Just Let Me Play
Robotics, Coding, & STEM oh my...
The Bee Bot: Early Years Programmable Coding Device
As an early years educator, kindergarten qualification instructor, and M. Ed student, I am always eager to to implement new and innovative ways to get children involved, thinking, and playing in the most authentic ways (and get my own research underway). Our class often has the opportunity to try out products and I am always keen on having children speak their minds - which they very easily do! I am always looking for opportunities to implement purposeful materials into the learning environment and infuse our learning environment with innovative play to get all levels and ages thinking.
The Bee-bot is a programmable robot that helps early learners explore the first stages of programming. For those of you just entering the world of "coding" and kindergarten, it is truly the "thing" every educator is talking about. For those expert coders out there- good for you! I am sure you already know how wonderful these little critters can be in the classroom! These coding devices allow children to explore mathematics through the lens of the modern learner.
In Ontario, educators are always keen to remember that mathematics and literacy are best friends and take part in one of the four domains/frames of learning "demonstrating mathematical and literacy skills". This means, that one is not assessed and/or explored naturally without the other, and children explore both subjects simultaneously. Using mathematics and language to learn how direction /position and trials truly allows the young learner the opportunity to access prior knowledge, critical thinking, and the opportunity to problem solve independently or collectively in an inclusive manner.
In the age of computer everything, as educators and parents, it is beneficial to allow our children to explore and learn such technological and modern skills. When considering the finalized Ontario Kindergarten Program and the emphasis of the many benefits of play-based learning- including inquiry-based learning models, these robotics and coding devices fit right in with our ready to use flow of the day kinder programs.
How it works (from a kindergarten perspective)
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The Features of the Bee-Bot (according to the kindergartens themselves)
Learning the Language
Every morning students run to our computer sign-up sheet to have a turn playing a variety of computer games. One morning, I introduced the topic of computer programming and how games were made. The students already having their options new a little about how computers were used to make things move- "robots" they said. During our morning community circle (10 minutes in time approx) we shared how we thought a robot might speak and the language a robot might use. These Robot words (our coding words) were used to introduce how we might problem solve and think about how our Bee-Bot might move along a surface.
Planning & Resources
Although the students were very eager to explore the Bee-Bot on their own, educators can find PDF inspiration ready lessons and ideas. We did not get the change to explore these lessons in detail, however, they were very useful for understanding what opportunities they might present to learners- I especially enjoyed the hands-on approach to these lessons. As a Reggio Emilia inspired educator, I appreciated the open-ended nature of the Bee-Bot and the opportunity to engage all entry levels of learning to participate in the game/activity. In the new year, our EL-K team plans to create coding groups to facilitate small group lessons and assess learning. The games included collaborative learning opportunities "a sense of belonging and contributing and innovative thinking and problem solving" and a variety of ways to explore movement and direction.
Here is the link with PDF ready resources.
Where to get the Bee-Bot & Accessories
Our students used one Bee-Bot in small group formats during play. The plugged in the Bee-Bot during morning attendance and it was ready to go ready after our morning community circle. Although we don't have multiple robots or the docking station (it gets very pricey), I can see the rechargeable option and opportunity for multiple robots to be very beneficial in a kindergarten classroom, especially when numbers fall between 18-32! Perhaps this might be a division purchase sign out option?!
The School & Parent Community ...
,The school community was eager to get right on board creating a STEM MakerSpace for students. As a kindergarten educator , I find that these innovative spaces and resources usually for order for grades 1 and up. The school community and parents were eager to learn and experience for themselves the endless opportunities and benefits these coding devices were not only for grade learners, however, the inspiration they reflection upon kindergartens! The EL-K team was eager to share our coding lessons and explorations and provocations with parents via our blog and encourage parents to take part in this learning at home, either using such devices or creating manual games such as taps, jumps, or blinks! Parents were happy to learn how such a concept- program and coding could be a stepping zone into the future for their little ones!
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