Innovators - Selinda Stout
K-5 | Technology Skills | App & Robot
Case Study: The Successful Implementation of Robotics in an Elementary School Library
Edna Louise Spear Elementary
Port Jefferson, New York
About the School:
Edna Louise Spear Elementary School serves Pre-K - 5 students and is located in Port Jefferson, New York. It is located in Suffolk County on the North Shore of Long Island. The average class size is 18 students. The School Library is at the heart of the school. The School Librarian, Ms. Selinda Stout, teaches 26 classes, Kindergarten – 5th Grade, for 40 minutes a week.
Several challenges presented themselves in this Case Study. The first challenge was to introduce coding to all elementary students, Kindergarten – 5th grade in the library. With coding being the most important job skill of the future, it was imperative that Ms. Stout begin this initiative immediately. She needed to find a way to teach coding to ALL students, not just a specific grade level. Furthermore, to be successful, creating an open environment in the library where several groups of students can “play” with Dash and Dot was imperative.
The second challenge was integrating a coding unit into an existing school library curriculum that aligns with state standards. Presently, there are no school libraries in the area teaching coding to all students. Not having a “template” on how to initiate such a program seemed daunting to Ms. Stout.
The last challenge, and maybe the most significant, was having a School Librarian with no coding experience. Ms. Stout was not familiar with coding or the robots, Dash and Dot, until her Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Mrs. Jessica Schmettan, suggested that she attend a Coding/Robotics Showcase in April 2017. Needless to say, she was a little intimidated but wanted to take on the challenge!
At the Coding/Robotics showcase, one of the presenters was from Wonder Workshop showcasing Dash and Dot. This seemed like the perfect solution for their students. Ms. Schmettan and Ms. Stout could see the potential hidden beneath their cute exterior, which would attract and motivate their students to learn!
After the showcase, Ms. Stout visited the Wonder Workshop website so she could learn more about Dash and Dot. She has approximately 18 students per class so she ordered seven sets of robots through Sunburst Digital. This would give all students an opportunity to participate every week in class. After speaking with their customer service, Ms. Stout quickly realized how valuable Sunburst Digital would be in the coming months.
Another solution to motivate the students were books. Being a School Librarian, Ms. Stout ordered books on robotics and coding for her students to check out. To offer books to help her students grow and develop in this field was very important to her. She created a special area at the entrance of the library to showcase these books.
Ms. Stout spent time over the summer of 2017 organizing her thoughts on how to create an environment in her library that was conducive to teaching this new initiative. “I realized that it would not be a ‘quiet’ library anymore, with the robots zipping around and students talking and working together in their groups.” Within these groups, students would communicate and think outside the box in order to get their robots to “perform”. After returning from summer break in September, she continued to gather the information and materials needed.
To charge and store the seven sets of Dash and Dot, The Elementary School Technology Department assisted with creating a charging station next to the iPad cart. The robots and iPads are plugged in and charged after the last library class of the day. Seven clear bins store the robots and their corresponding iPad. This makes it easy for students to grab their materials for each lesson. Because a large space is needed for each group to operate the robots, Ms. Stout created seven “open spaces” within the Library. Signs were placed in each of these “spaces” so the students would remember each week where they are to go.
To make the robots more personal, students were given the opportunity to name them. Some of the names chosen were Skittles, Harley, Flash, Bubbles, Waffles, and Sonic. These names were placed on each robot and the clear bin that holds them. At the end of the lesson, students return these bins to the correct spot on the shelf.
A set of 72 Leveled Challenge Cards was purchased from Sunburst Digital. Sets of Challenge Cards were created for each group so they could problem-solve and accomplish their goal of moving from level A to level F. A section near the charging station was created to house all of the accessories that Dash and Dot would need for the Challenge Cards and for other tasks performed.
To introduce the unit, Ms. Stout and the students discussed what a robot is and what kinds of robots are in their everyday lives. She used a PowerPoint on the Smartboard as well as showcased several books that introduced different types of robots such as space robots, medical robots, military robots, factory robots, etc... Dash and Dot were then introduced through the Smartboard which allowed all students to see the 5 apps on a larger screen.
For the remainder of the unit, Ms. Stout placed each class into 7 groups of 2-3 students according to behavior and skill. Because most students were not familiar with Dash and Dot and coding in general, the lessons consisted of all classes using the Path App and then moving on to the Blockly App and the Challenge Cards if a group was excelling. One of the students commented, “I liked the Challenge Cards because there was something new and exciting on every card.”
With the success of the Challenge Cards and the students quickly learning the language of coding, Ms. Stout implemented a Xylophone Project and a March Madness Basketball Challenge. For the Xylophone Project, Ms. Stout collaborated with the music teacher, Mrs. Lisa Scrom. Second grade classes spent several weeks working on their own compositions in music class. After they created their own songs, they played their melodies on real xylophones and transferred them to the iPads. Students then took their composition to the Library to play their final product on Dash and the xylophone!
As a culmination to the unit, Ms. Stout implemented Scraggy Hill’s First Annual March Madness Basketball Challenge. Getting the idea from the Wonder Workshop website, students programmed Dash to launch a ball into a basketball hoop. Using Blockly and their coding skills, students carried out investigations on how distance (cm) and energy (%) affected the launchers’ aim. After the students practiced in their groups, students then competed against each other on a “Basketball Arena” created by their Math AIS Teacher, Rich Dixon. Students had a blast competing against each other and watching their robots shoot hoops! Sunburst Digital even contributed to the fun by creating stickers to hand out to the winners. “They really went above and beyond to help me promote this fun coding activity!”, said Ms. Stout.
Results Achieved and Reaction At the end of the unit, Ms. Stout created surveys to gather information from the students regarding their experiences with Dash and Dot. The reaction from the students was overwhelmingly positive. Many found it a fun way to learn coding while others enjoyed the team work it involved. One student commented, “It helped make me smarter”, while another wrote, “I enjoyed it because it will help me when I go to MIT”. Some students even got bored and wanted more of a challenge! Wow! This is exactly the result Ms. Stout hoped to achieve. In fact, many students gave her suggestions for next year such as creating their own challenge cards, a dance recital for Dash, a music competition, and adding more obstacles when using Blockly. Edna Louise Spear Elementary was now providing their students with creative and inspiring ways to learn to code.
Some of Ms. Stout’s recommendations include playing with the robots and letting the students teach you. “Take them home and just play! Don’t be afraid of them. They are really easy to use. In fact, if you are stuck on a function, have your students teach you. I even had some students stay after school with me. They are a valuable resource.” Ms. Stout also recommends “ (that when) mistakes happen(just) go with the flow. If you need to change part of the lesson in the first 5 minutes, change it. Don’t hesitate to make a mistake, either. The students will respect you more if you admit to making a mistake!”. Another important recommendation from Ms. Stout was to utilize Sunburst Digital’s customer service. They always responded in a timely manner whether through email or phone. When one of the robots heads would not move correctly, they immediately sent a replacement. And last but not least, if something unforeseen or crazy happens, like a student getting her long hair caught in Dash’s wheels, take a deep breath. It’s all good!
The future looks bright for the students at Edna Louise Spear Elementary. After a successful year, Ms. Stout is looking forward to implementing the students’ suggestions from the surveys as well as collaborating with grade-level teachers. Since the students are now familiar with Dash and Dot, she can dive right in and use some of the Code to Learn Lesson Library plans that are located on the Wonder Workshop website. Also, since the 1st Annual March Madness Basketball Challenge was such a success, she wants to make it a school-wide function were students and staff participate.
At the end of the robotics unit, when Ms. Stout was putting the robots away for the school year, one of the students had tears in his eyes. She asked him what was wrong. He stated, “But I like the robots. I don’t want to see them go”. Obviously, she told him that they would be zipping around the library next year. But what she should have said was, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened (Dr. Seuss).”