We have been using TTS BeeBots with younger students in school for a while now, but have not until recently had an affordable floor turtle option that we could use with older children to support extension of floorwork and transition to the onscreen LOGO work we want to develop with them. Last Summer I invested in a class set of Probots also from TTS to help us bridge this gap, adding a new layer in the progression of learning in control and modelling with students at school.
The BeeBot has proven a popular and fantastic device to use with young students. I have posted a number of times about how we have used these in the classroom, to play sequencing games, develop prediction and conslidate spatial language. Staff who have used the BeeBot, have begun to find some very creative ways of including the "creatures" in their classroom activities to support learning and sequential thinking particularly across the curriculum, through self developed play mats, based around experiences using TTS's Focus on BeeBot software . The simplicity of the beebot as a device has helped open up and engage my colleagues with the teaching of Control and modelling in the early years and Key Stage 1. This has been supported by work on how with a little creativity and use of other tools this device can enable us to support learning and meet the current early control experiences our students need.
The Beebot's simple keypad enables forward, backward, right and left turns to be input as strings of commands, before using the go button to start the turtle out on the process of carrying out its programmed actions as a procedure. Turns to the left and right are input in multiples of 1/4 turn or 90 degrees. Developing learning within the control and modelling curriculum however is not just about the toole we use, but the pedagogy and thought process behind and which we bring to the activities, and how we use the resources available to contextualise and set problems.
Enter the Probot, here spotted at what I am told is the most picturesque view in the UK, Wastwater. Shaped like a car this device has a numerical key pad, enabling more complex sequences of commands, to be entered. Its programming language based on LOGO, enables commands to be input as strings as with the BeeBot, but in addition, through use of the onboard menu, procedures can be written and saved, for inclusion in more complex procedures. Rotations are input numerically as well as distances , so the vehicle is able to make turns other than right angles, and does not require repeated input of commands.
Here is a short video clip to show you what I mean.
In the Video I revisited a pattern sequence I created earlier using LOGO.
First of all the Probot was programmed to travel around/trace the perimeter of an imaginary hexagon by inputting
then pressing go
Then a pen was placed in the central pen holder, the placed Probot on a large piece of card and the go button pressed. This lead to the Probot tracing its route on the card and drawing the hexagon I had previously input.
Selecting from the menu to make a new procedure (proc 1), the sequence of commands to draw a hexagon were added, and the procedure saved
and pressing go
resulted in the probot drawing the hexagon 6 times, with a rotation of 6o degrees in between each hexagon.
The ability to store and run procedures, rather than inputting strings of commands, means that this turtle can be used to mimic on screen activities, and through the use of a usb cable onscreen activity and procedures can be downloaded from the software package Probotix , to the device, enabling onscreen activities to be transferred to the "floor turtle." I have to say that at the moment I am not having as much fun with this software as I thought I might, though this may be just due to my lack of familiarity with its quirks. I will get back to this later I hope, but currently it tends to lock up, when it doesn't recognise code, or when I make mistakes. Perhaps this will be different if I treat it more like the probot, and less like the LOGO environments I am familiar with. This however is a worrying aspect, especially if I want to use this software to support the floor to screen links I want to make.