Tag Archives: using technology in the classroom

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!

Microsoft Forms TechnoTrivia Project! Just Released

microsoft forms technotrivia project

Great news! TechnoKids has just published a new version of TechnoTrivia for Microsoft Online users. Google Apps users have already been able to use this project to create fun quizzes but now it has been updated for Microsoft Forms as well.

As part of Office 365, Microsoft Forms is an online survey creator. Students and teachers can use it to make quizzes, polls, and surveys with automatic marking. They can write a variety of question types, include pictures and video, set a scoring system, generate an answer key with helpful feedback, and even export data to Excel to analyze the results.

TechnoTrivia is a great project to introduce these skills. Hook student interest as they make a fun trivia game to play with their friends. The topic may be integrated into curriculum subjects, such as Solar System Challenge or My Country Quiz. Or, it can be based on an area of personal interest – Prove You Are a John Lennon Fan or So You Think You Know Sports.

microsoft forms trivia project

Add pictures and a theme to enhance the trivia quiz.

Educational Value of Quiz Creation

Critical thinking skills

Today’s students are avid consumers of technology, but essential learning really takes place when they become creators of technology. Making up survey questions requires the ability to consider another’s background knowledge and interests. In TechnoTrivia, students are challenged to write thought provoking questions to test a player’s knowledge. When students see their peers’ responses, they analyze how to change their quiz to make it easier or more difficult.

Real world application

As students create a quiz and test it out on classmates, family, and friends they get immediate feedback. They can see how their new skills can have a practical purpose. Learning is much more likely to be enhanced if students can see its relevance and everyday applications.

Engage student interest

A quiz with odd, interesting, and/or silly facts is a fun task that appeals to anyone. Taking the role of a quizmaster, students are hooked into entertaining and testing others with a trivia quiz. The variety of questions – multiple choice, true/false, multiple answer, picture, video, and short answer make this project a sure hit with kids.

Consolidate learning

The process of creating quiz questions about a theme or school subject area helps to embed information. Quiz questions can identify learning gaps but also provide a firm foundation in reviewing and preserving critical concepts. The project has many suggestions on how to incorporate a quiz into curriculum. Math Drill and Practice, Who am I?, Art Crawl, Where in the World?, and Spelling Bee are just a few of the quiz integration ideas. See this blog for 20 great teaching ideas for using Forms to make quizzes.

Point of view

Looking at information from a different angle aids in understanding. Thinking about data from the perspective of questioning, students play the role of a teacher or assessor. They build analytical skills. By composing questions, students are much more likely to grasp, absorb, and retain important details. And generating challenging questions is sometimes harder than expected!

Build confidence

The emphasis in TechnoTrivia is not on the scores achieved by players but on creating a fun and entertaining quiz. Students practice rewriting questions to make just the right mix of difficulty – not too easy so that the player loses interest and not too difficult so that they might give up. They also add a range of feedback comments for the player to foster encouragement, to provide additional information, and to praise correct answers. Taking on the role of the quizmaster promotes self-assurance, pride, and responsibility.

microsoft forms technotrivia

The quiz can be shared using a variety of devices.

Microsoft Forms and TechnoTrivia

Get your students started right away in making their own wacky and informative quizzes. TechnoTrivia includes a Teacher Guide, Student Workbook, assessment tools, flashcards, handouts, and links to lots of sample quizzes.