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Troy Smith: Using Robotics and Electronics to Facilitate 21st Century Learning

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by Troy Smith
Expert Educator Columnist, New Zealand

Who is Troy Smith?

Hi readers, my name is Troy Smith and I am a Digital technology teacher at Te Aroha College a small rural school not far from Hobbiton in New Zealand. I am a maker, a programmer and love getting my students into cybernetics. I like to know how things work and getting things to work! I teach years 7 to 13, which is 11 to 18 year olds and I am currently re-developing my classes into a full robotics learning pathway using 21 century learning design.

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What is he blogging about?

troysmith-p1-2I am excited to be a Microsoft Expert Educator columnist and look forward to keeping you up to date with the progress I have made with the maker space for the robotics laboratory. I will also publish some tutorials on using Microsoft products for education that I make for staff PD as part of my network management role. Here is a QR code link to an online tutorial that I have made which shows how to create a survey and share it with a QR Code using O365. I made this tutorial very quickly using the new Microsoft Office SWAY preview. It is extremely easy to use and makes lovely HTML 5 webpages and I am looking forward to it becoming part of O365.

Digital Technologies, like robots and stuff?

Next year I am really excited about bringing robotics into my year 7 and 8 technology classes. This has been a goal of mine over the last four or five years and it has been a hard fought battle. The traditional manual based classes; woodwork, metalwork, sewing and cooking which were valued skills from the industrial revolution, are still highly valued in our country setting. The idea of building and creating the next terminator as a potential career has seemed farcical. However persistence paid off and I can’t wait to get the children in our community competing at the next Robocup. In the past only senior students have had the opportunity to play with electronics like the Intel Arduino Galileo to create embedded electronic systems. However with the recent movement of the Makerspace out of the converted office into the classroom every year level will be building, creating and programming using tools like the Xbox One, Kinect and project spark. I can’t wait until we are playing games on the LCD that the students have created or exploring their Minecraft worlds. I have asked for opinions of what to include in this space on my twitter account @smith_t_r, anything from cardboard to oculus rifts could be included

Where does Microsoft fit in?

This Robotics program is planned around the 21st century learning framework with a focus on collaboration and knowledge construction from the Microsoft 21CLD course on the Microsoft Educators Network. You can see more detail about this program here as it is developed or check it out on my personal blog. I will also have some resources on my Microsoft Educators Network profile as they are developed over the next year, just look for Troy Smith from Te Aroha College. At Te Aroha College we have nearly all of our staff signed up for this program and have found is a fantastic professional development resource. We have completed our surveys and some have completed the Teaching with Technology Course and we have recommend windows 8 tablets such as the surface pro for our BYOD program which also starts next year. It is a very exciting time to be involved in teaching at Te Aroha College and it fantastic to have Microsoft as our partners in learning.

But who is he as a person?

I am a father of three children that are the highlight and center of my life. My eldest daughter has just started school and I can now view the education system throw a parents eyes and I have very high expectations. See has taught me a huge amount about learning with technology and is a strong programmer and mathematician for her age, no doubt at some stage I will share her accomplishments or latest app findings as well. I have a three year boy who is built like a rugby forward, and he is similar to having a permanent tornado in your house. My youngest girl is 20 months and is highly contented and always trying to impress. I have a background in electronics and physics, the mandatory graduate diploma in secondary teaching and a post graduate diploma in educational technologies all from Waikato University. In 2016 I hope to complete a masters in educational technology leadership, scholarship willing. I have grown up in a family focused on motorsport and I raced, motorbikes, go-karts and rally cars and in 2011 was National Historical Rally Co-Driver champion in New Zealand. A young family puts motorsport on hold, probably indefinitely and mountain biking has taken its place.


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Troy Smith is a digital technology teacher at Te Aroha College in New Zealand. His column “Using Robotics and Electronics to Facilitate 21st Century Learning” runs every month on What’s Fresh.

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