Author Archives: TechnoHella

TechnoHella

About TechnoHella

Hella Comat, Curriculum Writer - Hella Comat is a dedicated professional, who has taught in the education system for more than 30 years. As a pioneer of technology integration in Ontario public schools she was one of the first teachers to introduce the internet, video conferencing, web design, and multimedia learning activities to teachers and students in the Halton Board. To inspire teachers to use technology, she has led sessions for the Touch Technology program, ran workshops at education conferences, and sat on numerous advisory committees related to technology-issues. In recent years she taught the Computer in the Classroom course, at York University. Her lifelong commitment to teaching and learning was acknowledged when she was honored as the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in Science, Technology, and Mathematics. Hella's contribution to the blog includes entries about the importance of technology integration. Drawing from her in-depth knowledge of technology in the classroom Hella writes about teaching strategies and useful resources that can benefit your practice. In addition, she provides innovative lesson ideas that you can implement into your own curriculum.

Tips to Pick Robotics Kits Part 2

Here are a few more tips to pick robotics kits. They are the second part of a list of things to consider before investing in STEM and programming hardware.

Support Materials for the Teacher

We found some of the kits we looked at included some amazing resources. You could build your model by printing and following illustrated directions or even step-by-step instructions in 3D online! Lesson plans and teacher guides were sometimes included too.

tips to pick robotics kits

  • Does your kit come with a startup guide?
  • Is there an inventory sheet?
  • Is there an explanation of each part?
  • Are lesson plans provided?
    • Online – can they be downloaded?
    • In a printed booklet provided in the kit?
  • Support Materials for the Student

    Teachers often don’t have the time to design new and technical curriculum materials. Some robotics retailers offer student activity sheets, workbooks, and instructions.

  • Is there a student workbook?
    • Online – can it be downloaded?
    • In a printed booklet provided in the kit?
  • Are there building instructions?
    • Is there a variety of models from which to choose?
    • Are they age appropriately challenging?
  • Are there coding instructions that match the model built?
  • Is there opportunity for creativity?
    • Is exploration through trial and error encouraged?
    • Does the kit allow for students to design something of their own?

Programming Software

We also found that some of the kits we looked at were completely computer free. This was perfect for younger students as an introduction to programming. However, junior and middle school grades should include a programming element once the robot is built.

tips to pick robotics kits

  • Do your curriculum objectives for teaching robotics include coding or programming?
  • Does your kit require programming software?
    • Will it run on the device you intend? If you only have a PC, be sure the software is PC compatible.
    • If you have tablets in your classroom, find out if there is an app for your device.
    • Is your device new enough to run the software?
    • Many of these apps require Bluetooth connectivity with multiple components being connected to the device at one time. Some devices can only support a limited number of connections.
    • If you are using Chromebooks, not all Android software is compatible.
  • Is the software similar to other programs such as Scratch, with which your students might be familiar?
    • Will you require time to teach the software?
  • Are the robotics kits being used to develop programming skills that can be applied to the next level, for example, Scratch, Python, HTML5?
    • Tips to Pick Robotics Kits

      Take some time to read reviews online before you make your final purchase. Preparing students for the workplace of tomorrow starts early and should continue throughout the grades. And robotics are an essential part of teaching career readiness skills and a STEM program. Find the hands-on kit that suits your students best and is the optimum value for an always limited budget.

Robotics and Coding in the Classroom: A 10 Point Checklist for Choosing a Robotics Kit

robotics and coding in the classroom

This checklist is for teachers investing in kits to teach robotics and coding in the classroom. It’s a follow-up to my previous posts where I listed some tips on how to pick robotics kits. Here’s a quick summary to check before making a choice.

Does the kit specify age or grade suitability?
How many students can use one kit?
Are teacher and student support materials provided?
Are the pieces age appropriate and durable for repeated use?
Are the parts powered by batteries and/or charged with USB cables?
Does the kit allow for creativity and open-ended challenges?
Is the robot programmable?
Is the coding software compatible with your device(s)?
Will the coding skills learned be transferable to subsequent programming curriculum?
Are there supportive online reviews or testimonials from teachers?

Robotics and Coding in the Classroom

robotics kits for the classroom

The reasons for teaching robotics and coding in the classroom are practical and compelling. Students need to be prepared for the workplace of tomorrow with career readiness skills such as innovative and critical thinking, planning, problem solving, perseverance, and teamwork. They also need specific skills that will be in high demand in the future: facility with computer skills, logical reasoning, and a basic understanding of coding.

Integrating robotics into a STEM program with a fun, well designed, and affordable kit is a perfect start.

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.