Decoding the Robot: An Engaging Game Observation and Communication

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Participate and share : Poster

Sharee Pfaff  
To practice coding skills, students are familiar with creating an algorithm and watching a robot perform. Now, let's flip the process backward and really test students' skills of observation and communication. Through this highly engaging game, students race to decode a robot’s program while working together as a team.

Audience: Teachers, Curriculum/district specialists, Principals/head teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Topic: Communication & collaboration
Grade level: PK-5
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovative digital learning environments that engage and support learning.
For Students:
Empowered Learner
  • Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Imagine teams of students eagerly awaiting the signal to start. At the instant the word "Go" is heard, one representative from each team races to the front of the room to watch a robot perform a series of pre-programmed moves. (The robot is hidden behind a shield so that no others can see.) That student then races back to their team and is tasked with remembering the moves of the robot and describing it in detail so that their team can create a matching algorithm for their team's robot. Next, a new team member races to the front to watch the robot and then proceeds to go back to their team and provide more information about the secret code. The game continues until one team successfully decodes the sample robot's algorithm and successfully encodes it on their own robot.

What an exciting way to learn to code!

This game, which has been successfully played with students in grades 2-5, is a multi-faceted experience that not only covers the basics of coding, but also provides opportunities for communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking. For a special Veteran's Day event, our students had the opportunity to listen to the story of a woman who had served as a code breaker during World War II. This game was created as a way to introduce the idea of decoding to students in order to prepare for Veteran's Day. The game was so successful that students began asking to play it again despite its challenging nature.

As educators, we are always looking for new ways to teach traditional skills. By participating in this presentation, ISTE attendees will be able to understand how to set up this game using any robot such as Dash, Dot, Cue, Sphero, or many others. The coding can be in block or text form. The game is easily modified for any coding experience level and is an excellent way to review relevant vocabulary such as algorithm, loop, conditional, and parameter. The game can also be adapted for schools offering remote learning, where teachers can show the coded robot to students at home who can then write the code by hand or on a block-based coding platform. This presentation will cover all potential adaptations for both in-school and remote learning options.

My students love this game. Yours will too.

Supporting research

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Sharee Pfaff, Mariners Christian School

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