Teachers are always on the lookout for the best technology to use with their students. I have compiled a list of a few of my favorite items on the market. I have used each of these items in my classroom with my students and can personally testify to the educational value each one presents.
littleBits — littleBits are electrical building blocks. Sets include a battery and a variety of small pieces, or modules, that connect with magnets. Each color-coded module completes an action. For example, pink modules affect all the modules after them while green modules complete tasks. Examples of pink modules are dimmer switches, pressure sensors, sound sensors, and buttons. Green pieces light up, shake, twist, and turn. littleBit kits are as diverse as their modules. Basic kits are perfect for children beginning at age eight. Other kits like the Cloudbit and Synth are designed for the middle/high school crowd. The Cloudbit kit turns almost anything in your house into a wifi compatible device while musical creations can be made using the Synth kit.
These are the perfect gift for the future engineer, architect, or artist. Children can combine littleBit components to build tools, art projects, cities, or even musical scores. The combinations are limitless. littleBit Kits begin at $99.99 and increase in price as the size and complexity of the kit increases.
Dot and Dash – Dot and Dash are programmable robots made by Wonder Workshop. They connect to tablets using Bluetooth. Dash is the more robust robot of the two. He is mobile and has a variety of accessories (Xylophone, bulldozer bar, launcher, tow hook, smartphone mount, and building brick connectors). Dot is smaller and immobile. Visually appealing is an understatement when describing these robots. They are bright and colorful and their round shapes make users fall in love! Once they are turned on, you realize the love is not only skin deep. Introducing coding, measurement, sequencing, and problem-solving are just a few of the skills Dot and Dash introduce. Additionally, these hardy little guys are capable of handling the abuse children (and adults) are sure to dish out. In my classroom, they have been dropped, carried by their heads, pushed around and fought over, yet they keep on rolling.
Wonder Workshop suggests these robots for children as old as eight. However, in my opinion, with the wide variety of apps Wonder Workshop offers, they can easily be used by children as young as six. Go, turns Dash into a remote controlled vehicle, while Path teaches VERY basic programming by asking children to create a path on a screen for Dash to follow. As children and their skills grow, so do the apps available. In Blockly, a more advanced programming option, Children drag blocks of programming onto the screen. Dash and Dot complete the tasks programmed. Wonder is the most advanced app Wonder Workshop currently offers. Like Blockly, students practice programming. Wonder introduces a new programming format allowing for more complex tasks. Click here to read the full TWA review of Wonder.
Dash can be bought for $150 while Dot can be purchased for $50. Both robots can be purchased together for $199 or you can get both robots and all the accessories for $279. Whether purchasing one or all of Wonder Workshop’s magical creations you will not be disappointed!
Chromebooks — Chromebooks are the newest revolution in educational technology. They are best described as laptop computers that ONLY include a Chrome browser. Memory is limited so there are no word processing, presentation software, or any other downloadable programs. Then, what’s the point? Those familiar with the Google Chrome browser know that Chrome includes Google Drive—a cloud based program that includes word-processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing tools. Additionally, Chrome boasts the Chrome Web Store. The Web Store, similar to Apple’s App Store or Android’s Play Store, includes apps and extensions designed exclusively for the Google Chrome browser. There are a plethora of educational apps perfect for students needing additional skill practice. All that is needed to access these amazing tools is a free Google account.
Want to work off-line—not a problem? Many apps, as well as Drive components, are accessible with no internet connection. Once the Chromebook becomes reconnected, all work done offline will sync. Perhaps the best thing about Chromebooks is the price. Chromebooks can be purchased for as low as $150. An enormous value when compared to a fully decked out desktop computer.
Osmo – Osmo is a magical combination of physical manipulatives and apps. Using a mirror sitting on top of the iPad’s front-facing camera, the Osmo apps are able to “see” and interact with objects sitting on the table in front of the iPad. Purchasing an Osmo Starter Kit gives you the iPad stand and mirror, a set of well-made wooden tangram pieces, and two full set of letters ($79.99). For an additional $20, you can purchase the Genius Kit, which also includes a full set of number tiles.
Tangram, Osmo Numbers, Words, Masterpiece, and Newton are the apps associated with Osmo. Each app specializes in something different. Tangram offers four levels of play. The iPad screen shows an object created with tangram pieces. The user then takes the physical tangram pieces to match the image on the iPad screen. For each correct tangram placement, a rewarding sound is played. This app is best suited for students six and above.
Osmo letters offer two levels—Jr. and Play. The junior level shows a picture on the screen with a corresponding word with all the letters in place except for one. Children must figure out what the word is, and then the missing letter. Next, the child puts a letter tile on the table in front of the iPad matching the missing letter. Play, the upper level, shows a picture and empty spaces where the letters should be. It can be played with multiple players and it quickly becomes a fun competition.
Numbers begins by teaching number concepts and number recognition in a fun, adorable game where children pop bubbles filled with water by matching the numbers on the bubbles to the equal amount of number tiles placed on the table. As children progress, the numbers get bigger and more difficult.
App developers outdid themselves with Newton. Newton is a physics-based game and the user does not need any physical manipulatives to play. Ball drops from the top of the iPad screen. The students’ goal is to get the ball to hit one or more targets randomly placed on the screen. To do this, students must change the trajectory of the ball. Doing so requires users to place objects on the table in front of the iPad. The ball on the screen then bounces and rolls off these objects. Creativity and problem solving abound in this app.
Masterpiece, my least favorite app, allows users to trace pictures (taken with the iPad camera, a picture already embedded in the app, or pictures taken from online) onto paper. It can be difficult to manipulate the pen and get it to match the lines on the iPad screen. Here creativity dwindles as users essentially trace objects on the screen. Children, however, will love the fact that they can produce life-like pictures with little skill. Click here to read TWA's full review of Masterpiece.
Osmo is one of a kind and creative! I highly recommend it!
Ozobots — Ozobots are perfect for youngsters who want to learn more about coding. These adorable, tiny robots offer a huge value for your money. They can be programmed using an easy drag-and-drop coding language, which can be found at ozoblockly.com. Unique to Ozobot, is its ability to be programmed using color sequences drawn on paper using markers. Ozobots “drive” along colored lines on paper. When the user adds blocks of colors to these lines, Ozobot is programmed. For example, Ozobot would follow the black line below. As it rolls over the sequence of red and green, it will recognize this color sequence as the “tornado” move and it will begin turning in circles.
Turn right, turn left, go straight, jump right, jump, left, and turbo speed is all examples of codes that can be drawn. Ozobot also offers a selection of apps. Ozobot app includes several options in which the Ozobot drives directly on the screen—OzoDraw, OzoPath, and OzoLuck. OzoDraw allows users to digitally draw color sequences on the iPad screen. An osteopath is a game for one or two players. The goal of the game is to create a path from the starting box to the ending box. Players compete to reach the ending box first. OzoLuck takes advantage of Ozobot’s ability to randomly choose a direction when it comes to an intersection. For example, when two perpendicular line intersects, Ozobot will randomly choose which direction to go (unless otherwise coded with color sequences). OzoLuck has a Magic 8 Ball quality. It offers three mazes and the user can choose between 2 and 8 customizable outcomes. Users place the OzoBot on the maze where it will run through the maze and “choose” an outcome.
OzoGroove is Ozobot’s other app. Users employ drag and drop programming to add a variety of dance moves to a song. The app can program up to five Ozobots at once thereby creating an Ozobot Dance Corps. The downfall of this app is the number of moves necessary to complete the programming of one song—over 400 moves. This much programming becomes tedious, especially for younger students.
Overall, Ozobot is an outstanding addition to any classroom or home. Click here read two other TWA reviews of this amazing product.
Katie Chirhart is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been teaching for sixteen years. She has specializations in early childhood and reading. Recently, she finished her Campus Technology Certification. She began her career in College Station, TX teaching a full inclusion pre-kindergarten class. Currently, Katie lives and works in Shreveport, LA. After spending ten years teaching third grade, she now teaches in an elementary iPad Lab. She has earned When time allows, she enjoys working with teachers far and wide sharing the wonders of technology. Her current job is a dream come true.