Years past when teaching the basics of graphing I used to collect data with dice rolls. Things have changed and with the introduction of Sphero robots, Flynn and I developed a lesson that linked to ISTE Standard 5b “Students collect data or identify relevant data sets…”. 

Last week we co-taught the lesson that connected computation thinking and graphing while collaborating in teacher-assigned groupings (mixed ability). The task was split into 3  primary investigations:

  1. Inquire into how to make the Sphero change color randomly
  2. Collect data on random color changes and record it
  3. Presented your recorded data in a graph

Developing a plan for collaboration

Flynn introduced the activity by developing ground rules for collaboration and relating them to classroom essential agreements. He separated the discussion into two parts: how can we collaborate and what skills do we need to be successful? It was a rich discussion where students had to investigate how to actually collaborate before investigating into the task. 

Developing a plan for inquiry

Students were placed in groups and developed a plan. They documented ideas of how they might program the Sphero and made tally charts for how they could record their data. 

Don’t steal the inquiry

As a technology learning coach, I’m often asked to help ‘teach’ a new app or tech skill to students. Years back my method would have been to share my screen to the projector and walk through the necessary steps one-by-one. It was painful for me, for the students, for everyone involved. 

For this inquiry, Flynn and I didn’t want to do a guided lesson on how to program the Sphero. Many of our students had previous experience with block-based programming, so they had the foundations in place, they then just needed to draw connections between that prior knowledge and the Sphero programming. 

Watching the students collaborate and work through the challenge was inspiring. Most quickly found the tools they needed and then found a variety of methods to move from one color to the next. 

How students collaborated (or didn’t)

An app that I’ve become fond of recently is Equity Maps. Equity Maps allows you to chart & record the interaction of students to graphically illustrate levels of participation and types of contributions made by each student. I’ve found it incredibly valuable for all kinds of collaborations happening across the school, from elementary to high school. 

During this lesson I sat near one group and I documented their collaboration via Equity Maps. As a non-participating observer, I only needed to click the name of the student who was talking. This information then helped produce some analytics of the conversation. A made a few observations about the analytics it shared:

  • J struggled to join in the conversation, speaking only 2 times
  • The conversation went back and forth between M and N multiple times
  • There wasn’t much silence
  • J was more likely to communicate with N than M (though with only two times speaking it might not be a fair assumption)

J needed more structure to contribute effectively to the conversation. He struggled and needed more opportunities to develop as a communicator. In the future, I think he’d benefit from having a role in the collaboration. 

What did the students come up with?

The inquires resulted in some very awesome color changes:

Recording the data would need to wait for our next lesson as we ran out of time, but I’m predicting  few challenges with deciphering what color the Sphero is displaying. With 16,777,216 different possible colors, if might be hard to create a tally chart to record what colors they see. 

I look forward to seeing how they overcome that challenge and what graphs they produce.