Innovators - Brenda Cain
K-5 | Technology Skills | App & Robot
Brenda Cain is a Library Media Specialist at Fargo Public Schools in North Dakota. Their school has a program where John Deere engineers help students learn to code with Wonder Workshop.
I'm a librarian, so I work with all the students at my school weekly for about a half hour. Our timeline is really tight. If I can't get something done in 25-30 minutes, it's not going to be something I can use. Looking at the Wonder Workshop challenges, I could tell it was something that my students could really be engaged in.
We decided to bring over our John Deere partners to be coding mentors for our students using Dash and Dot in the library. John Deere nationally supports competitions for engineering. Locally, they support other programs too. Our school foundation partnered every school up with a business partner. Ours happened to be John Deere, who has a plant just down the street from our school, so it just fit perfectly. They provide grants to schools around the nation to buy things like Wonder Workshop.
I would teach the students a little bit about the sequence through Kodable, a coding program our school uses that follows the same lesson pattern as Dash and Dot. Then, our mentors would come in and do the Dash and Dot activities with the students. The engineers would help students though situations, like not being able to solve the problem right away, having to go back and reread it, and then going back to a spot where it actually worked and trying it from there. Students were using the same tools that engineers use to solve problems. It was really exciting to see the kids exploring and working through challenges even when it was hard.
Dash and Dot are so motivating to the students because they are so cute and interactive. The kids really want the robot to do what they're telling it to. Even though it is challenging, they can get to a frustration level and still overcome it because they are motivated by the robot. The personal touch of the robots helps, too. I think that really appeals a lot to girls who might be inclined to step away from Dash and Dot if they were just doing it on their own.
My goal was to have my students learn how to do the Blockly app puzzles and then take it from there and do their own thing. The Blockly program on the iPad is a little bit challenging, but it's really engaging for the kids. Since this is our first year, I underestimated the amount of time it would take to get through the puzzles, so we primarily focused on the puzzles this year. When kids are taking turns, only one child touches the iPad at a time, the other partner moves the robots and can verbally offer suggestions, but only one person touches the iPad.
I just recently became a librarian, I was a middle school teacher for 22 years beforehand and science was my area. So that’s how I’m incorporating it into my library. That's what our library program wants, future ready librarians that are teaching literacy of all kinds.