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By Jackie Child

Creating an environment that provides opportunities for students to engage with technology from an early age is proven to get them ‘hooked’ on technology! Integrating technology across the curriculum, and offering clubs and events such as ‘Coding & Robotics’, Inter-house Robotics Competitions, STEMies, and ‘TechMate’, further inspires students to create with technology.

Coding and Robotics Club provides students the opportunity to have fun learning to code, while challenging themselves to manipulate and control robots. Students work with a variety of robots, including Bee Bots, Blue Bots, Pro Bots, Spheros, LEGO EV3s, Parrot Mambo drones, and Alpha (a humanoid robot). Club members use iPads, which have many different apps available, to promote fun and engaging ways to learn to code.

Students in Coding and Robotics Club are developing their programming skills with different coding languages, problem-solving through building and designing robots for completing challenges, and co-operating and collaborating to succeed with tasks. Students select different robots or apps to challenge themselves with activities set out each week.

Inter-house Robotics Competition celebrates ‘The Hour of Code’ as an annual event in our Junior School. The event is introduced using videos from Code.org. Each house group sits around a competition area where the challenge takes place and has a table with equipment for the event in their house colour. An example of each year level: Preps program a Bee Bot to travel from start to finish, counting the insects in order. Year 1s code a Blue Bot to pass over the alphabet which was in pictures of animals. Year 2s burst a balloon by programming a Blue Bot to pass over each shape. Year 3s program a Pro Bot into a maze and draw a square of at least 30cm. Year 4s control a Sphero, through a maze travelling under a tunnel and over a ramp. Year 5s program a LEGO EV3 to avoid rocks and a swamp to retrieve a crate. The challenges from Prep to Year 5 are carried out in a set time with a large online Robot Stopwatch doing the count down. Year 6s navigate Mambo Drones through a course, flipping 360 degrees on the way to deliver a question to a partner who has to answer it and then fly the drone back. This is carried out under race conditions.

STEMies Club invites students to define themselves as makers, inventors and creators. Projects can include responding to a guest speaker by designing and creating different games and artefacts relating to the topic spoken about using LittleBits, which are easy-to-use electronic building blocks. Another project might be film making. Students write scripts, make props, and select a platform to create a video. Many use the green screen with Do Ink App, while others might use iMovie or Clips.

STEMies Club provides a safe place for students to give ideas ‘a go’ and to learn that it’s okay for things to not work on the first attempt. By iterating and making changes to improve designs, students also develop a growth mindset, realising that by persevering and working hard many things can be achieved.

TechMate evenings are for girls from Years 4 to 6, and involve meeting once a term to spend time with a significant male in their lives to discover the wonders of technology. This could also work for boys and a significant female in their lives! Some of the activities include enthusiastically coding and navigating Spheros in a Sumo wrestling match, bursting balloons with Blue Bots, coding EV3s to stop at a pedestrian crossing and reverse park, receiving ‘L’ plates with Pro Bots, or programming Alpha (a humanoid robot) to dance and do push-ups! The evening ends with team challenges of designing a carriage to transport a student around a set course being powered and coded by Sphero.

On another evening, the girls and their ‘mates’ were introduced to the life and times of Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, best known as Rube and for creating the Rube Goldberg Machines. TechMates thought of a simple task to complete, and then designed a fun and crazy way of completing the task.

TechMate provides students with an opportunity to spend time with their dad, granddad, brother, uncle or close friend to play, build, create, invent and discover, sometimes with technology and sometimes without.

My session in the Free PD Seminar Program at the National Education Summit Brisbane (15 & 16 May) will share ideas and examples of ways to excite and engage ‘young students’ in building a passion for tinkering and creating with technology.

During the session, examples will be shared on ways to excite young students with technology, and how technology can enhance their learning and creativity. My blog has plenty of additional ideas that can be accessed at tinkeringchild.com

 Jackie Child is Junior School Technologies Coordinator at St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School.

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Education Technology Solutions
Education Technology Solutions has been created to inspire and encourage the use of technology in education. Through its content, Education Technology Solutions seeks to showcase cutting edge products and practices with a view to expanding the boundaries and raising the standards of education curricula. It introduces teachers and IT staff to the latest products, services and developments in education technology with a view to providing practical how-to guidance designed to facilitate the integration of those products and services into the school environment in the most productive and beneficial manner possible.
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