Making Math (and Music) Fun with Sphero!

Mr. Murphy and I are once again very proud to share some outstanding work created by the students of Fox Hill. Our most recent project involved collaborating with fourth grade teacher Mrs. Nolte and allowed us to integrate the Sphero robot to help students learn about patterns, shapes, speed, distance, angels, and the fundamentals of computer programming.

Shifting Gears: Deeper Than Driving

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 11.34.58 AMSimilar to Fox Hill third graders, Mr. Murphy gave students an initial Sphero 101 lesson,  where they were able to practice “driving” the robot. During their next visit to the Fox Hill Learning Commons, students were given a more challenging Sphero learning experience. Mr. Murphy and I used masking tape to make several shapes on the floor of the Learning Commons and students where charged with the task of programming their Sphero to outline the shapes.

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 12.41.34 PMUnlike simply driving the Sphero, which requires limited programming skills or knowledge, students had to use their critical and computational thinking skills to write quite a few lines of code. This activity allowed students to show their understanding of the standards (angels and patterns) to achieve their goal. While not every student succeeded in programming the Sphero to outline the shape, they all persevered and were motivated to continue using the Sphero. This prompted us to challenge students to use use the Sphero in conjunction with music. We assigned students to use Garage Band to create original music and program their Sphero to “dance” to the beat. Many students cited this activity as one of the hardest, yet most fun, aspects of programming the Sphero.

Student Sphero Reviews: An Awesome Assessment!

To gain a clear and accurate understanding of what students thought about the Sphero, and the math and computer programming skills and knowledge they developed, Mr. Murphy and I created a two-part assessment. Part one involved students answering five reflection questions about the Sphero experience including:

  1. In your own words, define computer programming
  2. What was your favorite part of computer programming with Sphero?
  3. What did you find to be challenging or frustrating about programming with the Sphero?
  4. What were some of the programming commands you used when programming the Sphero?
  5. Do you want to learn more about computer programming now that you have used the Sphero? Why or why not?

Part two of the assessment allowed students to share their reflections about Sphero using the iOS app Book Creator. Students included answers to their reflection questions as well as images and video clips in their five page books. This part of the assessment also gave students the opportunity to practice their design and collaboration skills, as some of them integrated videos with partners into their books. The video below showcases five of the Book Creator projects that were created by the students and highlights how much fun and learning occurred throughout this unit. If you are an elementary teacher, and want to expose your students to meaningful projects that combine math, technology, and the arts, Mr. Murphy and I highly recommend investing in a Sphero, or something similar such as a BB-8. Your students will be instantly engaged and motivated to learn how to program these modern devices and ultimately many of them will be excited to continue to learn on their own and outside of the classroom.

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