Page 22 - THE Journal, June/July 2017
P. 22

| JUNE/JULY 2017
Students at Dolvin Elementary School in Georgia play with Dash & Dot robots and a xylophone app. Courtesy of Megan Endicott.
correct answers. Doing so “opens up that experience considerably,” according to Patterson, as it takes the experience from a solitary one to a group-based one that requires collaboration and communication and rotating roles in a “low-stakes, high- interest” setting.
“They’re willing to do the hard work
of communication and sharing and willing to be mindful as they do that because
they understand that’s the only way they’re going to get to play with the robot,” Patterson said.
Josh Burker, educational technologist at The School at Columbia University in New York City, invented the LogoTurtle, a robot that produces art and that teachers can make themselves using off-the-shelf and 3D-printed parts or from a kit. The LogoTurtle uses a pen to draw geometric designs on paper. Because of the friction of the pen on paper and other random inputs to the robot, the images that are produced have slight flaws and sometimes require students to alter the programming
to get the results they want.
This is a feature, rather than a bug,
according to Burker, who said he chose the Logo programming language because it is built for debugging rather than getting it right the first time.
“The biggest thing that I’ve found in using the LogoTurtle with students is the willingness that they have to debug and to work through five or six iterations to get the design to where they want it to be,” Burker said. “I think a lot of that has to do with how the project’s grounded in aesthetic choice. I think even more so than with the computer, they’re willing to take the steps to figure out, well, maybe it needs to turn 91 degrees versus 90, maybe we need to
go 367 degrees to make a full circle. So for whatever reason — perhaps it’s the fact that they get to boss something around, or the aesthetic choice involved in the challenge
— they’re just really willing to take on the challenge and to see it through to the end.”
Burker said that the combination of crafting and technology that tools like the
LogoTurtle represent can make technology more accessible by creating a hands-on exercise and allowing for aesthetic choice.
That idea of choice is something Burker comes back to again and again when talk- ing about using robots and art to get kids interested in STEM.
“Art is something that is inherently attractive and approachable, and giving people choice as to how they can express themselves is a powerful opportunity for ev- eryone, be it a teacher or a student,” Burker said. “It’s fun to create art, so that helps create buy-in for the participants. So that’s why I emphasize it. It’s fun.”
Megan Endicott, music teacher at Dol- vin Elementary School in Georgia, also uses a combination of robots and art to interest students in STEAM topics.
Endicott, who also serves as a fine arts support teacher at the district level and helps K–12 teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms at the county level in her role as a technology vanguard leader, said she “fell in love” with Dash & Dot, the classroom robots from Wonder Workshop.
Dolvin, which didn’t have room for a dedicated makerspace, recently added maker carts for each grade level and Endi- cott pushed to have Dash & Dot included in those carts, along with the optional xylophone accessory pack.
The robots landed at Dolvin just in time for the unit on melody, when most of the grade levels are learning about solfège, Endicott said.
“And so we discussed the connection between steps and skips on the xylophone with our solfège scale and had the students talk about our pentatonic scale, which
is the standard in music for second and third graders and the diatonic scale for fourth and fifth graders, meaning the whole scale,” Endicott explained. “So we
“They’re willing to do the hard work of communication and sharing and willing to be mindful as they do that because
they understand that’s the only way they’re going to get to play with the robot.”
–Sam Patterson, Echo Horizon School
Photo: Megan Endicott

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