With two posts in a row related to Wonder Workshop it might appear that I work for them or get a commission. I don’t! The Undercover Robots Camp curriculum I wrote about yesterday could technically be used with a variety of robots, but I do like to use the Dash robots because they are so engaging and user-friendly for younger students. Today I wanted to review one of the newest products from Wonder Workshop, which is customized for their Dash and Cue robots – Sketch Kit.
Students love to program their robots to write/draw, but anyone who has tried to rig contraptions for this purpose knows what a nightmare this can be. It’s a good problem-solving experience, but not the best use of time if programming is your main goal. Wonder Workshop has solved this issue by designing a unique harness to attach to Dash or Cue. This harness allows the robot to lift a marker up and put it down – and the free app updates include these accessory options for coding.
The $39.99 Sketch Kit includes the harness, 6 dry-erase markers, and 6 project cards. The markers are customized to fit the harness, as you will note in the picture. Marker Refill Kits (6 markers) are $14.99. We haven’t had our kit long enough for me to tell you the typical number of uses you will get out of a marker.
As nice as it is to have the Sketch Kit, the whiteboard mat that I purchased for $99.99 is even more worthwhile to me. Mats for robots are expensive, unless you DIY, and this one screams out versatility. It rolls up fairly easily, but it is definitely durable. With measuring guides on the side (100 cm x 200 cm), there is plenty of programming potential. The marker erases nicely without leaving residual color on the mat. Knowing I will be using it with several groups of students, I feel that it was definitely a good investment.
Programming the robot to draw what they wanted proved to be more challenging than my students expected. I put my 5th graders in pairs and they had about 7-10 minutes in each group to create a program in Blockly. Before we ran the programs, we projected each one on the board so the students could try to predict what the robot would draw. This was great visual/spatial practice, and it was funny to hear the opposing ideas that were thrown out at the beginning. No one’s program was perfect the first time, so I also gave them time to “debug” after each initial run.
As regular readers know, I share a lot of freebies on this blog. Usually, if I’ve made a lesson or activity, I post it here for anyone to download. However, I sometimes create collections of my work and sell it on Teachers Pay Teachers. My “Undercover Robots – Spy School” packet is one of those collections. I developed it over two summers of doing Undercover Robots Camp using the Dash robots from Wonder Workshop. This packet is a 38 page PDF that contains activities that can be used in an after-school or summer camp with robots that can be controlled by mobile devices. It is designed for use with a camp that has 6 teams of students (2 or 3 to a team) from ages 8-11. The Dash and Dot robots from Wonder Workshop are perfect for this camp, but other robots could be used instead. There are 10 missions included in this packet with unique puzzles for each team. (Note: Most of the missions depend on using a vinyl map of the world on the floor. I have a link to the one I purchased from Amazon in my packet, but you can also DIY if necessary.)
I’ve found that younger students love to get involved in stories around these robots. There are ample opportunities for creativity (you should see some of their spy outfits!), and problem-solving as they work on the puzzles I provide as well as the programming. I give some ideas for differentiation in the packet as well.
I have other curriculum that I am still testing out, but will post as soon as I work out the kinks and get it organized.
I don’t want to overwhelm you with all of my take-aways from TCEA 2018 so far, so I thought I would give you a few new tools I’ve learned about with brief summaries and links to the presentations. I am really cherry-picking from the plethora of resources I took notes on, so definitely click on any of the presentation links if you want to learn more.
If you didn’t see my post about Pear Deck, you can click here. This is an incredible new Add-On for Google Slides that can be used to easily get feedback from your audience in real-time. Great for staff-development and in the classroom.
Charlotte Dolat from Alamo Heights ISD (and Area 20 TCEA Director) did a fun session building on the popularity of Insta-pots with her “Instant Tech” site full of F.E.W. apps (Frequently Executed Well). The TextingStory Chat Story Maker is going to be downloaded to my classroom iPads as soon as I return to school. I also want to have my students try out Emaze for a new way to present.
I’ve used StoryCorps before, but the team from Richardson ISD gave me an idea to use with my 5th grade GT students as we read The Giver. Ask them when is war justified, and then show them this powerful video on “The Nature of War” from StoryCorps. Tie that in to a Newsela article on the Civil War, and you will have students making powerful connections.
If you are still at TCEA tomorrow (Friday), I would love for you to join me at my session at 9:15 am in Room 12B. We will be talking about making global connections, and I could use a few extra audience members to drown out the heckling I will have to listen to from my colleague, Angelique Lackey. Also, I will be using Pear Deck so you can see it in action!
Okay people. If you don’t follow Laura Moore (@LearnMooreStuff), you are truly missing out on some incredible resources. Just do a search for her on my site and you will see how much I’ve learned from her over the years. Oh, wait. You don’t have to. Here is a link to the search. The woman is a tech integration POWERHOUSE! (Yes, I did it. I used all caps. Just like her favorite person. But, unlike that person, Laura Moore is GREAT!)
Laura recently posted a ThingLink on her blog with 18 lesson suggestions for 2018. Seriously, you have a plethora of great learning activities at your fingertips. Click on any icon to uncover a treasure to try. Laura’s site was recently recommended in the list of top 12 Fabulous EdTech Sites to Follow by Eric Curts. And, as if that isn’t enough, check out her other site, Rock the Lab, which is awesome for so many reasons not the least of which is STAR WARS!
If you teach older students who have their own phones, this might be a fun idea for an impromptu writing prompt. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has decided to make more of its artwork available to the public by digitizing it and allowing us to text requests. Only 5% of its entire collection can be viewed in the SFMOMA’s physical building, but thousands more pieces are accessible through this new feature. You can text the number 57251, and type, “Send me” followed by a keyword or color. There’s something suspenseful about the whole endeavor that makes it a bit addictive.
I tried it out by texting, “Send me kindness, ” and received the following, somewhat depressing, reply.
Maybe kindness was too abstract? So I tried, “Love.”
Now remember, this is the Museum of Modern Art, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the answer to my next request.
Not really sure what the museum bot was trying to tell me there…
Anyway, I soon discovered that trying to use this activity as a “pick-me-up” was a bit too unpredictable, especially after I received a sad portrait of the war in Iraq after I asked for “home.” However, my daughter and I did have fun using emojis and asking for pictures of bread and dogs. (It does work with emojis, by the way.)
Not to be outdone by artifical intelligence, I decided to end our texting communication by asking for something that couldn’t possibly be mis-interpreted in a bleak way by a computer. “Send me a rainbow,” I asked.
Google Sites are blocked for our elementary students, so I show my 5th graders the Weebly for Education site if they are interested in designing their own websites. Sometimes students create them for Genius Hour projects. This year, my students were so excited about the manifestos they created in Canva that I suggested they use the images as launching points for websites that reinforced their core beliefs.
Students seem to understand the Weebly tools very quickly. In fact, as soon as they see all that they can do, they want to do it all – add images, video, quotes, links, etc… Many of them immediately went home the first day to add to their sites and are super proud to present them.
For this particular project, I asked the students to include their manifestos, along with a page that describes their “Dream Team” – famous people who lived lives that modeled the beliefs in their manifestos. (They used Academy of Achievement’s “Role Model” tool to help them discover potential Dream Team members.) They could also include inspirational quotes and videos.
Weebly for Education is different from the main Weebly site because the education version allows teachers to have a dashboard of students for free. However, from what I have been able to see, there is no way to view a student’s website through the dashboard until he or she publishes it. This is a little inconvenient as they are editing, but the benefit of all of the other free features far outweighs this issue.
You can see a screen shot from one of my student’s websites below, and click on the link to visit his site.
Laura will be the first to tell you that she did not create the concept of Hyperdocs. For that, we can thank the Hyperdoc Girls – Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill), Kelly Hilton (@kellyihilton), and Sarah Landis (@SarahLandis). You can find out more about them here.
On Laura’s site, you will find a fantastic step-by-step introduction to Hyperdocs that leads teachers from the definition through pedagogical best practices, examples of Hyperdocs, templates, and steps for creating your own. It’s a great way to scaffold a staff development on Hyperdocs.
Teachers looking for a simple definition of Hyperdocs might settle for, “Google Docs with links.” But those teachers would be wrong. There really is no one-line definition for Hyperdocs. To learn what they are, and what they aren’t, you need to see this page.
Plenty of Hyperdocs have already been created by many talented people, so chances are that you can dive right into using them by looking at the examples provided here. There are even Hyperdocs to learn about Hyperdocs available.
I definitely can’t do Laura’s presentation justice in a quick blog post, so I hope that you will take a look at her presentation site to find out more about this interactive method for digital learning that will engage your students on many levels.