How to Deepen Learning with Robotics, Coding and STEAM

Transforming instruction and increasing engagement

School administrators are facing mounting pressure to reduce dropout rates and improve student outcomes. The solution lies in keeping students engaged and excited about learning. That’s why educators are using imaginative, nontraditional teaching methods to promote deeper learning.

In this web seminar, educators from Howe Public Schools, a rural district in Oklahoma, discussed how they are using technology to transform instruction into an interactive experience. Presenters outlined their approach to implementing innovative programs such as FIRST LEGO League, robotics, coding and STEAM activities to advance student learning and increase engagement.


Scott Parks
Howe Public Schools (Okla.)

Carol Ann Ford
Director of Gifted and Talented Education
Howe Public Schools

Lance Ford
Education Advocate
Cisco Education

Scott Parks: Our focus is on providing students with the best opportunities. When you look at the increased need for differentiation, collaborative learning experiences and deeper learning, embracing technology is the right thing to do. But our focus is not about digitizing more of the same or just simplifying what we do. Our focus is on how we can use technology to do what we couldn’t do otherwise. We want to do things that make us more effective at providing learning experiences.

Carol Ann Ford: In grades 6 through 12, our students have the opportunity to take four years of French, Chinese, Italian, German or Spanish. They also have all of the AP courses available to them. These are wonderful opportunities.

Lance Ford: One thing that always impresses me is if you stick your head into Ms. Ford’s classroom at any point during the day and ask “What class are you in?”, you’ll hear as many different answers as there are students in the room.Students can dive into their areas of interest in STEM topics. We just couldn’t do that any other way.

Carol Ann Ford: A lot of the online STEM courses are ones we couldn’t offer here, such as marine science. We have some students interested in marine biology. Well, we are in the middle of the United States. We do not have the ocean next to us. But the students can still take marine science, earth science, astronomy—because all of those courses are available online. Very rarely do I ever have to say, “No, we can’t do that.”

My theme for this year with gifted students is: “How can we use our skills to change our world, change our community?” One of the best ways I can think of is to create a problem-solving unit for students in which they have to come up with a problem.

Finding a problem is a 21st-century skill. You should be able to identify a problem and then work with a team to develop a solution. All of those points are met in this Global Problem Solvers program that we’re doing through Cisco. It’s a wonderful curriculum.

Lance Ford: Talk about how you are addressing coding and robotics in a real-world way and connecting with experts.

Carol Ann Ford: FIRST LEGO League gives you a real-world problem to solve. This particular year, the challenge was water. What can we do to improve either the way we get water or the way we dispose of water? We connected with another class in New Jersey that was working on that same problem. We shared our solutions. We also brought in an expert. We were able to see the expert, we could see and talk with the other class, and we could get ideas. We could share documents; we could share videos. It was great.

Lance Ford: To date, there are over 28,000 industry professionals who are offering content at no cost to you. Nepris is sort of like a Craigslist of teachers and professionals looking for opportunities to work together. Global Problem Solvers is also provided at no cost at It has teacher handouts, resources and video files. Everything that you need to plug into a STEM or STEAM activity is right there at your fingertips.

Scott Parks: This allows us to provide our students with opportunities that they would not have otherwise. From the teacher and administrator perspective, it’s rewarding to see our content come to life and to see our students experiencing growth. They walk out with skills that don’t show up on report cards. Yet they do have a skill set, and that makes them very productive citizens.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit

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