Recently, I had the opportunity to spend an entire day with Kindergarten through 6th-grade students in the Bertha-Hewitt school district in Bertha, MN. I was there to help them with some new makerspace technologies that they had recently purchased for their district. I primarily helped with the Sphero Bolt’s they bought and was able to share some of the awesome things we’ve been doing in Alexandria, MN. It was an incredibly fun experience because students can learn so many skills while using Spheros. I hit on them more below, but a few include basic coding, problem-solving, fine motor skills (detail oriented), perseverance, angles/measurements, velocity, momentum, and more.
Once we broke the Spheros open and got down to work, the students were off and running. However, we all know that the hard part of using Spheros in the classroom is that some people only use them as fancy remote control cars… but that’s not where the real learning takes place. Therefore, I brought an example lesson plan to share with them so they could see how we use them educationally.
Students can get so much out of Spheros relating to math, science, and coding. That’s where the idea initially came from. I work with some pretty talented teachers and together we came up with a way to incorporate them into the math and science curriculum. Before the students arrived in the gym, I had multiple stations set up for them to work on. The stations are quick and simple to make, only requiring some masking tape and some floor space to work on. I made three lines on the floor, connecting the tape in a capital U shape with square corners at the edges. While using the Spheros, students had to keep track of the length of the tape lines and how long it took to travel the line (we used a Sphero speed of 90 so we had a constant). We then used these two measurements to calculate and teach velocity. It’s a difficult topic to teach to students and Spheros made it easier to do. For example, when we set up our tape lines initially, we set them at one meter and connected it to a two-meter line and then a three. When students figured out that it took 1.1 seconds to travel down a one-meter line, they automatically assumed it would take 2.2 seconds to travel down the two-meter line, but that’s not the case. Due to the momentum the Sphero picks up, it travels a farther distance. Afterward, we converted the meters per second into mph. And just like that, we were hitting some awesome science and math standards, along with a basic understanding of coding! You can easily make it more challenging by adding extra lines, making them uneven, etc.
We like to start the students off this way because it is simple, yet challenging. After I give the students a device and Sphero, I give them a two two-minute overview of how to use it, and we’re just about ready to go. The only direction I give is, “Set the Sphero on the line and code it so the Sphero follows the line the whole way around and ends up back at you. Be sure to make it start, stop, and turn on the line.” And away they go! It truly is incredible to watch them go to work. Students are so engaged and focused and don’t settle for mediocrity. Their attention to detail is inspiring. Even when I say, “That’s awesome! You got it!”. They say, “I’m not done yet, I missed the line on the turn and can make it better.” Even students who are normally disengaged get into these lessons and want to make it perfect before wrapping up.
Lukas Gotto is a Technology Integrationist for the Alexandria Public School district in Alexandria, MN. Graduating from Winona State University and in his 6th year of teaching, Lukas has his Masters in Learning Design and Technology. A Google Certified Trainer, Smart Certified Trainer, #edtech presenter Lukas is passionate about Google and all things EdTech. Check out his blog at Techie Tools for Teachers and follow him at @LukasGotto.