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It’s Not All About the Technology

    Another article written for The Apple.  If you aren’t part of this teaching community, you should be!  Sign up today and be sure to add me as a friend ktenkely.Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.comThis may seem like a strange title coming from a technology evangelist and integration specialist. But it is true, it isn’t all about technology in classrooms. Don’t get me wrong, technology can and will do amazing things to increase student learning, differentiate instruction, and meet students where they are. Understand, technology alone can’t do this, it isn’t the golden ticket that when plugged in solves all educational problems. I see many schools who purchase the latest-and-greatest technology, software, and infrastructure only to have the technology collecting dust a few years later when it didn’t solve the education problems of the school. This isn’t the technologies fault, it doesn’t mean that the technology has failed to deliver. What schools often miss is that it isn’t really about the technology at all. There is a foundational level that needs to be addressed in schools first.Many classrooms still look the way they did in the 19th century. The teacher is at the front of the classroom giving students facts to memorize, rules about grammar, math, and science. The role of the student is to take it all in, memorize, and regurgitate the information back in the form of an essay, worksheet, or test. The teacher marks up the student work, puts a grade at the top, and returns it to the student. The process repeats itself as the teacher works to squeeze in all of the curriculum before the end of the year. Technology can’t improve this learning environment. In fact, technology will feel forced and unnatural in this classroom model. Technology invites students to problem solve, create, think critically, and collaborate. The focus is not on memorization and testing but on discovery and creativity. In this classroom model, technology may be used to replace the chalk board with a PowerPoint presentation. This may be more visually appealing, but it doesn’t change how students are learning. The teacher is still the center of the classroom and students are still taking it all in and regurgitating back on worksheets and tests. Learning hasn’t really changed so the results continue to stay the same.Students learn by doing. Students learn through making connections to things they already know. Students learn through discovery. Students learn when they are the center of their education. Technology lends itself naturally to this type of classroom. Technology enhances learning exponentially when introduced into a classroom where students are at the center of learning. Think about the most popular technologies with students today outside of the classroom. For elementary students those that top the list are Club Penguin and Webkins. For secondary students they are Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, and Twitter. What do these have in common? They are all social. Each of these tools invites communication and collaboration. Students aren’t interested in technology for the sake of technology, they are hooked by the increased ability to communicate ideas and work together. In the traditional classroom students complete work for one person: the teacher. There is very little communication after the paper has been handed back. What can technology do to make learning more of a collaborative effort? Web 2.0 tools (those online tools that invite communication and/or collaboration) make learning collaborative.Blogs, wikis, videos, slideshows, and websites can be used in the classroom as a place for students to create and share their work with a wider audience. This audience could be as small as a classroom and parents, or as large as the whole world. These online spaces make students the ‘experts’ and put them in charge of their own learning. They have a sense of ownership in their education. It isn’t about the teacher, it’s about them. Technology invites students to discover learning. Students today find very little value in memorization. It is no wonder that this is the case, many of them walk around with smart phones in their pockets. At any given time they can Google anything and be given thousands of resources that will answer their question. This introduces a new requirement of education. We must teach students to think critically about the information they find. Yes, they can Google anything, but will they know what information is factual and what information is bad? Technology allows students to experience things that they may not other wise have the opportunity to experience. For example, taking a virtual field trip to Egypt to see the pyramids, hear an archeologist speak, and ask the archeologist follow up questions. These experiences help students to make connections to their own lives that would not have been possible with note taking followed by a quiz.Technology alone will not change education and student learning. First, the classroom environment needs to change. We need classrooms that value student centered learning, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. We need classrooms that value learning. Our goal as teachers should not be to get our students to pass a test, but to teach them how to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Regardless of the technology being used in the classroom, students need these foundational skills to succeed in life. When partnered with this type of classroom, technology will increase student learning and performance. Before any school looks at hardware or software for the classroom, they need to set up a solid educational foundation. The expectation needs to be set that students will no longer be memorizers, they will be thinkers and creators.

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Sphero: the coolest robot around

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Evaluate, iPod, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 14-04-2014

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Sphero- coolest robot ever

This week, the wonderful people at Orbotix sent me a Sphero to try out and play with. HOLY COW, I haven’t had so much fun with a new toy in a long time. The better part of today was spent learning about the Sphero and stealthily “driving” it into classrooms (much to the delight of kids). Sphero is a robotic ball that gets controlled by iPhone, iPad, or android device. I had it rolling all over school this morning…I only wish I had thought ahead to record student reactions (I was using my iPhone to control it and didn’t think about video and pictures). I had so much fun with it, that I brought it home to play and learn some more. It is equally loved by my dogs! 😉

Sphero seems like a simple concept, a ball that can be controlled via tablet or phone. Even though the concept is simple, I have to admit, I’m pretty floored by the way that this little ball moves around effortlessly as if by magic. We have a hallway in our school that includes an incline and it rolled up it without any trouble, like a champ! It is SO much more than a fun rolley ball. There are a slew of apps that interact with the Sphero making it ultra fun and educational. The majority of apps available are totally free to download. There are a few that cost $0.99. Apps include:

  • Sphero Nyan Cat Space Party- Even if you have no idea what Nyan cat is, your students will. They will think it is awesome.
  • Sphero Dark Nebula Episode One- A labyrinth game for the 21st century.
  • Sphero Dark Nebula Episode Two- Defeat obstacles and enemies using your Sphero.
  • Sphero- the app I played with all day. This app drives Sphero and teaches it (and you) new tricks with basics of coding.
  • GoGo Mongo- Designed to teach toddlers and primary students healthy eating habits.
  • Sphero Exile- Arcade-like space-fighter game. But with real life actions!
  • Sphero Draw N’ Drive- Use your finger on the tablet or phone to draw a shape or path and watch Sphero follow it.
  • Sphero MacroLab (great for education!)- Learn basics of programming by arranging simple commands and settings in any combination. Save favorite programs and share them with friends.
  • Sphero TAG- A great tag game when you have access to more than one Sphero.
  • Zombie Roller- A zombie app. Need I say more?
  • Sphero Lights- Basically the coolest night-light ever. Keep the Sphero lit even when charging.
  • Last Fish- Try surviving as a fish in toxic water filled with goo and shadow fish. The goal: survive.
  • Sphero Macro Draw- Draw using your Sphero robot.
  • DJ Sphero- Go ahead and be a party rock star with Sphero. Load tracks from your iPad/iPhone music library . Cross fade between songs and speed up or slow down music by spinning your sphere robot. Basically you will be the star of the lunch room.
  • Astro Ball- An arcade-syle 3D flight simulator.
  • Sphero Golf- I played this one as soon as I got home. Create a physical golf course and then virtually control Sphero to make it into the holes that you create. Hit Sphero with either a flick of the finger, or (for more fun) by swinging your arms while holding your tablet/phone.
  • Sphero Cam- Currently Android only. Use the built-in camera on Android to record video with Sphero.
  • orbBasic for Sphero- This is a great app for learning and practicing program. Students can execute basic programs and create and prototype autonomous behaviors for their Sphero robot.
  • Sphero H2O- For real, this robot can be played with IN water!! This is a game for a summer pool party.
  • Etch-o-matic- 21st century toy makes drawings like it is 1965. LOVE this app! Brings me right back to about 1987 when I sat in the back seat of the Jetta on the way to Grandmas. Just like an etch-a-sketch, only better.
  • Sphero Snake- Classic Snake game brought to life.
  • Disc Groove- Control your Sphero to avoid being hit by “flying meteors”
  • Doodle Grub- A new twist on the classic Snake game. Lots of fun.
  • Sphero Pet- Wishing you had a class pet? Sphero fits the bill well without being overwhelming. Kids can teach it to shake, flip and move in any direction.
  • Pass the Sphero- A game of dare for multiple players where Sphero becomes a ticking time-bomb. Lots of fun when there is lots of snow and recess has to occur inside.
  • Sphero Measuring Tape (AWESOME, measuring our Anastasis Academy garden!) Virtual measuring tape. Amazingly accurate. Our kids have been learning Area/Perimeter and using the Anastasis Academy garden as a learning space. Sphero helped verify their calculations.
  • Sharky the Beaver- Sphero turns into an augmented reality beaver that you can interact with.
  • Sphero ColorGrab- A multiplayer tabletop game. Sphero flashes colors and you have to pick him up at the right time to earn points. Best indoor recess ever!
  • Sphero Chromo- Like an old-school Simon game for this little robot. Makes me a little nostalgic for my childhood. :)
  • The Rolling Dead- an augmented reality game featuring zombies. Not sure how it gets better than using Sphero as a fireball to shoot virtual zombies. Anastasis Academy backs to a cemetery where the teachers walk/jog after school. I’m pretty sure the Rolling Dead/Sphero combo will be a welcome addition to our exercise.

The Sphero apps the are available to download range from just plain fun, to serious learning capability and augmented reality. There are so many possibilities with this little robot and, it seems, that the apps and abilities of this little robot will only continue to grow. This robot is resilient. It can stand up to dogs, water, outdoors, hills, etc. Truly so magical and amazing!

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

Shiba Inu playing with Sphero Robot

I dig technology that effortlessly blends real world with imagination and technology. Sphero definitely fits this bill in ways that I haven’t seen before. I’m excited to dig into Sphero Education to try out the STEM lessons that can be used with Sphero with students. I’ll be sure to blog our progress through them! Stay tuned.


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