Dispelling Myths

Andrew with Dash Robotics

When you think of coding, robotics and creating equitable opportunities for students to access what is your level of comfort? Do you feel a sudden tightening in your chest, a raised heart rate, and a feeling of panic creeping in? 

If you nodded in agreement, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and slowly exhale. I am here to dispel the assumption that you must be an “expert” to successfully roll out emerging classroom technology.

The role of a teacher has evolved from that of a knower to that of a facilitator due in large part to new content standards, revolutionizing technology, and shifting career pathways. Simply stated, students do not need experts, they need access! In time, students will assume the role of the “more knowledgeable other” as curiosity fuels their desire to explore, question, and make sense of the unknown.

How do you create opportunities for this type of student-centered learning to occur? Allow me to introduce my buddies, Dash and Dot.

Meet Dash and Dot

I have had the pleasure and opportunity to play with alot robots from different manufacturers within my fourth-grade general/GATE classrooms. But, none to the degree of success, student engagement, and overall user-friendliness of Dash and Dot. These robots represent the flagship products from Wonder Workshop – and for many reasons.

Dash Robot

Dash and Dot come equipped with speakers, sensors, microphones, lights, and motors. Those features are activated and operated through a diverse suite of free apps developed to meet the needs of all learners. In terms of the most fitting age range for these true classroom wonders, I have used them successfully with students from transitional kindergarten all the way up to sixth grade. For middle schoolers and older, I would opt for the Cue, the newest addition to the Wonder Workshop family.

So, what sets Dash and Dot apart from one another? The main difference is that Dot remains stationary while Dash can be mobile. As a result, Dash is compatible with the whole suite of Wonder Workshop apps while Dot is not. Regardless of this minor difference, there are a ton of accessories and add-ons available for both, like launchers, building brick connectors, and xylophones.

Family of Apps

The family of apps for Dash and Dot include Go, Path, Xylo, Blockly, and Wonder. These apps go above and beyond to foster computational thinking. Students are put into the mindset of having to recognize patterns, develop solutions, and ultimately create algorithms to perform specific functions.

Dash Robotics Coding Software

Another key aspect of these apps is cross-platform integration. For instance, if your students have had any experience with Scratch Jr., Code.org, or Tynker, Blockly uses a similar programming language. It allows for a seamless classroom integration.

On the other hand, the Wonder app runs a proprietary flow-based programming language that simulates decision trees. Wonder is incredible because it provides scaffolded learning through an intuitive operational system that responds to user error. It also knows when to provide feedback in the form of in-depth on-screen tips, instructions, and short videos clips.

Although Blockly and Wonder are set in different programming languages, there is an artificial symbiotic relationship between the two. The skills gained in one are universal and applicable among the entire suite of apps.

Making the Right Choice

I began this piece by posing a sincere question. It wasn’t to discredit the magic that goes on in your classroom, or to minimize your unwavering passion and commitment for helping learners achieve their academic goals. It was to help reflect on how you are actively developing 21st-century skills like collaborating, critical thinking, and coding.

Dash Up Close

Whether you decide to include Dash, Dot, or both within your classroom (the latter of which I strongly recommend), there are infinite possibilities for authentic learning experiences to transpire with any of these robots. Moreover, there is a vast online repository of lesson plans created for teachers by teachers.

In addition to these independently-created resources, there is a comprehensive Learn to Code Curriculum guide that provides step-by-step instructions on best classroom practices. This guide pairs with the Blockly app and a series of non-digital challenge cards to create quests. (think of them as micro lessons that build upon one another)

With all the support available, your initial feeling of integrating robots and coding in your classroom should be a lot less daunting! Stay tuned for more learning as we navigate and troubleshoot through unboxing, setting up, and rolling out Dash and Dot in my next post.

Check out Dash: