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Elevate learning with drones

By Team ISTE
July 27, 2016
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When most people think of drones, they don’t usually consider the remote-control video cameras to be classroom tools. But Christopher Carnahan does. He uses them to teach math.

It started as a curiosity. Carnahan got a robotics kit that included an augmented reality drone and had his students use it to work in groups to solve math problems. The experience was so engaging and effective, he knew he had to find more ways to use the tool for learning.

Drones are ideal in STEM education, even for children as young as kindergarten, Carnahan says. Very young children can use drones to practice estimating distance or height, while older students can work in groups to calculate distance traveled.

“I see people who use drones to fit the maker component,” Carnahan says. “What I’ve geared toward is curriculum integration.”

Drones can be integrated in many subject areas, not just STEM courses, Carnahan says. He offers these tips for using drones across a host of subjects:

Biology: Tramping through marshlands or getting a bird’s eye view of trees isn’t always possible for biology students. Drones allow students to investigate wildlife from vantage points they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Art: Photography students can use drones to get different angles or capture images from above.

English: Drones provide different perspectives for creative writing projects.

Geography: Some models of drones have the capability of mapping their course, and students can use Google Maps to follow a drone’s path online. Students can also use drones to investigate the topography of an area or study vehicle or pedestrian traffic.

Extracurricular activities: Band directors and athletic coaches can use drones to film practices. The view from the sidelines provides a limited perspective; whereas, a drone and its overhead shot can show the entire field and capture the movements of everyone at once.

“Kids from kindergarten to high school are inspired by using drones,” Carnahan says. Just seeing one carried down the hallway creates a buzz of excitement, and students can’t wait to use them in class.

Get a drone program off the ground in your school with the practical tips found in Carnahan’s book Drones in Education: Let Your Students' Imaginations Soar.