Teaching the 4 C’s with Robots in the Elementary Classroom
When thinking about teaching 21st century skills, the 4 C’s are the pedagogy that come to mind. The 4 C’s stand for Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Creativity, and Communication. I have a favorite activity in the computer lab that works on all 4 C’s at once – Unplugged Coding.
An Explanation of the 4 C’s
Critical Thinking – this one is all about finding solutions to problems. Can students conceptualize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information for the purpose of problem solving?
Collaboration – working with others (includes social emotional learning). Collaboration requires learning and working in groups or teams to achieve a goal.
Creativity – thinking outside the box. Creativity requires the use of imagination and original ideas to solve problems.
Communication – conveying ideas. Communication as a skill requires students to be able to use different mediums to show what they know.
An Explanation of Unplugged Coding
Coding is really trendy right now in education and that makes my tech-heart so happy!
Coding concepts can be taught in so many different ways. A lot of us are using programs like Scratch and Code dot org to teach students the fundamentals. These programs are very effective, but are lacking the collaborative nature of group work in the classroom.
Using robots like the Code and Go Mouse, Bee Bots, Sphero, and Dash and Dot are what I mean when I say Unplugged Coding. Using these robots still works on coding fundamentals, but it takes us away from the computer screen (though some of these Bots still have a user interface on a screen).
Learning coding concepts in this way is great for all ages, and particularly effective for beginners. You see, coding is mostly done in the mind anyway. We just put the code into the computer to test what we planned out and see if it works. If it does work, then we have a computer program that can do the thing we want. If it doesn’t work, we have to troubleshoot it and think of a different solution. It is happening in our minds.
I like to give the example of sending a Kindergarten student out on an errand at school. Let’s say we need the student to take a message to the school secretary, get a response, and bring it back to the classroom. We have to give the student all of the directions before the student leaves the classroom. The student then needs to follow the directions exactly in order to make it back to the classroom with the return message. We only get one chance to get it right. Well, coding is like that too. We come up with the entire program and then run it to test the whole thing. If any part is incorrect then we won’t have the intended outcome and we have to make an adjustment and try again.
Combining the 4 C’s with Unplugged Coding using VoCode
Nearly any academic topic can be integrated with coding. I’ve created tons of activity card sets that work with any coding robot so that we can bring these great skills into the computer lab or classroom.
How to Use:
- The most straightforward way to use these activities is to have students program their bot to go to one term at a time.
- To add a challenge, give students multiple stopping points for their path.
- This might mean choosing 5 cards from the pile and that is the order in which they need to write their program.
- Add levels of complexity by requiring students to program in “jumping over” pieces or spaces, and “collecting” and “discarding” the pieces they picked from the pile.
- Due to the factor of choice in these activities, there are no answer keys. Have students check each other.
By completing these activities in small groups of 2-4 students, they will be incorporating the 4 C’s every step of the way.
I love listening in to their conversations as they discuss how to program the robot to go to the correct spot(s) on the grid. There is almost always more than one path they could take, so students in the group all have to agree before they can proceed.
Students fill out the recording sheet as a group to show their thought process along the way. This makes a great assessment piece if you need it. I usually just look it over for completeness. This might not be popular opinion, but I don’t think coding should be graded on anything except completeness. Did it do the intended thing? Because there are so many ways to accomplish the end result and I wouldn’t want to limit students by a rubric or expected process.
Even if you don’t have robots, you can still use these activities! Each set comes with a “No Bots” option. Students use a paper grid and mini pieces to map out their own plan.
How about getting the PE teacher involved? The Life-Size option would be great at recess or during PE or for students who need to physically move through the activity in order to understand it. There really is an option for everyone!
Now that you see how VoCode activities work, here is how they tie into the 4 C’s:
Critical Thinking – students need to consider all possible solutions and create one path that will get the right result.
Collaboration – students work together to solve the problem.
Creativity – there might be multiple right answers so students have to think outside the box to solve the problem.
Communication – once students have the solution, they still need to communicate it with each other and onto the recording sheet.
Ready to try some of these activities with your students? Click on the images below to check out all of the topics