Skip to Content

Tech toys

The first presentation I attended at the conference was great fun, as it revolved around toys – tech toys! Our presenter was a tech integrator and teacher from a private elementary school in Washington DC. He teaches kids to think “programmatically,” and engages them from kindergarten on in experiences that have to do with coding and programming of tech.


I cringed a bit when I thought about trying to do programming with kindergarten, but I have experienced it with some success before through “hour of code” – an international movement to expose all students in site schools to coding through game play.  In this workshop, though, I was immediately intrigued with the precursor activities he does to engage kids before they even get to touch tech.  We did a warm up with alphabet letters laid out in a grid and simple directions such as “start on z, facing the desk, and go three spaces forward.” By following the directions correctly and recording the letters, we got a coded message. Then, he would next have kids give directions to get their own code word communicated,  and thus begins the concept of coding.

After this intro, we were able to download three apps he recommended and check them out.  We started with Kodable, which is very much a game with drag and drop commands.  We also checked out Daisy the Dino which uses code to animate a cartoon dinosaur. The bulk of our time, however, was spent on Scratch Jr.  Scratch Jr has many characters and drag and drop code sequences for animation that were very engaging.  By the end of our time playing with it, I had created a scuba diver with my face in the mask, who interacted with Scratch Cat in three different scenes through the programmed commands.


Our final hour of the session, we moved from apps to toys.  I was able to check out a little drone, called a parrot drone. He also had a tank-style orange robot called Kibo that had different attachments and a block-based sequencing code that it scanned with a laser and then performed its instructed program. We checked out Sphero, an app-controlled Bluetooth sync’d ball that lights up and rolls around, and finally Sphero’s newest model, BB-8 from Star Wars.  All of these varied in price, but could be obtained for around $100-300.  The apps, of course, are free.


For or those of you who teach early elementary and feel kids might not be quite ready for this, Fisher-Price is making a preschool “Codeapillar” to be released sometime in early 2016. Similar to Kibo, the code is programmed by sequencing the caterpillar body segments, and then hitting a “go” command to watch it perform what you programmed.


I enjoyed and learned quite a bit during this workshop. Here’s some of what we played with


No Responses to “Tech toys” Leave a reply ›

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment