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Jeff Goodman

Recent Posts

Jett’s ready for school: Three lessons from a STEM robot

on May 29, 2019 7:26:00 AM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Robots4STEM coding
This week, we sent Jett off to school, and to commemorate the occasion, we’re sharing three lessons you can learn from Jett – a facially expressive, social, humanoid robot who aims to create a visual coding experience for young learners. These lessons transcend basic coding skills and lay the groundwork for life in a tech-savvy world.
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Computer science rises in popularity as national funding soars

on Jul 23, 2018 7:13:00 AM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Robots4STEM
Computer science rises in popularity as national funding soars
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STEM: The backbone of the DFW economy

on Jul 19, 2018 7:16:00 AM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Robots4STEM
The Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) “metroplex” area has been developing into a hub for tech excellence over the last decade, and the best is yet to come. This year Amazon named Dallas to its shortlist of candidates for HQ2, which could potentially bring tens of thousands of jobs to our city. And Amazon isn’t the only indicator that DFW is excelling in tech – last week business leaders from around the country gathered in Dallas to discuss how to support the city’s booming tech industry that continues to grow. Here are some of the main takeaways from the conference that emphasized STEM education:
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Robots are driving STEM ed to 2026 and beyond

on May 16, 2018 7:18:00 AM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Robots4STEM
By Dr. Gregory Firn, COO, robots4STEM
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To be or not to be: HQ2 and preparing Dallas for a potential STEM game-changer

on May 4, 2018 7:21:00 AM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Robots4STEM
By Dr. Gregory Firn, COO Dallas was recently named to Amazon’s shortlist as a candidate to host HQ2. Other promising cities fell off Amazon’s radar for many reasons, and this week, the company has started to debrief those cities on why they didn’t make the cut. A recurring theme? The lack of tech talent. One of Amazon’s main criteria for assessing its HQ2 bids was the location’s ability to attract and retain a robust workforce with technical skills, and Governor Greg Abbott stated that Dallas’ strong tech workforce was a reason for its place on the shortlist. Dallas has the capability to become a national hub for tech excellence, and our region’s school districts can help power this – with the right curriculum. If Amazon selects Dallas for its HQ2, tech jobs will multiply for decades to come. Even if Amazon chooses another city, our tech industry can continue to grow, as long as we have the talent to support it. As superintendents, principals and educators, we must begin to plan a strategic approach to preparing our students for these jobs of the future. We can start with placing an emphasis on STEM in early education, instead of waiting until high school, where it’s often too late to ignite a spark. As discovered in The Roots of STEM Success report, STEM thinking begins at infancy, and STEM skills are strengthened among children by play centered on self-direction and hands-on experience. To build the tech leaders of our future, educators should initiate STEM learning as early as possible. So what makes a successful STEM experience at an early age? A hands-on learning experience The best way to promote learner agency among students and engage them early on with STEM is by creating a hands-on learning experience. Co-authoring and co-creating is an essential component to building an environment that lets students explore STEM skills at their own pace and within their own interests. Lecturing can be an effective teaching strategy at times, but to really engage youth with STEM, they need to be involved as much as possible. It’s important for schools to invest in the tools that can provide this hands-on learning experience. Not only does edtech help educators keep students engaged, it also allows them to better integrate topics they may not have expertise in – which is the case for many teachers tasked with specialty areas like coding, that aren’t typically included in elementary training. STEM blended with mainstream subjects It’s common for most school curricula to focus heavily on reading, writing and other primary subjects in early education. These subjects are, of course, very important – but skills like coding shouldn’t be undervalued. The lessons learned from coding – collaboration, creativity, communication and computational and critical thinking – transcend the discipline and permeate into all areas of learning. Making real-life connections Like adults, even young children look for meaning behind things. They want to feel as though what they’re working toward matters. STEM certainly matters – especially right now in Dallas – but do students know how much? Can students connect what they’re learning to future jobs, their community and other concrete things? Help students make these connections by highlighting interesting STEM jobs, explaining what Amazon HQ2 and other tech companies mean to Dallas and emphasizing the difference they can make in their own lives and communities by pursuing STEM education. STEM is the future for Dallas As the competition for Amazon’s HQ2 intensifies, one thing is certain: cities with tech talent have a big advantage in today’s world. Dallas can continue to establish itself as a leader in the tech realm by supporting STEM education – to prepare the future workforce, offer children a chance for high-paying, rewarding jobs, and to attract the companies who will change the world. Robots4STEM is an approved vendor of Dallas Independent School District (DISD), and our curriculum is directly aligned with K-12 Computer Science (K12CS) standards. Learn how robots4STEM can help prepare the students of Dallas for the jobs of tomorrow here.   News More than 40 new things we saw at ISTE 2018 Monday at ISTE 2018: Neuroscience, ed leader standards and student data privacy Press Releases Computer science rises in popularity as national funding soars
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Three things we learned from Tim Cook’s Recode interview

on Apr 27, 2018 7:24:00 AM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Robots4STEM
Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with Recode’s Kara Swisher to discuss some of the nation’s most urgent issues: job creation and education. We tuned in to hear what one of the most influential CEOs in the world had to say about Apple’s social responsibility to promote and spread access to coding education for students across the country.
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Supreme Court Expands Rights of Special Education Students

on Feb 20, 2018 6:00:00 PM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Company Blog
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision on March 21, 2017, that schools must do more than provide a “merely more than de minimus” education program for students with disabilities. THE RULING The decision is the result of a case known as Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District in which the parents of a Colorado boy with autism sued their school district. After spending four years in the district, the boy’s parents felt his progress had stalled–his IEP goals and objectives were largely carried over from year to year. The parents then placed their son in a private school and sought reimbursement. In his ruling, Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote, “Within months, Endrew’s behavior improved significantly, permitting him to make a degree of academic progress that had eluded him in public school.”The case had been previously rejected by an administrative law judge, a federal district court, and the 10th Circuit before going before the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the family. “When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing a ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all,” wrote Justice Roberts. “For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to ‘sitting idly … awaiting the time when they were old enough to drop out,’” he added, quoting from key 1982 Supreme Court precedent on special education, Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, that also dealt with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. “The IDEA demands more,” the chief justice said. “It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” WHAT IT MEANS The SCOTUS ruling provides a tremendous opportunity for schools and school systems to be proactive in providing programming that can and will significantly reduce or avoid costs associated with meeting the needs of ASD learners. The ruling also calls into question the level, depth, and objectives of IEP goals with respect to educational attainment, progress, and improvement. Simply put, such goals and those actions, strategies, and learning activities cannot be of the lowest standard. Rather, IEP-supported students must have services of a higher standard to ensure they are, in fact, progressing in their education. The impact of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District may be significant if schools do not seize the opportunity to adjust, amend, or add services that will reduce the number of requests by parents to have their ASD learner attend private or specialty schools to have their educational needs met. Lastly, the burden is on the schools to demonstrate they have, in practice, programming that authentically meets the needs of the ASD learner.
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The education journey: Why educators should focus on the process of learning

on Feb 12, 2018 7:28:00 AM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Robots4STEM
By Dr. Gregory Firn, COO
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The Game Changing Power of Robotics and Social-Emotional Learning

on Feb 8, 2018 6:00:00 PM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Company Blog
By: Fred Margolin Every day, about 100 people are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the United States. Studies indicate that this costs the U.S. over $238 billion per year, with a projection of about $1 trillion annually by 2025. While ASD does not have a known cure, children with the disorder have demonstrated significant improvement when receiving an early diagnosis and effective intervention. Research shows that children with ASD find robots incredibly engaging, and are more comfortable interacting with robots than they are with people. Introducing Milo After seeing the research supporting robots and autism, we saw the perfect opportunity to leverage this connection, and to fill a real need in the education industry. We recognized the lack of cohesive content curriculum to accompany robots. Our vision was to create a robot that could serve as a platform to deliver content to students with ASD. We spent years making the technical breakthroughs necessary to reach a price point that public schools could afford. The result wasMilo, our 2-foot-tall humanoid robot. He walks, talks (82% slower than normal speech), and models human facial expressions. With the corresponding Robots4Autism content course, students ages 5–17 with ASD learn a variety of skills, like tuning in on emotions, expressing empathy, and how to act appropriately in social situations. Milo is the patient and understanding teacher children with ASD need. Since he is a robot, he never gets tired or impatient, and can repeat lessons as often as the student needs. Many students see Milo as their friend, in some cases he is the first friend they’d ever had. Children with ASD vary widely in intelligence and ability, and Milo is able to assist and engage with students who are on any part of the spectrum. His approach focuses on encouraging children to want to make progress, rather than imposing the behavior on them. Incredible results Children with ASD can have tantrums several times a day. This angry or frustrated behavior will typically stop once the child is removed from the classroom. With Milo, we’re seeing kids learning to calm themselves down on their own, without teacher intervention. Often times, those with ASD live inside their head. They spend a lot of time trying to block out outside interaction that they find overstimulating. Many educators, when beginning their adoption of the Robots4Autism curriculum, start these students on the Calm Down module, which gives students the tools to deal with overstimulation in constructive ways. Currently, Milo is in nearly 400 schools, and we have seen emotional progress in 2–3 months that in some cases can take years to occur. It truly changes the entire classroom atmosphere. At Robots4Autism, we’re not just selling robots. We’re offering schools and teachers an opportunity to reach children with ASD more effectively than they ever have before, and providing students with ASD a way to connect with the world around them. Fred Margolin is the co-founder of RoboKind with a background in finance and insurance. His position centers around creating marketing strategies for the public to use and continuing to expand Milo’s impact on children with autism spectrum disorder.
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The Adventure of Writing Curriculum for a Robot

on Jan 25, 2018 6:00:00 PM By Jeff Goodman | 0 Comments | Company Blog
Written By Michelle McFarlin Milo the robot is inherently fascinating to kids: he looks like a kid, he talks, he makes a wide range of facial expressions, and he even dances. But what gives Milo the potential to change the lives of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the curriculum that he teaches. I co-wrote that curriculum with Dr. Pam Rollins, and when my co-writers and I first started imagining what a program for kids with ASD might include, we began with a simple but powerful question: “How do we lay the foundational skills to make these kids successful?” We researched evidence-based practices and selected the ones we felt were best suited to Milo. We also used our own knowledge of kids with ASD, which we have gathered over a combined 50 years of personal experience. As the founder and director of the Social Communication Connection, I focus on assessment and therapy for social, speech, and language skills for students who have ASD, ADHD, anxiety, sensory processing disorder, and other challenges when it comes to social communication. Combining my passion for helping these kids with my love of technology made writing the curriculum for Milo what I jokingly refer to as “the greatest gifted and talented project of all time.” We were able to leverage cutting-edge robotics technology, tablet technology, and the most current evidence-based practices for teaching social skills to create something that had never been done before. The curriculum uses social narratives to explain situations that might be unfamiliar to kids with ASD. As Milo is saying the social narratives, the students see “subtitles” in the form of visual icons on Milo’s chest screen. The students are also shown video models on the tablet, examples of the target social skill or set of social skills being performed by actors of a variety of ages and ethnicities across settings. Over and above all of these levels of support is the teacher, who facilitates every interaction that a student has with Milo. The modules are broken into four main groupings: Introductory Modules (including a set of pre-test/game lessons and the Calm Down module); Conversational Modules; Emotional Understanding Modules; and Situational Modules. Across modules, each lesson begins by defining a target social skill with specific expectations, and breaks down social interaction. Getting Kids Started with Milo Students are first introduced to Milo using very simple games like Follow the Leader and Find It. These games were planned to have a dual purpose: on one hand, they help the facilitator to determine if the student has the necessary prerequisite skills of being able to recognize icons, understand cause and effect, and answer yes/no questions; and on the other hand, they help the student learn that Milo is safe and fun, and they create a set of expectations for the student of how Milo sounds and how he moves. Students who are deemed to be a good fit for the curriculum start with the “calm down modules,” which teach them strategies to manage their emotions. These strategies include counting to 10, using words to describe their feelings, squeezing a stress ball, taking a deep breath, or taking a break. As Milo works with students, the facilitator learns which tactics students prefer so he or she can activate the appropriate lesson to walk the child through the process of calming down using the preferred tool. After the calm-down modules, students can move on to the conversational modules (to work on greeting, leave-taking, and the back-and-forth of social conversation); situational modules that are designed to teach skills for specific situations; and modules that explore emotional understanding. We started the set of conversational modules with the greeting module because even highly verbal students with social skills challenges may struggle combining eye gaze, smiling, and a greeting word. Some even skip greeting altogether and may skip to the “meat” of a conversation. A common misconception about children with social skills challenges like ASD is that they aren’t empathetic. In my personal experience, these children are HIGHLY empathetic, but they just don’t process emotion or express empathy in typical ways. These students may not be able to read the facial expressions of others and tie them to a specific emotion. Even if they do, they may not know how to respond appropriately, to comfort a crying loved one for instance. The emotional understanding modules start by teaching them to identify expressions on other people. This is where a robot has an advantage over a person because often, social anxiety makes it hard for students with autism to look at other people’s faces for a long time. Not only can they look at Milo’s face, but they can listen to him describe emotions as a sequence of body-part movements. (“When I’m surprised, my eyebrows go up, my eyes are open wide, and my mouth is open.”) Facial expressions are taught on Milo the robot, in still photos of Milo, and videos of Milo. Then, the students are taught to generalize their knowledge by looking at still photos of actors and videos of actors of different ages and ethnicities. This repetition reinforces the lesson, promotes generalization, and allows students to repeat each module or lesson as many times as they want or need. A Labor of Love Helping to create the curriculum for Milo was a true labor of love for me. I worked with an illustrator to create the symbols that Milo displays. Many of videos that accompany the lessons were shot in my house, and include my voice. I am proud of the fact that my voice is able to reach kids worldwide, some of whom have not had access to individualized social skills training of any kind. Communication is about connecting with people, and if we don’t give them the skills they need, it really limits their ability to go out in the world and succeed. Having the academic skills to succeed in a classroom is one thing; but if they don’t have the social skills necessary to succeed in a classroom environment, they won’t even be able to be there to learn. I’m proud of what Milo can do, and we have big plans for what he’ll do next. Now that we have modules to help kids identify emotions, we want to take the next step and help them understand what to do when they react to emotions in themselves and others. We also want Milo to present situational modules for older kids: things like lunchroom procedures, what to do in the event of a fire drill, how to behave during an assembly, and making transitions. Mastering these skills will help kids with ASD to function and succeed in the classroom, allowing them and the kids around them to have a better learning experience. Michelle McFarlin, MS, CCC-SLP, is the director of Social Communication Connection. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University; and a Master’s of Science in Communication Disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas-Callier Center for Communication Disorders. She is a certified, clinical speech-language pathologist who specializes in early childhood language, social communication disorders, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
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