Connecting Voices through Robotics: An EdCamp Global Event

This year, our library is fortunate to have a robotics loan from Birdbrain Technologies. We have 12 Finch robots that we are using throughout the year for coding experiences for our students. Currently, a group of 2nd-5th graders are meeting every Friday for one hour to learn to code these robots and create projects with them.

Donna MacDonald (Vermont) and Jenny Lussier (Connecticut) are two wonderful friends who inspire me through my professional learning network, and they also have these robots on loan.  Jenny and Donna wrote their robotics loan application with plans to collaborate with one another, and they have invited my students to jump in to their learning. We recently started talking on Twitter about how our kids could collaborate both synchronously and asynchronously, and we were looped in to a conversation about EdCamp Global.

I wish I had clued in to EdCamp Global sooner because it was an amazing opportunity.  Across 24 hours over 51 countries and more than 800 classrooms empowered students’ and teachers’ voices in multiple online formats. Not only did voices from around the globe come together but there was also a true global audience to watch the work happen. I definitely want to do more with this the next time around.

Thanks to Donna and Jenny’s enthusiastic energy, we pulled together a session on the EdCamp Global schedule to allow our students to share.  Jenny got the application in, setup the Google Hangout, and got everything up and running for us. Donna created a Google doc of resources for the session and started advertising our session on social media.

On the morning of the hangout, I was able to pull a couple of my Friday students from their classrooms to join the hangout and Jenny & Donna both had classes of students rotate through their libraries.  Across the 1-hour session, we talked about the Finch loan program and how we got started. We also talked about other robotics tools that we are using in our schools such as Sphero, BB-8, Dash and Dot, and Ollie.

My favorite part was when students took turns sharing their experience with robotics.  My two students showed programs that they were working on within Level 1 of Snap!  Donna and Jenny’s students also told stories of challenges they had faced with the robots, things they had figured out, and plans for what they hoped to do over the next few weeks.

 

Tweets during:

Toward the end of our time, Jenny had her students start experimenting with Scratch and Finch. They had just enough time to come over and demonstrate what they figured out during the hangout.  I can’t wait to share what we learned with the rest of our 2nd-5th graders so we can continue to explore programming the Finch.

Donna created a Padlet where we can post challenges to one another.

Jenny created a Flipgrid where students can share video challenges or tips about the Finch robots.

I think it is just incredible how students in multiple locations can come together to collaborate in real time when our schedule allows, and that we can continue to collaborate even when we aren’t meeting together at the same time.  My group is just getting started, so I can’t wait to see what we learn from Jenny and Donna’s students and what we are able to contribute along the way too!

Tinkering in Our Open Makerspace

artbot (2)

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared what has been going on in our open makerspace time, but there has definitely been a lot.  Through our collaboration with Gretchen Thomas at UGA, we have been able to offer an open time on Tuesdays and Thursdays for students to come and explore various parts of our makerspace.  Students sign up for a 30-minute segment to come and explore a pre-chosen topic.  Last year, we tried just letting students decide what they wanted to do, but we found that most of them were either unsure of what to try or all wanted to try something different and didn’t know how to start.  It was hard to manage and it was hard to accomplish anything in 30 minutes.  This year, we decided that for the first half of the year we would offer 2-3 opportunities at each makerspace session.  One of the experiences is technology-focused and the other is more craft-focused.  Sometimes these experiences compliment one another. For example, students might get to make a figure out of pipe cleaners, clay, or Playdoh as the craft and then use that figure to create a stop motion video with the iPad.

artbot (1)

At each session, 3-4 UGA students come to support students.  They often lead the work while I assist other students in the library or teach classes. However, I also participate in the makerspace and learn alongside the students.  This is a great time for me to see how students are using the tools in a smaller setting.  I can think about management pieces to make the process more accessible to students. I can also reflect on how various tools or activities fit into grade level curriculum.

In today’s makerspace, students created stop motion animation using clay figures. For some of them, it was the second time using stop motion animation, so they had a better understanding of how it worked. They were able to get to a point that they could actually upload a short video that they created in a 30-minute window.  Some of them even worked together to use pieces that they had each created in order to make a collaborative video.

It was a busy time and the UGA students worked so hard to get students creating figures and encouraging them to give the video a try.  I love hearing how the elementary students and college students talk to one another.  They both amaze one another with some of the things they come up with and share.

As usual, voices emerged with artistic talents or technology expertise. One of our students, Anarian, who we learned is an expert at making figures with pipe cleaners is also very talented at making figures out of clay.  There’s so much potential for his work to develop into a stop motion video for any of his content areas.

While the UGA students supported the stop motion, I pulled out our Finch robots, which are on loan to us this year from Birdbrain Technologies.  We opened the basic version of Snap, and student tinkered with programming these robots with simple block coding.  We are going to do a lot with these robots this year and open makerspace is a great time for me and the students to learn a few of the basics so that our content work can be more productive.

By the end of the first semester, we hope that many students have gotten a small taste of all of the tools in our makerspace, so that the second half of the year can be spent focusing on how these tools can work together to create something great.  We have no idea where the makerspace will take us, but we know that miraculous things will happen along the way.

 

 

Finch Robots are Coming to Our Library Makerspace in Fall 2015

It is officially summer in the Barrow Media Center, so things will be a bit more quiet here on the blog for a few weeks.  Summer is a time for recharging, reflecting, and dreaming up ideas for the upcoming school year.  I’m excited to announce one of a few summer announcements that will be coming your way.  Our library makerspace will feature 12 Finch Robots by BirdBrain Technologies during the 2015-2016 school year.  The robots are on loan to us for the entire school year, and this loan comes with the possibility of these robots being a permanent donation to our space.

A few months ago BirdBrain Technologies announced an expansion of their Finch Robot loan program to include libraries.  I immediately contacted them to see if school libraries were included in this opportunity or only public libraries.  They encouraged me to apply, so it didn’t take me long to put together a proposal for these robots to become a part of our makerspace for use within the curriculum as well as our exploration time.  I’m also dreaming up some fun events for hour of code in December that will involve students, teachers, and families.  These robots will of course be a part of that as well.

We are excited to start exploring suggestions for using the Finch on their site.

What exactly is a Finch?  This video explains it best in three minutes.

I can’t wait to see what students are able to accomplish with this new addition to our makerspace.  For now, here’s the official press release from BirdBrain Technologies.  I’ll share what we do when the robots arrive in August.

Finches Land at David C. Barrow Elementary

David C. Barrow Elementary has been selected to participate in the 2015­2016 Finch robot loan program. The program will provide the school free access to 12 Finch robots for the 2015-­2016 school year, allowing over 600 students, teachers, and families exposure to an engrossing and interactive tool for learning computational thinking. BirdBrain Technologies, creator of the Finch, offers the loans to inspire young coders across the country, especially those who might not ordinarily have the opportunity to program a robot. The Finch robot is a product of Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE lab. The Finch is designed to support an engaging approach to the art of computer science from preschool to college, with support for more than a dozen age­appropriate programming languages and environments. During 2014 Birdbrain Technologies loaned out hundreds of Finch robots to school districts across the country, and reached over 15,000 students.

1936 Fifth Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

P: 888­371­6161 | F: 412­283­9134

info@birdbraintechnologies.com