One of the huge initiatives that you see so many school districts involved with is the implementation of tablet technology. When you discuss this, the over achievers will indicate that the tablet is not just a consumption device; it’s a creation device. When you peel back the outside and truly look inside, most of the implementation is anything but.
There’s still a lot of reading and math games happening. You do have to start somewhere and I’m sure that the use will become more sophisticated with time. It’s just that such low level activities are so easy to find and over populate the various stores that are available.
Recently, I had a discussion with a number of people who were always doing innovating things with kids – one being robotics. Because of their district initiative, their traditional computers were replaced with tablets and that killed the robotic fun. Robotics is such a great activity. The ability to build and program your own robot can be so motivating. To be able to create a set of instructions and then have the robot perform them is so engaging. Just don’t mention that the process is programming!
So, what to do?
I’d suggest a long look at Sphero.
Sphero is a robotic ball. Inside are the mechanics for motion, acceleration, direction change, colour, … Most importantly, it connects to a computing device via Bluetooth. All of a sudden, those new tablets have a robot to control and program.
With a very futuristic interface, you control your robot. Mine’s called “Doug On A Roll”.
Right out of the box, Sphero is OK. It does all kinds of things. But, in the best sense of gamification, it gets better. By completing challenges, you unlock additional Sphero’s additional abilities.
The challenges are fun and the fact that Sphero does more with your successes just keeps you wanting to attempt challenge after challenge.
Every time I head over to my app store, I see new applications written to exploit the functionality of Sphero.
But there was one app that put me over the top. It was orbBasic.
With the scripting capabilities, you can write your own code and have Sphero follow your instructions.
If you’re lamenting the loss of your traditional robotics or you’re looking for some way to incorporate programming into your classroom, you owe it to yourself to take a look at Sphero. Sphero has a pal – the pal’s name is Ollie. I haven’t had hands-on with it just yet.