Meet Dash & Dot!

Having just spent last week at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), this blog post for my doctoral class on learning technologies is perfectly timed and extremely relevant. Echoing the requirement for the blog post was my same goal while attending the FETC Conference in that I am always looking for educational technology whether it be a device, app, website or program that fits together pedagogically with our district curriculum yet extends student thinking, application and creation. With coding becoming a large focus in my district in the lower grade levels, it is only natural that I would like to share my insight on Dash and Dot.

Dash and Dot are cute little teal educational robots that work together to teach children how to code from Pre-K through 3rd grade. Dash acts as the actual robot and Dot functions more as the remote control for Dash. At the simplest level of operation, a student can bo_and_yana_1075_724_sdirect Dash’s operations by drawing a line with his or her finger on a tablet through an app called Go. Students can also send Dash on missions to deliver messages or use Dot to act out a character in a story. As students develop a better understanding of how Dot and Dash operate and move, there are three other apps to support higher order thinking including Path, Wonder and Blockly. From a hardware perspective, the robots work with a variety of Android and iOS devices, but ideally, you will want to use a tablet for a larger work surface. Dash has a battery life of 90 minutes and Dot well over 2 hours and easily can be linked to almost all curricular subjects because learning how to code is like learning how to read, learning how to write, solving math problems, using physics and learning a foreign language.

Since the robots are driven by the apps, it is important to take a closer look at the other apps that support Dash and Dot and showcase how they connect to the teaching and learning process. Before reviewing the remaining apps and linking to the ISTE Student Standards, ISTE Teacher Standards and the Triple E Framework, it is important to remind teachers that using these robots in a classroom setting is best accomplished in student pairs or triads to elicit collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication.

  • Regarding the ISTE Student Standards, Dash and Dot check the boxes on the majority of those standards including: #1 Creativity and Innovation, #2 Simple Communication and Collaboration (partially), #4 Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making, as well as #6 Technology Operations and Concepts. Using the Path app, students can plan, program and execute adventures. The ISTE Student Standards complement the students sharing their successes and failures of getting Dash and Dot to successfully complete their physical challenges and extend their newfound skills to apply to an authentic classroom challenge such as a problem solved through storytelling or actually creating a process for someone struggling on a task.
  • The Wonder app is a step up from the Path app and really supports the teacher and student in achieving higher order thinking. Using the ISTE Teacher Standards in conjunction with the Wonder app, the only box that really gets checked is the first ISTE Teacher Standard of Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity. The Wonder app functions as picture-based language and guides students on a variety of challenges to learn how to code. The challenges run the gamut of traveling through the Arctic Wilderness or the African Grasslands or even to Outer Space. Students also learn how to turn Dot into a traveling companion of Dash with a variety of noises like a lion, trumpet or arcade. The Wonder app is the coding canvas for creative play. By designing these behaviors and interactions, it’s as if the robots have personalities and intelligence as well as afford hours of unstructured play with endless ideas and innovations brought to life.
  • The Blockly app is yet another bump in the higher order thinking process and continues to check the same boxes for both the ISTE Student & Teacher Standards. Blockly is a visual drag-and-drop programming tool that allows students to snap together commands just like you would puzzle pieces. This app offers the highest level of student practice in coding through sequencing challenges such as control flow, loops, algorithms, operations and conditionals as well as sensors and events. Applying the Triple E Framework Rubric on the Blockly app produced a score of 15 out of 18 possible points making the app an exceptional potential for classroom usage. The app received high marks on the engagement in learning component, mid-to-high marks on the enhancement of the learning goals and mid-to-high marks on the extension of the learning goals element. Key takeaways from applying the Triple E Framework was that the app afforded students the opportunity to demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of programming, provided a bridge between student school learning and everyday life experiences, and offered the chance to build authentic life soft skills.

After playing with the technology and apps, I would offer the developer of the product a few suggestions. The one app I didn’t overly mention in this blog was the Xylo app which is a newer app centered on music. Although it teaches algorithm design, command sequence and loops, it’s not overly needed in my opinion at this point compared to the other apps and perhaps a little gimmicky. In the bigger picture, it might behoove the developer to create a new app that allows multiple robots to interface with one another and/or create a wetsuit that Dash and Dot can wear to head into water play. Overall, the developer has created a full-featured product, with a variety of apps and teacher curricular support content to fully utilize the robots in a lower elementary classroom setting that will support many of the required district, Common Core and NGSS standards.

OSMO is in the House!

osmo_3The district in which I work, lately has been the lucky recipient of a variety of new technology tools to integrate into the classroom setting. One of the tools taking a few elementary and special education classrooms by storm is OSMO. OSMO is a gaming accessory that is compatible with the full line of Apple iPads that have cameras in conjunction with specific free apps that get downloaded to support the hands-on play. OSMO promotes gaming for students aged 4-12 in the areas of creative problem-solving, art, STEM, and the Common Core curriculum standards. Additionally, OSMO supports a variety of languages too.

There is a little upfront set-up needed before OSMO can be actively used in a classroom setting. An adult must go to www.playosmo.com/start on the iPad designated as the classroom OSMO gaming system to begin the set-up process. Critical to the set-up process is writing down the activation code to link the account with the downloaded games. From there, the gaming base needs to get attached to the iPad as well as the red reflector that sits on top of the iPad camera. The last step in the process, is to select a Classroom (or teacher) avatar and create student profiles if there is a desire to track student progress down the road.

The OSMO gaming system offers a variety of games including Tangram, Words, Newton, Masterpiece, Numbers, Coding, Monster, and Pizza Co. Access to these games depends on what kits or games were purchased. Each OSMO game has a set of specific educational skills on which students can work in small collaborative groups (pairs preferred) or independently if tracking student usage and levels achieved is desired. With the Pizza Co. game, OSMO teaches students about real-world math, money, fractions and non-verbal communication skills. Whereas, the OSMO Numbers game focuses on teaching counting, addition and multiplication as outlined by the Common Core standards. Given my district’s push to include coding in the K-3 classrooms, I can see the OSMO Coding game challenging students to work in collaborative pairs to construct code and conquer a tree-shaking, strawberry-munching adventure.

In eLearning educational gaming terms, OSMO would be considered more of a game-based learning tool because it is tied directly to curriculum and teaches specific skills, as well as providing students with the opportunity to practice and acquire new skills in a fun and engaging way. Furthermore, using the SAMR model to evaluate OSMO’s impact in the teaching and learning process, this gaming system would hover on the lower half of the SAMR model between the Substitution and Augmentation levels depending on how the lesson or groups of lessons are constructed around this technology tool. The OSMO gaming system would make a great addition to any K-5 classroom and can be implemented as an independent workstation because it is very intuitive to the end-users, and won’t require too much troubleshooting. In fact, OSMO might become your virtual teaching assistant! To see OSMO in action, take a look at a couple of videos teachers in my district have created.

New Year, New Focus!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “DNA” in a K-12 educational systems type of way. Wonderings like, “What should be the DNA of a school district in 2030?” or “How can the genes (staff, students, parents, community) better use their talents to impact the future generation from a learning, global citizenship and career perspective?” or “What traits (skills & thinking) do our students need to possess to become successful and make a difference in the world in their lifetime?” and more importantly, “How will our teachers transition their mindsets, pedagogy and classroom experiences to support Generation Z and Generation Alpha students today, tomorrow and beyond?”

Just as the DNA of our student population is changing…Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z and now Generation Alpha, so should our instructional approaches and the tools used to facilitate learning. Growing our practice sometimes requires us to revisit the past with a newfound lens. One big instructional approach that I personally feel did not get a fair shake the first time around was the concept of “gaming” in the classroom. The field of educational technology is in a much better position now to facilitate deeper usage of gaming types of tools to promote active learning in the classroom, encourage student collaboration, afford personalized learning, offer students immediate feedback, and encourage student voice and choice.

To get the conversations rolling again on purposeful eLearning gaming in the classroom, it’s important to look at the DNA of the two very distinct types of gaming currently available to support the teaching and learning process. In eLearning gaming, you’ll hear the terms gamification and game-based learning used interchangeably. Do they have similarities? You bet. Both approaches share “traits” such as game thinking, design and mechanics. Both types of gaming also engage players and solve problems. Digging a little deeper though into the DNA of gamification and game-based learning, they are similar yet quite different as the graphic illustrates below:

gamification-gamebased

Over the next month or so, I plan on posting a variety of blogs on gaming tools. Some will be from a gamification lens and others from a game-based learning perspective. To showcase a larger variety of gaming tools, thanks to my doctoral class at Central Michigan University, EDU807 Learning Tools, I’ll be collaborating with a peer of mine, Natalie Makulski, a 3rd Grade teacher from Botsford Elementary in Clarenceville Schools. We’ll each write multiple separate blogs about eLearning gaming and link our blogs to each other’s for a deeper storyline about why gaming should be revisited and utilized more often in the K-12 learning environment. Looking forward to sharing our thinking! Also, don’t be surprised if a few Saline Area Schools teachers pop in as guest bloggers too!