Talking Devices

Let’s talk about which devices for which age group. During March, I attended a Digital Technologies 7-10 professional learning workshop which deconstructed the Western Australian Curriculum. It was a great opportunity to see what other teachers were doing in their schools and how they interpreted the DT curriculum.  For myself, one of the presenters, Maria D’Cunha from Hampton SHS, shared a story that gave me some confidence in how my journey was progressing. Like many of us, Maria was building her own Digital Technology skills and knowledge, she acknowledged that she was also learning, and not just her students. However, the biggest thing which she shared and which hit home for me was that she knew her students, she recognised that coding was something that many of her students knew nothing about and she started from that point. It didn’t matter that they were high school students, she gave them time to play and experiment with devices which many have labelled as being useful only for Early Childhood and Junior students. In Maria’s case, the devices available were BeeBots. BeeBot_blinking

So, why is this a big deal? Well, in my journey I have sat and listened to many teachers sharing their stories, and I have listened to the expectations of those developing the WA Digital Curriculum, and the message in some cases has been that within a high school setting students should be learning and using a scripting language. Now, this is doable for those students lucky enough to have had experienced a thorough ICT background with a passionate, qualified teacher and the available hardware/resources but not all students have had this opportunity. In fact, many students may not even have access to a computer or device at home, nor internet access. Starting your program at a lower level is ok and will give students time to develop the confidence, skills, and knowledge which they need. I am not saying don’t challenge students just put some time into introducing the basics, give them time to experiment and explore the new devices, software, and applications, before setting higher level tasks. We want students to develop a passion for Digital Technologies and not be turned off and frustrated by attempting tasks beyond their initial abilities.

So, what do you start with? If you are lucky enough to be in a DETWA Primary or District High school you would have received in Semester Two, last year, a Digital & Design Technology kit filled with robots and maker gadgets. This came with a document outlining which device/gadget was suitable for which age group, very handy for getting started. However, many schools are still in the process of purchasing suitable devices and it is a little confusing as to what may work for which age group. What can be recommended on device websites may not always work in the classroom setting or be appropriate for the curriculum. If you are hoping to reduce that frazzled teacher feeling (wishing you had extra limbs to be able to help all students at once) and you want students working independently with devices, it is worth putting in some time doing a little research.

My suggestion is to use your teacher network to gather information from those in the know who have used the devices and have hands on experience using them in the classroom. Having used several robots and devices myself I thought I would share my devicesopinion and what I had been advised by other educators in my professional network. I have created a document that compares the advice of the companies, DETWA and those in the classroom. If you are interested you can access it here in the curriculum resource page. It is a work in progress and if you feel you could contribute further information based on experience please take the time to email me. All suggestions and advice would be very welcome and helpful in completing the document.

Please remember that this is based on personal experience and just a suggestion, your own experience and the experiences of others may be completely different due to many factors, including student prior knowledge and the reliability of the technology infrastructure within your school.


Books for Little Bots

Over the last six weeks, I have attended several Digital Technology professional development workshops and met some great teachers. One of the discussions which keep popping up is the integration of digital technologies into other subject areas. It is becoming a necessity due to the limited availability of DT specialist staff in most schools, and the crowded curriculum which is stretching classroom teachers to the limit, best not even mention the two hours of LOTE which we will soon have to cram in as well!

So, to ease the pressure on us all let’s look at texts which could be useful in supporting DT knowledge and skills in Early Childhood and Junior classes, and which may be used as a hook for other teaching areas. Now we all know that robots are not an essential component of teaching digital technologies, however, they are a very good way to hook students into wanting to learn and participate. With this in mind, I began researching what robot themed text is available and how it might fit into other subject areas.

Here’s what I found which looked useful…


  • Robots, Robots Everywhere (Little Golden Book) by Sue Fliess.robots robots everywhereThis cute little book could be used as a hook to get students thinking about robots in our world, where do we find robots? Do we use robots in our daily life? Students could select a real world robot and draw/write about what it does, perhaps create a flow chart which outlines the steps/sequence that a real world robot goes through. Or use it as a hook for writing a narrative about working with a robot, then have students illustrate their work (labeled diagram or artwork), or perhaps build a robot sculpture.
  • Power Down, Little Robot by Anna Staniszewski. This is a good text to introduce power downalgorithms, a sequence for a procedure. The book is about a little robot who does not want to go to bed, he runs through his stalling program to avoid going to bed, something which all young children can relate too. Students could write and illustrate their own bedtime routine, which also fits into the health curriculum. This text also has a song and mentions some technology terms: error messages, circuit, power modules, and sequence.
  • The Robot Book by Heather Brown. The hardcover book has interactive parts which the robotcan be moved, such as, spinning cogs. With only 5 pages, it outlines the very basic parts of a robot for little children, in the search for the most important part (the heart). What is the heart of a robot? Useful for ECE classes when designing a robot, and could be used for covering social and emotional content. It could also be used with older students as a sample of how to design a book with moving parts.
  • The Robot and the Bluebird by David Lucas. robot and birdAn emotional story about an old robot who can’t be fixed but finds a way to save a bird. A story that can open many discussions and writing tasks. Warning: You may need tissues.
  • Pete the Cat: Robo-Pete by James Dean. Pete the Cat builds a robot, he programs the robot to be like him in order to have someone to play the games he likes. Mentioned is Robo Pete having a homing device, which you robo petecould use to open a discussion about mapping and GPS, students could create a story map of the text or develop their own grid ‘hide & seek’ map of the playground or school. Where would you hide? Students could code a path using directional arrow symbols and direct a robot friend to the secret spot. Or use the gridded maps to play a game similar to battleships, can you find the hiding spot?
  • Sometimes I Forget You’re a Robot by Sam Brown.forget your a robot This is a lovely story about friendship and could be used in ECE to develop student awareness regarding how we speak to people in a positive way and how we are all valuable in different ways, plus jobs that robots could do.
  • The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara. This is an adaption of the famous ‘Three Little Pigs’, it would work well in a text comparison activity (with a Venn diagram) and lends itself well to incorporating any space travel activity. The end pages show the planets, all labeled with their names. Not really useful for DT but I really liked the big bad robot and his scary face.
  • R Is for Robot: A Noisy Alphabet by Adam F. Watkins. r for robotAnother text with great robot illustrations, each letter of the alphabet has words which describe sounds. It would be great for any narrative writing task or animation project where students were being encouraged to include sound within their text. Watch this clip to get an idea of the content.
  • Clink by Kelly DiPucchio. clink2This book has lovely end clinkcovers illustrated with very detailed plans of how to build a robot, a great example to show students and encourage them to add detail to their diagrams. The story line features an outdated robot whose programs no one wants and how he tries to gain the attention of the shoppers in hope of being purchased.
  • Little Robot by Ben Hatke, little robotis a graphic novel suitable for junior and middle school students. This text is a perfect hook for comic book making, students could create their own comic book text using an iPad application or website. Comic book creation is a great way to demonstrate creating a sequence. See Ben being interviewed and talk about his artwork.


  • Cool Robots by Sean Kenney. LEGO extraordinaire Sean Kenney has developed a few cool robots 2texts with instructions for building simple robots. You will need to check his block list and make sure you have the required pieces, otherwise, use the text as inspiration and have students construct their own robots. Perhaps they could even create their own instructions, another way to teach about sequences/algorithms.
  • Cool Creations in 35 Pieces by Sean Kenney. This book has several robot designs. You can purchase the 35 pieces on this website. What might be interesting is using the robot creations to create a short film/stop motion, after designing and creating their robots students could create a storyboard sequence and then use a green screen app to produce their short film.
  • awesome legoAwesome LEGO Creations with Bricks You Already Have by Sarah Dees. Another useful LEGO book featuring several robots to inspire students to get creative with design and make their own. Build some math activities into the project, perhaps collating and graphing data about the blocks used or set a criteria challenge and limit what they are allowed to use.
  • Papertoy Glowbots: 46 Glowing Robots You Can Make Yourself! by Brian Castleforte. This book looks like loads of fun and Papertoy-Glowbots_covercontains enough robots for each child in your class. You could easily merge this text into your Science program about light or use it as inspiration for a Design and Technology project. **Please note: there is a warning about potential fire hazard for some projects, make sure you go over any safety issues with your students and have a plan in case anything should occur (ooh…another Health lesson, fire safety).

Well, this robot needs to power down after developing RSI from working too long on the computer. I haven’t even looked at the great non-fiction robot text available, perhaps next time. Just a little shopping tip before I go…

My favourite site for searching for books and the best price is, it gives both the cost and delivery postage rate for most online books sellers. The Book Depository, Abe Books, and Booktopia are usually the cheapest option for us Aussies. Happy reading!


Birds Eye View

Sometimes great information from sources other than digital technology sites arrive in my inbox, today is one of those days. I subscribe to the artips newsletter which is a fountain of historical information for visual artists and art teachers. Today’s arrival has jumped beyond the artist and into the popular niche of STEAM. It also melds beautifully with many of our Digital Technology devices, including drones and Ozobots.

The newsletter features the work of Julius Neubronner, a German pharmacist, who had a passion for photography and strapped a miniature camera onto a pigeon. Hhhmm…are you seeing the connection? What a great topic to introduce and integrate the science, technology, engineering, art and math aspects into your teaching unit.


julius_neubronner_with_pigeon_and_camera_1914The connection with drones is obvious, but what about Ozobots? Well, for those of us working with little people, we often have to teach about ‘birds eye view’, when drawing our maps. What a great way to do this with actual historical evidence of what a bird can see from high above us. Imagine the engagement when you explain how Julius Neubronner attached a camera to a bird! Yes, I know that David Attenborough and his techies have done it thousands of times, but this is from the olden days.

Mr Neubronner also delivered his medical prescriptions by pigeon, and now we have drones delivering pizza! There is loads of connections to be made with then and now.

Check out the newsletter for yourself here. How would you use this information in your class?

Here are a few links with extra information:

Evolution…Ozobot talks!

Ok, so they may not actually talk but they do make sounds! The new Evo Ozobot looks awesome. For those of us who are already Ozobot fans and educators, this is super exciting.

ozobot-evo-box-packaging-a418abd2The new Evo has sensors which allow it to interact with objects in the environment, it has new lights, a speaker, can make sounds to suggest emotions and allows users to communicate through social media. You can use the Evo with tablets and smartphones. Much like our old favourite 2.0 Ozobot it can be programmed with either colour codes or block coding. New codes have been developed to match the new features, students will enjoy adding sound to their programming.

The sad thing is that us Aussies are not yet able to purchase an Evo 😦

There is a preorder set up on the Ozobot website, however, when trying to place an order from Australia you are hit with a $100US shipping fee! I think you will find that even if you have the money to pay they will notify you that they don’t ship to Australia (as happened to me previously). Let’s hope that Edtech get in on the action quickly and makes them available here.

If you would like more info about the Evo check out the links below:





Using an iPad these days is common practice for many of us. For me it is a vital tool which I carry with me and am never without. Every day I use it for a variety of personal, work and educational purposes. Yesterday it helped me to research and purchase a new oven and dish washer, find an appliance store, watch a movie online, contact a friend, share some documents, check out my weekly lesson plans, catch up on social media, read a book, look for new teaching resources, download worksheets, and wake me up! Much like a mobile phone, iPads have become a must have tool.

Many schools are using them on a 1:1 basis or sharing classroom sets. This of course means that both teachers and students are having to learn how to use them. Luckily this is usually an easy process as iPads have been designed with the user in mind. Students quickly learn how to operate the iPad, they share what they know with their peers and often teach their teacher tips and tricks.

Recording what skills students can do with an iPad can be useful for assessment purposes book-creator-for-ipad-iconand also guide you in what you need to teach them next, with regard to operating an iPad. A couple of people had asked about check lists, so that we can tick off what they know, record the data and move on. I have created two different versions, Version 1. has the basic operating skills which all students should learn, plus skills often used when using a creative application (app) such as Explain Everything or Book Creator. explain-everythingVersion 2. has more complex operational skills which you would expect your older students to accomplish, and also has some browser skills. How you use them is up to you, a simple tick would work to indicate the student can independently use each operating feature or you could use symbols, D for developing, A for achieved, etc.


The checklists can be found on my resources curriculum page, I would suggest printing them out as an A3 document. I hope they are useful, feel free to share them around. I will be creating other checklists for various digital technology learning areas in the near future.

Assessment D.T. tasks?

Digital technology assessment? Hmmm, so we are teaching great stuff, the kids are loving it. You are learning new skills, the school has invested money for new resources and if you are lucky some great PL opportunities. You may even have had D.T. incursions or excursions, visiting robots certainly add to the buzz! The D.T. unit you developed for the term was a success, the Principal is impressed and the parents can’t stop talking about it. But really the whole point is the result, did your students achieve what was expected?

They may have mastered how to use ‘Scratch’, created a game and had lots of fun in the process, but how do you collate and record what they did when it is all digital? And are they really using computational thinking if they are just following the provided steps and dragging block code onto an editor? We may think we are teaching D.T. by engaging with these resources but perhaps we are not really challenging our students, nor collecting real evidence.

There are many resources out there that are recommended to us as being great for teaching digital technologies. Lots are FREE (Don’t we love that?) and some cost screen480x480us a great deal of money (plus time!), each has value or does it?  For example, I have used Cargo bot with a previous class. For those of you who haven’t tried it here is a video to give you some idea of how it works. It is a great app to demonstrate the use of symbolic code and it can be very challenging. In fact, so challenging that you become frustrated. For our high school students, this resulted in many students off task or students cheating by googling how to solve the various tasks/levels. Well, we did want them problem solving!

If we have to provide evidence of a student’s skill and knowledge of using this app for assessment purposes, what are we going to say? Student A got to level 3 and student B reached level 8, so student B clearly understands symbolic code, pattern and repetition (iteration), or perhaps student B is just better at googling the answers?

Let’s talk about using Ozobots. As you know I am a big fan of these little robots, to the point that I bought my own to play with before introducing them as a teaching device. The Ozobot website provides many lesson plans and workshops. There is challenges along the way and something for every age group (K-12). I have used many of the provided resources, and they are great, but still, I felt that collecting evidence of a student’s true computational thinking abilities is not always evident. Students often help each other, which is a skill we are looking for, collaborative problem solving, but when it comes to assessment for reporting it is individual. One of the ways I have been dealing with this is by modifying the supplied Ozobot lesson plan/workshop. For instance, there is a simple worksheet activity which has students draw a simple compound shaped track and then write the code needed to program the robots. Yes, I said write, a little bit of practice writing code and some evidence collection. With me, the students only attempt this after library_shapetracer-basicthey have become familiar with the basic online editor games, Shape Tracer and Shape Tracer 2.

After finishing the simple activity sheet, I set them a new task. Using graph paper and textas they must draw their own track. I set a few rules:

  • there must be seven or more objects on the page (much like a birds’ eye view of a map-buildings)
  • they must have colour changes within the route (the robots flash various colours)
  • the robots must travel around the buildings/objects
  • they need a start and finish point or they may create a loop (iteration)

I keep it simple as what I am really after is what follows. The students create very different tracks, some are very simple and some extremely complex. I then set the next task which is writing the code (sequence = algorithm) for programming the route. They have their original worksheet to refer to which has a section with the correct coding terminology and choices, such as ‘right turn 90 degrees’, ‘slight left turn 45 degrees’, etc. This helps support the students, they don’t need to concentrate on the terminology, they need to focus on reading their route and finding which code they need for their programming to run successfully. For assessment purposes it gives me an indication of whether they understand the different codes, if they can problem solve by selecting the correct code, add the extra information needed (i.e. number of steps, etc.) and create a sequence (algorithm).

The next step is block coding their written code onto the computer, we use the Ozoblockly editor to do this. Once again students need to demonstrate that they can read/understand editortheir own code, they drag and drop the block code into the required sequence (algorithm). They then program the code onto the robot (from the computer monitor) and run the programmed robot to test if their coding is correct. Here is where they find errors and correct their coding (both online & on their paper coding).

So what have they learned and what can we assess from this activity? Quite a bit, here is a few areas (from various grades) which we have covered:

  • Different types of data, and the same data can be represented in different ways (ACTDIK008)
  • Data is represented using codes (ACTDIK015)
  • Design, modify, follow and represent both diagrammatically, and in written text, simple algorithms (sequence of steps) involving branching(decisions) and iteration (repetition) (ACTDIP019)
  • Implement and use simple visual programming environments that include branching (decisions), iteration (repetition) and user input (ACTDIP020)

Anyone else have assessment ideas to share? What have you been using and doing to collect assessment data?