BETT 2008: More than just a toy, control highlights from the show

What was great this year, was to see some really creative new examples of environments developed to facilitate control and sensing activities through existing tools.

Go-robo, was a real surprise and a wow, I had a long chat today with colleagues at this stand, about the scripting environment they had created for desktop programming of the Robosapiens "toy," or "gadget." Like most controllable toys, the classroom or curricular application and use can be easily lost to non initiates or those who might not readily see the relevance to learning about ICT. This new software environment, currently existing as three packages, is a potentially exciting resource and development since the "toy" is something students may already have at home. Talking to a colleague recently who bought a RoboRaptor for one of his children, said he had stopped playing with it. Colleagues at the show suggested non engagement with the "toys" may stem from the complexities of learning to program them alone, and suggesting the view of these robots as toys oversimplified them. What greater motivation and relevance might there be for learning about control, monitoring and sensing than being able to bring something from home, have it placed centrally to a learning experience. For several years now the development of control and monitoring within the National Curriculum for ICT, have been highlighted as areas of national concern, here we have the potential not only to have control being developed at school, but children building personally on their experiences beyond the day. I am hoping I can persuade our LA support teachers and colleagues at CLCs to explore further and look into this tool on behalf of the city's ICT community. A couple of my students turned up on the last day of term with their RobRaptors on the last day of term, and in retrospect and after seeing the demo at the show am now quite disappointed at how they seemed to be used as large action figures. This really opened my eyes to a potential tool for learning that I had missed. Hey Simon what do you make of this?

The other control environment I really liked the look of was 2simple's 2control nxt. I will follow up on this later, as I took away a demo to play with. Last year I concentrated time on using tools we already had to develop an initial progression in control from foundation to y6. Beginning with the beebot and iBoard in the early years, moving through roamer (this year to be replaced by our class set of Probots) and LOGO in the middle years, and leading to Flowol with its onscreen mimics and flow chart based programming structure in y6.

Our current framework moves us through practical floor work using oral rehearsal and active flowcharting processes, with student recorded routines, and non pc based scripting until y3. Here floor based and practical flowcharting is extended to exploratory onscreen scripting, based on visual feedback, and driven through LOGO. Our dependence on onscreen work with LOGO and onscreen output is also heavily script driven between y4 and 5 with a return to flow chart based input processes with Flowol and its mimcs in Y6. 2Simple's 2control nxt, offers both scripting and flowcharting structures to be used alongside each other, enabling modelling through onscreen "mimics" based around LEGO NXT, and remotely through interfacing with and inputting programs to so called NXT bricks, 2Control working lego models. Within this environment a version of LOGO is used as a scripting tool alongside flowcharting to support input processes. As I said I still have a considerable amount of playing to do, and I am sure what I have said here fails to do justice to the tool. suffice to say on first glances it seems to fit nicely within and build upon the existing progression we have, as well as having obvious links to my other area of curricular responsibility DT. After further play, I am sure I will want to return to this later.

No comments: