Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Handheld Learning 2008

I was lucky enough this week to be asked to speak by Andy Black of Becta at the Handheld Learning Conference.

I was one of 7 people who spoke about Next Generation Learning - Right Here, Right Now.

IA overview of the me and the other speakers is here http://ubiquitousthoughts.wordpress.com/2008/10/13/handheld-learning-day-1-next-generation-learning-session/

I gave an overview which is detailed in posts below

Below is my presentation and the videos I showed.

Robots in KS2

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: robots robosapiens)

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Robosapiens at St Antonys

At St Antonys we worked with the handheld controllers for the first two sessions only as I wanted the children to learn to program the Robosapiens using the computer software. This followed Nic Hughes' advice that the children can find the software slow when compared to the controller, so maybe it's best not to spend too long with the controllers first if intending to program using the computer software and the infra-red Robo-blaster.

Session 1
In the first session I split the children into small mixed-ability groups and set them the task of ascertaining the functions of different key combinations using the blank template available on this Blog and in the resources supplied with the software. This was a useful exercise as the children took care to fill in the blanks rather than just pressing buttons randomly. At the end of the lesson I gave the children a completed template of key functions(same sources as previously) so they could check the accuracy of their findings. The children were very enthusiastic about using the Robosapiens and took turns to operate the Robosapien and record their results.


Session 2

In the second session I set the children the task of making their Robosapien perform a 'party-piece' of their own design, but with the condition that they must write down their commands on a scripting sheet first, so they had to think about what commands were needed to perform each action. The children then demonstrated their 'party-pieces', which included picking up an object and throwing it ; walking, turning and burping; a dance of their own design.


Session 3
Having tried the 'Go-Robo Controller'(KS2) software at home and found it very slow when passing commands to the robot, I decided to proceed with the 'Go-Robo Programmer'(KS2/KS3) software. Also, the 'Go-Robo Controller' software appears little more than an online scripting sheet and therefore appears to me to have little useful purpose. I took half a class at a time into the ICT suite as we only had 6 Robots.

I started off by demonstrating the Robosapien dancing to T-Rex, which is available via a link on the software Resources page. I then told the children that their outcome at the end of several more lessons was to program their own routine for the Robot(I suggested no walking movements due to the cramped nature of out ICT suite). The 'Go-Robo Programmer' software comes with a well laid out programming page with a list of 'Gridscript' commands and a library of examples of sub-routines, which exemplify how to do iteration, simple loops, nested loops, pass variables and use conditional statements etc.

Unfortunately (as warned by Nic Hughes), when transmitting via the infra-red Robo-blaster, there were problems. The link from the Go-Roboblaster would break intermittently on some interfaces. This was very frustrating for the children and time-consuming . The troubleshooting page lists several possible reasons why this may happen, but in a live lesson not the easiest thing to sort out.

Another thing to note is that to program the Robosapien in Main Programming mode, in order that the program can be activated by the handheld controller, is only possible for 20 commands.

In session 3 the children became familiar with the software and the layout and the use of iterations as a way of repeating commands

Sessions 4 and 5

Before session 4s and 5 I loaded the latest fix to the Robo-blaster software. I did get fewer problems with the software communicating via the Robo-blaster with the Robosapien but on some machines the programs ran very slowly or stopped during running(reasons unknown).

In session 4 the children explored loops and nested loops using the Repeat/Endrepeat commands. The higher ability children understood this readily but many of the middle and lower ability children struggled with the nested loops.

In session 5, which I did with a smaller group of higher ability children only, the children explored passing variables and using conditional statements. This session was successful in helping the children understand that different commands could be carried out depending on their interaction with the program in running.

In summary as a way of teaching simple programming:-

The plus features for structured programming are:-

  • easy to understand 'Gridscript' programming language
  • clear programming page with useful examples
  • automatic indentation of the code by the software helps with iterations and loops

Negative features:-

  • Non-diagrammatic form of program coding can be difficult to understand for the middle to less able
  • Problems with the interface between software, robo-blaster and robot

Monday, 16 June 2008

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Session 4 and 5

Finally we have gotton into the ICT suite to use the Go-Robo software. Below are images of the software and of the Robo-Blaster contreoller.

The inital session of this went very poorly - there where problems with the robo-blasters detecting on the computers and those which did work kept on disconnecting.

Q4technologies make 3 version of the control software. The lowest version is Go-Controller, which is designed for KS1/KS2 - we tried to use it but it was just far to slow for the children.

We have been working for a while with the controllers so the children are used to a much quicker response to commands that the Go-Controller software can achive.

If you start with the software and avoid the controller, the Go-Controller software will give a good starting point. We were a bit spoilt by the controllers.

Overall session 4 was a failure, but it was an important learning step in the project.

We have learnt -

1. Check the Roboblasters have been installed on all machines.

2. Either start programming using the computer and Go-Controller, over using the controller. Or use Go-Programmer to control the robot which is has much faster feedback.

Lesson 5 -

This session was a vast improvement over the last one.

All the children used Go-Programmer which is the middle level software aimed at KS2/KS3. The main advantage is that the Robosapien responds instantly to the command programmed in the proceedure.

The children again, where working on getting a programe that could make the robosapien wave. We met with varying degrees of success. One group did very well and we had a programmed waving robot.

Check out the video....


For others it took a while for them to get used to the programme and there where some technical problems, again with the Robo-Blasters disconnecting - normally they needed unplugging and plugging in again.

Hopefully in the final week, we will be able to move on to try and program some dance moves, which was the inital outcome for this project.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Session 3 - Recording our ideas

So this week we started by recaping our last sessions work.

By the end of the session last time, most of the children had managed to get the Robosapien to wave.

Today we continued this but with an important addition - we had to record our instructions so that we can use this information to programme using the computer in the next session.

The session work a lot better than previous weeks nearly all the groups now had more confidence with the robot and only one group still couldn't mange to control the robot well.

This raises issues with groupings - the children have to work in groups - I let my children choose there groups. You need a range of ability in a group, those groups who where not working as well, where the lower ability children or very little interest in ICT. One of my all girl groups was the worst overall.

Again the most powerful teacher tool and assessment tool was to talk to the groups and listen to what they where saying. The task is also a postive group work task. It was important to make sure that the groups did record what they where doing - this was dfficult at times (as you can see from the videos) as the children wanted to keep on working with the robot.

Check out the videos and photos.


Next Time (hopefully) - into the ICT suite to use the Go-Robo software.

Session 2 - Moving arms.

This week we continued with last weeks work - completing the control sheet.

We met with varying degrees of success with this. Some children managed to to record a number of commands, while others seemed to get stuck. While many wanted to make it work, some just gave up if they couldn't make it work.

After 20minutes on this we fed back any of the new commands that we had discoveried. I then set the children the challenge of getting the robot to wave with both arms. I did give the children some guidance in how to move the arms - mainly for those groups who hadn't recorded many commands.

They most useful tool to assist groups was good questioning, How did you do this? How are you going to move one arm up? etc...

In terms of ways to improve - even though the exploring task is interesting. In order to focus more initially next time I would start with getting the Robosapien to wave. Thus focusing on the more basic and useful commands. Then we would move on to find out what else he he can be programmed to do.

Next time - how can we record this information?

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Session 1 - How do we control robots....

Last week I finally unveiled the Robosapien Robots the children in my class.

It took a while sorting out batteries- these guys take 6 D and 7 AAA, that's a lot with 6 robots.

So we started off quite simply today.

I wanted the children to discover what the robots can do - so they where set the task of completing a control sheet. It had all the different combinations of buttons you could press and the children had to find out what the did. (This was adapted from a Q4technologies example.)
The children where instantly engaged with the robots. They worked in groups of 4/5 which seemed to work quite well - I had already explained that if groups argued over the robots then would loose the use of one. Bit harsh but it seemed to work. I do think the more robots the better. 10 for a class would be ideal - groups of 3.

The task itself, finding out what the robot could do, did work but I gave the children the whole sheet, this was too much to do. It'd be best to focus on one section and definitely model how to use and read the table. I had to refocus each group onto the Task and remid them to record. All groups did complete some of the sheet - but no group completed all of it. The children where very excited, so could explain why they wheren't that bothered about recording, as they all where experimeneting with the robot. The Task was a good way of introducing them to the robots - but it needs to be be locked down a little more to focus on the task.

The groups did feedback a move they discovered to the rest of the class.

Next time we are going to go back to the control sheet and they will be asked to get the robot to perform a series of tasks.

GENERAL USE POINT - we discovered that 1 remote will control a number of robots. So when children are working in groups make sure they are spaced out so, other groups won't interfere as much.

Check out the pictures and video.