Kate's Blog
News and views about Roamer and educational robotics

Research and the Media

It must be true it’s in the papers?

This week we were treated to headlines proclaiming that ICT had no affect on pupil’s performance according to OECD study “Computers and Learning”. Actually, if you read the report it says no such thing. It does say “In the end technology can amplify great teaching, but great technology cannot replace poor teaching”. It’s telling us something we all know – the key to great teaching is the teacher! This happens so often when the media is covering a piece of educational research – they select a minute part of the report, according to their political agenda and completely ignore the rest. Continue reading

It's all Chinese to me

A story that caught my eye this week was the one about the man who woke from a coma speaking perfect Mandarin.  Now I’m happy to believe that an over-developed left side of the brain can make someone a Maths genius (see previous blog) but somehow I can’t quite believe that we can suddenly start spouting a language we didn’t know before.  I don’t believe that Mandarin is lying dormant within us to be brought into bloom with a knock on the head.  They must have been exposed to the language previously and a bit more than watching “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”.

So how do you teach a foreign language without sending your pupils into a coma?  It’s a problem that primary schools around the country are struggling with what with the advent of compulsory Foreign language teaching this year.  Of course Computing is also now compulsory but since we all know how good Roamer® is for helping to implement that already I thought I would focus on languages.  I have already had teachers telling me that roamer has helped enormously with teaching directions in another language.  So why not kill two birds with one stone and create language activities with Roamer® – then you will be doing both the language and the computing curriculum and that’s two less things for you to worry about.

Brain Power

On the news recently was a truly remarkable story.  A retail worker in the US got mugged and in the process suffered a minor brain injury.   Once he had recovered he started noticing flow patterns in the toilet flush.  In fact all around him he could see patterns.  It frightened him so much that he went back to the Doctor.  It was discovered that as his brain had repaired itself his left hemisphere had gone into overdrive  and he was now an expert mathematician. Continue reading

Are You Ready?

Knowing that I had done a lot of workshops recently a teacher friend asked me what a school that was prepared for the new Computing Curriculum looked like.  What equipment did they have? I thought about it for a while and realised that it wasn’t what the school looked like that made the difference – it was how it felt. There are so many ways you could tackle the new curriculum that the equipment you choose doesn’t really define how good you are – although of course I would advocate the use of Roamer®. Continue reading

The Learning Tower of PISA

I  have been listening to commentators respond to the latest PISA results in problem-solving.  They either take the tack of being pleased to be second in Europe to Finland (which as everyone knows has a first class education system) or to be disappointed that we are all lagging behind “Asia”. Continue reading

Roamer's Full House

Roamer, Valiant Technology, Educational Robots, Mathematical Modelling

Berne Town Hall clock that inspired Eintein’s mental model.

I was reading an article about plans to colonise Mars when I came across an explanation as to why it was necessary from former astronaut John Grunsfeld.  He said, “single-planet species don’t survive”.  This struck me as an extraordinary statement to make.  OK, there were the dinosaurs, but how does he know that there aren’t other dinosaurs happily living on planets in far flung galaxies?  It seemed such an un-scientific statement to make to explain the most scientific of explorations.  I commented as such to Dave.  He thought that it was more probably a mental modelling rather than fact based statement.  Apparently much like Einstein.  He got his “eureka moment” re the theory of relativity while sitting on a tram.  He realised that if his tram pulled away from the Berne Town Hall Clock at faster than the speed of light the time on the clock would not change.  He mentally modelled the situation.  And from that tiny spark of understanding the theory of relativity was born.  Now, we know how much the concrete experiences with Roamer help students develop their mental and mathematical modelling skills, so I reckon that’s 1 for Roamer. Continue reading


Roamer has been designed to be neutral – it shows no culture or gender bias.  We feel this is important; the moment you give it a character it becomes part of that culture. And we all now know, thanks to the HSBC adverts, that colour can have different meanings in different cultures.  The importance of this neutrality is explored on our Tumblr site.

I enjoy making up activities for different cultures that involve changing the appearance of Roamer appropriate to the activity and culture.  For me it is all part of the educational experience of he child.  However last week I was on holiday and my reading matter was a book on north Korea. I tried to think of a Roamer activity that would reflect the cultural environment of the students there.  Beyond standing still and “singing” the National Anthem, I was stymied. Continue reading

OMG! (to use the current lexicon) miracles really do happen.  I have mentioned several times Dave’s insistence that understanding Maths is more important than learning “how” to do sums. So whenever E wanted help with her homework (she just wanted a quick and easy solution)  he made her think about it and work it out.  You can imagine the battles that ensued and the joy of being in the same room as them. Continue reading

I love the 99p Store.  It’s like an Aladdin’s cave full of exciting things and all at the bargain price of 99p.  Last week I bought a couple of rugs – one to catch the mud as we take off our wellies as we come in the front door and one where the dog likes to lie after his walk when he is covered in mud.  Basically they are there as mud catchers; to be thrown in the washing machine every so often. So a 99p rug is ideal.

I also like to get my shower gel for 99p.  Since I shower daily and I’m not a boy I don’t require much more than a bit of lather and a nice smell from my shower gel.

If you don’t require too much from a product you can get it pretty cheap and I’m rather smug about my ability to spot a bargain.

But then, oh dear, I expanded into shampoo.  I got a very large container of shampoo and an equally large one of conditioner.  I was not impressed.  This time I did require more than just a nice smell (and to be honest it didn’t even do that!), but what I got was worse than the worst washing up liquid.   A mistake – but thankfully only £1.98 of mistake.

Some mistakes are rather more costly and it can be so difficult comparing products on the internet or catalogue pages.  I’ve come to realise the truth in that old adage “You get what you pay for”.  Cheaper is not necessarily more cost effective.

Last week while watching “Who wants to be a millionaire” I knew that the Singapore Flyer (and a couple of others) were not race horses or roller coasters but were large ferris wheels.  How did I know this?  I knew this because that day I had been on Facebook looking at photos of my cousin Pat on the Singapore Flyer.  If I had been asked the question a day earlier I wouldn’t have known the answer.  The fantastic film “Slumdog Millionaire” beautifully illustrates just how random our acquisition of knowledge can be.  We learn just by living.

So why do we need schools?  Because , despite what some politicians seem to think, knowledge is so much more than knowing a few facts. Teachers lead their pupils through the learning process, focussing on understanding and skill development rather than the rote learning of capital cities.

And this is where Roamer is so strong – by playing with Roamer pupils develop a concrete understanding of abstract  concepts.  Not only that, they become active in their own education, constantly setting themselves new challenges to solve.  As active participants in their own learning they tend to have a quicker and deeper understanding and to be able to develop a set of thinking skills that provides a solid foundation for higher order thinking skills.

So whilst I am proud that I could answer a question that Vic Reeves couldn’t, I also recognise that if you just learn facts there will always be ones you miss out on.  All Chris Tarrant would have to do would be to ask me a question about “Eastenders” and I would be a gonner!