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…

STORY BOOKS TO READ:

  • 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.

MAKING BOTS BOOKS

  • 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 booko.com.au, 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!

 

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Binary Blitz, a 0101!

Learning about binary code can be daunting for some students. Some kids will switch off when they realise it is Math! “Why are we doing math in coding class?” was the cry of outrage put to me during Friday’s class. “How come we aren’t working on the computers?” was the next question. It took a lot of convincing that what we were about to do would be interesting and fun. And fun it was, so much fun that I felt it was one of the best classes we had had. A 0101 (5) out of 0101 (5) or five star class. Everyone participated, they all enjoyed the challenge and we all learned something new, staff included.

We worked on unplugged activities, no electronic technology needed. Who needs a computer or device when you have hands?

We started off by watching two short videos available on YouTube (Ok, so there was a little bit of technology involved). There is a lot of different videos available to watch which teach the basics of binary code (Base Two). You do need to watch a few yourself to see what will work for your class. This is why we watched two, differentiation, meeting the needs of all my students. The first one we watched was ‘What are binary numbers?‘ with James May, I thought the celebrity status would help. They all know James May from Top Gear, but at the end of the video I got comments from some students “I’m confused” and “That was too confusing.”. Hence, video two ‘Intro to Binary Numbers‘ a very simple and visual explanation.

We then discussed the concept and I drew how binary numbers worked on the front board. One of the things which confuse the kids is that the numbers run right to left, not left to right, they need to see this. I then used a set of dot cards on the front board to demonstrate how it works. You can get the binary card PDF and activity ideas from the csunplugged.org site. I enlarged the individual cards to A5 size and made up seven sets, printed, glued onto coloured card and laminated.

Once the majority got the hang of it we got our textas out and drew the binary numbers on our fingers. Who doesn’t like drawing on their hands? The trick with finger binary activities is the direction, the kids must write the numbers on the correct finger and facing the right way. The problem is which way is the right way, many of the finger activities online have the hands facing a different direction. You need to pick which way you want to go with and stick to it. I used palms out to audience which means the number one is on the pinky finger. A good example of palms out can be shown here.

Image from Rosio Pavoris’s blog (link above)

binary-finger-numbers

Binary fingers image from Rosio Pavoris blog

We then played several games to get our heads thinking and working with binary numbers. First up I called out numbers for the class to make, they held up their fingers to show me the answer. Be aware that with older students’ number 4 becomes very popular. We all had a 15948105702_58bb9ec283_zgood laugh over this, tried it out on each other (this may be the only time that you can demonstrate your true feelings) and moved on. Then we paired up and challenged our partners to make various numbers. I then handed out the binary card sets to each group; it gave those struggling with the finger binary an easier visual method. While the class was practicing using cards and fingers, I went to each group and checked if each student understood the process and could demonstrate for me. This was lots of fun and the students enjoyed showing off their new skill.

The next challenge was writing the numbers in binary, ones and zeros. I called numbers from the front, they made them using either cards or fingers and then told me how to write it on the board in binary code. For instance,

10 = 8 + 0 + 0 + 2 = 1010

13 = 8 + 4 + 0 + 1 = 1101

Next we had a competition seeing who could calculate the numbers the fastest, our Education Assistant working with our Auslan student won!

During our next class we will keep working on converting decimal numbers to binary numbers, writing them as binary numbers and then explore the alphabet in binary (ASCII). It should be just as fun.

There are many different binary code/base two teaching and learning ideas and resources available online for you to use, here is a few that I like: