Dash and Dot Classroom robots and accessories will be used at Juanita Gardine Elementary School to introduce more than 90 students and 12 educators to the high-tech world of coding.
Students, parents, and educators gathered at the St. Croix Curriculum Center on March 9 to participate in the kickoff of the Coding Digital Playground event. The miniaturized exposition featured educational technology, hardware and software that were acquired through a STEM grant made possible by AT&T and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. Shortly after 4 p.m., elementary and secondary students, from both public and private schools, could be seen eagerly unpacking boxes of digital devices.
At the center of the excitement were Dash and Dot robots and iPad Air 2 computer tablets. Each tablet was preconfigured with five free Wonder Workshop software applications, which were used to direct the movements and behavior of the robots. Additionally, students used the iPads to experiment with constructing visual programming blocks with ScratchJr and PBIS ScratchJr free iPad apps.
The Dash robots are mobile—outfitted with wheels and equipped with motion sensors. They can detect objects in their environment and respond to voices and other sounds, as well as record sounds. Among other features, the robots are equipped with accelerometers that permit them to detect when they are being moved or are in motion, and are designed to be programmed and controlled wirelessly.
District Coordinator of Technology Everett A. Ryan, Ph.D., organized the event as a precursor to launching two school-based projects at the Claude O. Markoe and Juanita Gardine elementary schools. Dubbed respectively as "Coding is Cool" and "Computational Thinking and Robotics," both projects at their core focus on deepening students' aptitudes in problem solving, decision making, and critical thinking. The overarching goal of both initiatives is to introduce computer science concepts to students at a young age. The acquired knowledge and skills that students will develop are applicable not only to coding, but to all academic disciplines and day-to-day activities.
The Coding is Cool project for Claude O. Markoe will cater to up to 60 students and will involve approximately 11 educators. A central objective of this project is to provide elementary students with foundational skills in coding using the ScratchJr programming language. With ScratchJr, students can use graphical programming blocks to create an array of digital, multimedia artifacts. ScratchJr is free and was designed as an offshoot of the Scratch programming language developed by MIT. Grant funding from CFVI in the amount of $4,835.60 was used to purchase iPad Air tablets and protective cases, and copies of the The Official ScratchJr. Book. Professional development for this project will be provided by Dr. Ryan to school-based personnel. For more about ScratchJr, visit https://www.scratchjr.org/index.html.
At Juanita Gardine, the librarian and two computer teachers will serve as the school-based liaisons for the project. The grant award of $5,000 was used to procure the Dash and Dot Classroom robots and accessories. Additionally, grant funding was used to purchase computer tablets and protective cases. This project will involve up to 90 students and 12 educators. Professional development on the implementation of the project will be provided initially to teachers at the school by Dr. Ryan, along with the school librarian and computer teachers. A set of the Dash and Dot robotics will also be used by Dr. Ryan for demonstration purposes throughout the district, to heighten awareness of the project, and to spur, grow, and sustain similar initiatives in all schools. To learn about the Dash and Dot robots, log on to https://www.makewonder.com/.