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.screenshot_20170305-160317

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:

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  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. This would make for a fun station activity in a geometry lesson – learning angles, distances, etc…
  3. 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.
  4. Learning through play is marked by many benefits for social and cognitive development.
  5. 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!