Teaching with drones: coming to a classroom near you?

Robots and drones should be part of teaching and learning, says report looking into teaching trends in 2019

January 3, 2019

Lecturers should use drones and robots to enhance their teaching as technological advances begin to roll out of the laboratory and into the classroom, according to a report.

“Drone-based learning” and “learning with robots” are identified as two of the main trends in Innovating Pedagogy 2019, the annual report from the Open University outlining what will influence teaching in coming years.

Identifying robots and drones is “not about the fact that they are exciting new technologies but about the possibilities they open up and how they can benefit teachers and learners”, according to Rebecca Ferguson, an editor of the report and a senior lecturer at the OU.

“It’s got to that point where there is all this research going on, but we need to start talking about what we do with it,” she told Times Higher Education.

Drones could be used to explore physical spaces from above, such as over archaeological ruins or buildings under construction, to aid those studying such topics. Drone-based learning “extends what can be achieved in fieldwork”, according to the report.

They can also be used in teaching mathematics, by, say, having students predict flight times or land drones in particular places identified through mathematical problem-solving, it says.

“Drones are becoming such a pervasive technology that many students will benefit from early introduction to them before going on to interact with them regularly either at work or in everyday life,” the report says.

Robots can assist teachers by responding quickly to frequent queries or by helping them with assessment, the report says. This frees lecturers to use their time for “essentially human tasks”, such as exercising judgement and providing emotional support.

The report, which also identifies “learning through wonder” and “playful learning” as key trends, points to “slightly less formal pedagogies” for the future, Dr Ferguson said. “They are simple but really powerful…things that allow both teachers and learners be experimental and more inventive in exploring things,” she said.

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: Will teaching with drones take flight this year?

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