Wednesday, May 09, 2018

My new friend, Cue!

I have had the chance to use Wonder Workshop's Dot, Dash, and Cue robots at various conference sessions. But these sessions were always guided by the presenter, so I never really got a chance to explore how to code with the robots.

I was so excited when Wonder Workshop send me a Cue of my very own! I had the time to explore the many options, learn how to code with the block option and compare it to the Javascript code, and play some interactive games with my new friend!

The Cue has a fun personality which makes it feel like a true AI robot! Actually, there are four personalities to pick from, and each has its own special conversational style. The Cue is targeted for students in middle school. However, with the block programming, upper elementary students could easily control the robot, and, with the javascript programming, Cue would provide enhanced practice with an actual programming language for high schoolers.

The technical components of the Cue robot are outlined on the Wonder Workshop information page. Some of these include:

  • An accelerometer and gyroscope
  • 3 proximity sensors
  • Real-time Bluetooth
  • IR robot interaction
  • 3 processors and a sensor function
  • Dual motors and potentiometers
  • 3 microphones and a speaker
  • Programming LED and buttons
  • 2 powered wheels and encoders

All of those components make for a very powerful programmable robot, but the fun factor of my friend Cue is the part I like best! 

You can record words and sounds for Cue to emit (my son made it burp, of course) and and the ability to use easy block programming made it simple for me to control.

There are some options that are coming soon to Cue including Apple Swift™ programming, detection of the direction of a voice, and the ability to be aware of the proximity of other nearby Cue robots.

Sketch Kit

The actual reason Wonder Workshop sent me my new best robot friend was for me to check out their new Sketch Kit. The Sketch Kit is an accessory for Dash and Cue. It includes a harness for the robot to hold a marker, six colored markers, and six project cards to help students practice using the Sketch Kit to draw. The Sketch Kit allows students to code Dash or Cue to draw a picture!

In addition, there is a large Whiteboard Mat available which allows students the ability to iterate their design and erase the false starts. (The Sketch Kit and Whiteboard Mat can be purchased together in the Sketch Pack.) The markers include in the Sketch Kit are whiteboard markers, but I can see students completing their final drawing on a thick white piece of paper from a roll of plotter paper, for displaying of their artistic creations on the walls in the school hallway! 

Sketch Pack photo courtesy of Wonder Workshop

The Wonder Workshop site includes a great blog post explaining how to set-up the Sketch Kit with some tips and tricks included. Their site also includes lessons in their education curriculum such as, "Using Sketch Kit with Cue: The Geometry of Mandalas" and "Using Sketch Kit with Dash: Robot Code Breakers", based on Alan Turing and the codebreakers of WWII.

I did not read the blog post on the Wonder Workshop site first, but had no trouble setting up the Sketch Kit and Whiteboard Mat. The directions included in the Sketch Kit box were easy to follow! And, as I said at the beginning of this blog post, I wanted time to experiment on my own!

Now, remember, I am new to both block programming and the Sketch Kit when you watch the video below. I am sure I will get a lot more creative once I have some practice, but I felt good about my first drawing!

The Sketch Pack can be used in many curriculum areas to embed the STEAM skills in all the content areas. It is not just about the coding, but about the design thinking process where students plan, test, iterate, and reflect. Some ideas include:
  • In math, students could draw the three types of triangles. The pen can be programmed to go up and down, so Cue could be coded to move to a new space on the Whiteboard Mat to draw each triangle.
  • In social studies, it would be fun to draw a state outline, a rendition of a historic building, or the path of the Appalachian Trail.
  • In science, students could guesstimate the end of the path of a object when ramps are differing heights, since the mat is broken into centimeter areas. They could then roll the balls right onto their drawing on the Mat to test their hypotheses.
  • In ELA, students could illustrate the theme of a short story or a book.
  • And, of course, the Sketch Pack would be a natural fit in the art room!
Take a look at both the Dash and the Cue on the Wonder Workshop education site and consider getting a Sketch Pack to add another level of creativity to the coding process!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

One way to put the A in STEAM

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in May 2018 and is re-posted here with permission.

The NGSS  document is full of standards which begin with the phrase “students will create a model to illustrate”.  We customarily think of a model as something three-dimensional, like a diorama, a 3-D printed object, or a SketchUp creation. However,  the dictionary also states it can be a “system or thing used as an example to follow”.  So, can a hand-drawn or digitally-drawn project be considered a model? I believe it can!
I have discussed the student creation of infographics and sketchnotes in previous blog posts, and use of those two types of instructional models works well for students to help them both retain content and demonstrate acquisition of knowledge. However, there is research that specifically supports the use of drawing techniques to help students learn science concepts, too!


Ainsworth, Prain, and Tytler, in their article, Drawing to Learn in Science, which appeared in the AAAS Science journal on August 26, 2011, outline their “five reasons why student drawing should be explicitly recognized alongside writing, reading, and talking as a key element in science education”.
  1. Drawing enhances engagement, and, when students draw during instruction, they are more more motivated to learn
  2. Drawing teaches students to represent in science and, by creating their own drawings, students will understand how the inclusion of a drawing helps a viewer understand a concept.
  3. Drawing to reason in science helps students learn how to identify relevant information from a scientific study.
  4. Drawing as a learning strategy and creating a visual representation of information helps students understand the content better.
  5. Drawing  can be use to communicate in science. When students create a drawing, they have the ability to explain and summarize it for a peer
Ainsworth, S., Prain, V., & Tytler, R. (2011). Drawing to learn in science. Science, 333, 1096–1097.
Judith Fan, in her article Drawing to Learn: How Producing Graphical Representations Enhances Scientific Thinking, published in Transitional Issues in Psychological Science in 2015, covers the research on how drawing in science interacts and ties-in with the scientific processes of observation, problem-solving, explanation, and communication.
Drawing, in Fan’s paper, is defined as the hand-drawn creation of images which may be maps, graphs, sketches, diagrams, and charts, to name a few. One interesting study compared students who just verbally explained their observations,  others that just drew their observations, and those that drew their observations and received feedback from the instructor on their drawings. Those that drew and received feedback were proven to later have more content knowledge, with the students that just drew their observations coming in second.
As with any process, Fan suggests receiving feedback about drawn observations on a regular basis could help students learn how to develop observational skills of their own, ultimately having any student who just drew their observations (and did not receive feedback) attaining that same level of content knowledge.
Another great point Fan makes is use of a drawing as a formative or summative assessment can help teachers determine misconceptions by the student when reviewing their drawing. In addition, she states students who viewed a formal drawing were more likely to include the correct components in their own drawing. Fan also suggests that tracing over a formal drawing may enhance student content acquisition.
Fan covers the research dealing with the creation of a diagram to solve a problem as part of the scientific process. She states, when combined with other modes of problem-solving, this can aid in the solution of the problem. In addition, if students work in pairs to create the diagram, the pairs “were more likely to come up with abstract principles than students working alone.”.
Fan, Judith E. (2015) Drawing to learn: How producing graphical representations enhances scientific thinking. Transitional Issues in Psychological Science, Vol. 1, No. 2, 170-181.


The research covered above outlines the creation of hand-drawn images on paper. However, with the classroom tools readily available today, we can consider hand-drawn images with a stylus, on a tablet or touch-screen computer, to lead to the same enhanced content acquisition.
Fan suggests that tracing an already-created image or diagram can help students learn and remember the information when creating their own hand-drawn image. Tony Vincent traces many types of formal images and diagrams using his iPad and the Adobe Illustrator Draw app. Although he is not specifically talking about science in this video, his process is a great one for students to use. (


There are many other drawing tools that would allow the student to draw on a separate layer above the background of  a digital version of the formal scientific diagram.  Of course, it is important to have a touchscreen and a stylus available for the students if they are expected to be tracing or drawing scientific concepts. Here are some no-cost tools and apps that can be used for tracing.


When students start to create their drawings from scratch, there are literally hundreds of hand-drawing apps and online tools available.  Here are some of my favorites that are no-cost and cross-platform. (And, of course, any of the apps/tools in the tracing list above may be used, too!)


Since the research has shown that pairs of students creating a diagram is be very effective in leading to a better image, using online tools such as the ones below to allow students to work together in real time to create the product.


I decided to try two of these methods (tracing and drawing from scratch) for practice.  I first watched a DES video segment about the dry cell battery. I then downloaded a diagram of a dry cell battery from the Discovery Education Streaming collection and uploaded it to Photos on my iPad. When I was done with the two drawings I made, I took the Batteries quiz on How Stuff Works. I answered 8 of 10 questions correctly!  I do believe, with the instruction from the video, the tracing of the drawing, and the creation of a labeled, hand-drawn image of a dry cell battery, I did learn all about them.
Here is the image I used:
Below is my tracing of the image using Adobe Illustrator Draw.
And here is my hand-drawn version of a dry-cell battery created without looking at the formal image. I used the INKcredible iPad app. (And of course, I added more information for extra credit!)
How can you see hand-drawing used in your classroom? Let the rest of us know a grade and subject where you think drawing would have a big impact and help students showcase their learning by helping others understand a concept, understand relevant information on their own, and help students realize that a hand-drawing can be useful to support written or tabular work. Please share on Twitter! #kathyskatch