Many, many, many years ago I started my teaching career in a new school. After the first one was burnt down our new build contained a Computer Science department. At first Joan, who taught secretarial skills, was asked to lead it but she demurred – she might be good at the keyboard but that was as far as her understanding went. Eventually the Head forked out for a Computer Science teacher. My classroom happened to be next door and whilst I didn’t want to write code I did think that these new fangled machines could be quite a useful addition to my teaching. I got hold of a piece of software that analysed diet from ILEA (remember them?!) and borrowed the lab. Well there was uproar. Irate parents complaining that I had told their son/daughter that they weren’t eating properly “and you just have to look at her hair and teeth to see that she is” ( as I gazed at a rather tubby girl with dank hair). I had quite a bit of difficulty explaining that I had nothing to do with it, the computer was merely responding to what the students themselves had put into it. The parents of course had never come across a computer and had minimal understanding of their capability – as we all did.
That was my first foray into using computers in teaching. My! we have come a long way. And in Primary schools this is due in no small part to Roamer. It is difficult now to remember just what an anathema the idea of computers was to most teachers. And we certainly hadn’t grown up with the skills to deal with them. Roamer was the easy to use, friendly face of computing. Children learned to code while investigating and discovering knowledge from all other areas of the curriculum. Because they were so easy to use yet intellectually challenging they were soon in every school in the UK, just about. Valiant and the UK really were world leaders in the use of robotics in education.
Fast forward to the present and Roamer (updated but still based on sound educational principles) is still helping students get to grips with coding and difficult abstract concepts in a concrete way. It remains as Seymour Papert once said, “an object to think with”. There are now many many robots available for today’s classrooms but Roamer still leads the field in terms of knowledge and educational practicality. And we at Valiant are proud of our heritage.