Category Archives: Apps

Undercover Robots Camp – Pageant Edition

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had our second session of Undercover Robots Camp last week.  The theme was, “Pageant Edition,” with the scenario being that the Dash robots had been sent on their first undercover assignments to the Annual Robot Pageant, where they were to investigate a potential saboteur.

Only a few of the students had attended our first session, Spy School, the week before, meaning that there were various levels of skill.  This is what I love about programming with open-ended challenges, especially with the Dash robots.  The activities allow for the contributions of all abilities.

The week was interspersed with design and logic activities.  Of course, costumes needed to be created since it was a pageant. Puzzles needed to be solved to find the identity of the saboteur.  I even borrowed some ideas from Breakout EDU.

One of the favorite activities was the pageant interview.  The students had to program their robots to respond to my questions – but they didn’t know what the questions would be!  I told them to come up with three responses: a plural noun, a verb ending in -ing, and a name of a place.  I had a set of questions for each robot, who also had to be programmed to come out on stage and then leave the stage.  I embedded an example below (make sure your volume is high so you can hear the robot responses).

The students also had challenges to program their students to do an art project, launch ping-pong balls into cups to gather evidence, and to save the other contestants from the saboteur. The latter is when the students learned that less can be more, as the least elaborate contraption attached the robot actually “saved” the most plastic figures (see the pic with the colored pencils attached to the robot below)!

During the week, we also worked on choreographing a final dance number for the pageant.  It’s good we started early because there were many, many, many flub-ups!  The video embedded below is what we showed the parents.  Unfortunately, it still didn’t go quite as planned; we learned that “tired” robots get a bit rebellious about their programs as their batteries wear down!

I absolutely adored seeing everything the students accomplished last week, and I can’t wait to do Undercover Robots Camp again next summer!

Osmo Coding

It seems like just yesterday when our class was asked to beta test a new product from a company called Tangible Play.  It was a tangram game that integrated physical pieces with an app on your iPad using a special base and mirror.  Our students even got to teleconference with the developers to give feedback on their experience.

Since then, the un-named set we tested has become Osmo, and there have been many evolutions of the tangram game as well as new additions to the suite of games available.  It has been gratifying to see a company that is so interested in education to grow and continue to contribute to educational technology in such a positive way.

The latest Osmo set is, “Coding.”  My students have been trying it out this summer during our robot camp, and I have been watching their play with interest.  The set includes magnetics blocks that look similar to the coding blocks you might see in Scratch or Blockly.  You can move them around and snap them together.  My students particularly like the “play” block with an arrow button to press whenever they are ready to start the program.

On the iPad screen, players have a friendly looking creature named Awbie, who they can direct to move toward different objects in the app while using the physical blocks on the table.

One thing I love about all of the Osmo apps is that they include practically no instructions.  There are some on-screen gestures showing where to move blocks at the beginning, but that’s about it.  The students figure out on their own where Awbie needs to go, and quickly deduce which blocks to use as the game slowly becomes more challenging.

Students from 6-11 have enjoyed the Coding game from Osmo and there is often a crowd gathered around it as the students encourage players to try certain blocks.  It has been a great warm-up activity as kids arrive for our camp each day.

Like all Tangible Play apps for Osmo, Coding is free.  However, you do need to purchase the physical pieces and the set that includes the base and mirror piece if you don’t already have it.  Coding is another great resource to introduce programming to young students.

Osmo Coding
Osmo Coding

 

Piano Tiles

Piano Tiles (Don’t Tap the White Tile) is a free app, available on iTunes and Google Play.  The name of the game is pretty self-explanatory.  As black and white tiles fall down the screen, your job is to tap the black tiles only.  The black tiles will make the sounds of music notes as you tap them.  The faster you can play without hitting a white tile, the better.  I’d never heard of the game until I saw this article in one of my Flipboard magazines, featuring a pretty amazing setup invented to “beat” the game like no human would ever be able to do.  To be perfectly honest, the video pretty much discouraged me from ever even trying to play the game – at least not until I get some bionic eyes and fingers.

screen shot from Piano Tiles app
screen shot from Piano Tiles app

Zoom

During the past couple of classes, my 5th graders have been teleconferencing with a drone “handler,” Mr. Moore, we are working with for an upcoming field trip.  Last week, the students got to talk to Mr. Moore and one of our Mitchell Lake guides to finalize some of the details for the trip.  For both conferences, we used Zoom, a free teleconferencing product that works on pretty much any device.

We have previously used Skype and Google Hangouts for teleconferencing in our class.  There are advantages to all three, but I have to say that Zoom has seemed the easiest to get up and running.  This could be because I’ve already used the other two, so I’m getting used to way teleconferencing works.  It could also be because Mr. Moore set up both conferences with Zoom, so all I had to do was click on a link and launch the application:)

Multiple people can be on screen during a Zoom teleconference. You can also share your computer screen with the participants, which was a nice feature as Mr. Moore jumped back and forth between the drone software and showing us the actual drone and its batteries. There is a whiteboard where participants can collaborate, and you are able to record your conference.  Unable to get to a computer for our second conference, Mr. Moore was able to join us using his smart phone.

If you are already happy with your teleconference product, and it has all of the above, then you probably don’t need to change. However, Zoom might be a nice option for beginners or people who are having problems with some of the other choices they are using.

zoom

Tech Tool Tourney from Mindshift

It’s impossible to ignore “March Madness,” and the education world has learned to embrace it by creating all kinds of academic bracket competition ideas like this one from the New York Times Learning Network for using with classroom debates. MindShift has a tourney for teachers, not students, though.  They want teachers to choose their favorite tech tools.  The great thing about this is that, by just visiting the page, you may learn about a tech tool you’ve never used before.  I consider myself fairly savvy on what’s out there for teachers, but I saw at least 6 tech tools in the first round that were completely brand new to me.  Even if you aren’t interested in determining the outcome of the tournament, you should definitely visit this page to discover some less-traditional ways technology can be integrated into your classroom.

image from Flickr.com
image from Flickr.com

Drones for Education

I’ve been holding off on purchasing a drone for our classroom.  Quite frankly, I don’t know a lot about them and I haven’t seen a lot of useful applications for education.  I like testing out cool gadgets, but I don’t think it’s fair to spend that much money on something for my students that won’t be used when the novelty wears off.

image courtesy of walterpro on flickr
image courtesy of walterpro on flickr

One of the parents at my school is slowly changing my mind.  He owns a drone and volunteered to demonstrate it at our school.   This seemed like a good way to find out more about drones and the potential for this technology – good and bad.  The parent, Mr. Moore, uses his drone for good. For example, he shows local fire fighters how they can get more information that can save lives without risking more.  But we also know that drones can be used to destroy lives by invading privacy and even killing people.  This is a good conversation to have with 5th graders who will likely one day be living in a world where drones are no longer a novelty.

Mr. Moore pointed me to a new software that is being beta tested in schools called, “DroneBlocks.”  This software allows students to use block programming to instruct a drone where to fly, to simulate the program, and then to actually fly the drone.  You can do something similar with the Tickle app  (free for iOS), but with different drones.

As Mr. Moore and I discussed the possibility of testing out DroneBlocks, I ran across this article by Thomas Frey, suggesting “192 Future Uses for Drones.”  The ideas range from self-serving to life-saving to silly.  I’m glad there are people like Thomas Frey who have far more imagination than I do.  The most compelling part of Frey’s article came in his final thoughts:

“The purpose of composing this rather exhaustive list is not an attempt to cover everything, but rather to show the enormous versatility of this platform.

The complete list of will easily include over 10,000 listings.

Some may think that drones will become the most annoying devices on earth. In many cases that might be true.

Without the proper protections, drones can be dangerous. The same drones that deliver food and water can also deliver bombs and poison. We may very well have drones watching the workers who watch the drones, and even that may not be enough.

Eventually we’ll find the positive uses far outweigh the negative ones, and we’ll develop the right systems to make it all workable.”

You may not be ready to purchase a drone for your classroom, but I do think it is imperative they are discussed.  How can we minimize the harmful impact of this technology while retaining the freedom to take advantage of its benefits?  Is it worth the inevitable tragedies we will face along the way as we try to harness the positive potential and obliterate the negative effects?

Those same questions could have been asked about the automobile.

More Sources for using Drones in Education:

Blippar

I briefly mentioned Blippar in a post last summer about the Augmented Reality magazine, Brainspace.  A tweet from last night reminded me that there are other educational uses for the free Blippar app.  In this post by Rob Stringer on Blippar’s blog, you can find some great uses of Blippar for science activities in the classroom.  I’m ready to try the solar system one tomorrow!

At Diary of a Techie Chick, you can find lots of AR activities.  Using Blippar’s sunflower trigger and a couple of other resources,  @KatieAnn_76 offers a free lesson plan full of rich ideas for learning more about plants.

To learn more about Blippar for Education, click here.  If you are interested in seeing more Augmented Reality activities, here are some I’ve collected over the last few years.

Blippar Volcano