I love Spheros. They have so much potential to really enhance learning and teaching, and really provide you with opportunities to allow learners to apply their learning in different contexts. They are not cheap though, but they are so versatile that they are a really good investment.
Many schools and councils are purchasing Spheros, so hopefully this blog will be beneficial if you have/are getting Spheros and would like to know what you can do with them. Even if you aren’t planning on getting them, hopefully this blog will allow you to understand more about them, what they do and how they can enhance the learning of your children.
What are Spheros?
I think the New Yorker sums it up the best in their post: “Spheros aren’t just fun; they are also an excellent teaching tool. Students have begun using them to learn everything from geometry to genetics. They can code them, too, to take a first step into computer programming.”
Spheros are programmable toys, similar to Beebots but with far more capability and potential. In a computer programming context, children can apply their learning of code to make the Sphero perform a variety of actions, such as: drawing shapes, completing mazes, and even to interact with their surroundings. Movement with spheros isn’t as simple as ‘move forward’ for a set number of steps. Children have to apply an understanding of angles, speed and time in order for the sphero to move. They can develop an understanding of the link between speed, distance and time to accurately program their device to move as intended.
Spheros aren’t just for older learners though – there is so much potential for younger learners to use the ‘draw’ feature to manipulate the device. D&T activities are also notable, as children can design devices that are powered by the Spero – such as a racing car that is driven by the sphero, or even a helicopter whose rotary blade spins as the sphero spins.
There are a variety of different Spheros available – most schools use SPRK+, however all are fantastic. You can see the full range here.
Below is a fantastic intro video that shows what Sphero Edu is all about:
Activities and Resources
Fortunately, getting started with Spheros need not be daunting or tricky; there are a whole host of free resources to use with Spheros. A Sphero resource guide is available here although is based on the American K-12 system.
The best place to start is the Sphero Education Website. The activities tab allows you to find fully comprehensive lessons sorted by stage / subject. It should be noted that Spheros shouldn’t only be used for teaching computer science – there are so many applications across the curriculum that it really is worth browsing the activities site to see what you can do.
Another great resource is your local Apple store. Did you know that you can take groups of children there for FREE to learn how to use Spheros (you don’t even need your own devices as the store provides them!) . Go to the Apple Field Trip website for more info and to book.
Of course, the other place that I love to go for my ideas is Twitter. Loads of schools use Spheros really effectively. Just search for ‘sphero’ in your Twitter search bar, and you will find loads of schools using them and be instantly inspired!
Here are some of my favourite recent examples:
— Cooper Elementary Magnet School (@CooperMagnet) March 9, 2019
Video 2 Mini Sphero jousting pic.twitter.com/Es3X5NTrWO
— Carol McLaughlin (@missmac100) March 8, 2019
— Brian Brown (@BBrownKCHS) March 7, 2019
How have I used them?
We’ve actually only just purchased our Spheros in Mosspark, so I have only used them twice with learners.
In the first lesson/few lessons with spheros, I like to let the children get used to syncing, controlling and putting to sleep the Sphero. I often play ‘Sphero tig’ and other simple improvised games. Sphero tig is easy – one Sphero is it and sets their colour to green. The other Spheros are blue. If the tigger catches a Sphero, it turns red and waits until a blue Sphero frees them by touching them and flashing their light on/off 5 times. The children really enjoy this and it engages them instantly and allows them to quickly learn to control the Spheros through the ‘drive’ function.
You can follow our journey with Spheros by following @MossparkPS on Twitter. Here are some of our recent Sphero tweets including our instant hit, ‘Sphero Tig’:
— Mosspark Pri & NC (@MossparkPS) March 4, 2019
A tricky challenge for our #MossparkP7 Marvels. Teams had to work together to move two spheros across the mat. The only condition was that the spheros had to be touching at all times!
Some of the teamwork that they learned in @BlairvadachOEC came in handy! Here’s one attempt… pic.twitter.com/XCKxGBkd5H
— Mosspark Pri & NC (@MossparkPS) March 7, 2019
#MossparkP76 had great fun coding the spheros to create shapes today. They had to use good problem solving skills to work out how to get the sphero to corner the shapes rather than creating curves. pic.twitter.com/4Y4YRNvgCL
— Mosspark Pri & NC (@MossparkPS) March 4, 2019
I hope that the post this evening has been helpful and has given you ideas about how to get started with Spheros in your own classrooms.
As always, please connect with me on twitter: @mrfeistsclass. I love getting inspired by everything that you all do. Feel free to send me suggestions for future blog posts and tag me in Tweets showing how you are using Spheros or any digi tech to enhance learning!
Have a great week