Tag Archives: robotics

The Little Red Hen: a Kindergarten Robot Story

Dressing up Dash

Dressing up Dash

This past week, I had a chance to design a “21st Century Lesson Plan” for my Teaching for Understanding with Technology course. It was inspired by Renee Hobbs’ five core competencies (i.e., access, create, analyze, reflect, act), as outlined in her book Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom (2011). As I created my lesson, I tried to ensure that the digital tools and skills that were woven into it were not the sole focus of students’ learning. Instead, I wanted to provide an opportunity for students to use different technology tools, like iPads and robots, to generate creative content and also reflect on how they could use their tools to communicate ideas to others.

I decided to design a lesson (available in this Google Doc) for our kindergarten students that builds upon an existing unit they do on The Little Red Hen and the topic of helping others. This unit is already very robust because in addition to reading various versions of The Little Red Hen, students also take a field trip to a local mill and get to see how bread is made. Then they have a chance to bake their own bread at school and engage in classroom discussions about kindness, friendship, and helping others. They discuss whether they would help the Little Red Hen if they were part of the story and finally, they have a chance to write their own version of The Little Red Hen.

With all of that exploration into the literary and social aspects of the story, students develop a strong foundational understanding of the different characters and their roles in teaching the moral of the story. They have a chance to access relevant books related to the story using Scout, our picture-based digital library database, which is designed to meet their developmental needs.

So I created a project that would invite students to analyze, create, reflect, and act, as Hobbs’ suggests, to extend their learning using digital tools. The goal would be to have students take their co-constructed class version of The Little Red Hen and program a few Wonder Workshop robots to act out the story. This would allow them to deepen their knowledge of the story, apply their written work in a real-world context, and explore ways to utilize code to tell a story in a new medium. Through experimental play, students will learn and discover more about both the characters in their story and how to tell a story using various blocks of code (Thomas & Brown, 2011) .

The core focus of their work would be to create their own authentic content, using Blockly code, so that the Dash and Dot robots we have at school could tell their story in a tangible way that other audiences could enjoy. They will have to take action and work collaboratively in teams to build a successful program, using the knowledge of their group to identify various code blocks and as a team, create a sequence of code that can tell the story of a single character in The Little Red Hen.  

After designing different programs for each robot, students would have a chance to put the robots together and analyze and reflect on how the story looks different when acted out by their robots. They will be documenting their work so that they can both teach others what they learned and how they programmed their robots and also to share their own version of The Little Red Hen, as performed by the robots, with their families, other classes at our school, and classes in other countries.

References

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?.

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The CMK Series – Part 1

After taking a hiatus to facilitate a PD institute at my school, start exploring my Google Glass, attend Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) and most recently have my wisdom teeth removed – I’m finally taking time to publish my blog posts!

July has been jam packed, primarily because it began with me heading off to new adventures in New Hampshire for the CMK Institute. If you haven’t heard of it before, CMK is an amazing professional development opportunity for anyone interested in making, electronics, Project-Based Learning and Reggio-inspired classrooms … or simply anyone looking for a new learning experience that will push you to think outside the box!

robot_poster

There are too many takeaways from #CMK13 for me to fit them all into one post so I’m going to break them into a couple of reflections. To start, I want to focus on time.

Time was a unique variable at #CMK13 because it was both a constraint and a mobilizer. Time was specifically scaffold to support discovery, meaning that “project development” was a core part of the institute program. Instead of spending time sitting in sessions, waiting for things to begin, or listening to lectures, time was dedicated to learning through doing. With this freedom, we were inspired to let go of our worries about making every minute productive and soaking up as much knowledge as possible from other experts. Instead, we were able to construct our own knowledge by inviting experts to engage with us when we needed their support and utilizing a plethora of resources and materials available for everyone to use.

Time became a mobilizer, that empowered us to use it as we wanted. We could start and stop our work as needed, taking time to pause and reflect, to furiously scour the web for ideas, to “gossip” with new friends or old colleagues, and to play with burgeoning ideas that we hadn’t yet fully formed or understood. Having the opportunity to decide and schedule things as simple as meals made time feel more flexible at #CMK13, it was something that we could mold and shape in the same ways we were molding and shaping the new projects we would create.

Interestingly enough, we were also constrained by time. The looming Friday deadline, when we would need to present our project and ideally have something concrete to show for all of our work and time spent on project development, put a certain amount of strain on everyone. There was concern and worry about having something meaningful to show and being successful in producing what we had set out to make. As most of us work in education, things like grades and assessing achievement came to mind.

Luckily, I think CMK achieves a delicate time balance. Time is enough of a constraint to push participants to actively engage and dive into something they might have otherwise avoided or put off (e.g., learning to program an Arduino or make a cardboard robot). Yet it’s flexible enough that participants begin to realize they can actually redefine success and that while it can be nice to have a “finished project” for the last day, the project can be something that’s completely different than what was originally envisioned. For example, a group that started out thinking about how 9 month old babies could complete circuits ended up creating an interactive crib with a possible build-in camera, light up (zombie) doll, and other awesome features!

Reflecting on my #CMK13 experience, I want to consider how this delicate time balance can be achieved in the classroom and other makerspaces with young children. With constraints like grades and deadlines, how can we make students comfortable enough to try something new and empowered enough to take risks? My school works on a 12 day cycle which makes scheduling a challenge and consistency difficult for both students and teachers. Is the best workaround to have a Maker Club after school that works outside those time boundaries and can allow for the time constraint (club meeting) yet mobilizing (freedom to make and try anything, week after week) balance?