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It's our one-year anniversary of Cubelets Chat, a newsletter about STEM best practices by teachers for teachers

It’s been over a year since we launched #CubeletsChat, our blog and email series for teachers by teachers. Every topic we write about comes from a question or conversation with an educator like you. Whether we’re highlighting some great resources for your sub binder or helping you dive deeper into the computational thinking skills that Cubelets can teach, #CubeletsChat is specifically for you.

Whether you’re new to the Cubelets community or are an adept looking for next steps with Cubelets, hopefully you’ll find a couple articles that meet your needs along your Cubelets journey.

Check out these blog posts for educators just getting started with Cubelets.

For the Beginners: It’s easy to be intimidated by Cubelets when you first pull them out of the box. After all, they’re blocks…that teach computational thinking…but how?

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Cubelets are now available at the MoMA Store online and in New York City!

I’m a pretty big fan of the Museum of Modern Art. It comes from my childhood. My Dad is a photographer, and one of his photos, a racing powerboat shot on a strip camera, is in the permanent collection. And my mom, for other reasons, thought MoMA was the bee’s knees and dragged me into the city a couple of times a year to traipse around the exhibits. When I was really little, I preferred the Museum of Natural History, but after a multi-year dinosaur (and Blue Whale) phase, I really started to like the work at MoMA, from the giant Jackson Pollock pieces to the outdoor sculpture garden to the Bell 47D1 helicopter hanging over the lobby. In my mom’s mind, MoMA symbolized the best of art and design, and I absorbed some of that feeling from her.

In 2011, Cubelets were included in an exhibit called Talk To Me, about how objects can mediate and moderate communication.  It was an amazing feeling to stop by on a trip to New York and see them in the museum.

Now Cubelets are for sale at the MoMA store.  If you want to give the gift of robot blocks for this holiday season, consider supporting one of the world’s finest cultural organizations while you’re at it and order them from the Museum of Modern Art!

Help students take ownership of their work by establishing their own criteria and constraints

As we incorporate STEAM opportunities into our classrooms, there are many different ways to scaffold an activity to meet our needs. Some projects lend themselves to student design from the very beginning, and others lend themselves to students solving a problem we’ve identified for them (like designing a maze-solving robot or a robot to help the blind). This balance is integral to exposing students to every step of the design process while also making sure we have time to address all the standards we need to cover.

But student motivation is a major factor in how efficiently we can work through material each year. One way to increase student motivation is to put students in the driver’s seat earlier, by introducing subjects with creative hooks and giving students the space to define the projects according to their understanding.

Every project students do requires a discussion of the criteria and constraints. Whether those are teacher-given or student-provided, criteria and constraints indicate how students will be assessed on their design.

Criteria are the requirements for a project. If any of the criteria are missing, then the design is incomplete.

Constraints are the limitations for a project. What will students not have access to? For instance, are there considerations about price, location, or size? Continue reading

Computer Science Education Week is December 9th – 15th this year. Are you ready for Hour of Code?!

Hour of Code started as a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify “code,” to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with 1-hour coding activities but expanding to all sorts of community efforts. This grassroots campaign is supported by over 400 partners and 200,000 educators worldwide.

The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week. The 2019 Computer Science Education Week will be December 9-15, but you can host an Hour of Code all year-round. Computer Science Education Week is held annually in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906).

Modular Robotics has posted three different lesson plans for you depending on which robotics kit you have available. Check out our lesson plans which are available in the Robotics & Circuits section of the Hour of Code index.

Cubelets Lighthouse Design Challenge

For students who are new to Cubelets, challenge them with our Cubelets Lighthouse Design Challenge.

This lesson plan gives students an authentic reason to investigate each Cubelet in their set, and it gets them started building algorithms using the Inverse Cubelet. You’ll be impressed with how quickly students construct their understanding of Cubelets using this lesson. Plus,you can gather informal data about their understanding by asking some strategic questions from our Questioning Guide (found in our Cubelets Implementation Guide).

Cubelets Variables and Block Values

For students who are already familiar with the basics of Cubelets, try introducing them to Variables and Block Values in their robot constructions!

Variables in computer science are very different from variables used in math. Cubelets provide a tactile way to differentiate the two by leading discussions and investigations about Block Values and data flow between Cubelets within a robot construction. This lesson builds on the concept of Data Flow Diagrams, so if you want to get a head start, check out our Introduction to Data Flow Diagrams lesson! As always, our Educational Designer, Emily Eissenberg, is ready to support you if you have questions, just reach out to support@modrobotics.com.

GoPiGo Robot Characters

(Just in case you missed it, Modular Robotics has partnered with Dexter Industries to bring our two product lines together. We’re so excited about this collaboration and we hope you are too!)

Or, if you have a GoPiGo robot in your classrooms, we’ve also released a lesson plan about analyzing and creating characters with your robot.

This lesson is special because it is a great example of how to overlay computer science vocabulary (e.g. decomposition and abstraction.) on top of literacy discussions. Students will analyze a character from a book they are reading, then plan for and write an algorithm that represents that character. Flash that to a GoPiGo robot and students’ programs will come to life!

The great thing about introducing this lesson during Hour of Code? It can become a recurring part of your literacy workshop, encouraging students to strengthen their interdisciplinary connections.

Modular Robotics is excited to join forces with code.org to support Hour of Code this year. If you would like to learn more about any of our products, visit www.modrobotics.com or email info@modrobotics.com.

Cubelets are a block-based programming system, even without a screen!

The critical thinking required for effective programming and computer science is increasingly being recognized as a fundamental 21st-century skill. As experts around the world began to ask how to present concepts like decomposition, abstraction, algorithmic solutions, and debugging, one of their first steps was to make the act of coding more accessible to younger and more diverse learners.

Now, we’re used to seeing such programs as Scratch and Cubelets Blockly in elementary and middle school. These color-coded pre-built code blocks allow students to drag and drop to build a program without needing to memorize the vocabulary and syntax of a  programming language first. We all agree this is more developmentally appropriate for young learners who are simultaneously still grasping the fundamentals of their primary language through reading and writing instruction.

But what about students who are pre-literate or are struggling with reading in their native language? That’s where Cubelets come in. Cubelets are block-based programming. Literally.  Each Cubelet is itself a color-coded block of programming. We also refer to this as Tactile Coding, since Cubelets program robot behaviors without a screen. For example, the Inverse Cubelet is equivalent to an inverse block in Cubelets Blockly.

The Inverse Cubelet creates the same behavior as the inverse of block in Blockly Continue reading

After School programs can get a great place to supplement STEM lessons.

For Texas’ Northside Independent School District, the learning doesn’t stop when the school day ends. No one knows that better than Mario Adame, a Program Specialist, and Monica Garza, a Family Engagement Specialist. With their efforts, Cubelets were added to NISD campuses in a variety of capacities, most notably as part of a TEA Grant Funded innovative after-school program called the Learning Tree.

The Learning Tree program is currently offered to students in NISD’s 79 elementary and 20 middle schools. Over 6,000 students participate in the after-school program. The students are given the option of participating in activities of their own choice, such as Culinary, Yoga, Mindful Coloring, and Upcycle. However, all students who participate in the program use Cubelets and they have been a huge hit!

“Once [the students] got to know the Cubelets, they became very excited. You could easily observe their enjoyment and comfort level increase.” Mr. Adame and Ms. Garza go on to say that when the students use Cubelets, “you see smiling faces accompanied with giggles and laughter.”

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Looking for easy but educational lesson plans for substitute teachers? Look no further!

We all miss a couple days of school, whether it’s for professional development, sick days, or personal time, and that means we need to be prepared for a substitute to take over for a day. It’s a tough balance between keeping it light, yet academic. We can’t leave lessons that are too complex, otherwise we’ll need to reteach them when we return to the classroom anyway.

Some years, our students can comfortably run the class themselves, continuing their unit of study following the structures we’ve practiced so well together, but other years, our substitutes need to do a lot of heavy lifting!

That’s where the Cubelets lesson plans come in. If you’re saving Cubelets for a rainy day (or a sick day), keep a copy of the Meet Your Cubelets lesson plans in your sub binder. If you really love your sub, print out these #CubeletsChat blog posts about student protocols and tactile coding too, to give them all the tools they need to succeed.

The Cubelets Lesson Plan Bundles are also an invaluable resource for substitute teachers.

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We're about to ship our 1 millionth Cubelet! And to say thank you, we're giving out free gifts with every Cubelets kit purchased!

We’re about to ship our one millionth Cubelet! Back when the first little robot left our assembly line in 2012, the thought of selling one thousand Cubelets gave us a thrill. And because of your continued support, we’ve made it all the way to one million!

To say thank you to the thousands of educators, parents, and enthusiasts that have made this momentous milestone possible, we’ve included a free gift with every Cubelets purchase this November and December.

No coupons or rebates necessary — your gift will be added automatically to your purchase. See the chart below for details:

Through November and December 2019, every Cubelets purchase receives a free gift.

Shop now >

 

Free Gift Terms & Conditions

To receive your free gifts, purchases must be made directly through Modular Robotics or modrobotics.com. Orders must be placed to ship before December 31, 2019. Order and gift must ship to the same address. Offer valid from Nov. 4 to Dec. 31, 2019.

Create with Cubelets is a video series designed to help teach coding to beginners using Cubelets robot blocks.

A best practice when teaching computer science is to emphasize the thinking behind coding more than fluency in a specific programming language. This may be one of the reasons Cubelets first caught your eye. Out of the box, Cubelets are a computational thinking platform that inspire all sorts of engineering design challenges for students. If you are new to Cubelets or #CubeletsChat, check out our previous posts about  Activity Cards or Lesson Plans for some ideas to use Cubelets in their default modes. The first Create with Cubelets video is also for you!

If you’re ready for the next steps toward coding this network of computers, however, I’d like to give you a tour around the rest of our Create with Cubelets video series.

This student-facing video series is designed to scaffold students from default Cubelets designs into modifying Cubelets software via Personality Swaps™ or custom programs in Cubelets Blockly. Since we know every student in your class requires different levels of scaffolding, we created these short student-facing videos to take care of the nuts-and-bolts training that comes with new software. Think of it like Khan Academy — you can assign each group different videos while they work simultaneously.

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This year Cubelets were honored with several awards from Fast Company, Learning Magazine, Parents' Choice Foundation and more!

2019 has been a special year for the Cubelets team. This past September, we added new members to our educational robot family with the addition of Dexter Industries. We’re also closing in on shipping our one millionth Cubelet, and preparing to celebrate that huge milestone for Modular Robotics.

And to top it all off, 2019 has been one of the most decorated years in Cubelets’ history!

No, we’re not talking about all the cool, artistic robots we’ve seen on Twitter. We’re talking about awards!

One of the coolest awards we added to the collection this year was from Fast Company. Our Curiosity Set is an Honoree in the Learning Category of the 2019 Innovation by Design Awards.  Fast Company had over 4,300 entries for their Innovation by Design Awards this year, making this honor even bigger!

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