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LEGO Education® SPIKE™ Prime: A Teacher’s Experience

lego spike on laptop and tablet with models on class desk

Louise McKinnon, a Primary Digital and Design Technologies Teacher who works at Springfield Central State School in Queensland talks to us about her experience of using LEGO® Education SPIKE Prime™ in the classroom.

 

  • What do you see as the key benefits of having LEGO Education in your classroom?

LEGO Education provides a conceptual platform for the Digital and Design Technologies curriculum and enables authentic collaboration in the classroom. In our school, students use LEGO Education products from grade 1 to 6 in the Technology classroom which builds familiarity and enables them to feel confident to share ideas on how to engineer and program.

 

  • Why do you use LEGO Education in your school?

LEGO Education provides a multi-grade-level approach to students’ computational thinking in a logical manner. Moving from WeDo to SPIKE to EV3 Mindstorms allows students to begin with an easy entry point and progress to more complex thinking with technology. It allows students to feel safe to explore their creativity, not only through engineering and building with LEGO, but also within many other critical skills, such as teamwork, computational thinking, programming and more.

 

  • How easy was it to integrate SPIKE into your lessons?

Being a LEGO school, SPIKE was an effortless platform to integrate into our lessons. Building upon the simplistic tasks with WeDo for the older students in grade 3-4 was super easy as their knowledge grew. Tasks on the LEGO Education website also provided an easy scaffold to build lessons around.

 

lego spike trays with kids hands

 

  • How do children respond to using SPIKE?

The children love SPIKE! They love the colours and the simplicity of the software is super accessible and promotes engagement for all students. They also love how it is built to look like Scratch, as they are all familiar with Scratch from their lesson progression in the lower grades.

 

  • What does SPIKE teach children about coding and conditional thinking?

SPIKE allows students to code through Scratch blocks, which is very familiar to our students. The block colours and easy-to-understand language in the blocks has helped students more easily debug and methodically work through issues, which some students found too advanced with Mindstorms.

lego spike with laptop, tablet and model

  • What challenges/obstacles has LEGO Education SPIKE Prime solution helped you to overcome?

SPIKE serves as the bridge between WeDo and Mindstorms that had been missing. The jump from WeDo to EV3 Mindstorms was intimidating for some students in relation to both the mechanical and technical sides of the platform. SPIKE has allowed for an effortless transition that is an appealing invitation for students to engage with and build the skills needed to confidently interact with Mindstorms.

 

  • What type of engagement do you see in your children when they’re using LEGO in the classroom?

A lot! My students love the accessibility of SPIKE. They love how the blocks stand out and are super easy to find. The new addition of the donut block has allowed students to overcome engineering issues with ease, which has helped them to feel confident and creative with the product.

 

  • Can you explain your experience in using LEGO Education solutions that stretched across multiple learning standards?

LEGO Education has allowed students to work within many learning standards of the curriculum simultaneously due to the nature of the product. They are working within the Design and Technologies Knowledge and Understanding side of the curriculum through the computational thinking effect LEGO provides, while also engaging in the Design and Technologies Processes and Production Skills when they get to create and be hands-on with the product.

 

  • How does using SPIKE in your classroom enhance students’ engagement and motivation?

Students who felt disengaged and disheartened from the large leap to Mindstorms are now more engaged. They’re taking risks and becoming problem solvers due to the simplicity of the software and hardware components of SPIKE. The colours and fewer parts provide easier construction and navigation and less downtime troubleshooting.

 

  • Can you tell us about a time that you used SPIKE in your school and experienced an ‘aha moment’ with a student or group of students?

The aha moment has happened a lot within the programming stage of students’ creations. Younger students are now more readily able to understand and connect the coding blocks as they are very familiar with these through Scratch. The blocks are no longer ambiguous or hard for students to understand. Lots of aha moments and smiles.

 

  • What would you say to another teacher who is considering using SPIKE in their school?

Give it a go. Have a play for yourselves and see the benefits it can have for teaching by being active with it. It is an amazing hands-on tool and the best way to see its abilities in the classroom is for the teacher to also be hands-on with the product.

 

  • What three words best describe Spike?

Engaging, accessible and interactive.

 

Featured Product:

LEGO Education SPIKE Prime Set

 

Did you know that LEGO Education has over 400 FREE Lesson plans that can be sorted by Product, Grade and Subject.

Check them out here: https://education.lego.com/en-us/lessons

 

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Creating Real World Solutions With The Micro:bit

microbit sleeve preview image

The BBC Micro:bit is a favourite Digital Technologies tool of mine that allows our students to design solutions to problems, create games, make music and respond to the surrounding environment.

The small handheld micro-controller can be coded by students using Block Code, Python, Javascript or Scratch 3.0, making it a versatile tool that can be adapted for students in primary and secondary classrooms.

The features of the Micro:bit are;

  • USB connector: Connects to a computer for power and to load programs onto the Micro:bit
  • 25 LED lights: Can be individually programmed to show shapes, text or numbers
  • 2 buttons (A and B): Programmable input buttons
  • Light sensor: The LEDs on the Micro:bit can also act as a light sensor to detect ambient light
  • Edge Connector: 25 external connectors, called Pins, on the edge of the Micro:bit allow you to connect to other input and output electronic hardware, including LEDs, motors and sensors
  • Battery socket: Power the Micro:bit using batteries
  • Reset button: Restarts the Micro:bit
  • Radio: Communicates with other Micro:bits
  • Bluetooth antenna: Wirelessly sends and receives signals to Bluetooth enabled PCs, smartphones, or tablets
  • Processor: Where the program is stored and executed
  • Compass: Detects the direction (north, south, east, west) the Micro:bit is facing
  • Accelerometer: Detects if the Micro:bit is being moved, tilted, shaken or in free-fall and at what acceleration
  • Temperature sensor: Detects the current temperature of the Micro:bit in degrees Celsius

microbit stepcounter

Introduction to the Micro:bit

The Makecode platform, developed by Microsoft, allows students to code using Block Code and Javascript. It has a great range of project tutorials for students to work through to develop their understanding of, and familiarity with, the Micro:bit.

Website: https://makecode.microbit.org/

My favourite tutorials:

Rock, Paper, Scissors
Name tag
Step counter

Step Counter

microbit stepcounter code blocks

Extension: Have students personalise and/or make enhancements to the code.

Step counter – Enhanced with a message displayed on the Micro:bit when the user reaches 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 steps.

microbit stepcounter blocks

Once students have developed a basic understanding of how the Micro:bit works, they can be given a range of projects or challenges to solve individually or in small groups. These challenges will allow students to use their imagination and creativity to design their end product.

BOSON – Starter Kit for Micro:bit

microbit in box

Micro:bit is a simple micro-controller that can be enhanced with a range of add-on resources to allow students to achieve even more. The Boson Kit comes packed with easy-to-attach modular blocks to further empower student creativity and projects.

The Boson Kit features:

  • Micro:bit expansion board
  • Push button
  • Motion sensor
  • Rotation sensor
  • Sound sensor
  • LED light
  • Mini fan
  • LED strip
  • Mini servo

microbit fan sensor with button and childs hand
Incorporating the features of the Boson Kit into their designs allows students the opportunity to create solutions that can respond to a variety of inputs or sensors and respond or act with a desired output.

microbit sensor circuit setup

Micro:bit Pets

Students create their own Micro:bit Pet. The pet must react to different Micro:bit movements by using the LEDs and sounds to showcase the pet’s emotions. Students use art and craft materials to design and create their pet, integrating the Micro:bit to act as their pet’s face.

microbit pet green, faeturing laptop in background

microbit pet pink on classrom desk

 

microbit pet orange on classroom desk

 

microbit pet yellow with laptop in backgroundMaterials:

 

UN Sustainable Goals

There are a total of 17 goals that make up the UN Sustainable Goals. I focus on two or three that connect to the current learning themes taking place in our classroom when undertaking this project. This provides students with a real-life scenario to develop a solution using the Micro:bit.

UN Sustainable goals vector table

Students need to apply their content knowledge from our units of work in class, to generate ideas, code a solution and create a prototype.

Examples created by students aged 11-13 years old.

Automated Street Lights
Goal 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy
As pedestrians walk on the footpath at night, the light above sensors their presence and switches on. This provides light where it is needed, saving energy as they are not on all night long.

microbit automated street lights

 

Class Countdown
Goal 4 – Quality Education
This device will be installed in every classroom and every student wears a synced watch. As students enter the classroom they press button A to automatically mark the roll. If students require teacher assistance, they press button B on their watch. If the teacher wants all students’ attention on the floor, they get a countdown timer to appear on the LED screen of their watch. This was designed to save time in the classroom so teachers and students can work more efficiently.

microbit class countdown

 

Tree Cut Down Warning System
Goal 13 – Climate Action
Goal 15 – Life On Land
Trees in forests have sensors attached. When a tree is cut down it notifies the rangers, so they can then locate where the tree is and stop deforestation before it occurs.

microbit tree cut down warning system

 

Turtle to Clean the Ocean
Goal 14 – Life Below Water
The turtle swims in the ocean collecting rubbish. It was designed to appear like other animals in the ocean so as not to scare others.

microbit turtle to clean ocean

 

Wellbeing Watch
Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing
This wellbeing watch helps fight mental health issues. When button A is pressed, either a joke, funny emoji or funny sound will play at random to cheer the person up. When button B is pressed, it notifies authorities of the location and that this person is in trouble and needs urgent attention.

microbit wellbeing watch

 

The Micro:bit and Boson Kit allow students to work through the design process to prototype and solve real-life problems. These resources give students the creative freedom to explore and generate ideas through hands-on learning experiences. How are you using these tools in your classroom?

Featured Product:

Boson Start Kit for Micro:Bit & MicroBit

 

How do you use Micro:bit in your classroom? We would love to hear from you!

About the author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award winning Year 3 teacher and Leader of Curriculum and innovation from Melbourne, Australia. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at elenikyritis.com and @misskyritsis

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Dash And Dot In The Classroom

Dash story telling activity with girl on iPad for the classroom

Dash and Dot robots are a fantastic resource to introduce students to the fundamentals of coding. These interactive robots have the ability to manoeuvre around the floor in all directions, sense objects, flash LED lights and record and playback audio. This functionality allows Dash and Dot to avoid obstacles, sing, dance and respond to voice commands.

Connecting via bluetooth to a mobile device, there are a variety of apps that integrate with Dash and Dot. Each of these apps not only develops students’ programming skills but also key 21st century skills such as creativity, problem solving and critical thinking.

Wonder Workshop, the creators of Dash and Dot, have developed their own range of apps that support and guide students’ learning.

Go App

Preview of the Go application main screen

The Go app allows students to manually control Dash and Dot, similarly to a remote control. This is a great introduction to the robot which allows students to become familiar with its manoeuvrability. Within the Go app, students can control the speed and light display and change the direction that Dash is facing. Sounds can be added, and up to ten voice recordings can be stored for playback.

Wonder App

Preview of the Wonder application main screen

The Wonder app provides students with a range of challenges that develop their ability to program Dash and Dot. Students can travel through a variety of levelled quests, including the African Grasslands, Arctic Wilderness and Outer Space. Once students complete these challenges, they can begin creating their own worlds.

Blockly App

Preview of the Blockley application coding screen

The Blockly app provides students with challenges to develop their understanding of block coding. They are introduced to conditional statements, loops and sensors. Students can program Dash and Dot to manoeuvre by responding to button inputs and voice commands.

Path App

Preview of the Path application main screen

The Path app, as it suggests, allows students to program Dash to follow a set path. Students can complete a range of set challenges and then create their own.


Six Ways to Implement Dash and Dot in the Classroom

    • Location and coordinates
    • Measurement
    • Number facts game
    • Storytelling
    • Sounds/ letter recognition
    • Excursion reflection

 

Location and Coordinates

Location and coordinates grid with letters and coloured dots on floor

Dash can be used in Mathematics to support students’ learning about location and coordinates.

 

Dash coordinates floor activity with letters and numbers of card

    • Teachers create a coordinate grid on the floor using masking tape or chalk.
    • Students program Dash to move to specific locations on the grid.
    • Students can program Dash to speak the coordinate when it arrives there.

 

Measurement

Dash measurement activity with route drawn on paper and path directed by iPas

Students need to provide Dash with specific distances to move forwards, backwards, left, or right to manoeuvre him around the floor.

    • Students draw a maze on butchers paper.
    • Alternatively, students can use on-hand materials in the classroom such as blocks, straws, string, books etc to create a maze.
    • Students program Dash by calculating the distance and angle of each of Dash’s movements to avoid obstacles and successfully complete the maze.

 

Number Facts Game

Dash number facts activity on square grid on floor

    • Students create a grid on the floor with numbers in each square that represent the answers to number facts.
    • Using Dash and Dot, students program Dot to say different number facts.
    • When Dot says a number fact, students program Dash to move to the correct answer on the grid.

Alternative number facts game:

    • Have two students or groups working on the grid at the same time.
    • Groups take it in turns rolling two ten-sided dice. (You can always add or remove dice depending on student abilities.)
    • Students add the numbers together then program Dash to move to the correct answer.
    • Once they get to the correct number they place a kinder square over it to claim it.
    • The group with the most coloured squares wins. If the answer is already covered, the group misses their turn.

 

Storytelling:

Dash story telling activity with girl on iPad

    • Students recreate stories they have read by programming Dash to move through the story.
    • At each major point in the story, students can record their own voice to give important information.
    • Example: The Three Little Pigs. Dash plays the character of the Wolf. Students create the scene and program Dash to move around making huffing and puffing noises before he blows the house down. Dot can be used as one of the Three Little Pigs stuck in a house, who can also retell parts of the story.

 

Sound and Letter Recognition:

Dash sound and letter recognition activity on floor

    • Students or teachers write letters or sounds on kinder squares.
    • Students then scatter the kinder squares around the floor.
    • The teacher says a letter or sound.
    • Students program Dash to move to the letter or sound that they hear.

Extension activity:

    • The teacher says a word, for example, ‘mat’.
    • Students program Dash to manoeuvre to all three letters.


Excursion Reflection

Dash excursion activity facing front

    • Example: As part of a unit of inquiry, Year 1 students explored their local shopping strip.
    • On returning to school, the students recreated the shopping strip out of cardboard boxes.
    • The students program Dash using directional movement to measure distances to manoeuvre around the shopping strip.
  •   Dash story telling activity with girl on iPad for the classroom

Featured Product: Dash & Dot Educational Robots Pack

 

How are you using Dash & Dot in Your classroom? We would love to hear from you!

About the Author

Eleni Kyritsis is an award winning teacher from Melbourne. She is the Leader of Curriculum and Innovation at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar. Eleni facilitates professional learning workshops around the world that focus on unleashing creativity and curiosity in classrooms. You can contact her at elenikyritis.com and @misskyritsis

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