Tag Archives: using technology in the classroom

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.

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!

Sound Libraries Continued, Two More Free Resources

In a previous article, I listed 8 great free sound resources that students can use to download fun and engaging sounds to add to their stories, presentations, or other digital creations. Fortunately, there are new sound libraries posted regularly and here’s a couple we found that are appropriate for educational use. If you have others to recommend, please let us know.

BBC Sound Effects

  • search by suggested category, then narrow the search by a specific term, e.g., Animals – lion
  • all 16 000 sound effects are in WAV format
  • sounds are available for download under terms of BBC copyright but may be used for personal, educational, or research purposes
  • clear and easy preview with description and sound duration listed

BigSoundBank

  • search feature includes alternate suggested search terms to help find suitable results
  • all sounds are free and royalty-free
  • sounds are in a variety of formats: MP3, WAV, AIFF, and more
  • limited library of hundreds of sounds, but if no fitting sounds are found, other external sound websites are suggested
  • also included is a thorough listing of additional sound and music websites
  • sections of the site are in the creator’s native language French, but the library of sounds are listed in English

free sound libraries

Project-Based Lessons for Technology Integration

TechnoKids has projects in which students add sound or music to engage their audience and add interest.

In TechnoCode, students use Scratch to build games, puzzles, mazes, animations, stories, and more. They write scripts to add sound blocks that play audio clips, make them repeat, and combine sound with other actions.

In TechnoInternet, students learn about responsible digital citizenship. As they practice Internet safety, they also explore online radio stations and music services, search for sound clips, and bookmark sound libraries.

Sound Libraries Caution Note

Some sound collections may contain sounds inappropriate for school use. Discuss digital citizenship responsibilities with students before using these resources to confirm their understanding of suitable content.