After another valuable workshop in my digital technologies module I am writing again to expand my blog and reflect on my strengths, areas for development and personal opinions. Today’s workshop focused on the benefits of programmable toys in the classroom, one toy in particular: “Bee-Bot”, which I will come back to later.
Programmable toys have been used in the classroom for many years now, even as far back as 1960, when Seymour Papert created the programming language website “Logo”, which is still used in many schools today. Logo Foundation highlight Logo’s importance through the connection between learning and the social context in which learning occurs, as artificial intelligence develops, the way children learn must be adapted to accompany this. (Logo Foundation, 2015). I myself experimented with Logo programming, having never come across it in my own school experience I could look at it from a fresh, non-biased perspective. I found it difficult to work at first but very soon got the hang of it, and the website itself was very simple to navigate.
Also for the past near 20 years, “Roamers” have been used in many classrooms, and with careful planning can “enhance learning with young children” (Lydon, 2008, p.1), however pupils often require close help when using roamers. Now, in 2019, with the swarm of “Bee-Bots” into most Scottish classrooms, the roamer soon after became extinct. Bee-Bot is significantly easier to program for children and it a more attractive toy therefore more engaging.
As well as being highly engaging, many benefits come with using programmable toys in the classroom. Education Scotland explicitly understands the potential of programmable toys in making connections across many curricular areas and the contemporary world (Janka, 2008, p.2). Programmable toys also encourage interactive practical learning, develop creativity and problem solving skills. A sense of independence is created as students are in charge of their own learning, (Lydon, 2008, p.2) comments on this; “[The children] gained independence faster than I anticipated. Twelve out of 28 were able to use the Bee-Bot without any adult help after the initial instructions.” As well as this independence, coding toys evoke enjoyment, and further connections between home and school. I think that Bee-Bot could be a valuable resource in group stationed activities in the classroom, where independent learning is key.
The activity for the workshop today was to choose a Curriculum for Excellence outcome, then plan and create an activity using Bee-Bot to deliver this learning. According to the Bee-Bot website, Bee-Bot is “easy to operate” and “a perfect tool for teaching” (Bee-Bot, 2016), both of which I agree with after my experiences with the coding toy today. It is extremely simple to use and operate, and personally I think it would be beneficial in delivering many CfE outcomes. During my primary school placement, I observed a directions lesson using Bee-Bot in early years. The primary one class were asked to move Bee-Bot left, right, forwards or backwards as part of a stations activity about directions and position. Learners found the Bee-Bot task most enjoyable of all stations and were highly engaged throughout.
To show the variation of curricular areas Bee-Bot can cover, I chose one literacy and one technology based outcome; “I understand that sequences of instructions are used to control computing technology.” (TCH 0-14a) and, “I listen or watch for useful or interesting information and I use this to make choices or learn new things.” (LIT 0-04a) (Education Scotland, 2019). For my Bee-Bot activity I was inspired by a task I have previously led with primary two pupils, regarding the children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” I based my learning intention on the sequence of a story, and read the book in a song style and encouraged pupils to tap along, and I provided them with chorus sheets to join in. I then provided learners with a story map template to clarify the definition of a story sequence. As an extra task pupils could add in their own obstacle of the bear hunt and write their own verse to deliver to peers. I have attached some images of children’s examples (which were extremely creative) and the resources I used. However, had I engaged with Bee-Bot sooner, this would be a great resource to have used in this activity.
My Bee-Bot activity begins at a house and ends with a bear. At first, I sketched obstacles in order, however I decided to change this to make it more challenging, as there would be a backwards option. I also spent a while going back and forth with the idea of incorporating a blank square to add in the child’s own obstacle, challenging creativity, however I feel that this activity works better with a story map. Therefore, if I was planning this lesson I would have children in different stations, including the Bee-Bot map, and the story map. I used a wide range of resources, as can be seen from attached photos such as card, pens, tissue paper, googly eyes and lollypop sticks to create different textures and colours so that children would be engaged by the attractive map. As some aspects were 3D, I realise that if I was using this in the classroom I would have to laminate the mat so that Bee-Bot would run smoother over the surface. As I chose to work independently I found this very effective in being able to contribute my own ideas into the final product, also as I hadn’t completed this in class time I could work out when was best for me to complete it, not having to worry about arranging a time and place that would suit someone else too.
Overall, my outlook on programmable toys in the classroom is very positive, I have gained a good knowledge of the history and development of coding toys, and view them as a powerful and useful tool for teaching.
Bee-Bot (2016) Meet Bee-Bot! [Online] Available at: https://www.bee-bot.us [Accessed: 15th January 2019]
Education Scotland (2019) Experiences and Outcomes [Online] Available at: https://education.gov.scot/scottish-education-system/policy-for-scottish-education/policy-drivers/cfe-(building-from-the-statement-appendix-incl-btc1-5)/Experiences%20and%20outcomes [Accessed: 18th January 2019]
ICTopus Article (2008) Sharing Good Practice: Robots in Early Education by Alison Lydon. [Online] Available at: http://moodle1819.uws.ac.uk/pluginfile.php/39830/mod_resource/content/1/Reading Programmable Toys/ICTopus – Sharing Good Practice – Robots in Early Education .pdf [Accessed: 15th January 2019]
Janka, P. (2008) Using a Programmable Toy at Preschool Age: Why and How? [Online] Available at: http://www.terecop.eu/downloads/simbar2008/pekarova.pdf [Accessed: 15th January 2019]
Logo Foundation (2015) Logo [Online] Available at: el.media.mit.edu/logo-foundation/what_is_logo/logo_and_learning.html [Accessed: 15th January 2019]