ISTE was a whirlwind of ideas, products, and stories about making and STEAM initiatives that are taking place all over the country. Coding, making, and STEAM curriculum were hot, hot, hot with playgrounds, sessions, and vendors all showcasing a wide variety of products, curricula, and implementation ideas for teachers. Curriculum that teaches coding is free and readily available from a variety of sources, including code.org and the new Google coding curriculum. Here are some products or resources that are worth a look.
You can certainly tell that small micro-controller boards are set to make an appearance in a classroom near you. There were several low-cost devices that allow your students to get started in coding and exploring.
One of these pocket-sized, programmable computer’s worth noting is the BBC. This tiny device was given free to about one-million 11-year-olds across the United Kingdom allowing them to discover how they can interface the physical world to digital platforms.
For about $14, the micro:bit combines a pocket-sized coding device featuring several sensors and LED’s. Further, the micro:bit website is full of coding languages, and a simple interface which will help your kids get creative. From making their own games to building a wireless selfies controller, the possibilities are endless.
There are two programmable buttons that can be used to control games or pause and skip songs on a playlist. The micro:bit can even detect motion and tell you which direction you are heading in. Built-in Low Energy Bluetooth connectivity enables the BBC micro:bit to interact with other devices and the Internet.
To learn more, check out the links below:
For a bigger experience, PiTop is a “build your own computer” kit complete with add-ons powered by a Raspberry Pi. This kit builds a fully functioning computer that students can code and will run Google Chrome as web browser. Lessons are included to teach students how to build and run the additional items included with the kit. Price point is about $300 per unit with volume discounts available. Best Buy is supposed to carry them, but you can also order online. https://pi-top.com/buy/pi-top
Parrot has mini drones that sell for as low as $60. These drones were used by one school team to create an after school club that races drones. Once students get excited about them, they are invited to begin coding and programming the drones. https://www.parrot.com/us/MINIDRONES#minidrones
Google was dispensing free Google cardboard from a vending machine and advertising their new computer curriculum. The new coding curriculum includes free resources for teachers, compatible apps for Android phones that act as sensors to measure motion and force, and specific teacher guides for integrating coding into the classroom. Definitely worth checking out! https://vr.google.com/cardboard/
Ozobot Evo, the newest little bot in the family, has infrared sensors that avoid obstacles and it can be programmed from some apps. Evo adds functionality to the ozobot line.
The family of educational games from Osmo keeps growing. Kids really like Masterpiece, where the monster pulls their drawing right into the screen. https://www.playosmo.com/en/
Check out free curricular resources from NASA if your school is back in session mid-late August. https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/solar.html If you are too late for that, consider joining the World Moon Project with your students. http://worldmoonproject.org/index.php/about-project
Hope you can enjoy an opportunity to play with some of these fun and educational resources!
Jan Harding (@jharding): Jan is an Instructional Technology Consultant for Macomb Intermediate School District, co-developer of 21Things 4 Teachers and Students, and Communications officer for MACUL SIGMM.