Saturday, August 19, 2017

EdTechTools: Robotics and Coding for K-2 (mostly)

As a consultant I'm often asked for a list of tools for specific grades. I've been working on various lists for a while now but was recently motivated to focus on edtech tools for K-2.

All of the lists any of us create a working list because new tools are developed and old tools upgraded, replaced, or retired.

This list focus mostly on robots but I do include because it can be an easy way to introduce students to Blockly. You can find the list here and I will continue to update it. As I build other lists, I'll link them. The content of the current list follows. Enjoy.



This is one of my all time favorites and I've been so delighted when upper elementary and even high school teachers have found uses for BeeBot. BeeBot is a codable robot with very simple commands: forward, backward, left, right, GO! He's not cheap, but he is durable. The battery lasts about 7 hours and the robot recharges quickly. I wouldn't buy the mats because you can easily create your own that make more sense for your students or let them create mats. I have a teacher who has tables on which she can write with dry erase markers. We measured BeeBot's movement lengths and created grids on some of her tables. Now she can put numbers in the grids and create different kinds of problems. Pairs of students have to solve the problem and the pair that comes up with the most efficient way to move BeeBot from where he is to where he needs to go gets a point (or whatever). She can also put words in the grids so they have to code BeeBot to move between sight words, or to create a sentence, or to match a noun with a verb, or to identify a part of speech, or. . . . An upper elementary teacher wrote state names and the capitals on pieces of tape and randomly put the tape on the floor. Her students had to code BeeBot to match states and capitals. She had a class set (DonorsChoose!) so they worked in small groups. A 10th grade history teacher plans to use BeeBot to help students match dates and events. Other math applications include matching geometry shapes and names or matching various ways to represent numbers (four, 4, 3+1, 6-2, 2*2, an image of 4 circles or squares, etc.). A chemistry/science application is matching information from the periodic table. The list goes on and on and makes that $95 per BeeBot seem slightly less costly.

Available through Amazon or


Osmo offers a variety of games in math, ELA, and coding. I recommend you start with the Genius KIt, which is like a starter pack ($99; You will need an iPad or an iPad mini for each base. Students can play with this as a center or as an extension or free choice activity. Osmo is more than just the game as it requires problem solving and critical thinking skills to complete the tasks. Also available through Amazon

Dash is billed by Wonder Workshop as a child’s first robot. Maybe, if you haven’t already gotten BeeBot! Dash does have far more programmable capabilities than BeeBot. (Dot is Dash’s sidekick; Dot doesn’t move but can be part of Dash’s more complex programming.) For teachers who have introduce their students to, using Blockly is easy peesy lemon squeezy for students. Teachers will need to download the Blockly app. There are other apps available but Blockly is probably the easiest place to start. If you have more than one Dash robot, you will need more than one tablet as each robot is paired with a tablet. You might also have your students name each Dash so they’re not Dash1 and Dash2. You can create a range of possible activities for students to complete using Dash or give students a task for which they have to write the code using Blockly.

Like BeeBot, Dash is not limited to K-2 but those grades are a great place to start!

Available through Amazon and

Note that WonderWorkshop also has a robotics competition (

X is the home of Hour of Code, which can be 30 minutes or 15 minutes of code depending on your schedule and how you want to use it. This is a great place to introduce students to Blockly and coding for a couple of reasons. First, there are the themes! Frozen! Star Wars! Second, each theme has a series of game-like tasks through which students to proceed. If they make a mistake, the game helps them figure out what they have to do. There is no pressure to beat a time or anything else, so they can just practice and keep trying to move on to the next step. Experience shows that students may be frustrated at first, but once they start to understand how the logic of each game works, they get excited when they’re able to solve each problem and complete each task with fewer tries.
Scratch Jr

I know of some teachers who use Scratch Jr with the second graders, but most teachers prefer to stay away from it depending on their own level of comfort with coding. Scratch Jr does use Blockly as its language but it is more complex. I would not use it as a starting place with primary levels.
Makey Makey

One “classic” MakeyMakey board is about $50 but there is so much you can do with one board. You will need a laptop--Chromebook or otherwise--for the MakeyMakey board because students learn how to program the keyboard. What’s fun about MakeyMakey is that the alligator clips that are attached to the keys (front, back, up, down, spacebar, etc.) can be attached to pretty much anything: clay, bananas, paper, etc. You’ll have to see videos to believe it and you’ll want to check out the gallery for more ideas.

As with other coding options, MakeyMakey isn’t limited to K-2. In fact, MakeyMakey may be too complex for kinders and firsts to use without a lot of oversight.

Available through Amazon and

The MakeyMakey Gallery is

With Ozobots there is Evo and Bit. Bit is really small so it’s easy for small hands to grasp; however, it’s also really easy to lose and then step on. Evo is $99 and Bit is $59. The starter pack comes with information about how to program Ozobot and some materials. All you really need is the calibration disk, the legend for the commands, some markers, and some paper. You can use Ozobot with an iPad, but it seems a bit less fun. The pack comes with some coded playgrounds, but it’s so easy to create your own or have kids create theirs. What does that mean? It’s easiest to understand if you watch these videos ( so you’ll see why they have to have the command legend because different combinations of colors tell the Ozobot to turn left or right or around or whatever.

Available through Amazon and

No comments:

Post a Comment