DASH FEST 2015

When I was at the BringItTogether conference in November, I purchased Dash, a fun robot targeted for elementary schools.

dash1Now I teach in a secondary school so why did I buy a product for younger students?

Well, some of my best professional development has been with elementary school teachers. I believe that if it works for the younger grades, then it should work for secondary schools.

So I bought Dash. He comes with several programs that work on ipads/iphones. The link above gives an explanation on each of the apps. I drove him down the hallway and into classrooms. Students would always come over and look at the ipad and ask me questions. I really enjoyed the look of shock when I asked if they wanted to try as I handed them the ipad. Off they went crashing Dash into things and making all kinds of noise. Soon I had students showing up in the library asking if they could play with Dash. This was great way for high school students to play but no coding was happening.

Several weeks later, I was driving my son and his team mate to their basketball practice. We had a discussion about what was going on at their different schools. I found out that his school had 10 Dashes that day.

I started thinking about how I could use multiple Dashes to teach coding. My thought was to offer one class a chance to use Dash in small groups including doing some coding. I emailed my board contact to find out just how many Dash were around. While I was waiting for an answer to my question, I went to see a teacher about using her class to teach some coding. I was luck enough to have built a good relationship with this teacher who said right away.

I found out that I could borrow 8 Dash from the board. It was also suggested that I connect it with the Hour of Code that was the same week. This is where things got a little crazy. I had 9 Dash for 3 days. Somehow sharing with only one class seemed like a waste of resources. So I went back to the teacher at my school and asked if I could take over her other 2 classes as well  for 3 days.

I should mention now that I had avoided anything to do with coding up to now. It just felt like too much for me to take on with all of my other responsibilities.

However, the planning for the day was easy using resources from the Hour of Code and from the Dash websites. I just followed the instructions soon found myself coding Flappy Birds, Star Wars and Dash. This was certainly just an introduction to coding and I was no expert but I had just enough knowledge to get started.

On the big day, I asked each class if any of the students knew how to code and became instant best friends with them. The days were crazy busy and fun as each class figured out how to code. I even had the Dash out at lunch for students not in the classes to play.

Take aways from the three days:

 

  • three full days is too much for one person!
  • the grade 11 class played with Dash far longer than the grade 9 class. They even asked for a ball to play soccer!
  • anyone can code.
  • since most students are not in a computer class, they need this opportunity to learn coding.
  • it’s was a great way for me  to connect to students that may not normally come into the library.
  • it was just plain fun.
  • don’t let your lack of experience in an area stop students from having the opportunity to learn something new.

 

 

 

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