My students have loved using the Dash robots from Wonder Workshop so much that I thought they might enjoy some extra time with them over the summer. So, earlier this year, I devised a plan for an Undercover Robots Camp to be held at my house. Last week was the first session, “Spy School.”
Using 4 Dash robots, the campers were divided into teams of 3 for the week. Dash received a letter that he was invited to train to be a secret agent at spy school, and each team took their robot through the different spy courses, such as speaking in Morse code and surveillance. At the end of the week, their robots “graduated” from Spy School.
I’ve never done this before, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. Fortunately, I had a great group of campers who were willing to experiment along with me. Throughout the week, I sprinkled puzzles and crafts (such as creating undercover disguises for the robots) along with the programming challenges, so there were lots of opportunities for every team member to shine and get involved.
My favorite part of the week was the graduation ceremony. The students got so creative with my box of random stuff as they made graduation hats and gowns for their robots! And one of the teams leapt for joy when they finally were able to program their robot to join the graduation procession at the precise time and spot. (Sorry that the video below got prematurely cut when I ran out of space on my phone. Oh, and one robot got replaced right before the final ceremony due to low battery power!)
This week is our second session, where Dash has his first assignment as a bona-fide secret agent looking for the saboteur of a robot pageant. I’ll let you know next week how our undercover spies do in foiling the plot!
Last year, Colossal did a story on artist Hannah Rothstein’s “Thanksgiving Special” series. Rothstein imagined the Thanksgiving plates of 10 famous artists. It would be fun to show students one or two examples, and then have them choose an artist to represent in their own Thanksgiving plate art. This activity would not only amp up creativity, but also be a lesson in art history and in seeing things from another perspective. You could also use it to teach about parody.
In one of the sessions I attended during this weekend’s Tech Field Day SA, Cori Coburn-Shiflett spoke about using technology games in the classroom. As she pointed out, even sites and apps that were not designed for education can be used for learning. AR Basketball is a good example. Even though I posted about this app awhile ago, I did not have it listed on my AR Resources page because I felt that some teachers might question its educational value. However, Cori directed us to a great resource from Charlotte Dolat (one of the fabulous Tech Field Day organizers) that provides free printable worksheets for math integration with this app. By changing the activity to one that teaches mean, median, and mode, AR Basketball becomes a win/win for the teacher and the students.
CodeArt is an iOS app by Pentaquistic Solutions. (According to their website, they are working on an Android version.) For free, you can try to solve 16 puzzles. An extra 99 cents will get you the premium version with 40 challenges.
According to Pentaquistic’s site, CodeArt was designed for children aged 8-10. I agree with that – though I am an adult who enjoyed playing the game. The game could probably be used with younger students fairly easily as long as they are provided guidance.
CodeArt teaches the logic of programming by giving you a design that you must try to replicate with the “code” you are allotted. In the example below (the first puzzle), the target design is on the left. In the orange box, the user must place the commands to make the oval create the same design on the right.
Of course, the designs get increasingly difficult as you proceed through the game, but I feel like CodeArt scaffolds extremely well.
Two librarians in our district had me laughing so hard this week that grumpy cat would have spontaneously combusted if he was within hearing distance.
The librarians assigned their students to create memes for the library. The results were so clever that I asked to share them for this week’s Phun Phriday post.
Sara Romine, otherwise known as @laffinglibrary, did a fabulous job explaining the whole process and giving examples in her most recent blog post. My favorite library meme from her school is the last one; I’m pretty sure I look like that whenever I enjoy a good book!
I blogged about this in June, but as more schools start back for the new school year, I thought I should repeat it.
Stanford University’s Jo Boaler over at YouCubed.org has released a set of free lesson plans that can be used for 5 days with any grade level from 3rd through 12th. This “Week of Inspirational Math” includes videos, handouts, and Powerpoints. As they progress through the activities, students develop a Growth Mindset when thinking about math, and are encouraged to think in multiple ways about problems. The first lesson even includes an activity that fosters collaboration amongst their peers.
“Week of Inspirational Math” would be great to use at the beginning of the year, as it will set a tone for learning in class that can be applied to all subjects. To access the plans, you will need to register for free with YouCubed. However, it’s a small price to pay for an excellent set of activities that will start your year right.
I am constantly prowling Kickstarter for new products that I think might be good for my students. Lately, two STEM-related toys aimed particularly at girls have been on my radar.
The first, “iBesties,” only has 3 days left in its campaign as of today. They are very close to reaching their fundraising goal of $50,000. iBesties are dolls accompanied by books. The purpose of iBesties is to raise awareness of careers that currently employ very few women – especially those related to science and technology. Not every child likes to play with dolls, but iBesties look like a great alternative to Barbie for those who do. If you back iBesties on Kickstarter for $40, you will receive a doll and a book around April of 2016. Check out their Kickstarter site for more info here – but do it soon!
The second Kickstarter product that recently caught my attention is “Jewelbots.” Jewelbots are basically friendship bracelets, but they are wearables (short for wearable technology). The bracelets can be programmed using an app to do such things as light up when another person wearing the Jewelbot nears you, send Morse code messages to each other, or notify you when you receive a text message.
One characteristic of Jewelbots that intrigues me is the potential to program the jewelry using Arduino IDE. This opens up many more possibilities for the use of these deceptively simple bracelets – and might be an attractive way to motivate tweens and middle schoolers to learn more about programming.
With over $100,000 raised already, Jewelbots don’t need our backing to reach their $30,000 goal. However, you might want to pledge $59 just because you know someone who would be excited to receive one in March of 2016. The funding deadline is 8/7/15, but don’t wait too long!