Sphero: Fad or Fantastic?


I bought one. The school bought a few.  Now what?  This little guy is a rolling dynamo (for an hour per charge) and the interest / excitement a robotic ball can generate is impressive.  So I feel, as an educator, I need to be able to prove how a robot ball helps me cover curriculum.   Or, is it a way, a “hook” I can get kids to explore curriculum elements through…  a device or vehicle?

I think it’s both.   Sphero can be a character in a building challenge, or a math tool programmed to analyze angles and distance.  It can be a representation of a sci-fi future (green screen movie trailer alert) or the paintbrush in a slow exposure light paint art piece.

So I’ve done some scouring to start a list of ways I want to explore with this high tech programmable pet.  One thing is certain.  This is meaningful education as long as the student is the doer, the coder, the planner, the engineer, the reporter, the film director, the creative problem solver.  Otherwise it’s just a cool toy.

I’m in!  Fantastic!

Here’s my idea list.  I’d certainly love some suggestions.

SPHERO Ideas…so far!



Rejigging “Reading Response”


“Read pages x – z”.  “Write paragraphs/sentences/response to text”.  Sound familiar?  Hopefully not to students in a 21st Century classroom.  Familiar = boring.  Boring = tedious.  Tedious doesn’t always lead to the engagement with the text that we are looking for.

How can we be creative, engaging, and perhaps collaborative with our reading response activities?  I have a few ideas I’d like to try out.  The students and I will learn together to see how effective the new strategies turn out to be.  The framework I am looking at adopting was introduced to me by the author Paul Solarz in “Learn Like a Pirate”.  He uses small student groupings to collectively read novels.  This student-directed reading time is then followed by some type of digital response.  In fact, students look up a ‘digital bookmark’ to see their reading task for the day and the specified amount of time needed to complete the digital response at the end.  The teacher observes, conferences as necessary and lets students lead the experience (student leadership and control bumps up task engagement).

What types of digital reading responses might I have groups (or individuals) complete?  Here’s a list of some digital storytelling ideas I’m anxious to try:

  • Google ‘My Maps’ –> Students drop pins in specified locations on a map and add photographs and paragraphs/captions retelling activities happening on the interactive map.
  • Shadow Puppet Chapter Summary –> Photos, word cards and even short videos are edited into a puppet with verbal narration of learnings
  • Wordle –> Students create a word cloud with key focus words, ideas, struggles, etc.
  • Padlet –> Students add important quotes from the chapter and add their own inferences about why the quotes are meaningful to the problem/solution
  • Adobe Voice –> Similar to Shadow Puppet.  A very slick and attractive way to organize photos collected that connect to the story. Perhaps a trip outside with the iPads to find artifacts to include in a visual collection, complete with music and narration.
  • Google Forms –> Students create their own chapter quiz (re-teaching is ultimate learning).
  • Green Screen –> Students choose a background and perform a drama tableaux of the key problem in the chapter/book.
  • Google Slides –> My students love this app and are always looking for opportunities to show what they know with this easy and visual format.
  • Google Classroom –> We have many well-used forms in our online Literacy class.  Book recommendations, big ideas wiki,  website review, etc.
  • Viewpure/youtube search –> Browsing time for media that links to the text. Reviewing the appropriateness of sites.  Understanding why authors use social media to discuss/promote texts.
  • Google Draw –> digital creativity…create new book covers, or add images to image-free novels ; ).
  • Google Docs –> Traditional comprehension questions for students to demonstrate the knowledge I’m looking to see.  We think typing is more fun than printing!
  • Stop motion –> Perhaps for a final task. A recreation of a favourite part with an accompanying article.
  • GarageBand? –> Why not?  How about demonstrate understanding with creating soundtracks for the ‘movie version’ of a text.  Fun.

Or…we could do a book review ; )