Design Thinking: New to the Classroom?

As we all know, buzzwords and education have a close relationship.  The evolution of education methods and movements to differentiating within the classroom is a road paved with buzzwords.  In the last 20 years, some classrooms have seen a revolution in the set-up, content, and learning environments they contain.

All of the buzzwords that we have worked with lately have been leading to a similar outcome. Project based learning, differentiated learning, inquiry, beginning with a big question and now design thinking are aimed at having students invest in their learning, developing interests and creativity and blending knowledge across curricular areas.

Knowledge is now more accessible than ever before in the history of the world and students are capable from a very early age of availing themselves of “the answers” 24 hours a day.  Current educators can take the opportunity to challenge students by pairing their acquired skills with further problem solving.

Through the last 20 years in the classroom, the movement toward creativity and design thinking has been a deliberate and worthwhile outcome of the digitally connected classroom.  Educators can now prepare students in the K-12 classroom to address authentic, real world challenges discussed in some post secondary settings. The experience of working through concrete problems gives students various ways to build on current foundation knowledge in a setting more like the work place.

Working with a group, discussing possible outcomes, revisiting prototypes, reworking failures gives students ways to express their strengths and to build on those skills that need work. Educators that build relationships with their students through creativity and experimentation establish deep learning memories that stay with students much longer than any memorization of facts.

Did I include enough educational buzzwords for you? Just keep in mind that educators are following a pathway where all buzzwords lead to engaged, student invested learning opportunities. Inquiry learning leads to engagement as does design thinking and maker learning.  Students who experience learning, rather than read or memorize for testing, create a rich learning memory.


Sphero Sprk and Coding

Okay, Sphero Sprk is a ton of fun, just on its own, without the learning and coding part.


So my advice is when you get one (or 25) for your classroom is to just let the students experiment with the various apps and the robot for a couple of days.  It will settle down after a week or two.  Maybe.

Initializing the Sprk with your ipad is the first step and I started by pairing my Sprk to someone else’s MacBook who happened to be in the library so my advice for pairing is to read ALL the instructions.

There are 5 apps that I downloaded to facilitate the use of the Sphero Sprk. The SPRK app helps to initialize the robot, pairing it to your ipad, and learning some simple coding information.  Use this one for the coding part.  Try some pre-written code in the sample programs and then try coding and adding some new programs. “Jump” was my favourite.

The SpheroCam app is very fun.  Using a “joystick” type controller on screen you can “drive” your robot and control its movement.

The Sphero app contains the game type format for Sphero Sprk but, while not being terribly educational, is so much fun.  For example, by Level 10, your Sphero Sprk has mastered the Hokey Pokey.

Sphero Draw&Drive and SpheroGolf also have many game-like qualities but are fun for the very young to learn how to manipulate the robot.

With the emphasis on having students experience some kind of code writing in elementary school, this robot affords this opportunity for a fairly reasonable price.  All in all, the total price for one would be about $200 Cdn.  Did I mention it flashes patterns of colours?  That is another programming part of the app.  Have fun.