Friday, December 30, 2016

Sphero: Tips and Tricks


I celebrate failure.  I mean, might as well right?  Failure is going to happen. Let's just say, if we are celebrating failure with this lesson, there is a lot to celebrate.  As a specialist, I have the advantage of teaching the same lesson over and over.  I have four sections of first grade, and six sections of third grade and so on.  The last day I teach the lesson is ALWAYS better than the first day. That is one thing Alysia, my Sphero partner, and I embraced right away! After every class, we analyzed what we would change to make better for the next class.

Tip #1: Expectations

Allow students to help with expectations. This was a very exciting day for every class.  It was good to ask the students what they thought would be some good rules for the day.  They all came up with the following.  Have safe bodies when moving around the room and care for the technology. We would add that their hands must stay out of the 'arena' (that is what we called the frames) and they should not touch the Spheros.  We explained that our goal is to learn to drive the Sphero, not pick it up and move it.  It was posed as more of a challenge than a rule.  We also determined a consequence of sitting out for one rotation if these suggestions were not followed.  

Tip #2: Teach them the app


In the above photo, you see Alysia teaching the app to the students.  We reminded the students that our main goal today is to learn how to drive the Sphero.  That means we are going to limit what parts of the app they should use. Here are some of the tools in the app that we 'opened' to our students. 

First, they MUST find the tail.  The tail is a LED in the Sphero that allows it to be orientated.  The tail must be pointing towards them.


Next, the speed. We asked the students to keep the speed to 50% or lower to best learn to drive the Sphero accurately.  The only exception was at the water station where they could crank it up to 100%. 

 

We showed them how to change the color.  Alysia always did a great job of asking students why we should change colors and students always figured out that it was to allow them to identify their Sphero next to all the others.  Plus in the Dark Room station, it was fun to see all the colors of a Sphero. 


Then the joystick.  We showed them how to drive the Sphero with the joystick.  There are other ways to drive, but we wanted the students to experience this way on their first try with the Sphero. 


There are going to be mistakes.  Students would sometimes hit a mission or end up in a spot we asked them not to be in.  We showed them the arrow to go back to the regular tools that we showed them.


Tip #3: Pointer Finger

We found that many kids wanted to use their thumbs to drive on the iPad (thank you very much cell phones).  This didn't work well, especially for our littlest students. After witnessing this struggle, we made the suggestion of using only their pointer finger. This helped a lot! 

Tip #4: Roleplay

For our youngers, we would do a 'fish bowl'.  This means we would have myself and two other students demonstrate how to share the iPad, how to pass it, how to use kind words.  Modeling first was perfect for this situation. 


Tip #5: Adapt for Age

For our 3rd through 5th-grade, we would give all four stations.  They would be with one partner (of their choice).  It took us about 15 minutes to demo the app and go over expectation and then at each station we would give each partner 3 minutes to drive. This took about a half hour with transitions. That gave us enough time for a picture by the painting and a conversation about 'What is Art' and if what we did today was art.


And then there are the Kindergarten through 2nd-graders.  Well, that's a little different. Especially for the K's it was more beneficial to have two people helping. We only place them at two stations... the 'Trick Station' and the 'Painting Station'. We would have them in groups of 3.  They would drive for one minute.  Each adult would take a station and troubleshoot, and foster sharing between the teams.  We set the time for one minute for these younger students.  They did a swap of stations to allow each student to experience the painting. This maybe lasted 20 minutes and the littles were ready for something different. That is when I would take the kids over to the water station and I would ask them if they think Sphero is waterproof.  Then we would explore the Sphero at different speeds.  Then it was a quick switch to around the 'trick' arena again where Alysia would show students the pre-programed codes that Sphero has.  Sometimes there was still a few minute.  I would talk to the students about Jackson Pollok and show them a short video about his work (click here). Any of you who work with this spread of age groups knows you really need to adapt to each grade level. 





Tip #6: Use a Timer

There is so much going on in the classroom that a timer displayed on the projector is quite beneficial.  This allows students to see how much time they have as well and the whole class to hear when a switch needs to be made.  As a facilitator, this is so beneficial because I was sharing things on Seesaw, documenting pictures, troubleshooting, pouring paint and so on... so it was helpful to have a running timer.  For the 3 minute intervals, we would set a google timer (click here) but for the younger students, we would use continuous timer found on Youtube (click here). 


Tip #7: Don't Add Too Much Paint

Soooo, you would think you should have all your kinks out of the way after doing this for four days... Nope... I messed up.  I was so excited about the paint colors that I choose on day four that I started to add too much paint at a time.  Yep, I'm owning this one.  As you can see the paint got too wet on the paper and it started to rip.  We have found that adding the plastic bag that holds the globes of paint, to be placed away from the edges and the paint to be added in small globes.  Give the paint time to dry whenever possible. 


Tip #9: Keep them Charged

Whenever you can have the Sphero on its charger, you should.  We learned through failure that to run a 5 hour day, you must have these on their charger whenever it's not being played with.


Tip #8: Promote and Celebrate

Make sure everyone knows what is going on in your room.  This was an experience that many of these students would have never had.  Make sure you share this in newsletters, on Seesaw, online... Celebrate, share, and promote the amazing things you do in your classroom!! 

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