The hands-on edtech that’s engaging my gadget geeks

Adam Chase

Adam Chase is the Year 5 class teacher at Old Hall Primary School, where he is also the Computing lead. Adam is also a Bury Local Authority leading teacher for Computing. His focus is using Computing to enhance other areas of the curriculum, rather than it being a standalone subject.

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Image credit: Inspector Gadget // DIC Entertainment. Image credit: Inspector Gadget // DIC Entertainment.

Being a Computing coordinator, I am regularly looking for the next great product to bring into school and engage learners. I’ll admit, as a coordinator and self-confessed geek I am regularly a child in a sweet shop! That said, I think it’s important to think about pedagogy first; edtech legend Mark Anderson came up with an interesting model of how to put pedagogy first:


Source


I must admit, I regularly use the Mark Anderson model and add it to my personal mantra for edtech: “Technology should save you money, or save you time, or both!” Put simply, technology should be able to complete a task that can be done analogue, or it should improve on it. A quick example of this would be the Padlet app. Padlet allows users to create a private piece of web-space which can be shared with a QR code. A way I use it is for character descriptions. As a class, we read from a text or watch an interesting video, and children then scan a QR code on the Padlet app, which then allows children to collaborate by adding digital ‘posts-its’ to our private web-space. This is similar to a tried-and-tested technique to develop ideas for writing, although it is beneficial as children are all adding ‘post-its’ at the same time which the teacher can moderate.


littleBits and SAM Lab


The edtech trends that I thought I would spend some time to highlight for this article are STEM and STEAM-related - in particular, littleBits and SAM Labs. In my opinion they are doing some clever things with their tech that can impact on STEM. littleBits is a collection of electronic components pre-assembled within tiny circuit boards. These simple, intuitive, space-sensitive blocks make creating circuits as easy as snapping small magnets together. Each “bit” is a piece of an electronic circuit. They are colour-coded and divided into four categories: power, input, output and wire. By combining the modules in different ways (by simply “snapping” them together magnetically) you can quickly create any number of interactive electronic projects.



Sam Labs resources are something I am really interested in, given my passion for physical Computing and STEM activities. Also, I am always looking for more interesting ways to explain Computing concepts and bring physical computing into the classroom. The Curious Cars Kit and the app work together to engage children with STEM and STEAM activities: the app acts as a user guide with fun, engaging games and videos, whilst the physical kit becomes a remote that works the app.


YouTube link


YouTube


At my school, Old Hall Primary in Bury, our digital leaders are called ‘gadget geeks’. They have been tasked with making unboxing videos for kits such as littleBits and Sam Labs. Now, I am aware that making YouTube videos is not a cultural or technological trend - YouTube has been around for ages - however, the way it could be used is! I decided to let the children completely write, produce, edit and present the videos. I then upload them to YouTube, before we critique the pieces as a class. Therefore, whilst the videos are quite raw, the children have big plans on how to improve them, just like the vloggers that they enjoy watching at home. Therefore, video quality improves over time. For the future, I’m looking at how it could be brought into the curriculum, as there are so many opportunities and curriculum objectives that can be achieved in a much more engaging way.


YouTube link


The gadget geeks of Old Hall Primary love unboxing and reviewing, and we would like to thank the companies for donating the kit for review. If other companies are interested in this, please get in touch.


In addition, I have been experimenting with flipped learning and creating pre-learning videos for my class. I create Maths videos which are paired with five or six consolidation questions, and then when my class come in on Monday they have a rough knowledge of our Maths area for that week. My class can watch videos as many times as they want, and it’s free!


YouTube link


Final Thoughts/So What?


There are a number of different edtech trends around at the moment, and it is important that you remember their purpose: to engage children and help their understanding. If pedagogy doesn’t come first when using edtech, it is in danger of becoming a gimmick and not beneficial at all. The ones I’ve listed are doing something that I haven’t seen from other companies. littleBits is making circuits exciting and new, while Sam Labs are combining software and hardware in a terrific, new way. I hope when you are looking at EdTech remember to think about how best it can be used, what function it is fulfilling and, of course, ensuring that pedagogy comes first.


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