Using LEGO to span the Digital Divide

The Digital Divide is essentially that gap between the technology haves and have-nots. And as you guessed it -- the Digital Divide is tied directly to socio-economics.

But there are great schools that are doing their part to help close this gap...

For the past two weeks I have been teaching LEGO robotics at a special summer school that is free for middle school students to attend (funded by a grant). Most of the summer school's classes are focused around technology and giving these students a chance to play with and use technology they might not normally have.

I was asked by the principal to tie in a lot of literacy into my curriculum because most of my students would be ELL (English Language Learners). I chose the book LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT The Mayan Adventure by James Kelly as my textbook. What a brilliant book! It has a great storyline of a middle school student helping his uncle uncover a Mayan temple and get to the tomb by using LEGO robots to solve five different challenges. The student loved to read the story behind each challenge and we were able to build some great sets for the robot challenges.

In one of the challenges the students had to build and program a robot to cross a string and drop pebbles in a pot to deactivate the traps (think Raiders of the Lost Ark).

The students loved reading the book and doing the challenges and I loved the fact that these students got a taste of robotics. You never know what spark might happen in the mind of a student when exposed to the right type of school technology. Maybe one of these students will build a robot to explore a far off planet or better yet, one that could cap a leaking oil drill pipe at the bottom of the ocean.