3 Ways to get the most out of your Sphero robots in the classroom!

Last week I was helping the Macgear team demonstrate the Sphero SPRK (Schools, Parent, Robots and Kids) robots to educators at the NZ Ulearn Conference in Rotorua. Here’s a short vid I made that shows some of the snippets of what we were up to for the 2 days.

We use these robots in our STEM workshops with teachers and they’re one of my favourite STEM tools to use; I’ll explain why in a later post. Here’s a link to our upcoming events page where you can see the dates and venues of some STEM workshop days coming up. (Let me know if your schools would be interested in hosting!)

Here are 3 ways to make sure you’re getting ‘learning bang’ for your buck with your Sphero.

1.The teacher is ALWAYS key!

Just like every learning situation, the role of the teacher is paramount. And not in a central, dominant way but as a facilitator, driver, connector and coach. The learning that happens is always best done in discover mode, where the learners are working things out, solving their own problems and making their own ‘cognitive links.’ It’s the teacher, however, who has a crucial part to play to;

a) Frame the activity – create the motivating problem or scenario,

b) Help redirect and scaffold the learner towards some learning outcomes,

c) Provide the framework for reflection and to help students make connections with what they’ve learned – and the space to share those with others.

2. Use a great learning app, like The Lightning Lab

This app – The Lightning Lab, is a great app to use with the Sphero SPRK, partly because of the community you can connect with. Students can download other people’s programmes and build on top, or alternatively, create their own programme and become Sphero authors by uploading to the community themselves!

SPRK Lightning Lab App – IOS Android, Chrome OS.

The community section also has activities and lessons that teachers and students have written and shared within the app – it’s a great way to share learning experiences and get ideas for your next activity. An even better idea is to have students create a learning experience (around a concept such as angles, gravity, friction etc) and share with others through the app!

3. Combine the digital with the material world…like a boss!

I love seeing the digital world interact with the material – afterall, that’s reality! When we scaffold experiences like the one in the video, where we make a craft that will move across the water, and include a coded programme for the Sphero to automate the craft, we are connecting so many areas of the curriculum and AMPLIFYING the learning. Who doesn’t like getting hands on with things!


Those are my three tips! Do you have any other ideas or things you know work with your Spheros? Leave a comment below or retweet this link in Twitter with an idea to share.

Student Engagement Poster

This is a great poster I’ve seen thanks to Educatorstechnology.com and it’s doing the rounds on twitter at the moment. I’d probably say that I’m great at using 2, 3 and 5 in my teaching practice at the moment and I’m definitely going to utitlise the “3-2-1” method of reflection in number 6. Lately I’ve been asking, ‘What’s one thing you’ve learnt or gotten better at today?’ and this would take that to another level, I think.

I also remember a teacher using number 7 a lot when I was in Primary School. We would try to beat each other to finish her sentence. Funny. What’s something you’re already using and also, what would you like to use in your class a little more?


Solo Stations and Student Agency

Within our team teaching programme we’re looking at how we can create as many opportunities for students to learn at their own pace and with the right learning goals. This, in itself, is quite a huge ask when you’re talking about 58 students and counting. 
One of our favourite tools for learners to know where their understanding is, and what to work on next, is the Solo Taxonomy model. The Solo levels are, and framed for a math’s learning goal, in a nut-shell;
Pre  Structural – I’m just starting out.
Uni Structural – I know one thing about the goal.
Multi Structural – I know three or more things about the goal but I’m not sure when or why to use them and I sometimes make mistakes.
Relational – I know three or more things about the goal and I know when and. Why to use them.
Extended Abstracted – I can teach others how to do this and I can use this goal to apply to other goals.
This year we’ve started using the Solo Taxonomy (See Pam Hook’s site for more info) to create differentiated stations within our math’s workshops. Here’s how we put the levels to use;
When we first run a workshop we work with materials and take the whole group through the learning intention and use buddies to share our ideas and work through a few problems. At the end of session we share our understanding of where our learning is at. We talk about what each Solo Level would look like and then share our understanding using hand signals. You can see some examples of the symbols here.
The next time we run the workshop we meet as a large group and quickly remind ourselves of the goal and how it works with a couple of examples. Then we show the symbols our learning is at the moment (we’re trying not to say, ‘I am….’ because it’s not US that are multi structural but our learning). This is usually quite varied with students at all stages of understanding.
Then we talk about the different stations around the room. We make sure that everyone knows where they are, what they will be doing at each station and how the will know when they can progress to the next station.
At each station we have card signs for each Solo Level that are shown in the pictures. Here’s how each station works.

1. At the Pre-Structural / Uni-structural station the students work mostly with the teacher and are scaffolded through examples with materials and lots of prompting and questioning. The focus here is helping them see some concrete solutions and touching, moving and talking with their thinking buddy.

2. The Multi-structural station has a set of written equations with at least example of how to set out the thinking involved with solving the problem. Students work with a little prompting from the teacher checking in on them occasionally and their learning is written into their books for easy reference for them and the teacher.
3. Lastly, the Relational and Extended Abstract station is where the students can have a chance to confirm that they have a solid grasp of the goal and to check and little holes they have in their understanding. We give them a word problem with the maths within it and they have to read the problem, write down the maths equation or solution to the problem and then create an ‘artifact’ of the learning that will help others learn. So far these have been posters, instructional videos like Showme or Doodle Cast Pro. 
There are three things that impress me during these workshops;

  • The students are (mostly) incredible honest about their understanding. It’s very obvious when someone is at the wrong place and their peers are very quick to help them out when they are, either with redirection or peer tutoring. For the odd one or two who constantly over estimate their understanding it’s very easy to quickly check in with them once the stations start.

  • This approach allows them to move stations when they think they are ready and is always done with some guiding from the teacher. Once they think they are ready to move they check with the teacher and we talk about why they think they are ready. It’s wonderfully fluid with some learners moving very quickly and others taking 2 or more workshops to consolidate and really gain some depth to their learning. I have seen learners move from Pre Structural to Extended Abstract in one workshop and it gives them a real tangible way to view their progress.
  • These Solo Stations make the learning visible! We can all see where our thinking is working at, where we are moving to next (literally and figuratively) and as a teacher I have a quick snapshot of where this group is currently at.

I should also mention that we run learning programmes where students are guided to make their own choices about the goals and workshops they attend. In a workshop we could have students who have been working on a goal for 2 weeks and others who arrived for the first time. The Solo Stations approach allow us to make the learning M and M – ‘meaningful and manageable.’

Our next step is to move this approach and adapt the pedagogy to other learning areas. There are advantages for workshops to remain as a large group and I’m thinking that we could set up the stations later at the end of a reading or writing workshop.
Are you catering for different learning levels and learning paces in your programme? We’d love to hear how you’re doing that. 

Popplet Criteria

One of the principles of quality learning we push with our students is knowing what success looks like. We do this in quite a few ways but having a success criteria is pretty up there.

This week our classes are publishing their short stories on Comiclife, one of the student’s favourite ways to publish and share their work. This criteria below was created using Popplet. I love this tool for the following reasons.

1. You can create visually stunning posters in less time than it takes to shake a stick.

2. You can import images, links and video as well as text.

3. It is interactive but also adaptable to be static – you can export or take a screenshot and print this into a great poster for the wall.

This embeded version lets the user move it around, zoom in and out and, if there are videos they can be played within the window, too.

So far this term we have created two different posters of criteria that students can refer back to; this one and one for creating a great instructional video on Doodle Cast Pro (a great video making app). My hope is that we will create a wall of criteria that will help guide the student to success for a whole range of publishing / sharing tools they can choose.

Maths Symposium Presentation

Tomorrow I’m presenting a breakout at the Southland Math’s Symposium. The workshop brief I wrote was;

ICTs and Maths – understanding the potential for the tools to take your math’s programme to another level!
Today’s ICTs are making a big impact on the way we teach and learn. This workshop will explore some ideas for making the maximum influence with your student’s and their achievement. We will look at different tools through the lenses of the SAMR model of technology integration and see how they have the potential to revolutionise our teaching practice.
That’s a pretty lofty goal, I know! But why not aim for the stars. Here’s the presentation.

If you were in the workshop – my apologies for going overtime – mostly because we missed the last few slides! There I promote some amazing resources for more links and tools and mostly because I didn’t have time for my Twitter promotion – my best bit. If you’re not on twitter and connecting with other like minded, passionate educators then… you are seriously missing out.

(But that’s another workshop…)

This is the Hexagons brainstorm* (See Pam Hook’s site for more info on this great tool) we made before we started. We had a quick look at the kinds of tools we are using, and saw some of the barriers / frustrations. 
Slow connectivity was a major theme… interesting!
*I’ve uploaded the image into skitch and added the categories.

Solo Taxonomy Conversation

I posted a photo from our staff meeting this afternoon on Twitter. It lead to a conversation with @bridgetcasse who is an Assistant Principal in Auckland and, coincidentally, co-wrote a book on the use of Solo in the Junior school

Here’s the thread shown through Storify. I’m always amazed at the connections we can make with other passionate educators out there! And I’m also very proud of our staff and the journey we are all on.