Easter is just around the corner and I’ve been busy creating more themed computing activities so that your pupils can demonstrate their computational thinking and coding skills.
Click to get the plan and resources
I’ve prepared step-by-step lesson plans and some teacher/pupil computing resources that I’m using and have added to iCompute to celebrate Easter and/or Spring.
It’s Easter and the Easter Bunny has forgotten where she has hidden all of her eggs. Challenge your pupils to create algorithms and program the bunny to get all of her eggs in her basket any way they know.
Pupil Support Card
As usual, lots of opportunities for differentiation. For instance, less able pupils could use pupil support cards (see Egg Hunt card which is included in the pack) and/or write a more simple collecting less eggs. Your more able pupils could:
program the ice-cream truck sprite to move across the x-axis
program the hot-air balloon to fly
add the Easter eggs to a list variable when collected
add ‘enemies’ to thwart the Easter Bunny in her quest
add extra, increasingly difficult, levels (e.g. mazes to navigate)
Ideas for differentiation, extension and enrichment are included in the lesson plan. Lots of opportunities to be inspired and get creative.
I’ve also created an Easter Egg Hiding Robotics activity using Sphero SPRK+ and Sphero Edu. The Easter Bunny (Sphero) needs your help programming it to hide a collection of Easter Eggs (hollow plastic balls or eggs filled with treats). Lots of cross curricular links here with Science and Mathematics so get rolling.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I teach primary computing and have recently added a Primary Robotics scheme of work to iCompute. Part of this scheme involves working with Sphero and programming the robotic balls using Sphero Edu. To help avoid repetitive strain injury by double tapping each block to find out what each command does, I’ve produced this handy Sphero Commands Helpsheet. Now updated to include the new look Scratch blocks.
Download to get rolling with Sphero and Sphero Edu.
This post follows on from a previous post detailing my experiences of teaching primary computing, coding with Sphero 2.0. Following the successful loan of Sphero 2.0 from Lancaster University as part of my role as a Computing at Schools Primary Computer Science Master Teacher, my school bought a class set of Sphero SPRK+ to support teaching primary computing and use elsewhere across the curriculum.
Sphero SPRK+ is certainly more stable than Sphero 2.0. Because they are equipped with Bluetooth SMART technology they are much easier to connect to devices and, thankfully, don’t require any of pairing and labelling that I needed to do with Sphero 2.0 for classroom management. Here, connections are made between your device and the robot simply by tapping them together. That said, do check your devices are compatible with SPRK+ as they need Bluetooth 4.0 LE to work. I found out only seven of our iPads at school work with my new set. Luckily, we only have six Sphero but it could have been a very costly mistake!
Sphero SPRK+ has lights, sound and voice. I made links to the work we had been doing in cryptography (iCompute, Year 5, iCrypto) studying Morse Code by using Sphero’s strobe blocks to flash lights representing the dits and dahs of letters in secret messages (changing colours between letters to make decoding easier). For the solutions, the children then added speak blocks after each sequence of Morse code, which said verbally what the letters were.
Another great feature of the Sphero Edu app is being able to easily see (and export to other apps) Sphero’s live sensory data. This is brilliant for cross curricular work, particularly maths and science. Sphero is packed with sensors — gyroscope, accelerometer, location, etc… Pupils can see the real time value of sensors within Sphero Edu with visual graphs. If you throw Sphero like a ball, pupils will see the accelerometer data rise and fall. Similarly, when they construct a maze, they can use the data to track location, distance, and speed.
Click to download
Last, but not least, Sphero Edu with Sphero SPRK+ includes a Program Cam feature which allows pupils to take a videos or images of programs while they’re running. Pupils can narrate what they’re created, demonstrate their learning (and ultimately mastery) and share their work with a wider audience.
Pupils naturally love working with Sphero, they think they’re playing. Under the guise of play, they’re actually learning invaluable programming skills alongside learning about everything from physics to art! That’s learning at its best. The SPRK+ edition, combined with the Sphero Edu app, brings so much more to the table to support teaching and learning – particularly in STEM subjects. They’re expensive but with the right blend planning and imaginative resources, using Sphero SPRK+ in your school can extend to all areas of the curriculum.
Ready to roll? The possibilities are exciting!
Our school purchased six Sphero SPRK+ at full price. I have produced lesson plans and resources for iCompute that use Sphero 2.0 and Sphero SPRK+ but am in no way affiliated with Sphero Inc.
Visit iCompute to find out more about primary robotics
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have recently written a primary programming robotics scheme of work as part of my role as a primary computing master teacher with Computing At Schools and having been kindly loaned five Sphero. @cas_lancaster will be lending these lesson plans and resources out as part of their equipment loan scheme and the complete unit and associated resources, assessment guidance etc, now forms part of the iCompute for iPad scheme of work.
Today, I presented at #CASLancaster16 conference about my experiences of teaching with Sphero. Check out my posts elsewhere on this blog for tips on teaching with physical systems and visit iCompute Free Stuff to download the free robotics resources I contributed to support The Hour of Code.
Also, check out this post which is an updated version of my teaching experiences with Sphero SPRK+ Edition.
Visit iCompute to find out more about primary robotics
As part of my role with Computing At Schools (CAS) as a Primary Computer Science Master Teacher, I have recently been fortunate enough to teach using Sphero, having been lent a set by @cas_lancaster. The task was to produce a set of step-by-step Sphero lesson plans and associated teacher and pupil support materials for primary teachers to use. That is all now done and I’ve had great fun creating our new robotics unit – iCompute with Sphero – which forms part of our iPad pack , as well as being available separately. It will be lent out to other local schools by @cas_lancaster. Teaching progressive lessons using Spheros enables primary schools to meet a number of the objectives of the National Curriculum for Computing at Key Stage 2 Specifically:
design, write and debug programs that accomplish specific goals, including controlling or simulating physical systems; solve problems by decomposing them into smaller parts
use sequence, selection, and repetition in programs; work with variables and various forms of input and output
use logical reasoning to explain how some simple algorithms work and to detect and correct errors in algorithms and programs
select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information
Visit iCompute to find out more about primary robotics
iCompute – Features Flowchart
Here, I share my experiences of using Sphero 2.0 with primary pupils and give some general advice and classroom tips about how to use them effectively, engage and challenge your pupils. See this post which details my more recent experiences of teaching using Sphero SPRK+ edition.
What is Sphero?
Sphero is a robot ball with several features that can be controlled though apps and also includes the facility for pupils to create their own computer programs. The main features are:
Rolling – Sphero can roll at specified speeds and directions
Colours – Sphero can light up to a specified colour
Bluetooth – Sphero connects to mobile devices through wireless Bluetooth
As Spheros are connected to iPads via Bluetooth, preparing to use them in your classroom before your roll up brandishing them and creating general hysteria is vital! Make sure all are fully charged and that your have paired each to a particular tablet in advance. Each Sphero flashes a unique sequence of colours when they are ‘woken’ which can be used to identify them. A Sphero will appear on your tablet’s Bluetooth list using the initials of the three colours it flashes in order, Eg. Sphero-RGB for a colour sequence of Red, Green and Blue. Update: Connecting Sphero to tablets is much easier and more reliable since Sphero SPRK+ edition has been released (which I now have and teach with). Here, you simply hold Sphero close to your iPad to make a connection.
For Sphero 2.0, I added stickers to each of the Spheros with their unique name, as ‘YGO’, ‘RGW’ etc., and also to the corresponding tablet I’d paired it to. This made distributing them and the iPads much easier when in class. This isn’t necessary if using SPRK+.
You need lots of space to use these. I used the school hall. I refer back to ‘Preparation’ for this as it may be something you need to organise. I forgot on my first session and arrived with a very excitable class to a hall full of lunch tables. The first half of my lesson therefore involved getting those out of the way.
You can also buy covers called a ‘Nubby’ for outside use.
I tried this with one of my classes and we had to come back inside as it was sunny and therefore impossible to see Sphero’s tail-light: essential to be able to aim it to move in the direction you want it to go. Also, we had iPads and the children couldn’t see the screens. When our school went on to buy the SPRK+ edition of Sphero, we didn’t bother buying the covers.
Now on to the good stuff. My specialism is teaching primary pupils aged 3-11. I think coding with Sphero is suitable for Key Stage 2 pupils, children aged 7-11.
I suggest your first session focus on teaching the children how to wake Sphero, Orient (aim) it and control it using the standard Sphero app. Each Sphero (2.0 version) comes with, amongst other things, a pair of ramps and once the children have got used to moving Sphero forward and backward with reasonable accuracy, add the ramps and other obstacles to make things interesting and develop accuracy further. The SPRK+ edition, doesn’t have ramps but has tapes and measures instead.
A lesson, including step-by-step instructions for both teacher and pupil for this are available in our robotics pack.
iCompute with Sphero
The following lessons progress to using the drive function of the Sphero Edu app enabling the children to gain greater control and begin to understand that Sphero can be controlled to perform specific actions.
I then move things on for the rest of the unit to programming Sphero using Sphero Edu.
We created quizzes that the children programmed Sphero to move and change colour to answer. This presents great cross-curricular opportunities. We create algorithms and program Sphero to be our dance partners for Physical Education. Also, mazes to navigate with excellent links to Mathematics for distance, direction and angle work. The children also program Sphero to travel the globe, linking to Geography, using a free floor map from National Geographic.
Using robotics in the primary classroom presents creative and engaging opportunities for the children to extend what they have learned about algorithms and programming in Computing by understanding that physical systems can be controlled too. With the right blend planning and imaginative resources, using Sphero’s in your classroom has the potential to inspire the next generation of software designers and systems engineers! The possibilities are exciting…