Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Applied Robotics for Middle School from @WonderWorkshop #MakerEd

I've seen my students play with Dash and Dot as well as the Cue from Wonder Workshop over the past school year. They had so much fun working with the Sketch Kit and learning to code to create art. They loved it so much, they featured it on their new YouTube Channel, The Knight's Forge Maker Show.

My son Leo, was a huge fan of the CUE when I introduced it to him a couple of weeks ago. He could not put the iPad down and just loved making the robot move around the kitchen floor. When I asked him what he thought of it, he said, "This is the coolest robot I have ever seen!" That is a pretty awesome endorsement from The Nerdy Teacher's son. At age 7, he was easily able to navigate the Blockly coding and follow the tutorials on the app to test out all of the sensors and move CUE around. Seeing him so engaged and work on his reading skills as he read the prompts was just an awesome sight. 

I have always been a fan of using robotics as a way to connect students with coding. It gives the students something tangible to work with as they code. Seeing a robot move, sense, or say something because you coded it is something amazing. Just having reactions on a monitor based on the code you wrote can become tiresome over time. That is where the CUE takes coding and computer science in general to the next level. An awesome product and an easy to use app was not enough for Wonder Workshop. They have taken it to the next level by introducing a Middle School Applied Robotics Curriculum

There is a myth that teachers need to be computer programmers to bring coding into their classroom. The idea of considering coding as part of your class could be scary if you have never coded before. Wonder Workshop helps take that fear away by creating a curriculum that can be implemented by any teacher with any skill level in coding. 

Another aspect of the curriculum they have created focuses on the Design Thinking Process. This is so awesome because the curriculum is not just about making a robot move around on the floor, it is about the full design process from start to finish to get students thinking about solving problems with creative solutions. Going through the Design Thinking Process for Applied Robotics lessons will help students in all other content areas as well. 

Wonder Workshop Design Thinking Poster

Unit 1, which is available right now, is about Creative Writing! The ELA teacher in me freaked out when I saw this. Yes, robotics can have a home in the ELA classroom! What a wonderful way to engage students in the writing process. I would have lost my mind if I was able to code robots in my English class growing up. I would have spent hours writing the best story in the world to have my robots do what I wanted. The first unit connects with Geometry and helps students connect with the basics of coding in Blockly and Javascript. It is a wonderful way to introduce the idea of robotics and what coding is capable of doing with a robot.

The full curriculum guide has a rubric, guided lessons, worksheets (Not the busy work kind, the type that allows students to brainstorm, create, iterate, etc), glossary, and everything a teacher would need to implement this into their classroom. I think another part that is worth noting is that the curriculum does not have to be plugged in all at once right away. It can be slid in gradually as your schedule allows. 

Not to rest on their awesome creation, Unit 2 Game Design is coming out in October and Unit 3 Innovation is due out in December. This spacing is perfect for the teachers looking to implement these units in the classroom, but need the time to do it as they become more familiar with coding themselves. 

If you have been on the fence on whether or not invest in a Cue or Dash and Dot for your classroom, I hope you seriously look at the Applied Robotics Curriculum created by Wonder Workshop as a way to engage students and help them learn about the Design Thinking Process. I know this will have a spot in our school this coming school year. 

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