Tips for Choosing Robotics Kits for the Classroom Part 1

So, you want to invest in robotics kits for the classroom. Here are some observations we made while recently trying out some kits for a STEM program.

robotics kits for the classroom

What’s the Intention?

To start, think about how you plan to use robotics kits for the classroom.

  • In what type of setting will you use the kit?
    • In a computer lab environment?
    • Learning center activity?
    • A robotics club?
  • Will it be used by multiple grade levels?
  • Does the kit lend itself to teamwork?
    • If students are working in small groups, is there a task for each student? For example, one child can control the parts, another reads instructions, a third can be the assembler, and a fourth could handle the programming.
  • Is the kit affordable? Consider how many students can work on a kit at one time, and how many kits your school can afford.

About Kit Components

Robotic kits for the classroom can be expensive. Consider the quality of the kit before you buy.

robotics in the classroom

  • Flimsy or cheaply made parts will not stand up well in a classroom environment. Look for parts that are made of sturdy materials that can be used, taken apart, and used again many times.
  • Does the kit, or company, have good reviews? For example, LEGO is a reputable robotics manufacturer.
    • Is a warranty provided?
    • Can you easily purchase replacement parts if needed?
  • Does the kit require a power source?
    • If there are programmable controllers and motors, they may all require batteries. You will need to have a supply on hand or invest in rechargeable ones.
  • Some parts may need to be charged.
    • Does the kit come with adequate USB charging cables?
    • Allow time to charge! You may need to complete charging on a daily basis.
    • Don’t forget, if you opted for rechargeable batteries, these need charging too.
  • Age appropriateness is important. Look to see how parts fit together. Do they snap together easily? Do they require tools like a wrench and screwdriver? Are there mechanical parts like motors and sensors that may be too challenging for younger students?
    • Too many small parts are difficult to assemble for small hands.
    • Large kits may require several hours for complete assembly.
    • Smaller parts, motors, and gears may be more appropriate for senior students.
  • Are the parts easily disassembled? Can a model be taken apart quickly and easily to construct something new in a timely fashion? Will the parts last for several years?
  • Does the kit include any extra components?
    • A play map can teach coordinates and open-ended movement tasks.
    • Are additional add-on kits available to extend the usefulness of the base kit?

About the Storage Container

Some of the kits we looked at ranged from flimsy boxes and single use bags to hard plastic storage bins with dividers inside for parts. Consider how to store and track all the parts.

  • Ideally you want a storage container that has sections in it. You may find some that are shaped to the part so you can tell right away if something is missing. This makes it much easier to keep inventory.
  • A durable plastic bin with tight fitting lid is better than a cardboard box. The lid can double as a workspace area keeping the small parts from ending up on the floor. The lip, or rim, of the lid keeps everything contained.
  • If your kit comes with small parts that are in single use bags, this can be a nightmare once those bags are opened. You may need to replace them with resealable sandwich type bags.

robotics kits for the classroom

Robotics Kits for the Classroom to be Continued

And there’s more to consider! In my next post, I’ll list some considerations about teacher and student support materials as well as the programming software.

Stay tuned!

Pick Your Own Ending Story

  • Do you want a unique creative writing activity?
  • Do you have reluctant writers who need inspiration?
  • Do you need to integrate technology with language arts?

Forms is the answer! Whether you’re using Microsoft Forms or Google Forms, writing a pick your own ending story is a fun lesson that combines computer skills and the writing process in a way that’s sure to excite your students.

To start, students compose a scenario. They could win a prize, go on a trip, hear a noise, or any situation that intrigues a reader. Next, two choices are given for what might happen: choose the red prize box or the blue one, go to the zoo or the beach, or go to investigate or run away. Using Forms, students offer the options. Then they use the feedback option to tell the reader the consequences of their choice.

Sample:

My friend told me not to go.
I wanted to find out what was in the abandoned building at the end of the road. Everyone said it was haunted. I walked up to the front door. The lock was broken.

What do you do?

  • Push the door open and go inside.
  • Walk away quickly.
pick your own ending story

Use Forms to make a pick your own ending story.

How to Write a Pick Your Own Ending Story Using Forms

  1. Sign in to Google Drive, pick Google Forms, and in Settings, pick QUIZZES and select Make this a quiz. Remove the checkmarks for Missed questions, Correct answers, and Point values.
    OR
    Sign in to Office Online and pick a Forms quiz. In Settings, select Anyone with the link can respond. In the Options for Responses area, select Accept responses.
  2. Add a story title, such as An Unforgettable Day.
  3. In Form description, type the instructions such as Pick a story ending.
  4. Add a section to write the story action. Write the first sentence to grab the reader’s attention. For example, My boring day was about to change.
  5. In the Description, type the story using the first person, or “I” to place the reader in the story.
    • Where does the story take place?
    • Is there someone with the main character? Who?
    • What is happening?
    • What causes the character to make a choice?
    • For example: I was sitting on my porch doing nothing, when I saw a bright flash at the school. I jumped on my bike and rode to get a closer look. I could hear a buzzing sound.

  6. Design a multiple-choice question that gives the reader two choices. Replace Question with What do you do?
  7. Add two options. For example:
    • I grabbed my phone and called for help.
    • I walked towards the sound.
  8. Use feedback to write the story ending. For one answer, type an ending.
    For example: The police and I went inside the school. A science fair project in the gym was shaking. Diamonds were everywhere! A fifth grader had turned gravel into gems!
    For the other answer, type an ending.
    For example: I saw an alien standing beside a tiny ship. It had two heads with giant fangs. Oh no!
  9. Add a picture, theme, or heading to enhance the story.
  10. Preview the story and try both options. Then share it with your friends.

See a sample using Microsoft Forms.

See a sample using Google Forms.

pick your own ending story

Make a trivia quiz with TechnoTrivia for Google or Microsoft Forms.

This activity is from TechnoTrivia, available from TechnoKids for both Google Apps and Microsoft Online. Hook your students with a project that integrates technology into curriculum or just make a fun trivia quiz based on a personal interest. Order online and you will receive a Teacher Guide, Student Workbook, sample quizzes to stimulate creativity, assessment tools, parent letter, certificate, and flashcards.

Or browse TechnoKids online store to view other projects, sets, and packages.

Microsoft Forms TechnoTrivia Project! Just Released

microsoft forms technotrivia project

Great news! TechnoKids has just published a new version of TechnoTrivia for Microsoft Online users. Google Apps users have already been able to use this project to create fun quizzes but now it has been updated for Microsoft Forms as well.

As part of Office 365, Microsoft Forms is an online survey creator. Students and teachers can use it to make quizzes, polls, and surveys with automatic marking. They can write a variety of question types, include pictures and video, set a scoring system, generate an answer key with helpful feedback, and even export data to Excel to analyze the results.

TechnoTrivia is a great project to introduce these skills. Hook student interest as they make a fun trivia game to play with their friends. The topic may be integrated into curriculum subjects, such as Solar System Challenge or My Country Quiz. Or, it can be based on an area of personal interest – Prove You Are a John Lennon Fan or So You Think You Know Sports.

microsoft forms trivia project

Add pictures and a theme to enhance the trivia quiz.

Educational Value of Quiz Creation

Critical thinking skills

Today’s students are avid consumers of technology, but essential learning really takes place when they become creators of technology. Making up survey questions requires the ability to consider another’s background knowledge and interests. In TechnoTrivia, students are challenged to write thought provoking questions to test a player’s knowledge. When students see their peers’ responses, they analyze how to change their quiz to make it easier or more difficult.

Real world application

As students create a quiz and test it out on classmates, family, and friends they get immediate feedback. They can see how their new skills can have a practical purpose. Learning is much more likely to be enhanced if students can see its relevance and everyday applications.

Engage student interest

A quiz with odd, interesting, and/or silly facts is a fun task that appeals to anyone. Taking the role of a quizmaster, students are hooked into entertaining and testing others with a trivia quiz. The variety of questions – multiple choice, true/false, multiple answer, picture, video, and short answer make this project a sure hit with kids.

Consolidate learning

The process of creating quiz questions about a theme or school subject area helps to embed information. Quiz questions can identify learning gaps but also provide a firm foundation in reviewing and preserving critical concepts. The project has many suggestions on how to incorporate a quiz into curriculum. Math Drill and Practice, Who am I?, Art Crawl, Where in the World?, and Spelling Bee are just a few of the quiz integration ideas. See this blog for 20 great teaching ideas for using Forms to make quizzes.

Point of view

Looking at information from a different angle aids in understanding. Thinking about data from the perspective of questioning, students play the role of a teacher or assessor. They build analytical skills. By composing questions, students are much more likely to grasp, absorb, and retain important details. And generating challenging questions is sometimes harder than expected!

Build confidence

The emphasis in TechnoTrivia is not on the scores achieved by players but on creating a fun and entertaining quiz. Students practice rewriting questions to make just the right mix of difficulty – not too easy so that the player loses interest and not too difficult so that they might give up. They also add a range of feedback comments for the player to foster encouragement, to provide additional information, and to praise correct answers. Taking on the role of the quizmaster promotes self-assurance, pride, and responsibility.

microsoft forms technotrivia

The quiz can be shared using a variety of devices.

Microsoft Forms and TechnoTrivia

Get your students started right away in making their own wacky and informative quizzes. TechnoTrivia includes a Teacher Guide, Student Workbook, assessment tools, flashcards, handouts, and links to lots of sample quizzes.

STEM and Web Design for Kids

Why should you consider incorporating STEM and web design into curriculum? Do students really need to know how to build web pages? After all, how likely is it that they will choose jobs in computer science or careers requiring any these skills? What benefit is an understanding of web design if becoming a web designer is not a future goal?

STEM and web design

Learning how to create a web page has substantive value. Knowledge of website construction and the decisions that need to be made in its creation empower students. Following are some of the benefits to teaching STEM and web design.

Provides an Authentic Audience

When students make a website and publish it in the public domain, they are aware that not just their teacher or classmates will be viewing their results. Anyone in the world will be able to see it. They are motivated to provide the best quality of their work by having an unlimited number of actual, legitimate viewers. This is strong incentive for putting their best efforts into their creations.

Builds Digital Citizenship

In designing a web page, a student becomes a producer of information. With this power comes responsibility. The website should be a meaningful contribution to the World Wide Web. To achieve this goal students must apply Internet search strategies to link to trustworthy sources of information. They must also respect copyright laws in regards to the use of media. Moreover, they need to create content that is respectful of others. These activities promote digital citizenship as it requires them to behave appropriately when online.

Develops Media Awareness

Considering the perspective of the audience is a critical skill in web page design. In planning an online publication, students should first reflect on their target audience. Whether it is their peer group, younger kids, or the public in general, the website should be appropriate. Decisions about wording, types of graphics, and suitability of hyperlinks is affected by the type of viewer. A clear navigation system through the site, information blocked into organized headings, appealing images, and working and informative links all contribute to a site attractive to the consumer. Understanding what engages an online audience is essential.

Fosters STEM Career Skills

Very few students will become actual web page designers. However, a very large proportion of students will pursue careers related to technology skills. Whether they become online marketers, bloggers, programmers, software developers, scientists, systems analysts, or engineers, the future will favor young adults who have STEM skills. Building a website can spark an interest in pursuing other STEM areas.

stem and web design

Promotes Creative Arts

STEM has been amended to STEAM to include the value of the Arts. When publishing a web page, creative decisions need to be made: background themes, layout, image choice and type, text typeface and formatting, and overall page appearance. These choices are all important in keeping the viewer engaged. Eye catching and aesthetically appealing websites will attract and hold a viewer’s attention.

Encourages Collaboration

STEM and web design

Effective communication skills are an integral part of many STEM job skills postings. It’s a rare career that doesn’t require proficiency in working as a group. And website creation isn’t done in isolation. Before publication, a site should be submitted to peers for comments and constructive critique. The written or spoken teamwork between designer and testers is a key component in the development of a successful project.

TechnoSite to Teach STEM and Web Design Using Google Sites

STEM and web design

TechnoSite is a project in which students become web designers. Using Google Sites and following illustrated, step-by-step instructions, they construct a website that includes links to fun places for kids on the World Wide Web. Develop vital career skills by teaching STEM and web design. Learn more about TechnoSite and how you can purchase and download it today!