Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Learning with Sphero

As Around the Schoolyard readers can recall we have recently opened a Maker Space at the J. Turner Hood Elementary School. This space provides our students with a place to engage in hands on learning activities. At the J. Turner Hood School, we work collaboratively to reach our goal of educating and challenging students to their full potential, it is important to focus on meeting the needs of all learning styles including those students that are hands on learners. This learning space enables us to meet the needs of all learners with a focus on hands on learning. For many working in the manufacturing industry, the concept of hands-on learning is a natural way to investigate problems and come up with creative solutions. But for many, hands-on learning has become the exception rather than the rule. Fortunately, the increasing number of Makerspaces provides exciting new opportunities for hands-on learning, problem-solving, and creative experimentation. According to Aristotle “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” 

In this article I would like to focus on a device that I have observed being utilized in our Makerspace to teach programming as well as problem solving. Last year we work hand in hand with our parent’s association to purchase 12 Sphero programmable robotic balls. If you have not seen Sphero, it’s a small hand-sized ball you can program easily to change colors, run a circuit, keep beat with a song, and many other fun ideas.

What is Sphero?
·         Sphero is a robot that interacts with any smart device. 
·         There are two levels to working with Sphero; driving and coding. 
·         Students have to think about how they want Sphero to accomplish a task and then code that into an iPad or another device. 
·         The students then can test and adapt their code based on the results. 

The Sphero devices can be used to teach a plethora of skills including programming and problem solving. Based on my observations, these high-tech devices inspire a lot of creative as well as open-ended play. There are more than two dozen free apps to play with Sphero, these include Tickle and  SPRK which are the programming apps used to control the device. Sphero can also be programmed in BASIC as well as Scratch and several other popular languages. Once the programming is complete, the fun begins as students are challenged to create scenarios or obstacle courses with boxes and tubes from our Makerspace to navigate. Yes, you can have fun with Sphero as an ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) and there’s value in that alone, but you can also take it from tech toy, to STEM teaching tool by helping your kids code Sphero. Or in my case, our students helping me develop my computer programming skills.

Benefits of working with Spheros.
·         Learn coding
·         Interact with other students
·         Problem solving skills
·         Planning and designing
·         Math and Science reinforcement
·         Increased enthusiasm about learning

To see an example of our students using this device please visit:

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