To continue our Gifts for the Gifted series of 2014, I would like to recommend a little robot that looks like a toy but has a lot of educational potential.
I purchased a Sphero for my classroom late last May, and my students barely had time to unbox it before the school year ended. As soon as they returned in August, they asked me when it would make its reappearance. Some of you may remember that it was used by a group during our Cardboard Box Challenge this year. Three groups of 5th graders worked together to make a huge Sphero maze that was several sections. It was a big hit at our Cardboard Arcade!
The Sphero isn’t the easiest object to control. That’s part of the fun. Using one of the “Nubby” covers can sometimes help, but it can also be a hindrance depending on the surface.
But the Sphero isn’t just about guiding a plastic ball around with your iPad. Sam Patteson (@SamPatue) recently did a guest post on Cool Cat Teacher about how Sphero can be used in the classroom. Orbotix, the company who produces the Sphero, has a page of free lesson plans that you can use to teach math, programming, and other STEM subjects. Courtney Pepe has used Sphero with augmented reality to inspire creative writing in her class.
If you’re a parent and not a teacher, you may be wondering why I am bringing up all of these educational options. Don’t get me wrong; there are several apps that make the Sphero pure fun without necessarily being educational, and it can inspire creativity in those kids who like to “make.” However, you may also want to consider buying one for your child and offering to loan it to his or her teacher for a week or two once your child starts running out of ideas at home.
You can purchase the Sphero at many retail stores, including Amazon. There is a newer product from Orbotix (Ollie) that may interest you as well. However, I don’t have experience with it yet so I can’t tell you if it’s worth it.
If you are interested in seeing the other gifts I’ve recommended this year, as well as from years past, check out this Pinterest Board.