Students with emotional and behavioral disorders struggle with basic social skills and classroom expectations. While social skills instruction can include direct instruction on appropriate use of social skills, it is challenging to create authentic scenarios where students can engage in collaborative tasks that may become frustrating and require the use of anger management strategies. To address the need for authentic social skills situations where students could participate in meaningful social skills lessons, a social skills unit around coding robots was developed. The purpose of this unit was to introduce students to basic block coding while coding robots to follow our school-wide expectations.
At Centennial School, students are taught our five school-wide expectations. These expectations are operationally defined in all areas of the school.
- Be There, Be Ready
- Be Responsible
- Be Respectful
- Keep Hands and Feet Safe
- Follow Directions
Throughout social skills instruction, students are explicitly taught how to follow expectations in the classroom, common areas (e.g., conference room, hallway, gym,library, kitchen, playground), and bus. At the beginning of the year, students spend social skills classes doing various activities to practice the expectations in each of these areas around the school. To introduce this social skills and coding unit, students were exposed to basic block coding through Scratch Jr. For this specific coding unit, we focused on following expectations during a student’s morning routine. First, students used their iPads and the app Notability to draw out the hallway and the path they take from the entrance of the building into the classroom where they greeted teachers and peers. Next, students worked in groups of 2-3 to code the path from the entrance to the end of the students’ morning routines with the app Blockly. Using the recording audio features, students recorded themselves greeting teachers and peers they typically see along their morning routine. Students were assigned different roles: time keeper, coder, and robot manager.
- Time Keeper: Keep track of when students need to be back in the classroom and remind students in the group to stay focused.
- Coder: Use the iPad to type in the code the group agrees on after conversation.
- Robot Manager: Picks up the robot with two hands and moves it to the starting point to run the code. Keeps the robot from moving too close to the walls. To try the code, students connected Dash robots from Wonder Workshop and ran the lines of code. Throughout the project, students encountered naturally frustrating situations such as entire lines of code deleting, the robot not pairing, the robots stopping in the middle of the code, peers disagreeing with ideas, and not liking their assigned job. Each of the two small groups had an assigned teacher who worked through these areas of need with students. When students became frustrated, we prompted them to use anger management strategies and to communicate respectfully with their groups.
To try the code, students connected Dash robots from Wonder Workshop and ran the lines of code. Throughout the project, students encountered naturally frustrating situations such as entire lines of code deleting, the robot not pairing, the robots stopping in the middle of the code, peers disagreeing with ideas, and not liking their assigned job. Each of the two small groups had an assigned teacher who worked through these areas of need with students. When students became frustrated, we prompted them to use anger management strategies and to communicate respectfully with their groups.
Ultimately, students took about 5 class periods (each about 45 minutes) to plan the code, run it several times, complete the final code run, and create the iMovie. During the final run of code, students used an iPhone mount on top of the Dash robots to capture the lines of code. Students also setup iPads along the paths of the robot to capture different angles of the robot. After this footage was collected, students Airdropped the footage from the iPhone to their iPads where they spliced the footage from multiple angles in iMovie to create a culminating video. Students narrated their voices over top of the video to explain how the robot was following the hallway and classroom expectations.
Students enjoyed the coding and found that running their code with the robots was reinforcing. Although this project was not graded with a specific rubric, students were awarded points daily using their point sheets. The biggest reflection from this project was that it took significantly longer for students to draft the code before they were successful with running the code and the robots. For planning purposes, allow for an extra period or two incase students lose their code due to an app crash.
Looking for more ideas on how to use Dash and Dot in the classroom? Visit Wonder Workshop’s classroom resources.