buzzwords and buzz-bees

Meet bee-bot.

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He’s a programmable robot that was made for (company’s words here) teaching “sequencing, estimation, problem-solving, and just having fun!” He’s smiley, he’s plastic, and he’s going to help kids engage in computational thinking. That’s right folks, this little guy can be used to teach coding to the early childhood set.

I could play buzzword BINGO with all of the trendy computer sciencey terms I’m used to hearing at conferences. (Makers – Fixers – Coding -Computational thinking – Innovation – Producers – Entrepreneurial thinking – FREE SPACE – Curation – Design theory – Current century – you get the idea!) People are excited about all of the constant changes in technology and new tools available, and why shouldn’t they be? They’re awesome!! But sometimes it’s hard to see where this all fits with library. I often wonder: Am I jumping on the buzzword bandwagon just because [insert term here] is hip and current (all of the associations I want my community members to have about the library)? Or is there a real inquiry/info. literacy/literature connection? To be honest, it’s probably a little bit of everything.

In my library classroom, the focus is always on my students and the learning goals for each and every activity. The goals might lead us to bee-bot, or Primo, or something else trendy and computer science-related. They might not. But boy, are we lucky to have options. The variety keeps students engaged and the learning authentic. And with this little bee-bot buzzer, I do see real library connections. Here are a few of my bee-bot ideas:

  • Read/hear a story like The Three Little Pigs. What would happen if Goldilocks arrived before the bears left home, or if she woke from her nap before they returned? Most stories have a sequence, and relating that to programming sequences of arrows on bee-bot (and experiencing the results) is a super simple analogy.
  • Create a bee-bot kit that patrons check out. Challenge children to complete problems or tasks that are suggested on index cards. Keep a traveling journal with the kit so students can reflect on their experiences and share what bee-bot did while he was away from the library.
  • Use bee-bot to introduce a unit as part of the anticipatory set for any content area. Place him on the ground, with unit-related artifacts close by. Challenge the kids to program bee-bot so that he will drive to the artifact they want to discuss.
  • Have children direct bee-bot to different responses (on a floor mat) as part of an assessment activity.
  • Children can write stories about bee-bot, and integrate movements into them so that other students can try to reproduce those movements when they read the choreographed stories.

…and this is just a quick brainstorm!

Now, I would love to tell you about how I dove in and got some of these ideas up-and-running in the last month, but while I was diving in, bee-bot dove to the floor. (Klutzy me dropped my first robot within 2 minutes of picking him up from our school’s technologist.) He broke before I got to try ANYTHING with students! Amid my disappointment and embarrassment, I learned a few lessons:

  1. My tech department is really understanding and supportive, more than I could ever have imagined.
  2. You will have problems if bee-bot falls head-first into the ground.
  3. The company (Terrapin) is really accessible, and will quickly respond to your emails. (Bee-bot did break, but we should have him up and rolling again sometime soon.)

I am trying not to be discouraged, because I know I will try again once our bee-bot is brought back to life. (Hopefully we’ll grow a colony in the coming months, too!) To be continued.

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