So over the weekend I started thinking about how I could make my own games to use with our Spheros. So I purchased two different colored plates at Target and used a sharpie to write the numbers 1-100 on the plates. Today we started with 1-50 and worked on place value (what number is made up of 3 tens and 5 ones), before (what number comes before 38) and after (what number comes after 23). Students each had their own Sphero that they had to navigate and tap the correct numbered plate. We used the Sphero Drive app to play the game.
Today we tried a small group math game using the Spheros, Sphero Drive app, and Math Marks the Spot. First we practiced navigating with the Sphero before starting the game. Placing a piece of tape on the floor, each sphero started away from the mat. Rolling the large foam number dice, students were asked to solve the problem, put it in their head, and then after everyone had time to solve the problem, they had to navigate to the correct number.
Students quickly realized that they need to use the turtle setting otherwise they would over shoot the number. It was a great way to explore the integration of math and the sphero for our younger students and will be incorporated into our Design Lab as an option to play. It is an entry level activity because it works on controlling the sphero and the amount of math done was not a primary focus at this time.
We also tried the draw app to have students draw the answer and then have their sphero show the number on the ground. This did not work very well... so back to the drawing board with that idea.
Day 3, 4, 5
For the next few days teams met to discuss their blueprint, review what structures were needed, and work through possible conflicts. During these days, the group started together to look at what was happening in the larger community before moving off to work on their specific community.
The blueprint became an essential part of the planning and creation of each community. It also gave the group an opportunity to discuss what structures are wants vs. needs. We had to talk about how a pool would not be built before a store.
We also discussed transportation between communities. Even though roads are what most communities have because rail in Minecraft is the only real way of transport, we opted to put down rail instead of roads. No carts will be added until the building has been finished and it is time to play in the final community.
We did find the need to establish expectations in regards to what the building bar could have and could not have. The group determined that a 5 minute time out would be the penalty for having inappropriate building materials like lava, TNT, arrows, potions, masks, and armor.
The alternative assignment that was selected was a writing assignment using Minecraft Story Starters by the Multi Taskin' Mom.
Day 2 started with reviewing the important structures of the different communities as well as establishing expectations of how to work in a multiplayer world. The first time that I did this lesson, students started by designing their house. This was a big mistake as many students could spend weeks designing their house and this is not the purpose of the project.
So this time, we started by talking about how we would be using a blueprint of our community where each team would be writing what building they would be designing and who their team members were. This really helped as many structures took longer than one day or less than one day so students could refer back to what the rest of their team was building. It also gave students an opportunity to change their teams with different structures. The blueprint is just a simple large piece of white paper with the label of the community on it.
Our next step was to create a very basic list of expectations that we would need to build and work in our communities. This list was very basic and challenges would soon arise.
Challenges to be ready for:
- potions (disappearing, energy, etc)
- masks and armor
- flying around
It was determined that only building tools could be in the building tray and if a community member violated the expectations, they would be provided an alternative activity.
After establishing the expectations, I introduced the world to students. Our world can be found in the Minecraft Edu worlds that are available to educators to download. All students spawned in the tree house and then followed the path to their community. Green is the rural area. Red are the two suburbs. Purple is the urban area. The area is designed with border blocks so students are not able to fly into other communities rather they can only be moved if I use the teacher menu to transport them.
At this time no animals are enabled. The setting is creative, peaceful, and night is not enabled. I wanted students to have the materials that they needed to focus on designing the community in a collaborative space. At the end of the building day, I used the teacher menu to freeze students so that we could meet to share. One important part of the building process is sharing what went well. Each group was asked to share what was working well because I knew that soon we would be hitting more difficult challenges and I wanted to establish positive examples.
To build background knowledge about different types of communities, I started by using Board Builder from Discovery Education. Board Builder allows you to create an interactive poster with embedded videos.
I chose an overview video of communities and in the text there is a link to a padlet about communities. This video and padlet was used to model how to do research and document the research as each group.
After modeling how to use the video to find information and transfer that information to the padlet, students were divided into three groups. Students logged into their Discovery Education account and searched for the community board. Depending on which community they were assigned to, they clicked on the link at the bottom of the board to connect to another board specifically designed for the community that they would be focusing on.
The padlet proved to be an excellent opportunity for students to learn how to work in a collaborative space as many students started to type over each other. It was a perfect opportunity to discuss how collaborative spaces actually require us to communicate with each other more.
After about 20 minutes of research, groups were called back to share their padlets with the whole group.
It isn't often that I am impressed by a company's support of their product. After finding out on Friday that 2 of my new Spheros were not working correctly and having planned to use them with students, I contacted the company. I was very frustrated and expected to have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get the Spheros replaced. I couldn't have been more wrong and I appreciate that I was wrong. Today a new Sphero arrived as a replacement. A WEEKEND was all that it took. Thank you to the excellent customer service that stands behind the Sphero. Thank you for the quick response.
My brother also explained to the non-robotic savvy person that battery life is and will continue to be a challenge. I can't wait to play some more with our Spheros.
Who doesn't love the idea of a robotic controlled ball that changes colors, can be coded, and has a bunch of awesome free apps to use?
But unfortunately sometimes even all of the awesome features and extras don't outweigh the negatives. I'm down to 4 out of 6 brand new Sphero 2.0s working. 2 out of the 3 new ones that I purchased have been defective... blinking red, refusing to reset, charge, or wake up. I guess the lesson that I have learned is that newer models don't mean better.
At this time I could never recommend these to other educators. I watched all of the videos and was so excited about this product but I expect a product to work when I purchase it. If I would have not purchased the additional 3, I would have loved the product with the exception of the battery life. The kids love them as long as we don't try to use them for more than 45 minutes. I have yet to have one last longer than an hour. They spend more time on the charger then they do moving.
Our goal was to be able to use these with multiple classrooms throughout the day. Between 2 of them not working right out of the box and the battery life doesn't even allow us to be able to use them the whole time during our hour of Design Lab, I am very unimpressed with this product as a viable piece of technology to be used in a school setting. I am hoping that the company will stand behind their product and actually replace the 2 defective balls. I will let you know how we will be using the Spheros in classroom instruction as well as if the company stands behind the product in upcoming posts.