Mr Kemp NZ

Coding in the Classroom – Using BlueBots

Today’s blog is a guest post from Dan Summerell. Dan is a STEAM teacher and Innovations Manager at his school in Northern Melbourne, Australia. Recently I have been connected with Dan and have been learning a lot from him and what is happening on the ground in schools in Australia. Dan blogs at www.ponderingdan.com and you can connect with him on Twitter here.

Computer programming is relatively new at my school. This is the first year that it has had a significant focus and it was my job to create a curriculum that begins developing these new skills with our Prep to Year 4 students. I struggled at first because I really wanted to create something engaging that the students would rave about to their teacher and parents. Our Preps don’t have their own iPads, so I had to rule that out but we had just purchased a good number of BlueBots that would be perfect.
The idea would be to start Prep and Year 1 with Blue Bots to give them a basic understanding of algorithms. I wanted to get their brains around the idea that computers need very explicit instructions to operate. It was a good chance to start off with some ‘unplugged’ activities and games that they could have fun with before I introduced the robots to them.
I created my own large BlueBot mats (as it was much cheaper than buying them online). I had them printed on A0 paper and laminated at my local Officeworks store. As they are blank and laminated, it means that I can write on them with Whiteboard Marker or I can cut pictures and blue-tac them on. It’s much better to have a blank slate to work with and just create additional resources as you need them.
It was important to include an end goal for the use of the robots, so I decided that a literacy link would be the most engaging. The idea was that once students were proficient in the use of algorithms, they would choose a simple story to retell using the robots. I wanted to include some discussion about sustainability too, so we tasked the students to create a costume for BlueBot based on one of the characters in the story using sustainable materials. They would also use these materials to create the setting for the story and once finished would program BlueBot to navigate the story in order and retell it aloud. For example, they could base their task on The Three Little Pigs. They would build three houses out of sustainable materials (a straw house, a wooden one and a brick one) and make three little pig characters to go with them. They would then find a way to dress BlueBot as the Big Bad Wolf then create the algorithm to go through the story step by step.
This is just how I’ve used BlueBots this year. I’ve seen them used a number of ways and I often see on Twitter some good examples that I would like to try someday. If you’re looking for new and engaging ways to use the BlueBots in your classroom, then I would suggest a simple Google search of BlueBot activities (and connect with TTS group on Twitter). If you can see the benefits as I can then the only limit is you and your student’s imaginations.
The benefits to using BlueBots:
  • Teach children the early vocabulary of coding. Yes, my Prep and Year 1s could now tell you what an algorithm is
  • Teach what an algorithm is and how it relates to things they do in their real lives
  • Teaches directional language in context
  • Gives students an opportunity to think spatially and demonstrate this by acknowledging a change in the relationship of the BlueBots when it changes its position
  • Children learn to become problem solvers. They don’t know that they are doing it but it is obvious when they need to complete a task that they will try over and over again until they reach success
  • With becoming a problem solver it aides the development of resilience
  • Teaches students to be able to simply record what they are doing so that they can check for mistakes and to notice patterns
  • It’s a good way to see collaboration in action. We would normally work in groups of 3 – one person would be the ‘Robot Wrangler’ (they are allowed to program the robot and move it back to the start), another would be a ‘recorder’ (they are responsible for recording the algorithm and reading it out to the Robot Wrangler) and thirdly, a ‘Camera Operator’ (they video record what happens and post the details to Seesaw)
  • So many links to literacy and numeracy activities. Some examples include;
    • Use an alphabet mat for spelling (if you learn other languages, this is also a great activity. I’ve used it with the Spanish alphabet and our Mandarin teachers are looking to trial BlueBots with their lessons)
    • Students can program BlueBot to follow a sequence of events they create to retell a story
    • Use numbers on the BlueBot mat to solve problems (e.g. program BlueBot to find two numbers that equal 10). I like to use it for a number of the day (what numbers equal a certain number using any operation)
    • Use a shape mat to enhance knowledge of 2D or 3D shapes
    • Creating a map and programming BlueBot to reach certain destinations – this is a great activity for understanding mapping, coordinates, community (people and places)
    • Use it to model life cycles of certain animals. E.g. program BlueBot to find the right order of the life cycle whilst re-telling it aloud.
If you’re interested in robotics and coding then keep an eye out for future posts on:
  • How to get started coding with Scratch Jr
  • Using Dash and Dot robots
  • How to get started coding with Hopscotch
  • Starting a robotics club using Lego Mindstorm EV3 robots
  • Starting a coding club.
Below are a few people to follow on Twitter (in addition to my school Twitter account @at_hgc) with some examples of how they have used BlueBot: @RTwitchin @mrkempnz @MissBrownACPS @annkozma723
Also check out other blogs such as feeschmee.com (she has a great post about how she has used them in the past along with some great web links to resources), elenikyritsis.com (another great post about using BeeBots in the classroom with links to resources) and code-it.co.uk

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Craig Kemp

Craig Kemp

I am a passionate Head of Educational Technology at a large International School in Singapore. I am a lifelong learner, dream creator and thought leader. I love to inspire others and find inspiration. Co-founder of #whatisschool, #asiaED edchats and #pubPD.

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