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Introducing K-12 Teachers to LEGO Mindstorm Robotics Through a Collaborative Online Professional Development Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Robot Mania!

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.959.1 - 22.959.16



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Paper Authors


Meltem Alemdar Georgia Institute of Technology

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Dr. Meltem Alemdar is a Research Scientist in the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Alemdar has experience evaluating programs that fall under the umbrella of educational evaluation, including K-12 educational curricula, after-school programs, and comprehensive school reform initiatives. Across these evaluations, she has used a variety of evaluation methods, ranging from multi-level evaluation plans designed to assess program impact to monitoring plans designed to facilitate program improvement. Dr. Alemdar’s leadership evaluation work includes serving as lead evaluator on NASA’s electronic Professional Development Network (ePDN), a new initiative dedicated to preparing teachers to engage their students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields through the use of NASA-developed learning materials and resources. She also serves as the lead evaluator on several NSF funded Noyce Scholarship programs. She has direct experience leading evaluation of STEM programs and has contributed to evaluations of leadership and STEM related innovations.

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Jeffrey H. Rosen Georgia Institute of Technology, CEISMC

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A veteran of the high school and middle school classroom integrating technology and engineering into Mathematics instruction, now working at the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, leading programs that research and train K-12 teachers on the use of engineering design and robotics to teach core academic standards. As the Operational Partner for FIRST LEGO League in Georgia over the last three year has increase overall participation from 1,200 to over 2,200 students. With this experience has co-authored three ASEE papers on FIRST LEGO League and engineering in the middle school classroom. My current projects include an NSF research project called Science Learning Integrating Design, Engineering, and Robotics (SLIDER) and a NASA online professional development course for K-12 teacher on Using LEGO Robots to Enhance STEM Learning.

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Introducing K-12 Teachers to LEGO Mindstorm Robotics Through a Collaborative Online Professional Development CourseIn recent decades, engineering and robotics programs such as First Lego League (FLL) haveallowed children ages 9 to 14 to deeply engage with Science, Technology, Engineering, andMathematics (STEM) disciplines and inspired them to explore careers in STEM fields. In 2009,NASA awarded Georgia Tech a contract to develop online professional development (PD)courses for STEM teachers. The electronic Professional Development Network (ePDN) coursesare designed to model best practices in teacher PD by incorporating inquiry based learning andby promoting the types of active interaction and reflection by participants that normally occur ineffective face-to-face professional development sessions.Using Robotics to Enhance STEM Learning Certificate Course is one of four ePDN certificatesequences, which focuses on educating K-12 teachers to utilize robotics with the LegoMindstorm kits in their math and science classes. This certificate sequence consists of fourcourses, for a total of seventy (70) hours of work. Each course is organized into weekly themesand topics where teachers start by learning basic robot building instructions, i.e., how to programbasic robot behaviors using motors and rotation, sound, light, and touch sensors. Each coursetopic is organized for an asynchronous discussion on an electronic discussion board during aspecific week and is based on weekly assignments. Teacher participants are placed in groups andare required to use the group forum for some assignments. Teachers are also encouraged toactively use this system for general communication. Because collaboration is an integral part ofthese courses, teacher participants are encouraged to be contributors to, and not simply passivespectators of, learning activities.The robotics PD courses were tested in the spring of 2010 and are currently offered to thirty-five(35) K-12 teachers. During the testing, a formative assessment was conducted where qualitativedata was collected from the following sources: online evaluations by course participants,threaded discussions and focus groups of course participants. These data revealed high levels ofsatisfaction with the content of the course modules. Additionally, data showed that a sense ofbelonging to an online LEGO Mindstorm Robotics community was developed as a result ofparticipating in the courses. Our follow up survey results showed that course participantscontinued to communicate with one another and share their experiences using course materials.Additionally, some of the participating teachers initiated to start a FLL program and toimplement a program using LEGO Robotics to teach science and math concepts.In this study, we will describe our collaborative online courses, and its impact on teachers’professional development. Additionally, we will employ a case study approach to examine theeffectiveness of online PD courses in classrooms/schools. Each teacher experience aftercompleting the robotics course will be presented as a case, and each case will be used to explorethe impact of robotics courses on teacher practices. We will also investigate the longitudinaleffect of our PD courses.

Alemdar, M., & Rosen, J. H. (2011, June), Introducing K-12 Teachers to LEGO Mindstorm Robotics Through a Collaborative Online Professional Development Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18169

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