Coding in the Early Years is something that I have been tinkering with since the new primary curriculum became statutory. I’ve planned unplugged computing strategies which support the later use of BeeBots and practised skills on a suite of iPad apps designed to apply this skill of coding.
This year I’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on Dash robots that connect to our class iPads via Bluetooth. This robots have a suite of apps which progress from early control skills (like a remote controlled car) through to Scratch-like coding blocks that support the Year 6 objectives.
This blog post is all about the second app in the suite from MakeWonder, Path. When Dash is paired with an iPad and Path children learn to control the robot by programming a series of actions in a sequence. There are many different scenarios and actions that Dash needs to carry out in a specific order.
The activity I planned this week though made use of the freeplay mode in Path. We have been reading ‘Peace at Last’ this week and learning the story so that we can adapt it in our writing,
For this activity we used the Dash robot with the accompanying app ‘Path’ from MakeWonder.
Path works by drawing a route on a map for Dash to follow. Using the freeplay scene on Path and the speaker function, I pre-recorded sections of the story in to each of the 10 available recording options by tapping a number icon and then the red microphone button.
1 – ‘neeeeowm said Baby Bear being an aeroplane’
2- ‘snore snore, went Mrs Bear’
3- ‘drip drip drip, went the tap’
4- ‘twit too, said the owl’
5- ‘I can’t stand this, said Mr Bear’
.. and so on to 10.
The best part of using the app is that the recordings are transferred to Dash and stored there. Therefore these recordings are saved and can be reused every time Dash is connected to an iPad (until the 10 recording slots are rerecorded with another message!)
The children need to drag the speaker action on to the track then select the correct recording number for the next part of the story. When they tap a number, the recording plays through Dash’s speaker. They work one speaker action at a time until the whole story is sequenced on the line. They soon remember that the repeated refrain of the story, ‘Oh no, said Mr Bear, I can’t stand this!’ is saved in number 5 and this repeated refrain needs to be programmed after every event in the story. They noticed the number pattern of the recurring 5 (2 5 1 5 4 5…).
Once the Path is set and the story is sequenced using the speaker actions and checking the number code has a repeating 5 throughout, the children tap the red flashing icon on the picture of Dash on the screen. This sets the robot moving across the carpet and performing the story for them to listen to, check and debug on Path if needed.
I began to encourage the children to write down the number sequence that retells the story correctly and keep it as a ‘top secret code’ that they cracked. This of course applied number writing and pattern spotting.
Wrapping Code Around The Curriculum
There is code in everything that we do as humans. We like order, sequence, predictability and there are patterns in most things that we do. Pop songs, dances and even stories follow a structure and this structure can be recorded as a code. This coding experience supported our story sequence objective, it made the computational thinking purpose and the robot play meaningful.