At St. John School in Guelph, Ontario there are quite a few students who had the opportunity to learn and use the coding program “Scratch”. A Coding Club was formed! These coding coaches are presently in Grade 4. They were interested in trying something a little different and had the opportunity to try a brand-new program involving Edison robots called Edblocks. https://www.edblocksapp.com
Students loved that they had the ability to program code on the Edblocks website and then test their code, in real-time, with an Edison robot. They quickly figured out that they could select blocks and move them into a horizontal line to form their code. The Edison robot could be connected to their computers using the audio jack. The program communicated their code to the Edison and then students could push a triangular button to see what happened. The coders were enthusiastic and excited to see how their program would work. Oftentimes, they needed to change their programming because the desired effect just didn’t happen. Instead of being upset that their Edison didn’t move or act as they had planned, they conferred with their friends, problem-solved together, and could usually figure out what part of the code needed to be changed. This created a very safe, collaborative environment for the students.
The Coding Club members continuously asked for extra time to use the Edblocks application and even took the robots home for their families to see what they were doing. Parents were happy to join their children in programming the Edison and even tweeted about it!
The Coding Club continues to ask for time to use the Edison robots and the Edblocks coding program. Some create music, others try and drive their robots in a pattern or path. They can even manipulate the lights to flash in a specific way.
One challenge that we had with this program was lack of time to use it! Integrating this coding application into the curriculum is the next step for our Coding Club. Students continue to have one or two opportunities each week to play with the program and understand how it functions. The next step will be to implement our Edblocks Weekly Challenge where students will be asked to perform tasks that connect to the Ontario Math curriculum. For example, one set of kids were independently working out how time and distance were related. They wanted to find out how far an Edison robot can travel in 10 seconds.
The Edison robots are very reasonably priced. If you plan to try Edison robots and use the Edblocks application, you should invest in rechargeable batteries. We didn’t find that the batteries died quickly however our students do not tire of coding! Buying rechargeable batteries is recommended. When asked what they liked about the Edblocks program, the kids agreed that seeing the robot carry out their instructions is very gratifying. They love to work together and solve problems together. Their only advice to the company that makes Edison is to make their robots transparent, so they can see inside of it and how it works.
Overall, we would recommend that other kids in primary and junior grades try Edblocks and the Edison robot. It is an inexpensive investment and it gives students immediate feedback. They are enthusiastic to try new things and discover new functions.
Melanie Drummond is a Grade 2 and 3 teacher at St John School in the Wellington Catholic District School Board.