As an educator, I know the importance of sharing and teaching technology to children but I also struggle with the amount of time I know they spend on devices outside the classroom. I want children to see how they can use technology to create and expand on their learning and new concepts as well as connect their understanding to their community of learners.
What could be more fun than controlling a robot around an obstacle course right? Meet Sphero! This spherical robot has become the number one sensation in my room and kids just go bonkers over all it can do. Each time they learn a little bit more and realize the potential of ideas they can develop with such a simple design (a sphere with awesome hardware).
Over the years the students have had Olympic swimming races and designed a bathing suit for Sphero with the least amount of friction possible complete with blueprints. They have designed and RE-DESIGNED (very important part of the creative process) their own obstacle courses complete with a map and a plan. Each section was named and each one was designed by a group of 2-3 partners to break up the job of completing the entire task. Each day of the design two new project managers were assigned to ensure and assist the partners in kind and productive communication. Managing a team can present issues when SO many ideas are shared and some individuals get “stuck” on their idea and their idea only!
Working in teams allows children to practice the art of listening and how to show empathy to one another. I share with them how it is easy to say something mean to someone in a frustrating situation and really hard to be kind. They began to understand how we can share our frustrations and concerns with kindness but it takes practice. Imagine our world if everyone practiced this daily.
This past year some of my students even created their very own miniature golf course for their peers. This was no ordinary golf course though…it was an underwater world complete with characters, stories to unfold and a theme to even help ones who struggled in the face of frustration. All of it was kid-driven, kid-created and each every student LOVED visiting their world. The best part was even after they finished they still were creating in their minds about what they still could add to the course and how they could make their design even better. THAT is the gift of creativity!!!
Here are a few samples of the stories shared:
In the Atlantis golf course there is a swinging octopus that has acid tentacles that will knock you to the beginning if you are not careful. The octopuses all meet at the western end of Atlantis…so beware!
Beware of the electric eel’s shock! It goes on if you stay in him too long. You have to try to get out quickly. You have three tries to get out of the electric eel. DO NOT get shocked from it! The eel is yellow with sharp, vicious teeth. It will gobble you up! GO! GO! GO!
The Scarlett Skull
Enter at your own risk. This sunken vessel may contain treasure but beware of Captain Red Sword’s blood red sword swinging in the water. Dodge it or else you will meet your DOOM!
Ahoy, you have come to Shark Alley. Go quickly through the vicious, tail whipping shark before you become one of the shark’s scrumptious seal meals. Go now! You have only five minutes before he devours you in one whole gulp!
Welcome to Underwater Treasure. You are supposed to go through the side of the chest. Beware of the pirates’ deadly souls that are guarding the chest. When you ring the bell, that will let you know that the pirate will not haunt you. Good luck!
I do not really know which was more fun for the students actually because they loved designing their own part of the course, writing descriptive, adjective rich stories about each section and also collaborating to put the entire course together. Character, setting, theme and more all wrapped into one technology lesson! Not only that collaboration, communication and creativity were around every corner of the process. I, sadly, did not even record the moment they shared it with the community at the school including teachers and the principals because I was taking in all the wonder. I have to say I do not have regrets. Sometime we miss too much when we are hidden behind that small rectangular box! The memories are in my heart and theirs though forever!
Even if you are not a technology guru, be audacious and give technology with a twist a go! I am always learning new things and even more WITH my students. Children help you see things even you would not imagine and how we can all grow from new experiences.