This week I had the opportunity to attend a great course on Control Technology.
Here is a brief rundown of the day and the key messages that I took away from it.
I was run by a great speaker called Garry Stevens from a company called onefourseven.
Over the course of the day we looked at control progression from Year 2 Up to Year 6 and focused on Logo and Robolab as programmes to achieve this.
Generally the group that attended had a wide range of experiences with Control, but it seemed to be common place that people had 'some pieces of kit' but where unsure of how to deploy it in class. "The Robolab has been stuck in a cupboard," seemed to be a common issue.
We started by looking a Logo, and we used a free program called MSWLogo.
This has the scope to teach Control from end of year 2 all the way to year 4. From extending Roamer work in Year, to allowing children to make their crystal flower in year 4.
Year 3 was discussed as a problem as there is specific no control unit. But it was suggested that some year 4 objectives could be brought down and through numeracy use Logo to explore 2D shapes and thus bridge the gap between year 2 and year 4.
We where also shown a great add on for Logo which allows you to simulate traffic lights. This seemed like a great way to introduce control in year 5 by using a program that they already have experience with. E-mail me if you would like it.
After looking at Logo we moved onto Robolab as one solution for teaching year 5 and 6 control. The program is, once you have played with it for an hour, very simple and had many different level settings. You don't need to really go beyond the (basic) pilot level, unless you have some real high ability children.
An issue that alot of us had with Robolab was, that you need models to use it right?
We were reminded that building models is not control, its DT. Any models you might have it school could be useful and it was suggested that they are built and glued together.
We looked at simulating traffic lights and for that all you need are 3 light bulbs. We continued with the simulation of traffic lights as it is something that the children could be familiar with from year 4 and Logo. In year 5 you only need to worry about outputs, like bulbs turning on. Which is why traffic lights work well. In year 6 the change is using an input, a sensor. Now we all seemed again though this meant a temperature sensor or a light sensor, but the advice was keep it simple, a push switch is a sensor. With that in mind use the traffic light model again and in year 6 create a programme that will control a pelican crossing, using a push switch.
My key Ideas I took from the day where:
- Children need to go through a planning, testing and impoving process in Control. Just playing with the programme or robot does not encourage children to plan and predict enough. Children should be making notes throughout
- Control does not have to be flashy and complex in order to teach the requirements and get children achieving an appropriate level. Keep it simple and achievable.
- Control is basically turning children into programmers, they are making desired things happen. (Making a roamer or a beebot move)
For control to happen you need 3 things.
1. INputs and outputs. (Sensors and things that happen)
2. A interface (A control box like the lego RCX)
3. A software package on the computer.
To investigate further check out www.comotiongroup.co.uk - as it had allot of the equipment we used for Robolab on there.
I'd like to thank Garry Stevens again for a fun and enjoyable day.