Friday, May 13, 2016

#CUESteamPunk! Robotics in the ELA Classroom

With anything in life, time can seem to slip by and before we know it, it is the end of the school year and time for reflection.

This year has been one of a kind for me...Our family has grown, took some time for myself and family, but still continued to grow as an educator. This year, I threw out my "traditional" plans and organized by what my students needed and wanted. 

We began the year with learning the tech needed to be successful throughout the year. We did this through discovery, team building, and developing a class culture of trust. Units were planned, but individual lessons were typically planned the day or night before. I brought in new tech and tools, both traditional and digital and one of the most exciting was the opportunity to learn, explore, and create with the help from CUE

I signed up for the opportunity to use the CUE Steampunk labs with my English language arts (ELA) students. I wanted to explore how STEM and STEAM should and need to be applied and integrated into ELA. Currently, I have added other aspects of STEM into class, but hadn't the opportunity for robotics....yet.

Then December 14th....Spheros from CUE entered my classroom. My students thought it was dangerous material as it came in its yellow hard case...which of course caught their interest even more! I had them before they even knew what we were going to do! That afternoon, with some high school's help, we mapped out the Sphero Driving Course for the next day.

We were equipped with five Spheros and five iPads, which equaled TONS of FUN! Students were broken into groups to master eight driving courses to earn their license. Their license was needed to continue the rest of the week's Sphero challenges to show that students A. Could handle Sphero driving basics, B. Do some coding, C. Be responsible with the Spheros.
After their driving lessons and test, students then blogged about their driving experiences.

I should mention that the Spheros came the week before our school was having finals and heading to winter break. So what shall we do?! Spheros for finals! I searched the Sphero SPRK Lightening Lab for something "cool" and yet ELA infused for finals. I found the Sphero Assistive Device lesson

Instead of a traditional ELA final, students of the Duckpond imagined that their best friend was in an accident and could no longer rely on their hearing. It was their job to research challenges of deaf and hard-of-hearing, program the Sphero to alert their friend in three types of emergencies, design a plan, test it, blueprint the Sphero's path, and reflect on the process. 

It was AWESOME. The final was so great that students asked for more. Jaiden, a student in my first period said, "That was the most challenging, but fun final ever!" You can't beat that response! So I went to our Parent Teacher Club (PTC) to ask for a class set of Spheros. Armed with the video below, student work, connections to standards, and my principal's support....the PTC couldn't and didn't turn me down! A class set is now in the Duckpond's tool box! Lesson designs have begun for next year!

As if working with Spheros wasn't #EduAWESOME enough, CUE sent me Dash and Dot to play with! I have had to opportunity to play with Dash and Dot with our OJUSD Tech Committee, and I was already sold on Spheros. However, after truly spending some quality time with Dash and Dot, now I want to add these guys to our class repertoire! 

These little guys can be programed to do different things, "talk", dance, and more! I know these guys are suggested for elementary students, but so much can be learned with them and then move up with Spheros. Students can have Dash "map out" the travels of Juan de Pareja of Buck from our novels, tell stories with movement, and I am sure tons that my students can and would come up with. 

Robotics and other tech tools don't have to be isolated into a computer or programing class. Students need exposure and access in any and all classes. These tools not only spark interest in new subject matters for students, but also engages and inspires them for more. Many of my students after "playing" with the robots have begun looking into getting their own robot for home use or coding games online. A small group of students even expanded their Genius Hour project to attempting to build their own version of a Sphero.

STEM and STEAM can and should be integrated throughout curriculum and grade levels. I can't wait to expand my lessons and students yearning for knowledge with robotics. I have even had a student volunteers to run a Sphero coding club! 

Learning at its best is when it is viewed or felt like play and student directed. Thank you CUE Steam Punk for showing me and my students just this. 

Can't wait to learn and share more!

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