image Dot and Dash: My experience so far

Dot and Dash are robots which respond to voice, navigate objects, dance, sing and much more. If you aren’t familiar with them follow this LINK . Please note it is very commercial, then I’ll give you the run down from my experience as a teacher.

We’ve had 9 Dot and Dash robots at school for the past three years and I must admit, I hadn’t had much success using them as part of the digital technologies curriculum for several reasons. Firstly, I had two apps on the iPads for students to use, Go and Blockly. Students would always opt for the Go app which allowed them to steer Dash like a remote control car, no coding involved. I’d constantly be asking them to switch to the Blockly app. However,  the Blockly app was a bit ‘dodgy’. Students would drag code but then it wouldn’t let them delete parts of the code and or the coding blocks would be missing from the menu. They would have to close the app, reopen it and start again, frustrating both myself and students. Later with the release of the Tickle app, we had a little more success.

Secondly, I didn’t feel like I was doing the robots justice. I searched online for activities about found a collection of activities ranging from coding a Duck, Duck Go game to working out the distance of a one Dash move. There are some activity ideas for free online on the Wonder website, but others aren’t. Personally, don’t see why they should charge you a subscription fee to access resources for a robot which you paid money for. Anyway, I had a large area to work with at school,  so I had  Year 5 classes supporting Year 2 classes. I set out task cards for groups of students and they would rotate between activities. Students liked the activities but they weren’t meeting the curriculum outcomes I wanted.

Recently, I purchased the Dot and Dash K-5 Curriculum Pack and I’m now excited about getting the most out of these robots. In addition to this purchase, the Blockly app has been updated and works seamlessly, YAH 🙂 and I have removed the Go app from the iPads, no more remote controlling Dash!

After purchasing the Curriculum Pack, I organised 5 lessons release time for a Year 2 teacher to work with me on writing a program for our Year 2 students. Why? Well teachers often say that time is one of the biggest factors hindering them from taking on new initiatives with support/professional development being the other. So I decided to give both, I gave Gab (one of our Year 2 teachers) time to explore the robots and my time, to support her.

To begin writing our program, we started with the Australian Curriculum. It is important to start with this, to work out what your students need to achieve rather than with the tool, in this case being Dot and Dash, and trying to work out how you can make the tool ‘fit’ into the curriculum.

So for year 2:
– Students need to use the concept of abstraction when defining problems
– To begin to develop their design skills by conceptualising algorithms as a sequence of steps for carrying out instructions
– Design solutions to simple problems using a sequence of steps and decisions.
Then, with the content descriptor being: Follow, describe and represent a sequence of steps and decisions (algorithms) needed to solve simple problems.

After we’d looked at this, we placed Dash on our desk and then looked at the task cards in the Dot and Dash Curriculum Pack. This is when I realised that Dash has been updated. When ever one of us spoke, Dash would turn and look at us and or make some sort of sound. It was so funny. Below is a short video, not the best as I took it in my lounge room, showing how Dash responds to sound (voice), apparently he likes pies?

The task cards in the curriculum pack are really good. They are colour coded to indicate a suggested year level, however, we ignored this and picked out activities to suit our students. I chose a range of activities which involved sequencing and loops. Then Gab tried the activities before deciding if we’d include them in or program or not. Please note, I can’t share the tasks with you as it would be a breach of copyright.

The next thing we did was to create a reflection sheet for students. On half of an A4 sheet we had a scanned image of the task card and on the other two questions; (1) What did Dot or Dash do when you ran the program (2) Did you make any mistakes, if so how did you fix them? Students can respond to the questions using writing, drawings, diagrams etc.

Then we wrote an assessment rubric. This I can share with you as we wrote it 😉

Y2 Digital Tech Assessment Rubric-2kr9njc

Was our program successful? You’ll have to wait until the end of next term, Gab and our other Year 2 teachers are trialing it then.

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