Today’s world is a fast paced, digital one and barely a week goes by without the release of a new digital device or app.
As discussed in my previous blog, children are growing up surrounded by this new technology and, as such, are heavily reliant on technology for entertainment, communication and information. The impact that technology, artificial intelligence and automation is having in today’s workplace is huge. Children need to be taught skills to prepare them for the technological advances of the future.
George (2019) notes that schools and teachers will be at the forefront of teaching children these skills and that teachers must ensure that “disadvantaged pupils with low basic skills” are given the chance to “climb the ladder of opportunity”. This is an important point and it is imperative that all children benefit from the teaching of these skills and that social justice and the attainment gap in school is monitored to ensure that disadvantaged children are not falling behind in these teachings.
In week two of the digital technologies module we had the opportunity to explore the benefits of programmable toys within the classroom and found that they can have a positive impact on the pupils. As well as being highly engaging, programmable toys can improve a child’s sense of direction as the children need to distinguish from left, right, forwards and backwards. Programmable toys within the classroom also have the benefit of developing children’s thinking and learning skills and can help to stimulate problem-solving skills (Janka, 2008).
Janka (2008) also suggests that introducing programmable toys at an early age, is a good time for developing knowledge and understanding in this ever-changing world of technologies. Digital technologies is now heavily embedded in the Curriculum for Excellence and it is evident that it will play a major part in children’s learning. Educators are now realising that it does not take long for children to grasp how programmable devices work, according to Lydon (2007).
I have the benefit of having several years of classroom experience and because of this I am aware of several programmable toys which can be used to enhance learning within the classroom, including Bee-Bot, Robot Mouse and Botley the Coding Robot. These are all similar devices whereby the user can program the device to make a series of movements; forwards, backwards, turn left and turn right and the device will follow the sequence which has been input. These types of devices are suited to early and first level learners as they are simple coding devices which are, for most learners, easy to use. To use these devices with second level learners I would ask them to design their own resource for the device to use as this would challenge them more than simply using the device to code. This would allow them to develop and enhance their creativity and problem-solving skills whilst refreshing their simple coding skills.
The specific device that we looked at today was Bee-Bot. Bee-Bot is very aesthetically pleasing and, from experience, children really engage in their activities when using it. I have found Bee-Bot to be a very engaging and exciting device for young learners, when Bee-Bot was used in my classroom experience the children were always very excited about it and eager to problem solve and get Bee-Bot to where it needed to be.
Bee-Bot is an excellent device for learners who have additional needs and need more concrete materials to aid their learning, non-verbal children can participate with Bee-Bot as there are no verbal commands used to allow it to function and the large buttons and simple design are ideal for users with poor motor skills. Bee-Bot is great to use with very young children as number and letter recognition is not needed.
Bee-Bot is a small robotic device that looks like a bumblebee. It has four directional buttons on top; forwards, backwards, left and right which are coloured red, a green “Go” button in the centre of the directional buttons and two blue oval buttons, pause and clear, placed symmetrically with the backwards button between them. The Bee-Bots that I have used in the classroom have always had symbols representing pause and clear, however, I am aware that some Bee-Bots have the words “pause” and “clear” printed on the buttons, this could pose a problem for children who are unable read. To overcome this problem, I would use stickers of the symbols to stick over the words “pause” and “clear” on the Bee-Bot.
The task given to the cohort for Bee-Bot was to:
- Choose a CfE level: early, first or second
- Choose a Curricular Area
- Choose an Experience and Outcome
- Decide on activity using Bee-Bot that will deliver this learning
Knowing that Bee-Bot is most suited to early and first level learners I chose to look specifically at these levels and discount second level for this task, although I would design ways in which the mat or activity could be extended to accommodate second level.
I could have chosen a mathematics or literacy activity, as Bee-Bot lends itself very well to these activities, and created it very quickly, however, I decided to branch out and look at other areas of the curriculum and challenge my creativity.
I finally decided on the curricular area of science and the specific outcome:
- “I have helped to grow plants and can name their basic parts. I can talk about how they grow and what I need to do to look after them.” SCN 0-03a(Education Scotland n.d. P.261)
I chose to design a Bee-Bot mat witha flower on it. Children would have prior learning for this activity and would be consolidating the learning that they have on the parts of a flower and how to care for it. This mat could be used to assess the children’s prior learning and understanding for a topic on caring for plants.
To use the mat, children would have to collect a card with a question, or a word, on it and code Bee-Bot to place the word on the allocated area or answer the question by coding Bee-Bot to go to a specific part of the map.
Children would work in small groups, made up of varying abilities, on this activity to ensure that they have the chance to collaborate and help each other.
Having groups of varying abilities means that the children can help each other, for example, if one child is finding it difficult to read the words on each card members of their group may assist. This aspect of the mat lends itself well to the listening and talking outcome:
- “As I listen and talk in different situations, I am learning to take turns and am developing my awareness of when to talk and when to listen.” LIT 0-02a / ENG 0-03a(Education Scotland n.d. P.131)
To further develop the mat that I created I would add some way for the users to self-correct such as flaps that lift to give the correct answer to the question or the answer on the back of the question card. I would also have an answer photo for the correct placement of the words on the cards.
I enjoyed this task and found that Bee-Bot and programmable toys can be used in all areas of the curriculum. This will be something that I keep in mind for future practice. I hope to use my Bee-Bot mat in future practice as a primary school teacher and would like to challenge second level pupils to design their own mat as it has been an interesting and engaging experience for me. I feel confident using programmable devices in the classroom and look forward to exploring other devices like Bee-Bot. As technology is ever-changing I will endeavour to keep up with changes and advances in education with regards to digital technologies and will look out for new programmable devices to use in the classroom.
- Education Scotland. (n.d.) Curriculum for Excellence.[Online] Available: https://education.gov.scot/Documents/All-experiencesoutcomes18.pdf [Accessed: 9 January 2019].
- George, M. (2019) Need to Know: What is The Fourth Industrial Revolution? TES Magazine.[Online] 7 January. Available: https://www.tes.com/news/need-know-what-fourth-industrial-revolution[Accessed: 10 January 2019].
- Janka, P. (2008) Using a Programmable Toy at Preschool Age: Why and How?[Online] Available: http://www.terecop.eu/downloads/simbar2008/pekarova.pdf[Accessed: 3 January 2019].
- Lydon, A. ( 2007) Let’s Go With Bee-Bot: Using your Bee-Bot across the curriculum. TTS Group Ltd.
- NCTE (National centre for Technology in Education). (2012) NCTE Floor Robots – Focus on Literacy & Numeracy.[Online] Available: http://www.ncte.ie/media/NCTE_Floor_robots_focus_on_literacy_numeracy_primary_12-06.pdf [Accessed: 10 January 2019].