Team ISTE
Drones give students control of their learning

It’s no secret that people excel at a task when they enjoy it. The concept of intrinsic motivation explains why kids will spend hours crafting tools and building structures in Minecraft regardless of the time commitment or math involved.

In their book Drones in Education: Let You Students’ Imaginations Soar, Chris Carnahan, Laura Zieger and Kimberly Crowley write that using drones in the classroom not only motivates students to learn, it also demonstrates real-world applications of STEM concepts.

In the excerpt below, the authors discuss some of the many ways educators can use drones across the curriculum.

Engagement and Motivation

Does technology have the ability to drive a student-centered pedagogy? Numerous studies offer evidence that teachers require sufficient technological competency in order to drive pedagogical change and achieve maximum student learning (Guzman & Nussbaum, 2009; Higgins, Beauchamp, & Miller, 2007). The goal of effective technology integration is to successfully embed technology use in education to drive a student-centered, investigative-based learning environment. Simply buying technology and urging teachers and students to use it does not meet this objective. To determine the actual benefits of integrating any technology as conventional classroom equipment, one of the crucial questions to answer is whether or not technological engagement actually does promote student-centered education.

Not all teachers teach the same way, and in that same regard, not every student learns the same way. When learners attribute a feeling of pride to a specific subject, they are more likely to become intrinsically motivated to master it. Motivation is often construed to be the stimulus that incites students to complete a task—the reward, either intrinsic or extrinsic in nature. Motivation is generally considered to be that influence that inspires and encourages students to engage in and complete activities that result in meaningful learning.

The inclusion of drones in instructional activities ultimately yields an increase in student motivation and engagement. The use of robotics in general allows students to have concrete examples of how STEM concepts are applied and utilized in the real world. A short exposure to robotics can have a lasting impact on students to pursue complex careers that they may have never considered. This is important, as it is projected that the nation will have up to 8 million STEM jobs by 2018 (Langdon, McKittrick, Beede, Khan, & Doms, 2011).

Outside of education, the use of drones is growing—particularly in the workplace, where applications are no longer limited to military or police operations. Scientists, construction workers, realtors, first responders, sports teams, band directors, and many more professionals are finding the utility of these quad copters, fueling a demand that this technology will quickly become a staple for college and career readiness.

In schools, drones are rapidly expanding in use and versatility as well. In science and engineering classes, students are building drones and writing the programs to steer them. School administrators are utilizing the technology to create marketing materials for YouTube channels and websites, showcasing their school and grounds from a bird’s eye view. Sports programs enlist drones to record the action in the athletic fields below.

In the curriculum, drones present a possibility of a broad range of applications. Just to take a simple flight or to plan a route, students need to consider weight, height, angles, and speed. The key to the learning experience is to reinforce content knowledge with technology—in this case, drones. The drones grab the students’ attention and engage them in an activity as they apply and master the skills that they learned during instruction.

Find out how to incorporate drones across the curriculum and learn about the ethical, legal and safety concerns in Drones in Education: Let Your Students’ Imaginations Soar.