Sunday, January 29, 2017

Robots and Coding Connections At Richmond Elementary School

This post was cross posted on the RES Enrichment blog and is written by RES enrichment teacher, Darcie Rankin ( ).

In December all students at Richmond Elementary School participated in an Hour Of Code during their enrichment classes.  This was an excellent chance for students to be exposed to the concepts of coding. After several years of Hour of Code at our school, as well as many teachers embracing coding for special projects in their classrooms over the last three years...students have developed great early coding skills.
This year I signed up to participate in the Vermont Robot Rodeo. My teaching goal was for students to have an opportunity to advance their coding skills as they made connections between hardware and software.  I feel that in elementary school the ability to connect coding to the physical manipulation of materials is an awesome way to build true and lasting understanding. I have also seen it increase student engagement as the sharing of results is so transparent (i.e. Robots roll across the floor or say something or react to something!)

This year I chose to focus the use of robots to build coding connections in our third grade classes(younger classes got exposure to the robots less formally).  We began our investigation by giving every student a chance to explore what robots could do. During this period, we might use apps that were more like a remote control versus coding and kids were encouraged to play.  After this exposure I challenged students to use coding applications to control the robots and to make them 'do something' deliberate and expected.  Students jumped right in to meet this challenge.  They used Blockly and Tickle applications and developed cool project ideas: making a robot draw something, dance to music, greet others, create a light show, interact with another robot, pull a toy on a path, make it through an obstacle name a few!  They wrote many lines of code, tested and iterated to achieve their goal, worked together and had a lot of fun.  Several students pointed out that this work was hard....but not because they wanted  to stop.....but I think they were just proud of themselves! And I was proud of their persistence and drive to learn.

Kindergarten getting early exposure to coding skill through maze building and BeeBot
Third Graders putting their coding skills to the test!

The Vermont Robot Rodeo is an amazing opportunity to expose students to these coding connections and we are grateful to all of the sponsors who provided funds to give our kids the chance to advance their coding skills. We will be sad to send Dash and Dot to the next school--but we are sure that they will learn as much as we did--and we will be watching and checking out their work too.

I look forward to watching as our RES students use all of the skills they developed and applying this same persistence, thinking and collaboration to other learning.
Below is a video that hilights student work with robots, coding examples and student reflections.

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