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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Programming with Firsties: A Review

Have you tried programming with your students? 

I have to admit, that until I attended a workshop put on by my school district in May this year, I had never really considered using programming in my grade 1 class. The workshop really intrigued me, so when I was approached by Canadian Classrooms to review one of their programmable floor robots in my Canadian classroom... I was so excited. :)

I was loaned the Bee-Bot Rechargeable, child friendly, programmable floor robot to use in my classroom for the month of June. 

The Design:

First, this little robot is so cute. The looks of the robot are engaging to young students. The big eyes flash when it is in operation. 

The Bee-Bot is very easy to use. On the top of the Bee-Bot are the controls. The options are forwards, backwards, right turn, left turn, and GO. The X clears the memory and the II gives a 1 second pause. 

Battery Life
The battery life on the robot is very good. The battery lasted for about 6 hours of student use. The Bee-Bot will go into sleep mode when not used for 2 minutes. This is a great feature when being used by young children, as we all know how well most of them remember to turn off their toys.

To charge, the Bee-Bot is plugged into a USB port. The instructions say that it takes 12 hours to fully charge, but I just left it over night so it was ready to use the next day. 

The sound is one of my favourite things about this product. The sound has it's own switch, so it can be turned off when you don't want to use it. However, even when the sound is on, the beeps it makes aren't too loud. 

My students needed very little direct instruction on how to use the Bee-Bot. 

What I really like about this Bee-Bot is that the robot remembers the program that the students have already entered so that they can add on to their program and they didn't have to their program over each time. It will remember up to 40 steps!

How we used the Bee-Bot
If you have read my blog or my posts on the Primary Pack, you may know that I have been experimenting with open ended problem solving in math and developing problem solving skills in my students. Well, the Bee-Bot is perfect for this! 

The students played a variety of games with the Bee-Bot. Here are a few of their favourites

Catch the Ghost
We used a little ghost eraser, but any small item could be used. The Bee-Bot was placed on the carpet or floor and the ghost eraser was placed in a different spot. Students then problem solved and designed a program that would get the Bee-Bot from the starting line to the eraser. This activity encouraged the students to problem solve as well as collaborate with each other. They would try their program and refine it as needed.

Obstacle Course
This activity was similar to Catch the Ghost except students placed obstacles  that the Bee-Bot had to go around.

Once the students got more experience programming the Bee Bot, they started creating their own ideas. A group of students decided that they wanted to design a maze for the Bee-Bot to go through. The students experimented with a variety of materials to make their mazes. They decided that old wrapping paper worked really well. The wrapping paper they used had square grids on the back. The students realized that the Bee-Bot was about 3 squares wide and moved approximately 5 squares, so they designed a three square wide course. 

Do you see where the math fun came in? Once they realized that the Bee-Bot moved 5 squares they challenged themselves to figure out how many squares their maze was altogether and how many times the Bee-Bot would have to move forward! Yeah! Integration! Measurement and Number Sense!!! Bam!

Although, I didn't get an opportunity to do this with my students, I think using the Bee-Bot to teach mapping would be great, especially with older grades. It would encourage students to use mapping language (North, South, East, West instead of Forward, Backwards, Left and Right). 

What did my students think of the Bee-Bot

"I like that the we have to think when using Bee-Bot. We try and if it doesn't work we try again." ~ N

"He challenges us to try another way." ~M

"I liked that I could make my own little pattern and I could control where he went. He's like my own pet!" ~C

"He remembered what I wanted him to do and he did it!" ~D

Although programming is not in the grade 1 curriculum in Ontario, the Bee-Bot is engaging, it encourages students to problem solve, collaborate, communicate their thinking, explore and create.  

It is easily integrated into other subject areas, such as math (i.e. If Bee-Bot moves forward 5 squares a turn. How far would Bee-Bot move if it moved forward 5 times?), mapping and language (i.e. write directions for the Bee-Bot). 

Next time, my principal asks for items for our wish list the Bee-Bot is going to be on it. I think the Bee-Bot can be easily adapted to be used with so many different grades all the way from Kindergarten to Grade 6, maybe even grade 8. 

I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to experiment with programming in my classroom. I need to get a Bee-Bot of my own!!! If you are interested in giving programming a try, I would highly suggest that you try out the Bee-Bot from Canadian Classrooms!

Thanks for stopping by! 

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