Morten Jacobsen, a special needs educator in Copenhagen, shares his experiences of using KUBO with his students.
There is no doubt that innovative tools, and especially technology and robotics can make a huge difference for children with special needs.
My students have many difficulties, but they all share a common passion for using technology. This is especially true for students with autism, who often show incredible skills when it comes to coding and robotics.
I believe that as teachers we should use technology to create more motivating lessons, with a higher level of activity, for a higher learning output. We have almost 200 students aged six to 18 years in this school. I am currently using KUBO with eight to nine-year-old students with autism. Next, I plan to use the resource with 10-year-old students who have severe learning disabilities, and I see no issues, despite their limitations.
KUBO has many strengths, but the most important factor is that it’s easy to use, both for the students, but more importantly also for the teachers. This is crucial because many teachers feel insecure when it comes to using new technology in their teaching. Part of my role is to support teachers to use technology in the classroom.
KUBO is easy, because you just need to plug the head in, and you’re good to go. There is no need for a computer or iPad, and you don’t need to have any prior experience in coding.
When I’m teaching students how to code, it’s important that there is a clear progression, where they learn the basics of coding at their own pace. In KUBO’s case, they don’t need any prior understanding of coding language, because the simple puzzle pieces present the language in a very physical and literal way. Because the elements are put together like puzzles – which they already relate to no matter their diagnosis or their cognitive level – they discover and experience difficult concepts such as input, output, algorithms, and loops in a way that is familiar and easier to grasp.
So far my focus has been on the basics of coding, but a sub-goal is also to teach students how to accept to fail because you cannot expect to make code perfect the first time. Normally my students only try things once, and if they fail, they don’t want to spend time on finding the right answer. What I see when they are coding with KUBO, is that they are more motivated to succeed, so they accept their failures and try again and again. This is a really valuable experience for them.
I can also see that students are able to work for longer periods, without any breaks. They have been able to work in pairs and on their own, which is unusual for my students, and they have been able to do trial/error exercises without getting frustrated or angry. And of course, they are all learning important basics of coding.