Tag Archives: computer science

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!

Web Design For Kids – Google Sites Features to Love

Web design for kids has never been as easy. Google Sites is an ideal app to construct fun, engaging, and useful websites for use in the classroom. Not only is Google Sites free with a Google account, but the tools are simple to use yet students can create professional looking results. Captivate interest and develop essential skills for the future by making websites with your students.

TechnoSite is an all new TechnoKids project that uses Google Sites to transform students into skilled web designers. In this TechnoKids project, they learn how to build a website that includes links to fun places for kids on the World Wide Web. Here are some of the nifty features that we like about web design for kids with Google Sites.

Insert Unique and Fun Elements

web design for kids

  • Themes
    When starting to make a web page, students can choose a theme. This creates a consistent, professional looking site. The font and color can also be chosen to create a one-of-a-kind design. However, there are a limited number of choices so that students are bogged down in making a decision.
  • Image Carousel
    This ‘gadget’ allows you to use a picture frame that with automatically display multiple images. Simply select two or more pictures and insert them into an image carousel. The website viewer can click the arrows to see each picture or it can be set to loop through the set of pictures automatically.
  • Layouts
    To add text and images, a selection can be made from the Layouts gallery. These preset designs contribute a polished, ‘expert’ look to the website.

Elementary students can make professional looking websites using Google Sites.

Customizable Web Page Banner

The banner at the top of the page can include text and a background image. There is a gallery of designs in Google Sites to choose from, or the web page creator can search for an image. Since it’s tricky to find a simple themed picture that looks great in the short and wide banner space, add the keyword wallpaper to the search term. Google Image Search narrows down the results to more appropriate images for the banner.

Set Navigation Mode

By default, the navigation bar automatically appears at the top right of the banner on the Home Page. Navigation settings can be adjusted to move the bar to the left side of the page. This is convenient if the layout or images look better if the page is narrower or simply if the designer wants to personalize the navigation settings.

Add a Logo to Create an Instant Color Theme

To make the website unique, a small logo can be added at the top left of the banner. Search for a simple small image or upload one to suit the webpage topic. The colors from the logo will be automatically used to produce a custom color theme.

Make Quick and Easy Changes

Want to change the order of the pages in the website? It’s easy: under the Page tab, just drag the pages to set the order you want. The navigation bar automatically adjusts too!

Test Responsive Design

With the extensive variety of devices that are commonly used to view web pages, it’s convenient to be able to preview how the website in different modes. When previewing the page, you can switch to see how it will look on a phone, tablet, and large screen. Compare how the layout changes depending on the screen of the device.

web design for kids

Responsive Design in Google Sites allows you to preview what the layout will look like on a wide screen, tablet, or phone.

Web Design for Kids Made Easy

Certainly Google Sites is an outstanding yet simple and intuitive tool for the classroom. The features are fun and powerful yet allow kids to create and publish projects that they will be eager to share. And TechnoSite is the all new TechnoKids project that empowers kids to build STEM skills using Google Sites. Find out more about TechnoSite here.

Computer Science and Technology Integration

Brain research tells us that learning really ‘sticks’ when activities are both meaningful to students as well as integrated in curriculum in an interdisciplinary approach. As well, students are motivated when they are actively discovering and investigating a problem.

computer science

Teach coding with Scratch to middle school and junior students to build computational thinking skills.

TechnoCode, the newest technology project developed by TechnoKids, was created specifically to spark an interest in computer science by engaging students. As they use Scratch to build programming skills, young learners construct a series of activities for kids. As game designers, they consider their users’ interests and abilities. They become authentic programmers who plan, code, and actually field test their unique creations.

The TechnoCode project is primarily a STEM project that teaches coding. However, the activities also integrate into other areas of curriculum including language arts, mathematics, social studies or science, visual arts, and music.

Computer Science

TechnoCode is an introduction to programming. The activities have students build algorithms that sequence commands, events, loops, and conditions. Use the project to target computer science learning outcomes. The project includes a detailed list of skills achieved in each Session, ideal as a teacher checklist for assessment.

Language Arts

The assignments in Session 1 and Session 4 can be integrated into curriculum as a language arts unit. In these assignments, students engage in visual storytelling. They create animated scenes and stories. To extend language arts learning outcomes, the concept of plot, setting, and characters is also applied when engineering games in Session 3 and 5.

Integrate coding into curriculum.

Integrate coding into curriculum.

Mathematics

Integrate TechnoCode into an existing problem-solving unit in Math class. The assignments are an ideal fit because coding requires mathematical and logical thinking. For example, placing sprites on the stage requires plotting ordered pairs, rotating objects involves knowledge of angles, and setting the size of sprites uses percentages. As well, logic is used to control when or if an action happens.

Social Studies or Science

Include The Session 4 Skill Review in TechnoCode as a creative way to showcase learning into another subject area. In this activity, students build an interactive diorama. It shows a scene from nature or a historical event that engages the viewer to click on objects to learn more. Complete the activity to have students share facts or create a simulation about a topic currently being studied. Samples provided include space exploration, tornado, and farming.

Visual Arts

Target visual arts learning outcomes with TechnoCode. Graphic design is interwoven throughout the activities. Students apply their creativity to paint or edit unique sprites and backdrops. They also apply their skills to engage the audience using visual elements. In addition, the Session 2 Extension Activity specifically has students draw artwork with a pen using code.

Music

Integrate TechnoCode into a music class. In the Session 3 Extension Activity, students invent an instrument. This activity is a fun way for students to express their musical talent.

programming

TechnoCode technology project teaches programming using graphical blocks.

Inspire your students to become coding ninjas with TechnoCode!

Teaching Ideas for Programming with TechnoCode

coding with Scratch

TechnoKids’ newest release is TechnoCode, a technology project that introduces coding with Scratch to elementary and middle school students. It is an ideal project for Grades 4 and up. Jam-packed with programming activities, TechnoCode sparks an interest in computer science. Step by step instructions explain how to build animations, stories, games, art, music, and simulations.

Empower students with real-world skills they can use in the workplace. The instructional materials in TechnoCode encourage students to think like programmers. Resources include sample videos to inspire imaginations, planning sheets with guiding questions to help design scripts, assessment tools to evaluate student work, and coding journal logs to reflect upon learning.

Ideas for Implementation

The TechnoCode project has students create animated scenes, construct mazes, broadcast stories, engineer games, design artwork, compose music, build a diorama, and more! The activities are suitable for any teaching situation. Select the option that works best for you and your students:

  • Coding Unit with Elementary Students: Assignments in Sessions 1-3 in TechnoCode are ideal for students new to Scratch. The activities are perfect for Grades 4 and up. Students design animations, create art, develop games, and compose music. The emphasis is on coding basics including how to build scripts, sequence commands, control action with if then conditions, and create simple loops. The activities focus upon directing movement, synchronizing sound, and understanding x and y coordinates.
  • Coding Unit with Middle School Students: Once students understand the fundamentals of coding in Sessions 1-3, they extend their learning in Sessions 4-6. The activities are ideal for students that understand the fundamentals and are ready for a challenge. The critical and computational thinking required is ideal for students in Grades 6-8. They produce a story, engineer a game, develop a treasure hunt, build a diorama, and remix a project. The emphasis is on having students manipulate the appearance of sprites, direct the timing of events with broadcasting, and create original artifacts using conditions, variables, and operators.
  • Scratch activities for kids.

    Build games using Scratch. Learn how to use variables to track the score.

  • Computer Science Course: TechnoCode has 25 assignments designed to ignite an interest in computer science. The focus is on thinking like a programmer. Each coding activity is divided into four parts – exploration, practice, freestyle, and reflection. Using a question and answer format, students discover the function of command blocks. Next, they follow guided instructions to build scripts. Afterwards, they apply their skills to complete open-ended challenges. Once a Scratch project is finished, students write a coding journal entry to reflect upon the experience.
  • Hour of Code: If you only have one class to teach coding there are many assignments in TechnoCode that can be used for this purpose. If your students are beginners, they can develop simple animations. Assignment 5 targets how to build a script, Assignment 6 explores directing movement, and Assignment 14 focuses upon changing the appearance of a sprite. If your students have existing knowledge of Scratch, the skill reviews in Sessions 2-5 are excellent challenges.
  • Coding Workshop Series: If you are running a workshop series as part of an after-school program or community event, then you will need to select assignments that fit the number of classes offered. As well, consider the age range and coding abilities of students.

Coding with Scratch is highly addictive and fun! Your students will develop a host of essential technology skills as they create unique games, interactive stories, animations, and more!