RoAD, the Roamer Activity Development Partnership is a way for you to participate in the creation of free resources. Its aim is to combine our expertises and your practical teaching knowledge to create a first class, free classroom resource.
What is RoAD?
This new version of Roamer is a development of the popular Roamer robot first launched by Valiant Technology in 1989. In 1992 Valiant supported a research project conducted by Mike Blamires of Canterbury Christ Church University. The aim was to explore the use of Roamer in Special Educational Needs (SEN). As early as 1989 SEN Teachers had found the robot useful. However, the Canterbury Project aimed to explore the possibilities in more depth. The result was that though teachers found the product useful it was also frustratingly limited. They constantly wanted to adapt it. Problems could be as simple as a student not being able to operate the keypad or a partially sighted student having difficulty seeing the robot move. This inspired Dave Catlin to conceive a modular robot to meet SEN diversity. A project called SEROTA (Special Education Robotic Teaching Aid) was set up with the aim of creating the robot. This led to the development of the latest version of Roamer. We soon realised that the the new Roamer could revolutionise the use of educational robots in mainstream education. So Roamer is now a teaching aid for general education, but it retains a particular flair for SEN.
What is the New Idea?
Activities and Pedagogy
The new robot is the first educational robot that has the capacity to use powerful modern robotic technology. However, without a clear pedagogy, the technology is just a gimmick!
You programmed Turtles and Roamer via a Logo or a Logo like computer language. Through the process of writing a program students would engage and play with powerful concepts and thus acquire knowledge. Roamer does not abandon programming, but it does offer alternatives. It focuses on students interacting with the robot in meaningful and more natural ways. How might you use a robot that has voice recognition and speaks to you? How can you use a robot that changes shape? How could you use a robot that has emotions and can throw a tantrum? Robots with these characteristics are now possible. Since 1992, the idea of Roamer evolved as the sporadic research effort kept nudging the project forward. In mid 2005 a creative surge gave birth to the ERA Principles (Educational Robotic Applications). This theory has guided the design of the robot. It links technology to developmental psychology and our understanding about how people learn. It has one aim – to help students understand and learn more effectively.
Classic Versus New Roamer
The Classic Roamer has the following attributes:
- Input: You program it through the keypad
- Behaviour: It has a specific behaviour based on the syntax of Logo
- Output: It moves and turns (and sometimes plays music)
With Roamer all of these attributes can be the same, or they can be radically different. Roamer is a basic robotic platform that you can change to suit the needs of the students and the classroom activities. With Roamer you can have:
- Input: Perhaps you have a student that can only move their eyes – you can build a Roamer to cope with that; or you are helping children to read and you want the robot to respond to phonetics – you can do that. Or maybe you would like to use the Roamer with an Interactive White Board. All of this is possible.
- Behaviour: Roamer can have different behaviours to support different types of activity. For it could have a Tamagochi like behaviour that supports a whole range of different activities.
- Output: Instead of moving the robot talks to you. Maybe it can change shape and colour. Perhaps it tells another robot what to do. Roamer is designed to interact with existing technologies, both hi-tech and traditional. For example you can interact with it using a Pocket Computer or you can make it respond to a student’s writing and drawing a picture.
All of this and far more is technically possible.
Focus on Practicality
We have the technology, but this is not enough. The robot has to meet the practical needs of teachers. It needs to:
- Support good teaching practice
- Be affordable
- Be easy to use, even for the most technologically phobic teachers
- Help teachers deliver the curriculum
- Be reliable and durable
- Excite and engage the children
Don’t let the Existing Technology Limit your Imagination.
We have listed a lot of potential things Roamer can be made to do. It has the potential, the technology is out there ready to be adapted. However, education must lead technology, not the other way around. What would you like to do, what teaching problems do you want to solve. RoAD is about pushing these limits.
To achieve these stringent requirements we need activities that teachers can use to meet the diversity of age and ability across as many areas of the curriculum as possible. We cab produce many hundreds of exciting classroom activities. To achieve this Valiant has opted to produce and issue activities under a Creative Commons License. This will make most of the activities free to Roamer Users.
The RoAD Partnership
If you have an innovative idea you would like to develop please join the partnership and let us work together to create some great resources. We request you apply to join the RoAD where we can enter into a formal partnership. As a partner you will:
- Receive discounted or free equipment – exactly what depends on the nature of the project and prevailing circumstance
- Liaise with Valiant designers to explore the possibilities
Receive editorial and graphical support to help you produce high quality materials
As part of the partnership agreement you will work with Valiant to:
- Develop vision, goals and objectives
- Develop an action plan
- Work with the monitoring and evaluation team
- Produce a pre-agreed resource and make it available to for distribution through the Roamer Activity Library and the Creative Commons Licence described in the section, “Are the Activities Free to Teachers and Schools”.
- The equipment you may receive from this partnership will be considered a loan, until our project has be satisfactorily completed, after which ownership of some or all of the equipment will be transferred to you in accordance with an agreement negotiated before the start of the project
Your proposed project must be different to the work of other partners or existing activities. Other than this stipulation you are free to work on any activity or research project you wish. Valiant have a long list of ideas that need developing so we are happy to suggest projects if you so desire.. We are very flexible about the scheme: it is all a matter of what works best for both partners and what will help produce the best activities to help teachers and children.
You will be publicly credited for you contribution.
Are the Activities Free to Teachers and Schools?
Valiant do not charge schools for the activities developed by RoAD Partners.
However, they do reserve the right to charge for Roamer Behaviours or had they have to create to support the activities. There are no absolute rules about this. It depends on the circumstances and we will discuss each situation on a project-by-project basis.
The resources are made available under the following Creative Commons License
How Do I Join RoAD?
If you have any questions please contact Dave Catlin on 020 8673 2233020 8673 2233 or use the email form below. If you are ready to apply please complete the application in the next section.
RoAD Application Form
Friends of Roamer
The aim of the community is to help teachers get the most out of their Roamers, and help their students have better learning experiences. The Activity Library, Training Site and e-Robot Research Programme are the main tools for this. The commitment of being a RoAD Partner is more than most people want to take on, but there are many small ways you can help.