I love my job for a lot of reasons. I have a front-row seat to the development of our future. I get to spend my days helping young minds discover their talents, passions, and overall uniqueness. And, I get to share my expertise and passion for things like debating, making, and robotics.
I have time in my teaching schedule to work with students and classrooms other than my own. One such student is really into building, coding, and robotics – and the time he spends with me is really valuable – for the both of us.
Well – this student told me about how much he liked his MiP, a two-wheeled, self-balancing robot which can be controlled by hand gestures or via Android or iOS Apps. I was interested in the educational applications of such a toy… but the original MiP is just a (super fun) toy.
I’m sure WowWee (the company who makes the MiP, along with many other cool robot products) heard similar criticisms from parents and educators – and they released the coder MiP and COJI coding robots. The COJI is aimed at younger students – as it can be programmed using only emojis – and the coder MiP is perfect for slightly older students as it used a simple block-coding language. (Like Scratch, block-based coding is perfect for new coders and teachers with limited experience in coding – as it removes the tricky syntax requirements of text-based coding languages).
So – while in a big box consumer electronics store the other day, I saw that there was a sale on the coder MiPs – so I shelled out the $100 for a new toy/teaching tool. I downloaded both the MiP and Coder MiP apps. Before coding, I wanted to see how this self-balancing robot worked on the carpet in my house – so I used the MiP app and had a little fun. Ollie, my dog, was more interested in playing with his toys than with mine. Ollie, as you will see, is not impressed.
After in initial play-time, I used the Coder MiP app to write a neat little sequence for the robot to execute. I really like that the app breaks down coding into different functions:
- Events are in red – Start on “Play”, “Clap” when the MiP’s sensors “hear” a clap, etc…
- Logic functions are in yellow – two options here “Wait” and “Repeat” – you can delay a process, or repeat it.
- Actions are in blue – Flashing lights, Making Sounds, Falling Over – all fun things to program into your MiP.
- Motion functions in green – rotate, move forward and backward, follow a path, etc…
As this is so simple to use, I can see a number of opportunities where this would fit in whole-class or small-group learning activities:
- The MiP teaches kids how to code. Coding has a lot of immediate benefits in terms of organizing logic, empowering students to work through problems on their own, understanding process or trial and error, etc… and the many long-term benefits of learning how to code.
- This would make for a fun station activity in a geometry lesson – learning angles, distances, etc…
- Students can use the constraints of the programming language to write a story and code it into the bot to tell that story to the class.
- Learning through play is marked by many benefits for social and cognitive development.
- It’s just plain fun – and sometimes, in order to be ready to “learn,” we need to be relaxed and content.
As much as I hope to get a lot done today, I think I need to go play a little longer!