Learning, as we know, “is not just based on tech integration but the changes grounded in learning environments that prioritize and focus a district or school’s core educational objectives” (Light, 2008). As noted by Daniel Light (2008), it is key to remain focused on the educational objectives in our classroom. After carefully considering our student needs, we know that schools and districts have to make decisions about what to roll out in the tech field. In our district, it has been the Bee-bots and now, the Spheros.
Recently, I discovered the technology tool known as a Sphero. It is new to my school and I have used it only a couple of times, but I noticed that the students love it and that it can support learning in any subject and in French as well! Check out http://www.sphero.com/about and @Spheros Education and you will see what I mean! These are small robotic balls that can be used as a tool to teach my students to code, which is part of our new Grade 1 curriculum. The sphero is a spherical, colorful ball that can be used in conjuction with an app for it downloaded on an I-pad, I-phone, etc. Some apps are free but you do have to pay for the more technical ones. There are a variety of different ways that students can program the Sphero, using their voice, sounds, directions, colors, all things that engage students. There are so many actions and controls that students rarely get bored using this coding and technology device. The Sphero can be integrated into math, literacy, Science, and other curriculum subjects. I love that it engages students’ imagination as it can be connected to other objects and used in water as well! A Sphero can also be controlled by a smart phone or tablet, so this enables more students to use it, if there are several devices available. I think that the possibilities with this tool are great. It has been used by students at all grade levels in our school and can be a challenging device for Grade one, unless a lot of instruction is given.
According to an article in “Education Today” author, Eleni Kyrtsis (2016), states that students can “design, create code to direct the Sphero while connecting, communicating, collaborating, problem solving, testing, failing, all key characteristics of 21st century learners” (Kyrtsis, 2016). Courtney Pepe (2016) provides lots of examples of using Spheros to engage students in the STEM curriculum. She demonstrates how Spheros can be used in Physics and even art class. She notes that teachers can use these robots “to inspire and nurture the creativity of the next generation of inventors and engineers” (Pepe, 2015).
If you check out the Sphero Education website, http://www.sphero.com/education, you will find a more detailed explanation of these technology tools that I am in a process of discovering. You can also follow their blog and find them on twitter!
I gave this innovative technology tool a 30/36 as it really is a great way to support so many of our curriculum outcomes while engaging our active learners in class. It is somewhat complicated and complex for my Grade 1 class, so it did lose some points there. It doesn’t need any information from students so digital safety is excellent with this tool. See my detailed assessment using my evaluation tool for more info. Google it to see it in action and try it in your class today if your school has this fun robot!
The second part of this technology evaluation is the Sphero apps and the related curriculum outcome ideas found at http://www.sphero.com/about There are also a lot of videos on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1S5lUDvlu3A) which provide teachers with ideas about how to integrate Sphero into their classroom. Vicki Davis (2017) on her blog discusses how Sphero is one of her top robots to use when teaching technology outcomes. She lets her students experiment and discover what the Sphero can do. Davis (2017) notes that “Sphero has several programming interfaces that make meaningful content area application easy without a steep learning curve”. Again, while some of these apps are more challenging for students in my grade 1 class, the possibilities are endless in how the Sphero can be used in the class to support the curriculum, language is not a barrier and it is a fun, interactive tool that can motivate, inspire and allow my students to be more creative when working together. I would rate the apps for Sphero a 29/36 according to my evaluation rubric. They lost another point as they can be complicated to use and the students in grade 1 are too young for some of the app functions, it would take a great deal of time and practice to show them in class, no doubt they could pick it up quickly with lots of experimentation at home, but for educational purposes in class, this would limit my capacity to use this tool.
I have found some great websites for French Immersion Grade 1 and the youtube is also a super source to find songs that relate to the curriculum. You tube songs such as des chiffres 1-20 found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evDuqXTfhkA and French colors found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4kNeFGBAcw are super for my Grade 1 students. They are not interactive, do not require higher level thinking skills and students don’t necessarily need to use them independently, but they are good overall tech tools for use in the second language French classroom so they are key to mention here. Sylvia Duckworth is the author of these videos and she is a French teacher. If rated, these videos would be evaluated at 28/36 as they lack some of the criteria mentioned however focusing on my students and what they need to learn a second language, I consider these tools are a fundamental piece for learning in French in Grade 1.
Davis, V. (2017). Top tips for teaching with robots in the classroom. Retrieved October 7, 2017 from http://www.coolcatteacher.com/super-sphero-teaching-methods/
Kyrtsis, E. (2016). Spheros in the Classroom. Education Today Term 3 2016 Vol 16 (3) Retrieved October 2, 2017 from https://elenikyritsis.com/2016/08/20/spheros-in-the-classroom/
Light, D. (2008). Evaluating Educational Technology Interventions: How do we know its working. Paper presented at Quest in Bangalore, India. Retrieved October 16, 2017 from http://www.cct.edc.org/sites/cct.edc.org/files/publications/Evaluating%20Educational%20Technology.pdf
Pepe, C. (2016). How to use Robots in the Elementary Classroom. Retrieved October 6, 2017 in http://dailygenius.com/robots-classroom/
Duckworth, S. (2017). YouTube videos (2107)retrieved at youtube.com on September 20, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4kNeFGBAcw
Here is a picture of the Sphero: