Tag Archives: programming

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.

8 Coding Tips for Scratch Jr

In Scratch Jr, the Start On Bump block offers an opportunity to make fun action scenes. It also lays the foundation for teaching conditional logic, a cornerstone of computational thinking. Learn about how Start On Bump triggers animated sequences. Afterwards, refer to the helpful coding tips for Scratch Jr. This will allow you to support students when they need to troubleshoot their scripts.

What Is Bumping?

coding tips for scratch jr

Start On Bump is a triggering block that allows the programmer to sequence scripts that are activated when a character touches another character. It can cause a character to say something, grow or shrink, move, play a sound, speed up, or stop. One bump can even cause a chain reaction of succeeding bumps to happen.

Most scenes, stories, or games that students create require characters to interact. Start On Bump is a simple way to introduce cause and effect. It lays the groundwork for the logical thinking required in coding activities. Start On Bump is an ideal precursor to the more advanced programming blocks in Scratch, such as if-then, sensing blocks, and variables. It also provides a foundation for writing code in text-based programming languages such as Python.

coding tips

Sequence events in Scratch Jr using the coding block Start On Bump.

Random Bumping

A great way to introduce students to conditional logic is to create an animated scene that has random bumping. Games often have objects or characters respond when they contact one another. Using the Start On Bump coding block, a spaceship and an alien can be programmed to fly in two different, continuous action sequences. When they happen to touch by chance, the programmer can code the alien to disappear, change course, say something such as “Got me!”, make a sound, or another creative idea. Find this fun activity in TechnoTales, a coding project using Scratch Jr for primary and elementary grades. It’s the Session 4 Skill Review called Under Attack.

Intentional Bumping

The next step is to have characters bump in an purposeful way. Young programmers can use bumps to tell a story or have actions sequence in a timely, meaningful way. An object can move to another and only when it touches, does the resulting action occur. So a monster can walk to an apple and then eat it. Or in a fairy tale, a princess can ask for help and then run to a wizard who then moves to a dragon and, when he gets there, causes the dragon to fly away.

coding tips for Scratch Jr

Use the Start On Bump tool to cause a series of actions to occur.

Coding Tips for Scratch Jr Bumping

Triggering a script to run when characters bump can sometimes be difficult. If the characters do not touch, then no action will occur. Moreover, if the characters touch for too long, often an action will happen too many times.

If the characters do not bump, try these ideas:

  • Increase the number of steps in a script.
  • Increase the size of a character.
  • Change the position of a character on the stage.
  • Turn on the grid to accurately adjust the number of steps.

If the characters touch too long, try these ideas:

  • Always have the bumped character move one step to get away from the character that touched it. After that you can add different coding blocks.
  • Decrease the number of steps in a script.
  • Decrease the size of a character.
  • Change the position of a character on the stage.

TechnoTales is a new STEM project by TechnoKids Inc. It includes a Teacher Guide and Student Workbook with coding activities using Scratch Jr. Primary and elementary students in Grades 2-4 follow the illustrated, step-by-step instructions to create a modern fairy tale. They learn how to build scripts to animate the story action. Find these coding tips for Scratch Jr and more in this coding project!

5 Reasons to Teach Offline Coding Activities

Offline coding activities are an excellent way to introduce children to programming concepts. Consider the inclusion of unplugged exercises to promote computational thinking. These can be interwoven throughout a coding unit or as a jump-off point prior to beginning a project. Refer to the bottom of the article for a free offline coding activity from the technology project TechnoTales published by TechnoKids Inc.

Why Teach Offline Coding Activities?

Why teach offline coding activities when kids can use apps to build their own scripts and watch them run? Isn’t hands-on learning by building scripts more meaningful?

It is true. There are many apps and text-based editors that are ideal for teaching children about programming. Primary or elementary students will find Scratch Jr or Scratch a fun and easy way to create interactive stories and animated scenes using color-coded blocks. As well, middle or high school students will enjoy writing scripts to build a web page using HTML or a simple game in Python.

In these cases, the focus of instruction tends to be upon knowing the function of coding blocks or commands. However, a prerequisite skill to coding is the ability to decompose complex tasks, express ideas using symbols, sequence steps, apply logic, and plot coordinates. This is where offline coding activities are beneficial. They remove the emphasis from the technology and instead place it upon computational thinking skills.

Consider the four ways offline coding activities can provide a foundation for learning about programming:

Divide a Task into a Set of Instructions

A program is a set of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Most have many parts that work together to complete a task. Before students can start to build scripts, they must first have the ability to divide a task into smaller pieces. Offline coding activities that have students make an ordered list of steps are a great way to teach decomposition. For example, writing how-to instructions, recipes, or directions will help students develop the analytical skills required to think like a programmer.

Form a Connection Between Symbols and Ideas

A programmer writes code which is like a secret language. They use commands in the form of symbols, keywords, or phrase to produce a set of instructions. This requires an abstract way of thinking. Offline coding activities can help students represent ideas using objects. For example, writing directions to reach a specific destination using up ↑, down ↓, left ←, and right → arrows is an ideal way to practice expressing an idea using symbols.

offline coding activities

Offline coding activities help students to think like a programmer. Design a set of instructions to move the knight to a place on the map.

Sequence Steps

The commands in a script must be sequenced to complete a specific task. A programmer must determine what should happen and when. Offline coding activities that require students to order items is one way to develop a systematic way of thinking. For example, sequencing story events, listing significant milestones chronically, or reorganizing stages of a life cycle are some ways to foster logical reasoning.

Apply Logic Reasoning to Control an Outcome

Some parts of a program will only run if a condition is true. Conditional logic can be complex to code for beginners. Offline activities that connect daily life to if-then statements are one way to establish understanding of this concept. For example, students can identify what happens if a power button is pushed on a tv, the school bell rings, or the teacher is talking. These common occurrences will help students understand how conditions are used to control events.

Plot Coordinates to Position Objects

The function of some programs is to place or move objects. This may be done to control the action of a robot, video game player, or character. This requires an understanding of x and y coordinates to plot the movement. Typically, plotting ordinals is not taught until middle school. However, some coding apps such as Scratch require this knowledge to animate objects efficiently. Fun offline coding exercise can help provide a foundation for understanding how to position objects. For example, identifying a location on a map using longitude and longitude is one way to establish the purpose of coordinates. Another option is to design a dot-to-dot drawing on a grid that has an ordered list of x and y values for each dot.

Free Offline Coding Activity

If you are interested in helping students develop computational thinking skills download the free offline coding activity Design Your Own Quest. It is from the technology project, TechnoTales. In the activity, students write instructions to move a knight to a specific place on the map using up ↑, down ↓, left ←, and right → arrows.

TechnoTales uses Scratch Jr to animate a modern fairy tale. Scripts are used to tell the story of a hero that embarks on a quest to solve a problem. The character must find a hidden item and a helper to live happily ever after. This fun storytelling activity blends creative writing with coding. The lessons are ideal for primary and elementary students.

free coding activity

Code an interactive story using Scratch Jr. Download a free offline coding activity.

Chromebook Users, HTML Coding, and Pictures

Chromebooks and HTML

TechnoKids has recently released a programming project written especially for Chromebook users. TechnoHTML5 has long been a fan favorite among teachers. It’s now been edited specifically for use with Chromebooks and Google Drive. Students create a web page using HTML and CSS, style text, add images, and insert links.

Using a web-based text editor to write HTML has some unique features. One of the things we really liked about using a Chromebook was the free text editor HTML Editey. On one screen that is divided into two side-by-side panes, the user can write code and simultaneously see a preview. The ability to see successful results and troubleshoot problems on the same screen is great! See our previous post that lists all the ways that this app can make Chromebook users into skilled web page developers.

Adding pictures to an HTML project on a Chromebook is unique, as you are using a web-based app. Instead of collecting images and saving them in a folder to upload with the HTML file, you have to link to existing images on the Internet. Here are some tips to make that job easier for your students.

chromebook users

First, Consider Copyright

As responsible digital citizens, students should be familiar with usage rights. Ensure that they know that they cannot simply link to any image they want.

Some pictures need to be purchased to use them. Those will often have a watermark, or a company name, printed on them covering part of the picture. Other pictures may have a note describing how they can be used while others are free with no limitations on use. These are often called royalty-free.

Copyrighted pictures posted online may have a copyright © symbol on the image with the date or name of the owner. This is a way of identifying who took the picture. If students want to use a copyrighted picture to complete school work, in most cases they can. However, the copyright symbol must not be removed.

Most search engines can filter images to quickly find those that you can use by license or usage rights. Before copying an image web address, have students check to make sure the picture may be used in school work.

Search for an Image

Narrow the search: When searching for pictures to use on a web page with a Chromebook, you may want to filter the search. In Google Images, click Tools. Change the size to Medium to avoid large file sizes. From Usage Rights, pick a choice that allows you to use the picture.

Look at the source: When previewing the image thumbnail, look at the source of the picture. If it is from Pixabay, you cannot link to the image.

Check the picture size: A typical web page is about 960 pixels wide. Use this as a guide when selecting images. Rest the cursor over an image thumbnail. The pixel size will show. Is it too large?

Test the Image

  1. Copy the image address:Chromebook and HTML

    • When you find a picture you want, click the thumbnail to see it in a preview window.
    • Right click on the image.
    • From the menu, choose Copy image address. TIP: To right click on a Chromebook, press the ALT key at the same time you click the mouse button or track pad.

  2. Test the image web address to make sure that it will work:

    • Open a new tab in the web browser.
    • Click inside the address bar.
    • Right click and select Paste or press CTRL + V. Press ENTER. Can you see the picture? If yes, you should be able to link to it. If not, find another image.

TIPS:
You may need to find a different picture if the web address…
• is very long.
• does not include the picture file type such as .jpg or .gif .
• has many symbols.

How to Add an Image Using a Web-Based Text Editor

  1. Place the cursor where you want to add the picture. Type:

    <img src=”” alt=”description”>
  2. Place the cursor between the pair of quotation marks and press CTRL + V or right click and pick Paste to add the image web address copied earlier:

    <img src=”http://www.website.com/picture.gif” alt=”description”>
  3. View the picture in the web page preview pane.

More Tips for Adding Images for Chromebook Users

Picture Dimensions:

It’s good practice to include the width and height of the picture in the img tag. The picture will display without this information. However, it is helpful to the web browser.
For example:

<img src=”http://www.website.com/picture.gif” alt=”description” width=”600″ height=”400″>

To discover the picture dimensions, insert the image into the web page, right click on the image and select Inspect.

chromebook users

Check picture dimensions.

If you want to resize the picture, change the figures in the code by a proportional amount, for example, divide both width and height by 2 to make the image smaller on the web page:

<img src=”http://www.website.com/picture.gif” alt=”description” width=”300″ height=”200″>

Add Breaks to Adjust Text:

One easy solution to change the placing of a picture and text is to add a number of breaks <br> before or after text. Or, divide a large paragraph into two smaller ones.

Wrap Text:

By default, pictures are inline and aligned to the left. You can change the float of an image to wrap text.

For example, make the image float to the left and the text wrap around it by adding the code:

<img style=”float: left;” src=”http://www.website.com/picture.gif” alt=”description”>

Create a Picture Class:

To apply different style options to pictures, you can create classes. If you add a style to the img element in the head of the web page document, all the pictures will look the same.

For example, you can create a class called .pictureright that can be applied to all the pictures that you would like to align to the right. You can apply settings to make a unique style. The code may look something like this:

.pictureright { float: right;
margin-right: 50px;
border-style: solid;
border-width: 5px;
border-color: orangered; }

Then, in the body of the document, add the .pictureright class to the code an existing image:

<img class=”pictureright” src=”http://www.website.com/picture.gif” alt=”chromebook users”>

Exclusively for Chromebook Users

Find these ideas and lots more in TechnHTML5 for Chromebooks. See samples and investigate the source code that constructed them. Create a unique web page using the Student Workbook in digital or printed format. Integrate programming into curriculum. Enhance STEM skills to make your students future-proof!