Thinking Skills in education, especially in my own limited experience over the years, have been confined to a box on a planning document or scheme of work. It’s only over the last few months that I’ve evaluated the role they play after listening to a fantastic presentation by Mr Tony Scullion at a conference in the North of Ireland. It was inspiring to be honest. It reinforced to me that developing Thinking Skills in the classroom really helps children to process information, make connections, make decisions and create new ideas. Since that conference a few months ago I’ve tried my hardest to develop Thinking Skills in my classroom as much as possible.
The development of the new Sphero Activity Mats has really got me thinking. I’m in no way stipulating that if you use the fantastic Sphero SPRK+ and the Sphero Activity Mats in your classroom then Thinking Skills will be developed across the board. However, by allowing children to take part in coding activities that are cross curricular can be a good basis and another strong strategy for developing Thinking Skills, Personal Capabilities, Problem Solving, Logical Thinking, Collaboration, the ability to Manage Information and so much more, including Divergent Thinking - breaking a topic apart to explore its various components and then generating new ideas and solutions.
Take a look at this video below of the Sphero SPRK+ navigating around one of the tracks on the Sphero Activity Mat 2.
While the SPRK+ navigates the track and eventually gets to the end safely, think of the learning that has happened to get to that point. Children will have used the iPad to program the SPRK+ to move with code. They will have worked together to estimate the length of time it takes the SPRK+ to move from one point to another. More than likely they would have had to try this a few times - trial and error. They would have been taking account of the heading of the SPRK+ as it turns at each corner. They may have decided to set the speed of the SPRK+ differently along each straight, which then in turn means they would have had to change the length of time it takes the ball to move from one point to another. This will have thrown up the fact that there would have been many, many different solutions and programs they could have devised to get the ball from the start of the track to the end of the track. On this particular mat, the Sphero Activity Mat 2, there are 4 reversible tracks which means that there are 8 tracks in total. Think of how many different solutions children can come up with and all the parameters a teacher could set in a lesson.
Again, I’m not saying that teachers should go out and get these and they’ll be on to a winner when it comes to working on length, time, speed, distance, fractions, decimals, problem solving, processes in Numeracy, position, direction, angles, bearing and headings. However after seeing these in use in the classroom I can honestly say that they are a very useful resource when giving children the opportunity to think critically, process information, make connections, make decisions and create new ideas.
Here is a link to a number of lesson plans for the Sphero Activity Mats - https://edu.sphero.com/cwists/category#searchTerm=Michaelokane
There are a few more clips of the SPRK+ and mats in action below. The Sphero Activity Mats are available from the following resellers in Ireland and the UK, tap on them to continue:
The mats are also available on Amazon in the UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=sphero+mat
The mats are available in Australia from MacGear through Classroom21 - https://www.macgear.com.au/search?type=product&q=sphero+mats
If you are in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Estonia drop Exertis and email - email@example.com
If you are a teacher in the U.A.E. you can purchase them from Denaster, drop them an email here - firstname.lastname@example.org