Remote control toy or real learning tool? As a blue robot dressed as a teapot darts across the classroom and bowls over a stack of cups, I realize that at first glance this looks just like the demolition tracks my brother and I would build in a basement on rainy days. In many ways this lesson captures the energy of that play, and adds it to an existing lesson. Robots can be a fun way to extend a lesson, or make it less abstract.
In the case of the run away teapot, the students were experimenting is Dash in armor knocked over as many cups as Dash without the custom armor they had built him. The students had studied push and pull forces and Dash and Dot offered many playful opportunities for student to apply their understanding of push and pull forces. From knocking over Dot to creating a cart for Dash to tow Dot around in, the students worked to figure out how to transform recycled berry baskets and bottle caps into chariots and wagons.
Why Use Robots In Education?
The greatest thing Dash and Dot brought into my class was the spirit of self-directed learning. Since we don’t have a bunch of robots, not everyone uses the robot at the same time. This means that those who are using the robot often have to figure things out on their own, this is the cost of the privilege.
3 things Dash taught me about Self-Paced Learning in School
- Choice based programming self-differentiates, students do what they can figure out.
- A well-built app supports literacy by making the needed information available on the screen, the teacher’s role is to NOT tell students information they can read off of their own screen.
- When students say, “I don’t know what to do” it almost always works to ask, “What is supposed to happen next?”
Wonder Workshop invites kids into a creative community, and empowers them to become creators. This is bigger than the robots that often grab the spotlight: Dash and Dot. These robots can be used at home and at school, as a canvas for creativity and storytelling while supporting computational thinking. In my classroom, Dash and Dot are stars of independent choice time. While Dash and Dot are great robots, what sets them apart from other robots is the creative community cultivated by Wonder Workshop.
The Dash and Dot Show
The Dash and Dot Show is a fun kid-hosted program about creative ideas for playing with Dash and Dot. Each episode has a number for fun ideas and they show the kids watching how to get Dash and Dot to do fun things. They also issue challenges that kids can submit pictures and videos to. Wonder Workshop uses their YouTube channel to give kids a face and community to connect to.
Join a Robot League Today!
For kids with a local group of friends interested in programming, there is the Wonder League Robot Competition. Teams don’t have to be big and kids can use the challenges at anytime to develop their programming and making skills. It is also helpful to practice on old challenges before the new challenges are issued. As a teacher, I love having these videos to guide the students so I can help with other issues. For the kids it is great to get them meeting challenges together. Coding is the new team sport. Stay tuned to competition.makewonder.com for information about next school year's competition.
The videos and challenges help students get comfortable with the demands and rewards of self-directed learning. For teachers, these videos provide the support that must be there if we are to step back. If we can give the “authority” of information to a challenge video, we can work alongside the students as they collaborate to figure out the challenge.
Working with Dash and Dot can be really inspiring and Wonderworkshop rewards great ideas by featuring them as a Community Fan Challenge. When my students see that kids JUST LIKE THEM have created a Dash artbot, they realize they too could be an artbot designer.
Inspiring creativity isn’t easy, and Wonder Workshop has done the footwork needed in the Wonder and Blockly coding apps. Each app has both skill-building and freeplay modes. The leveled coding tutorials help all students understand simple movements to complex sensor-dependent interactions. The apps reward kids reading the screen, and thinking carefully, and trying things out. The apps are flexible enough that students can get to freeplay before completing all of the tutorials, but this works because of the choice-driven nature of the learning.