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!

 

Little Coders…Grow up!

Hey all, I imagine everyone is flat chat busy teaching and assessing for reporting. For my little coders the pressure has also escalated. We have graduated from Ozobot colour code to Ozobot block coding! The students were super excited about this, but it has been a rocky road. For some students just logging onto the computer can be challenging.

For myself, the first two sessions were crazy! Let me just say that again, yep, CRAZY! One teacher helping two dozen first time block coders (some who can’t read well) log on, find the editor, learn the code blocks (Mode 1.), create a sequence and try to program the robots…well, really, it was complete madness. It was one of those moments when I wished I could morph into an octopus or two, I needed eight arms at least.

Luckily for me, my Deputy understood my pain and this term has allocated a wonderful Education Assistant to our DT session. It is still very busy but we are into our fourth session and the students have started to build their knowledge and skills. Our journey so far has been very much one of discovery…

Session 1. We played, it was very much a session on how to use the editor. Having a go finding and dragging code into the editor, exploring what each code might be and what it might do. We tried to make a sequence and with help, we tried to program the robot and run our sequence.

Session 2. More play, building our basic knowledge. Students shared one robot between two. Can we do it ourselves? What do we need to do? Why isn’t it working? What have we done wrong? What do we need to change? Who can I ask for help? *3 before me (ask your partner, ask the student sitting on the other side of you, ask a peer who is good with computers…ask the teacher last! This reduces the teacher dependence and gets them solving problems together.)

Then…two weeks break for the holidays. This I knew was going to be a problem, they would forget most of what they had learnt. We would be starting all over again. So I did what I should have done to start with and we unplugged.

Session 3.  We spent the first half of the session not using the Ozoblockly editor but we did use the Ozobot block code. Hhhmmm, how did we do that?

2016-10-21-17-53-38On the holidays I spent half a day making some block code resources. I screen shot images of the Ozobot Mode 1. codes and pasted them into word. I cropped and adjusted the size of each block to make larger blocks which could be read when blu tacked to the front board or when held up. Then I laminated them and cut them to size ready to play with. I also made some flash card strips with the command codes written on them in text, then enlarged and laminated these as well.

During class we reviewed what each code block was and what it did. I just held up random cards and students told me their answers. Not everyone remembered them all, but that gave other students the opportunity to show what they knew and help their peers.

Then we played robots. I split the class into two teams, my wonderful EA had one group and I the other. We sat the students facing each other (guard of honour style) and gave each student two or three code block cards. We then worked with the students to make a sequence (on the floor), during this time we discussed the order. What we need to start with, which way do we want our robot to move? Which code block will make it turn in the right direction? Do we want to use a special movement card, a spin, a zigzag? After we finished the sequence, one student was chosen to be the robot and respond to the code. The robot could not move unless his team read aloud the next code block. This worked really well, as once again peers helped peers when any errors were made. The students really enjoyed this activity and wanted to keep going for the whole period, but the mean teacher shut down the robot and made everyone log onto a computer. Oh no!

2016-10-21-17-59-18I wanted to see if they could apply this knowledge when they used the editor, so we began activity two. Using and introducing the command text cards I created a sequence on the front board. When doing this I was constantly engaging in discussion about what we might need next and why? I encourage the kids to help me add to the sequence, they enjoy being part of the process and are actively engaged. Once the (text)sequence was constructed on the board I challenged them to recreate it in the Ozobot editor. Most students handled this really well and found the correct code blocks needed. The biggest challenge came with reading the text sequence, but I was pleased to see students walking up to the board to check which line of code (text) they needed next and puzzling it out, sounding words out, and checking with friends. Many asked me “What is after five (or three, four, …)?” Huh? It took me a minute to realise they were counting the lines of code to keep track, perhaps I should have numbered each line of code. Anyway, overall it went well, early finishers were encouraged to modify the code and/or load the program onto the Ozobots.

Hope this is of some value to you. More to come soon, with sessions 4 & 5 (assessment). I am snowed under at the moment with writing job applications (oh the joy of being fixed term), and assessing and reporting.

Note: I will try an add the code block/text doc (in resource page) when I have more time. If you are desperate for a copy (Draft-rough and ready) email me.

 

 

Little Coders…try and try again!

The one thing about little coders are they never let you down. They’re always full of beans and excited to be part of your class. This week my little coders (Yr. 1/2) were super keen and had a double dose of coding! They experienced a great robot and coding incursion by Gecko Steps and getting hands on with Ozobots in our DT class.

I was kinda proud when the Gecko Steps presenter asked the class “What do you think these things are? (pointing to holes on front of the robot)” and quick as a flash two students replied with “Sensors! Eyes to see with!”

In the last three lessons, we have looked at robots in real life, learnt about the components of the the Ozobots, discovered that sensors are a bit like your eyes (sensitive) and learn’t about how to draw colour code tracks for our robots. We have begun to learn the basic Ozobot colour code symbols. What we did wrong when drawing these and how to fix them, if we make a mistake?

To stretch their knowledge further and give them a chance to demonstrate what they know, I have designed a fun Ozobot cityscape lesson. I am hoping this will give them more time to absorb and remember the various codes, plus get them problem solving and finding solutions.

The inspiration for the task came from picklebums.com, gotta love that name. Kate Pickle (at least I think that’s her name) has a cute envelop city activity  which looks like loads of fun. My version has student’s coding the roads of their city for Ozobot traffic. Picking up code cards, as they make their way from building to building and problem solving how to use each code to reach their destination.

If you would like a copy of the lesson download it from here Envelope City Challenge 1 Mentioned in the lesson plan is a set of OZOBOT COLOUR CODES cards which I created. You need the cards to complete the lesson. The cards needed to be printed in colour and laminated. They are very useful for teaching any of the Ozobot lessons.

Have a great week everyone 🙂

 

Deconstructing Coding in the Curriculum

We are all time poor! Are you all nodding in agreement? Many of us spend hours of our own time working back in our class rooms after hours, creating resources at home, marking assessments…and the list goes on. So when approached with something new we need to follow some well known advice ‘work smarter not harder’.

This is how I approached my journey at deconstructing the Digital Technologies curriculum. I looked elsewhere for help, why reinvent the wheel if someone else has already broached the subject? The focus topic being, what skills need to be taught and assessed, and for which age group? What I came across during my search was a kind, experienced educator who was happily sharing her knowledge to the world. Glenys Goffett, on her school’s website copacabana-ps.com,  has broken down what she believes should be taught in I.C.T. across the various age groups. Luckily for us this includes coding and robotics. She has also placed a Creative Commons license on her work meaning that we can all share her work among our education community and make alterations to  suit our requirements, as long as we do not use it for commercial purposes (that is sell it for financial gain). What I liked about Glenys’s suggested skills is that it was written in simple plain English, easy for any non techy teacher to understand. A great starting point for most teachers.

Creating robotics2

Screenshot from Glenys Goffett’s  I.C.T. document.

 

After recording the tables of information I sat down to work my way through the Western Australian Digital Technology Curriculum Scope & Sequence. I focused on K-6 and slowly attempted to match  each skill to each strand and content descriptor. Below is what I came up with. At this point I have only looked at Coding, Robotics and iPad use. It may not be perfect but it’s a start and will help guide you in what to teach and assess across the ECE and Primary years.

My DT 2016 S&S Plan PDF     DT 2016 K-6 Plan 1

My DT 2016 S&S Plan WORD Doc.   DT 2016 K-6 Plan 1

Please share…Do you have a plan to share? A useful link? Let me know of any useful resources which may help others further their knowledge of teaching and learning DT.