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 direct 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.