CS & STEM are FUN! A Sphero Workshop at Loyola
by Karon Johnson
Loyola Educational Technology students and faculty. From left to right: Kevin Solomowitz, Dr. Kelly Keane, Irene A. Bal, and Karon Johnson.
On Saturday, March 25th, Loyola’s Educational Technology program co-hosted a Sphero Workshop with the Maryland Society for Educational Technology (MSET) at Loyola’s Timonium Graduate Center, where K-12 educators and administrators from the surrounding areas engaged in workshop sessions about integrating Sphero into their classrooms and schools. The sessions included The Power to Create Keynote presentation, Sphero Indi, BOLT, and RVR+ littleBits. These sessions provided opportunities for educators to discover and explore computational thinking, understand how to solve real-world problems using programming and robots, and solve engineering design challenges using varying materials.
Keynote: The Power to Create by Sarah Thomas, Ph.D.
Dr. Thomas presenting with the reflection question: How can you and your students leverage technology to increase the power of your creativity?
The event started with an inspirational presentation from the keynote speaker, Sarah Thomas, Ph.D., who is the Regional Technology Coordinator for Prince George's County Public School System. Her presentation entitled The Power to Create offered participants opportunities to engage in conversation around increasing and fostering engagement, prioritizing creativity, and building community. Dr. Thomas provided a thought-provoking question at the end of her presentation, along with a plot twist. Her reflection question stated: How can you and your students leverage technology to increase the power of your creativity? Some of the participant's answers were to bring in new ideas that we will discover here today, find a community to help learn new things and get out of the repetitive ways of doing things. The plot twist to Dr. Thomas's presentation is that she used an artificial intelligence (AI) slide generator to create her presentation and used this as an example to show how technology can be leveraged to enhance creativity.
Workshop Sessions (Sphero Indi, BOLT, and RVR+ littleBits)
The three hands-on workshop sessions included the specific Sphero devices: Indi, BOLT, and RVR+ littleBits. These sessions provided opportunities for participants to bring their unique capabilities through design and exploration while using technology to enhance their learning experiences.
Sphero Indi Session
Tim Dixon and Stephanie Krisulevicz collaborate to design their Indi track
The Sphero Indi workshop provided specific opportunities for participants to use a robot to expand their imagination through building mazes, solving puzzles, and driving a robot. This tool's mission is to teach coding to beginners and develop computer science and STEAM skills. Indi can be integrated into all contents and engage learners from K-12 in exploration and imagination. This session was all about collaboration, where participants had to pair up and work together through various challenges. “My partner and I had first to strategize what the materials do (the different colors indicate different commands for the robot) and what makes the car change directions, accelerate, and stop. We were able to create and build connections, and had to collaborate, communicate, and listen with one another as we solved the problems that occurred. This level of fun and critical thinking when solving problems enhanced our learning experiences and inspired us to use our imagination” stated Karon Johnson, a participant of the event and graduate student in the Educational Technology Program at Loyola. Learn more about the Sphero Indi robot: https://sphero.com/pages/sphero-indi.
Bolt session facilitator Ben Hurley, EdTech Coach, and K-8 Computer Science lead from Washington County Public Schools, explaining how to code the Bolt to move
The BOLT session allowed participants to engage in a spherical programmable robot. This robot uses draw, block, or Java coding and has powerful sensors, infrared technology, ambient light, and inertial measurement units to help the BOLT robot stabilize and be ready to roll. This tool can be integrated across all contents and K-12 students. Participants experienced this tool by connecting to their cell phone (the programming device) to experiment with the roll blocks. Participants explored the robots traveling patterns, agility, and movement duration in the roll block activity. Learn more about the Sphero Bolt robot: https://sphero.com/products/sphero-bolt.
Olivier Millogo holding the Sphero Bolt and coding the program with a tablet
“One of my biggest takeaways during the conference was learning about all the different technology tools! The Sphero Bolt was my favorite of the day. I had never seen it before, and it was so much fun for me to learn how to use it! I can only imagine how engaging it must be for elementary school students!” stated Kevin Solomowitz, a participant of the event, is an elementary school instrumental music director for Howard County Public School System and a graduate student in the Educational Technology Program at Loyola.
RVR+ littleBits Session
Participants collaborating to code their RVR+ robot and build the littleBits components
The RVR+ littleBits session allowed participants to drive an RVR+ by collaborating with a peer to build a circuit. The littleBits were provided to create the circuit that counts every time it receives a signal. In this activity, participants had to build a circuit that swings the arm to pick the apple, and the circuit must be attached to and powered by RVR+. Participants formed two-person groups and chose from various materials, such as pipe cleaners, twist ties, craft sticks, and more. During the creating process, participants had to determine the height, build a tree, and arrange the tree and apple in a pattern around the room. Participants also had to ensure that a mechanism was attached to the RVR+ that would pick the apple. Most importantly, no human intervention could occur when picking the apple. Learn more about the Sphero RVR+ Programmable robot: https://sphero.com/products/rvr and littleBits: https://sphero.com/collections/design-build-systems.
The RVR+ successfully picking the apple without the tree's foundation falling
Terrance Sellman, a Math EC/4th Grade Math, Science, and Health Teacher at Rogers Heights Elementary School in Prince George’s County Public School System, and alumnus of the Loyola Educational Technology program, attended the event and reflected, “I learned how coding is used as a building block that can be used in other learning genres, such as recognizing patterns and decomposing problems. Through hands-on exploration, technology is leveraged, building the knowledge and confidence of the learner and allowing students to take ownership of their learning. This aligns with the articles and tasks I used in Loyola’s EdTech program because it allows the learner to participate in the 4Cs of 21st Century Learning.”
Loyola Educational Technology Program
The Loyola Educational Technology program provides opportunities for current students to participate in workshops such as the MSET conference. In addition, alumni from the program are provided opportunities to connect with current students and participate in Educational Technology events to continue engaging in new learning.
Want to know more about the online Loyola Educational Technology program? Find more information on the program at https://loyola.edu/edtech and follow the Loyola Ed Tech program on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok - @LoyolaET
Contributors to this Post
Terrance Sellman, an alumnus of the Loyola Educational Technology program, is a Math EC/4th Grade Math, Science, Health Teacher at Rogers Heights Elementary School. You can connect with Terrance via: Twitter: @mr_s_teaches and Instagram: @mr.s.teaches.
Kevin Solomowitz, a current student of the Loyola Educational Technology program, is an elementary school instrumental music director in Howard County Public School System.
A special thank you to Kevin Solomowitz, Karon Johnson, Dr. Brian Cook, and Irene A. Bal for the images.
Learn more about MSET: https://www.msetonline.org/
About the Author
Karon Johnson, a current graduate student Karon Johnson wrote the blog post. She is also the current Graduate Assistant for Loyola's Educational Technology MEd Program. She teaches dance and health at Gwynn Park High School in Prince George's County Public Schools. She also assists in curriculum writing for both contents and enjoys being a dance team coach and equity lead for her school.
Karon’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/Karonluvcreator
Published: June 16, 2023