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!

 

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.

 

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.