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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
One sure way to make a website engaging for viewers is to add video content. When creating a page with Google Sites, you can almost seamlessly insert a video using YouTube. A huge and easily searchable website, YouTube is a great resource to find theme appropriate clips to share. Here are a few tips for inserting a video using Google Sites into a web page.
Search YouTube FIRST
When creating a web page using Google Sites, under the Insert tab you’ll find the YouTube tool. You can click it to go directly to a window that allows you to enter keywords to search right in YouTube.
But DON’T! The problem is that you’ll see lots of images of results but won’t be able to preview the actual videos.
Instead, open a new tab in the browser and go to YouTube. THEN enter your keywords and browse through the results. When you find one, view the whole video to critically determine if it is what you’re looking for. Be sure not to post a video that you haven’t thoroughly previewed.
Pick a Short Video
With the proliferation of videos online, it takes a really compelling sample to hold the attention of your audience. Check the length of a video. Try to find a clip that is only a minute or two (or less!) long. Of course some topics require longer explanation, but be aware that your viewers may not watch the whole clip unless it is especially fascinating or unique.
When you have found a video you like, copy the URL.
NOW Search YouTube Using the URL
Return to the browser tab that has your Google Sites web project. Now pick the YouTube tool under the Insert tab. In the dialog box that appears, instead of typing keywords, paste the URL you copied from YouTube.
Paste the copied URL from YouTube into the search box
Click Search. Your video will appear, click on it, and then click Select. That’s how easy it is to add a video using Google Sites.
Format the Video
You can now customize the clip:
Click Settings to choose:
how you want the controls to appear
the color of the progress bar
whether the viewer can see the video full screen in another browser tab or will watch it only on your web page
Drag the video to position it on the page.
Hover over the left side of the video to pick Section Background. Choose an option.
Preview the Web Page
Select the Preview tool and see what the video will look like when it’s published. Remember the nifty responsive design feature of Google Apps – click each of the three options: Phone, Tablet, or Large screen to view the layout on different devices. Now you can again preview the whole video clip if necessary.
Add a YouTube video to engage viewers in your website
All of these tips to add a video using Google Sites and much more are included in TechnoSite, a web design project designed specifically for teachers of elementary grades. Empower your students with STEM skills as they construct professional looking websites for any curriculum topic, area of interest, sport, or hobby. Everything you need is included: Teacher Guide, Student Workbook, Assessment Tools, Sample Websites, and more! Find out TechnoSite details, view samples, and see the project learning objectives here.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.