Looking for a great way to keep the excitement and collaboration of the “Hour of Code” alive and well in your class? Get a Sphero, Ollie, or BB-8! These are Bluetooth robotic balls that students can program to do various tasks. Check out the website at www.sphero.com/. All three can be operated using tablets or Smartphone. Ollie, Sphero, or BB-B8 can be purchased at Amazon.com for relatively good prices-$75-$150.
Personally, my students use Sphero and Ollie in my fifth grade class. Using ipads, students manipulate the ball to run obstacle courses using cones, or creating mazes through the use of painters tape. The goal is to program and maneuver Sphero around the course. Want to really put engineering skills to use? Students can add rubber material flippers using scotch tape and race Sphero in a kiddy wading pool. Yes, Sphero is water proof! Ollie is not. Looking for even more creativity and excitement? Students can even invent chariots and race up and down the halls. Spice up your art lessons! Sphero, dipped in paint can be manipulated to create artwork. Or if you are looking for less of a mess, engineer a felt penholder to Sphero to create a collaborative project. The ideas are limitless! The fun is endless.
The main thing to remember is Sphero promotes the 4C’s:creating, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication. So allow for teams of students to work together to problem solve issues. I begin by doing a brainstorm chart of the plus and minuses of collaboration. Students discuss the pros and we come up with solutions to the cons so our time working together is more effective. Working in teams, we all agree to allow various members to manipulate Sphero through sections of the course they can be successful with. We then switch it up and everyone tries a section they may not be successful with. Someone who knows that section teaches someone that does not know how so others learn to triumphant!
Sphero apps are varied. For a year or more there has been a macro app. However, things just got easier when it comes to programming! Now with https://tickleapp.com/ students can program Sphero and other robotic products easily using the blocky style program that computer science courses use at Harvard and UC Berkeley. This app is also compatible with Dash and Dot ($279.99 at Amazon.com)- a programmable robot that is great for primary grades!
So allow the 4C’s to be exciting and challenging while teaching your students coding via Sphero! It is a wonderful way to go beyond and keep “Hour of Code” alive and well in your class.
Pictures provided from wired.com, itunes.apple.com, and amazon.com