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…

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!

 

This Far, with Little Coders.

In session one, ‘How Far with Little Coders’, students were investigating just how far is 5 and ten Ozobot steps? Once we had acquired this knowledge we could move forward and challenge ourselves. The challenge criteria is opened ended, the solution will be different for each group and students have choice in their design and construction process. So, what is the challenge?

Session Two

The challenge:

  • Create a track for the Ozobot to travel, using graph paper, masking tape and straws.
  • Calculate the distance to travel through each section of your track.
  • Use the Ozoblockly editor to create a sequence to allow the Ozobot to travel the full length of your track, from start to finish!

Tips to Remember:

  • Fold along one edge of the graph paper, match the folded edge on one sheet to the graph line on the second sheet. Tape together on the reverse side. *I did this for my students, under their guidance as to their design choice. Older students should be able to manage themselves.
  • Cut the straws into different lengths to make an interesting track.
  • Use small pieces of masking tape to hold down the straws, make sure the tape will not interfere with the travelling Ozobot.2016-11-15-14-02-46
  • Make sure you allow enough width across the track, so the Ozobot can travel freely.
  • Include degree codes to turn direction.
  • Refer to your prior test results, how many graph squares/cm is in 5 or 10 Ozobot steps? How many code blocks do you need to use?
  • Count the graph squares carefully to calculate which code block you need to use. Use a pencil to mark each code block distance on your track. Use this information to select the correct code blocks, and form your sequence.
  • Test run along the way…calibrate the robot, then load the sequence.

 

Most students took two sessions to complete the task. The first student to finish was a girl! Go, coding girls! In my experience, across the 1-10 Years/Grades, girls do seem to have the stamina to persevere and problem solve, the boys will often give up and enthusiasm wanes when they can’t solve problems quickly. With this activity, everyone was engaged and kept trying to get to the finish line. There was cheers of joy, clapping and congratulations when students succeeded. There was also tears of frustration from one little man, who passionately wanted to do well, but struggled with his low math ability. A little pep talk, some teacher help and he was back on track.

When you select the student partner groups, pay attention to the student’s strengths, try and pair them so one supports the other. It will reduce the frustration and hopefully there will be no tears. The word challenge is very real in this activity, I am working with six and seven year old’s, and I am pushing them. Am I asking too much of them? Perhaps, but they are learning from the challenge, building stamina and developing thinking skills, plus finding pride and joy in the accomplishment. Oh, and celebrate the achievements, send them off to show others of what they can do…show the office staff, the principal, the gardener, the class next door, and spread the joy!

 

How Far, with Little Coders?

Are you counting sleeps? I am. So, little time to get everything finished up for the school year. In this silly season of assessment, reports, presentation practice, graduation events, school year books, class groups for 2017, swimming lessons, sports carnivals, job uncertainty, meetings, tinsel and glitter, we are still teaching and learning.

For myself and my little coders there has been a lot of learning. Earlier in the term, I had the opportunity to attend a great LEGO EV3 Mindstorm workshop in Perth at SciTech. It was a lot of fun, I got to catch up with some past colleagues, and it was challenging. If you have the opportunity to attend a LEGO EV3 event do it, even if you don’t have these robots you can apply the teaching/lesson ideas to most robots. Which is exactly what I did, I modified one of the activities to suit my little coders and their skill level, when working with Ozobots and the Ozoblockly editor.

The activity was to work out how far a LEGO EV3 can travel in one rotation of the wheel. It was an interesting 5 minute investigation, a group of 30 adults were all estimating, calculating, discussing their thoughts on distance. Only a few people in the room calculated the correct distance.

So, I took this little gem of an idea and asked the little coders ‘How far is 5 Ozobot steps?’, ‘How far is 10 Ozobot steps?’. Hhhmmm…no one knew, including me. Now given that I am working with Yr. 1/2 students, I had to make the task achievable. We want a little bit of challenge and investigation, but we also want success and that feeling of pride and achievement. My solution to this was using graph paper, cheap, easy to access (hello, Mr. B, Math/Science Wizard), and we can record our data on it. You need to use 5mm graph paper, the reason being that Ozobots move small distances.

Session One

First, remind students about the Mode 1 block codes in the editor. A quick game of what code is this, using the Mode 1 flash cards.

Then:

  • Explain the challenge. How far (the distance) is 5 steps and 10 steps?
  • Demonstrate on the IWB, the Ozoblockly editor and which code blocks they need to use. You only need a speed block and the 5/10 step blocks. Show the students the simple sequence…speed block, joined to step block. Remind/demonstrate how to calibrate the robot and program the robot (many students forget the steps).
  • Group students into partners.
  • Each group needs: one piece of 5mm graph paper, a pencil and an Ozobot. Plus computer with Ozoblockly Editor.
  • Demonstrate drawing a straight start line on the paper, repeat this 4 times. You should have 4 start lines along on edge of the paper. Under two of the lines write ‘5 steps’and under the other two write ’10 steps’. 2016-11-08-16-21-43
  • Load the program onto a robot. Demonstrate: Run the robot from the starting line. When it stops, use the pencil to mark how far it traveled. Mark off all the 5mm squares covered with that distance. How many squares did it travel? How must distance is this? Discuss measuring in centimeters. How many millimeters in one centimeter? 5mm + 5mm = 10mm = 1cm
  • Have students work through their own investigation, calculating the Ozobot steps/distance. How far did it travel?

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2016-11-08-16-16-342016-11-08-13-41-18

Session Two

This is where the fun starts and the challenge becomes greater, but you will have to wait for the next blog post, as it is time for me to go to work. Have a great day everyone.

 

Challenging Little Coders

Welcome back.

If you remember from my last Little Coders post, I had promised to let you know how we went in the next two sessions. So, let’s talk about how I assessed the students in these sessions.

Session 4 (& 5).  We started, as I always do, reviewing our past skills. A quick game of ‘Who knows this code?’, holding up the Ozobot code block flash cards (mode 1) and having students answer individually. Then we moved on to creating a sequence on the board with our text code cards, like before the students work with me making decisions on what we will include and what we need to complete the sequence (see session 3. for more info). ozoblockly-mode-1

Then we had a go creating the code in the Ozoblockly editor, this was the easy part. Most students can now use the editor very successfully, a few make some simple errors, such as selecting a backwards code instead of a forwards code.

 

What is tricky is programming the Ozobots on the monitor, to test their sequence. A few tips to teach which are vital for success are:

  • Train the students to check the display brightness, using the buttons on the monitor. It must be set at 100% or it will not load. We work in a computer lab which the whole school uses, and other students will change the settings.
  • Train the student to calibrate the Ozobot before every program load. This is usually the number one reason for failure. You must: hold the button in on the Ozobot until it flashes white, release the button and then place on the screen, hold until it flashes green (yay, it’s working), then it will turn itself off. You are now ready to load the program.
  • Train the student to load the program. They must turn the Ozobot on and release the button before placing it on the monitor. *Do not hold the button down. With the Ozobot turned on and held in place on the monitor, click the load button. The program will load; you know it is working if it is flashing green. *If it flashes red it is not working! Redo the calibration and try again.
  • Train the the students how to run their program. They must learn to double click the button on the Ozobot to run their program. If they only click once it will not run their program.

check-listNext, I got my check list out to record what they could do, and I changed the text code sequence which was on the board. I added a few different codes and lengthened the sequence. The students were asked to create the sequence and I walked around marking off who could do what (the basics). As students finished loading their programs they called me over and demonstrated their sequence using the Ozobots. When we are watching the Ozobot, we are also looking at their code on the monitor and talking about what’s happening. This reinforces the connection of what is on the screen (the code) and what the robot is doing…is the robot flashing the right colour, has it moved forward or backward, is it turning in the right direction, etc? We actively look for any errors. We talk about the errors and I listen to what they say, what do they need to do? Can they identify, fix the error and modify the code independently? You can get a very clear picture of their knowledge. *Note: this is very time consuming, I did not get to view every student, and that is with having an extra staff member in the room to monitor the class and help students with any issues. I ended up assessing over two sessions (4 & 5), with help. Be easy on yourself and break it down into targeted groups for assessment over several classes.

What we are assessing? Basically,  can the student…

  • Use the hardware and software to meet specific objectives.
  • Create a set of sequenced steps, using provided commands for a robotic device, to make them move in an intended manner.

 

Session 6. This time I make the task more challenging and creative. The students must use the provided basic codes but they have freedom of choice in designing their own sequence in any order they wish. They can add as many steps as they like, choose any colours they wish, make choices about direction (including degrees) and wait time, and light features. I place a selection of basic codes (using the text cards) on the board, and I 2016-10-21-17-59-18ask the students to create their own sequence using the codes. The text codes include: set colour, move forward, move backwards, turn right, turn left , wait, and turn in a (circle choice). I also write on the board that they must include four special lighting or movement codes of their choice (This makes it more fun, who doesn’t want Christmas tree lights flashing, before you zig zag along?). I also stipulate that they must have between ten and twenty code blocks within the sequence.  They must then load the program onto the Ozobot, test the program and make any modifications, before showing the teacher.

Sounds fun, but where is the challenge? The challenges vary greatly depending on the student, their abilities, their choices and the criteria that you set. For instance:

  • Can they log onto the computer?
  • Can they find and open the software?
  • Can they select mode 1?
  • Can they create/design a sequence using the set codes? *Note: Students could draw/design a plan on paper to create a sequence, prior to them coding on the Ozoblockly editor.
  • Can they identify and locate the code blocks they need?
  • Can they track how many code blocks they have included? Have they used them all and met the criteria?
  • Have they snapped/joined the code blocks together?
  • Can they calibrate the robot?
  • Can they load their program onto the robot?
  • Can they run/test their program? Are they making links/connections between what code is on the screen and what the robot is doing?
  • Can they problem solve when the robot does not run as it should? (Monitor brightness, calibration, loading procedure)
  • Can they talk about their sequence, their code choices and what the robot is doing? *Note: You could have students draw their completed sequence and write what each code means after they complete the task.

Wow, I am exhausted just typing it!

Once again it boils down to our basic skills and knowledge goals: using hardware and software, reading and using a set criteria to create a sequence (algorithm), in order to get our robots moving in an intended manner.