Tag Archives: instructional technology

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!

Differentiated Instruction and TechnoKids

differentiated instruction

Every time teachers step into their classrooms, they face the evidence of the need for differentiated instruction. Each student arrives at school at a different starting point: a certain attitude of readiness for learning, an individual style of acquiring knowledge, and a distinct level of mastery of concepts. Multiply these three factors by the number of students in the classroom. The resulting figure is daunting but makes it obvious that ‘one teaching method fits all’ isn’t a practical strategy.

Differentiated instruction recognizes and supports individual differences in learning by using a variety of teaching strategies. There are so many options and resources available today that we can adjust for the diverse abilities, needs, learning styles, and interests of our students. As teachers, our goal is to optimize student growth and success at all levels of ability, not simply to achieve or reach a standardized benchmark. Teach every student.

Brain based learning studies support a variety of instructional strategies. As students make connections between what they already know and their new learning, interconnections in neural pathways are formed. As a result, information is stored in multiple areas. Meaning and retention are both enhanced.

In teaching ICT, we have lots of ways of tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. TechnoKids project-based computer lessons support differentiated instruction with student resources, teaching strategies, and assessment tools.

Process

Differentiated instruction requires that we provide a variety of learning opportunities. Students should be able to build a repertoire of tools. They can accommodate their own preferred styles of learning, as well as recognize and build skills in their individual areas of weakness.

TechnoKids project-based learning supports the process of learning using differentiated instruction:

  • Vary learning tools. Integrate technology and use the computer as an alternative and additional tool.
  • Target different senses with multiple instructional strategies. TechnoKids Student Workbooks engage students by reading written instructions, studying illustrations that support text, looking at infographics, and handling manipulatives such as TechnoKids tool flashcards. Sample files have students listen to audio and watch video. Brain based learning studies show that most of us learn best when the kinesthetic senses are used – doing, handling, building. Robotics projects prepare students to build STEM skills and support hands-on learning. TechnoKids Teacher Guides provide teaching strategies, technology integration ideas, and assessment tools.
  • Chunk material into manageable parts. TechnoKids projects are divided into smaller sessions or assignments. In this way, a complex task becomes doable.
  • Present learning tasks in graphic organizers. When students create a plan of their ideas for a an inquiry, TechnoKids projects often have them use a chart, brain storming web, or mind map to outline and develop their proposals.
  • Repeat to reinforce. Students build skills through practice, so Skill Reviews and Extension Activities allow for repetition.
  • Allow students to work at different paces. By using the pdf or print copies of TechnoKids workbooks, individual students can complete the activities on their own timeline.
  • Mix up individual and group collaboration. Individual, pair, small group, and whole class activities should all be part of classroom experiences. Flexible grouping allows students with similar learning styles to work together.

Content

Recognize that students have different levels of familiarity with concepts before a lesson is taught. Differentiate activities by designing assignments that cover various levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, from remembering (lowest level) to evaluating (highest level).

  • Give students the big picture. Most TechnoKids resource files include a number of samples of completed projects. Seeing and reviewing a finished project solution motivates students, builds interest, and provides a clear example of what is being assigned.
  • Provide a starting point. A number of TechnoKids projects, especially primary level projects, include templates. Students can focus on the technology and learning skills without getting bogged down in the less critical details of setting up a document.
  • Combine methods of instruction. Blend a mixture of teacher directed, print, video, and any other instructional techniques. This serves the purpose of both maintaining student engagement as well as appealing to diverse learning styles.

Product

The final creation or solution to an inquiry process should be interdisciplinary and open-ended. Allow students to build on their learning style strengths by offering choices. Self directed learning allows for students to work independently and develop critical skills such as organization, creativity, judgement, and persistence.

  • Build engagement by offering choices. Involve students by encouraging them to pitch their own ideas for projects. TechnoKids projects allow for creative thinking and open-ended learning experiences.
  • Offer a variety of outputs. When students are given options, they take more responsibility for their learning and become more engaged. TechnoKids projects may be a presentation, visual art, timeline, graphic story, newsletter, questionnaire, blog, interactive map, animation, and many more!
  • Provide opportunities for assorted types of assessment. TechnoKids grading tools include student, peer, and teacher checklists, rubrics, rating scales, marking sheets, and skill summaries.
  • Incorporate reflection. Summarize learning, process new learning, identify areas for improvement, and set goals. Many TechnoKids projects contain a reflection component in a final celebration of learning.

New! HTML Coding for Chromebook Users

teach STEM skills

Teach HTML coding using Chromebooks

TechnoHTML5 has always been a favorite top seller for educators. With the current focus on STEM education, teaching HTML coding is more relevant than ever. Now that Chromebooks are prevalent in the classroom, TechnoKids has modified this popular project specifically for Chromebook users. Using a web-based text editor that integrates with Google Drive makes HTML coding a breeze. Now when you order TechnoHTML5 you will receive two versions: one for desktop HTML text editors such as Notepad or Code Writer and a version for Chromebook users that uses a free app such as HTML Editey.

STEM Activities to Learn Life Skills

I wrote in a previous blog about the reasons to teach programming. Of course, not many students will choose careers as computer scientists or program developers, but that’s not the main rationale for coding lessons. Strong communication skills and personality traits that lead to success in life and the workplace are critical goals for students. Learning to code does just that. As they learn to plan, organize, write, edit, and troubleshoot, students build invaluable life skills. Perseverance, problem solving, analytical thinking, creativity, and collaboration are enhanced by learning programming. These crucial personal habits will benefit students for life.

Everything Educators Need to Teach HTML

TechnoHTML5 for Chromebooks is an introductory HTML project for middle and high school grades. Students build a web page using HTML and CSS. They style text, graphics, and hyperlinks. Optional challenges have them format lists, add a background image, create a class, add animated gifs, and more! Step-by-step instructions with checklists in the Student Workbook build organizational skills. The Teacher Guide includes assessment tools such as a summary of skills and customizable marking sheet to evaluate the completed web page projects. Digital resources include sample files, reference sheets, review questions, and skill reviews for practice.

Coding for Chromebook

Students design a web page on the topic of their choice using TechnoHTML5.

Chromebooks Make HTML Coding Easy

HTML Coding is fun and easy using a Chromebook and Google Drive. coding for ChromebookOn a desktop, I found it cumbersome to always save my work in the text editor then toggle to a browser and refresh to see a preview. But using a free text editor for Chromebooks such as HTML Editey provides instant feedback. Two panes allow the user to write code and see immediate results.

There are many other great features to HTML Editey that we’ll write about in an upcoming post.

Digital Citizenship and Scratch

digital citizenship Scratch

There are so many great things about Scratch: it teaches programming skills to kids, it’s fun and easy, and it’s free! Another fantastic feature is the Scratch online community. Students can browse completed projects, try tutorials, create interactive media, share, get feedback, learn from others, participate in discussion forums, and more! A bonus spinoff of this learning community is that students build essential digital citizenship skills as they interact with other Scratch programmers.

Scratch can be used offline, but there are so many benefits to joining the creative online community of Scratchers! If you are interested in digital citizenship and coding, TechnoCode has programming lessons that are the perfect fit.

Starter Projects

digital citizenship and Scratch

Scratch has an extensive gallery of sample animations, games, interactive art, music, and stories. New users are encouraged to view them, look at the basic code, and modify them. The code often has tips that explain what it does. Suggestions are given for what can be changed: add sprites to a story, devise more obstacles for a game, or add sound effects. This is a great way for students to create their own unique project yet experience success early in their learning.

Look at the Code

digital citizenship see inside

The See Inside button allows you to view the programming of a project. You can see how someone else’s project works, figure out the blocks needed to create a specific effect, add part of a project to your backpack, or remix it and save it as a new project.

Tutorials

Users new to Scratch can follow step-by-step, animated tutorials to make a project. Alternatively, download a set of illustrated, colorful activity cards and print them for easy to follow instructions.

Remix

The motto of Scratch is Imagine, Program, Share. Budding programmers can learn by downloading and modifying the work of others. Check out how many remixes there are of a sample project in the gallery – sometimes there are over 100 different versions of the original!

When it is uploaded, the remix of another creator’s project automatically gives credit to the original author and any others who contributed to it. Students are also encouraged to write something like “Based on […] by […]” Or “Thanks to […] for […]” In the Project Notes. Citing the source is an essential skill that students must master in any research work. Learning to acknowledge an author and avoiding plagiarism is a critical part of fostering sound digital citizenship.

Build Key Personal Skills

As young people learn to program, they learn to be innovative, build logical and computational thinking, and work collaboratively. These are all important life skills as well as fundamental competencies for the careers of the future.

Foster Digital Citizenship

Using the Scratch online community, students share their work, ask for help, exchange ideas and projects, and collaborate. As students view the work of others, they can click a star to ‘favorite a project’, click a heart to ‘love a project’, or leave a comment. This support boosts the concept of a community of creators who are working together and who encourage one another.

There’s also a set of Scratch Community Guidelines, a brief outline of common sense standards:

  • Be respectful
  • Be constructive
  • Share
  • Keep personal info private
  • Be honest
  • Help keep the site friendly

As students are building programming skills, Scratch can also help them to develop safe and responsible online practices.

Promote Digital Citizenship with Scratch Coding Lessons

TechnoCode, is a Scratch project with activities that emphasize digital citizenship. Lessons include instructions that guide students to share Scratch projects appropriately. Teach how to give credit to peers when remixing, cite the source of external resources, and comment responsibly. Moreover, their are many collaborative learning opportunities.

digital citizenship and Scratch

Teach digital citizenship by joining the Scratch community. Lessons in TechnoCode promote responsible behavior.