Last Spring, the Technology Integration Specialists at each elementary school collaborated on a grant to bring Spheros to the elementary schools and were awarded $10,000 from the NEF. What exactly are Spheros? They are robotic balls, about four inches in diameter, that can be programmed to do cool things using an iPad or Chromebook. The visual, block-based program makes learning the basic principles of programming approachable and fun for kids. Among other tricks, Spheros can change colors, run a circuit, and keep beat with a song.
The Tech Specialists have collaborated on introductory lessons that have allowed kids and teachers to become acquainted with these little robots. Using the Draw tool, Drive tool, and some simple programming of shapes, kids have: drawn shapes by hand on screen for the Sphero to repeat; used markers, large easel paper, and a see-through plastic cup to drive Spheros and create scribble art; grades 3-5 programmed Spheros to make spirals, figure 8s and other shapes; students in 4th grade “drove” their Spheros along a story map during Media.
As the children get more adept at using the Spheros, the tricks and programming can become more advanced. For example, they’ll be able to show their knowledge of geometry by programming angles to draw specific 2-D shapes. They will also be able to program the Spheros to solve more complicated mathematical questions, for example, measuring how speed and time will affect distance.
Kara Shea, a 3rd grade teacher at Hillside, says her class absolutely loves learning with the Spheros, and that they are an excellent tool for hands-on, project-based learning. Maria DeCicco, Tech Specialist at Hillside, said the Spheros have created a lot of excitement in classes across all grade levels. They have been such a success, says DeCicco, that she knows of three students who put Spheros on their holiday wish list. As one 3rd grader said, “They are really fun. They are the coolest thing in my life!”