While many people think about back-to-school as taking place in September, most educators have already been hard at work by then, preparing lessons, taking inventory of supplies, and putting the finishing touches on their classroom designs. Adding a new STEM tool, like Cubelets, to an already jam-packed year can seem like a tall order. So, we sat down with Educational Designer Emily Eissenberg to get her insider perspective on this crucial period, and learn all of her best tips for integrating Cubelets into the classroom year-round. Tell us a little bit about the classrooms you used to teach in. What grades have you worked with? Any subjects you specialized in? I taught fourth-grade (every subject) and then became the district K-6 science content specialist, so science is my gig. I’m a nerd for all things education, though, so I’ve designed curriculum for all subjects and coached teachers in every content area! What was your favorite part of getting ready for a new school year? Were there any tools you found particularly helpful during this process? I loved gearing up for the “classroom culture” aspect of a new school year. I really stand by the motto, “Go slow to go fast,” so I specifically designed my first few weeks of school to be focused on routines and protocols that I wanted to use consistently throughout the year, but anchored them in get-to-know-you content. My favorite protocols are from Making Thinking Visible [by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison] and Make Just One Change [by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana], and our classroom routines flexed with each year’s schedule, classroom layout, and executive functioning needs. Continue reading
Cubelets are at their most effective when all students are engaged and continuing to build their skill sets. However, as with any tool, some students will pick it up quickly, and others may need extra help. When teaching with Cubelets, it’s helpful to use the following rules of thumb about interventions and extensions for your robot challenges.
InterventionsFirst and foremost, to help students who struggle with designing effective robots, start by limiting the number of Cubelets they have access to at the beginning of the design challenge. If students only have n+1 Cubelet (one more Cubelet than they need to successfully build their challenge), they will be better able to focus on the challenge at hand. Continue reading
Classroom management is well-served by practiced routines. I’ve already written down some of my best tips in an earlier #CubeletsChat post, but even more questions about supporting well-managed Cubelets classrooms have poured in. We could spend an entire college course talking about student routines. They improve classroom management, increase student respect for peers and classroom materials, and there’s the importance of students practicing responsibility. But you know all of that, so we’re going to cut to the chase. When you are deciding which routines make sense for your Cubelets classroom, remember the greatest asset we have in our classrooms is our students. Students can accomplish an astonishing amount of work in very little time (partially because there’s just so many of them!). With a short conversation, a lot of practice, and regular reinforcement, students of all ages can responsibly gather materials, report questions or problems to you, and return materials to their proper home. To establish routines, keep three steps in mind:
- Know what routines need to be established. These can be created by the teacher or the students, but routines should be intentional.
- Plan time to practice new routines. When it comes to practicing routines, accept nothing less than perfect and make sure students can get it right more than once in a row!
- Be ready to reinforce routines. You know it, I know it, we all know there are bad-routine days: field trips, upcoming school breaks, full moons. Routines that are clearly defined are easier to practice.
Our Cubelets Lesson Plans all use a common format. This format is our version of an Inquiry Framework. We intentionally modified this framework from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to represent how student mindsets change throughout the learning process. At the beginning of a lesson or unit, students are filled with wonder and excitement. Ideally, they’re asking tons of questions and intuitively predicting the solutions based on their background experiences. Then, students engage in the core learning experience. This is the investigation or engineering design challenge that will gently lead students to answers (and often many more questions!). Finally, students try to explain their new learning in their own words. They reference background knowledge from prior to the lesson as well as new information they gathered during the investigation or design process. Students share their explanations with each other and use their classmates as sounding boards to tweak and refine their understanding. Sometimes they even go back to investigate or redesign again! The very last step is less of a student mindset and more of an educator mindset. Taking the time to accurately gather formative data throughout a unit helps teachers more quickly identify students’ synthetic models and adjust student groups to better address common questions. This Inquiry Framework is most valuable because it can easily be translated into inquiry investigations or into guided release of responsibility lessons. It can stretch to the length of an entire unit or squeeze everything into one individual lesson. Its flexibility is what makes it so useful. Every teacher, in every subject, can see themselves in our framework and also identify places to grow professionally. Continue reading
One of the things I love about my role at Modular Robotics is collaborating with educators all around the world. And you know what? We all run our classrooms a little differently! This variance makes it extra tricky for me to write content that meets everyone’s needs, so that’s what this blog post is all about. Let’s review some of the most common classroom structures where I find Cubelets: Continue reading
When your students are ready to begin coding with their Cubelets, it’s time to consider what new classroom structures and routines will ensure students maximize their time investigating and learning. By planning ahead, you can avoid the time sinks of troubleshooting and learning a new app on the fly. We have two different Cubelets you might be using, and they both have different paths to classroom management success. Before you plan to program your Cubelets with students, please try programming one yourself. Some school internet filters block the cloud services we use. If that is a problem for you, simply send this request to your IT department and once they’ve greenlighted our servers, try again! Still have questions? Email our Customer Support Team at firstname.lastname@example.org (They’re amazing!). Using the Bluetooth Hat Using the Classic Bluetooth Cubelet Continue reading
Cubelets are a highly engaging tool—and I mean highly engaging! Teachers around the world ask for tips on managing a classroom full of students who are completely engrossed and inspired by playing with Cubelets. What a great problem to have! The first piece of advice to you is: embrace the chaos. Cubelets are a tool that inspires rapid iteration. It is normal and good for students to quickly design and revise their constructions – even breaking off into unplanned tangents while they do. To manage this kind of classroom, settle into it and get your hands dirty. Walk around from group to group and ask them questions.
- What are you building?
- Tell me about this design.
- What is challenging you right now?
- What else could this robot construction be used for?
- Why did you choose to put this Cubelet here?