The goal at Governor Morehead School in Raleigh, North Carolina is to have all students “strive for the highest levels of educational excellence and integrity in all of life’s endeavors.” As a residential school for students who are blind or have limited vision, this goal presents unique challenges to their staff. That’s why Caitlin Powell, a Residential Life Trainer at Governor Morehead School (GMS), and Janet Perez, the Instructional Technology Specialist, were so excited to find a STEAM resource like Cubelets. “Cubelets allow our students to explore, experiment, and engage in hands-on creative problem-solving, right out of the box,” Ms. Perez says. “I haven’t even had to add tactile indicators because most of the blocks can be identified by touch.” Cubelets are utilized at GMS in a variety of ways, most notably in the library. The robot blocks serve as vehicles for students to think outside the box and explore their creativity. Students use their tactile and sensory skills to create robots that spin, roll, and produce light. They also control the movements of their robots using Bluetooth technology. “Each week, we introduce a new Cubelet robot that does something different,” says Ms. Powell, “For example, we may introduce a noise projecting Cubelet. We teach our students how to explore and connect the Cubelet to utilize its proper function.” Continue reading
In modern classrooms, we are seeing an increasing need to help students make the connections between content areas. After all, the skills we learn in math help students to not only perform adult, math-based tasks like budgeting, but also prepare them to think critically and analyze information in an internet-driven world. Likewise, as we begin to introduce computer science and robotics into the general education classroom, teachers everywhere are looking for ways to mindfully design interdisciplinary learning opportunities. For instance, how do coding and computational thinking fit within a literacy-focused classroom? On one hand, the act of writing code into a computer helps students edit and revise their writing, paying extra attention to detail. Within computer code, one wrong letter or punctuation mark will invalidate a whole program, so many students feel motivated to scour their code until they find and correct the mistake. There are a surprising number of previously unengaged writing students who find their niche in computer programming, where they can practice many of the same fundamental skills that are normally taught through more traditional tasks. Another essential component of literacy and comprehension is understanding text structures. This crucial literacy skill helps students analyze the author’s purpose when writing a piece, and helps them accurately interpret any relevant biases or comedic effect. The most commonly compared text structures are:
- Cause and Effect
- Problem and Solution
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 ChallengeFor 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 ValuesFor 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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.” Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Frequently, Cubelets are used to supplement other subjects like
math, science, ELA, or art, instead of being isolated to a computer science setting. If this describes your classroom, you are not alone — and we have resources to help you! All of our content-specific lesson ideas are hosted on the Hub in the Grab Bag. These lesson ideas are just that, ideas, not full lesson plans.
I chose not to write full lesson plans for a very important reason (and it’s not because I don’t love you!). The fact is all teachers approach their content areas differently. Some focus on workshop models and others prefer guided release lessons. Likewise, we all create content-focused units in unique ways. Some teachers structure units as research projects, others focus on guided investigations, and yet others prefer to focus on PBLs that connect directly to their local community.
If I were to write a full lesson plan in the Grab Bag (and there are a couple scattered throughout), the overwhelming majority of you would need to sort through pages and pages to gather the nuggets of information that suit your classroom structures. To save you the trouble, I’ve outlined a high-level narrative of how a lesson might look and left the options open for how you’d like to bring the learning to life in the context of your broader unit.
As you scan the options below, remember we are constantly updating the Grab Bag with new ideas and we always appreciate teachers sharing what’s working in their classroom. If you’d like to contribute to our Grab Bag (this is part of many teacher evaluation rubrics: participating in a community beyond your grade, school, or district), simply email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @modrobotics using the hashtag #CubeletsChat. If we share or post your ideas, we will cite you and link back to any other resources you may have available. We love collaborating with teacher-bloggers and are happy to link back to school-specific or district-specific initiative pages. Because Modular Robotics is a small company, we have a lot of flexibility about how we can support you when you choose to share your hard work!
Here are some highlights from our Grab Bag:
As District Staff Developer for Elementary Science at Pinellas County Schools, James Hite has a big job. 78 schools alone rely on his expertise, especially when adding a new tool like Cubelets to their programs. Mr. Hite trialed the little robots in ten classrooms and quickly discovered how engaging and versatile they are. Today, Cubelets are found in every Elementary Science lab in the district with over 14,000 students playing and learning with robot blocks. “Cubelets play a huge role in our science programs,” Mr. Hite explains. “All 2nd- and 4th-grade students are using Cubelets to solve complex problems and conduct various investigations.” Of course, these investigations with Cubelets aren’t always so structured. “In one of our science labs, students built a robot that would be used to transport their class gecko around. Sure enough, the robot was constructed, and the gecko rode around the classroom in style in his custom robotic transport.” Continue reading
While having Cubelets for a whole class is the dream, a single group of Cubelets can be just as effective of a teaching tool. Because the Curiosity Set and Discovery Set are small, they are sometimes overlooked when teachers plan for their classrooms. But the size of the Curiosity and Discovery Sets can actually be an asset. Not only do they give more flexibility to smaller budgets (you can get five Curiosity Sets or nine Discovery Sets for less than one Mini Makers Pack), their sleek design and creative internal packaging are actually extremely helpful in keeping track of these valuable computer science tools. So how do the Curiosity and Discovery Sets serve you in the classroom? Continue reading
Welcome back to school — we missed you! As you prepare for the first few weeks of school, you might be ready for a little reminder about how Cubelets work. You may also have a new colleague who was never introduced to Cubelets at all. Don’t worry, we have resources for you to use or pass along – no need to reinvent the wheel. I recommend taking a few minutes to explore the Hub. Continue reading