits of the free certification courses for each VEX platform, but also adds to the growing understanding that self-paced, ongoing professional development can be a useful tool to bridge the gap between the advances in educational robotics and the content of formal teacher education programs for new teachers. The findings of this study offer  “valuable insight into how professional development can provide support for teachers needing to apply robotics in the classroom with a wide range of prior experience”. There will likely always be a gap between the products available and teacher training programs, but with opportunities for professional development, like VEX Educator Certification Courses and VEX PD+, teachers can participate in relevant, meaningful PD that helps raise their confidence and knowledge at any time during their careers.

Presenting Switch in VEXcode VR

Switch Mode: A Visual Programming Approach for Transitioning from Block-based to Text-based Programming was presented at this month’s SIGCSE conference, offering participants background about Switch in VEXcode VR, as well as a hands-on demonstration and discussion about the classroom implications of Switch. Switch was developed to support the blocks to text transition in a way that does not make students feel like they are learning a whole new language, but instead leverages their learning from block based coding into a text based project. “Switch mode is designed to bridge the gap between blocks and text based programming. It serves as a middle ground to take students outside of their comfort zone a little bit, but not too much to step into a fully Python program.”

With Switch, students can convert conventional blocks to Switch blocks or start from blank Switch blocks to immediately begin typing Python commands. By converting blocks, students can gain familiarity and comfort with Python commands and project flow before moving into a fully immersed Python project. “Once students master the Switch mode, they can go to fully Python, and their ceiling has not been limited.” 

Switch is included with a VEXcode VR Premium license.

Learn more about V5 Hardware

New video content was added to VEX Library articles about hardware components to supplement the article text and support students and teachers with the tools they need to design and build a robot successfully. In these short videos, Matt walks you through different building components, how they function, and how to effectively use them in a build. Seeing the hardware in context like this can help students to choose the right parts for their design, and to build background knowledge about why certain parts could be more or less effective, depending on the goal of the robot. 

Articles with additional video content include: 

New Training Courses Added to PD+

March brought new additions to the Training Course offerings in PD+ for IQ and V5. These courses use video-based Lessons to bring in-person style training to a virtual space. These courses enable you to learn at your own pace, with hands-on activities using your VEX materials, giving you the opportunity to participate in the kinds of engaging activities you would do in a workshop, from the comfort of your own space. Two new courses were added this month:

  • In the Engineering Design Process with Sensors Training Course, you will work through the engineering design process to complete a course activity, diving deep into each step of the EDP with the instructors. You will then learn how to leverage your experience as a learner to help you facilitate the engineering design process with your students. This course is great for those with some VEX IQ coding experience, who are looking for ways to facilitate classroom coding challenges.
  • In the V5 Introductory Training Course, you will get started building, coding, and teaching with the V5 platform. From building your first TrainingBot robot from the V5 Kit to driving, and coding the robot with sensors, you will learn about how to use the components of the Kit and teach with them successfully. This ‘Getting Started’ course is great for those new to teaching and using the V5 platform.

Log into PD+ to explore the Training Courses on offer, and get started with a course in minutes!

Live Sessions in PD+ Have Begun!

March saw the first of the new Live Sessions in PD+ with Thinking Outside the Classroom. During this Live Session, Alaina walked participants through strategies to plan a VEX Camp, offering guidance and insight on everything from camp logistics to choosing activities for your students. Live Sessions are monthly, one hour, themed virtual sessions that cover a variety of topics and interests. Learn more about Live Sessions in this article.

You can sign up for a Live Session series at any time, as each session will be standalone, and content does not build from one month to the next. Log in to PD+ to see all of the Live Sessions. 

Check out the upcoming sessions: 

  • Makerspaces for Creative Learning – Learn all about integrating VEX into your makerspace, or creating your own makerspace with VEX on April 4th at 6:30pm US Eastern Time
  • Coding with Python in VEXcode – Ready to take your coding skills to the next level? Come learn and apply Python coding with VEXcode on April 6th at 6:30pm US Eastern Time
  • Math and Robotics – Lean about how robotics is a great way to teach and build understanding with a wide range of mathematical concepts on April 12th at 6:30pm US Eastern Time

Log into PD+ to explore all the Live Sessions offer, and enroll in a series!