Meet Colby, the Code & Go Mouse. Colby is adorable and chatty and, not particularly surprisingly, quite fond of cheese. Strangely, however, his favorite cheese appears to be Swiss – go figure! Colby is spending some time in Mrs. Hoyt’s room at Pine Glen as we evaluate if/how to integrate him into the curriculum across the district next year.
Students create mazes, determine the start and end points, figure out the best way for Colby to get to the cheese, and give Colby instructions by using the buttons on his back. They can even make him do “tricks.”
While these are all good pre-coding exercises, they also teach and reinforce a number of early education skills that span the disciplines from reading and writing, to math and science, and to social skills and history. Students work on visual-spatial skills, 1:1 correspondence, planning, predicting, and sequencing. They also learn that Colby does what you tell him to do, which might not be what you wanted him to do! When Colby goes someplace he shouldn’t or drives off the map, students need to determine where the breakdown in communication occurred, correct the problem, and then adjust everything that comes after that error.
The Code & Go Mouse is similar to Bee-bot, another programmable device for the early childhood/elementary market. There are a few practical differences, including a significantly higher price for the Bee-bot. Bee-bot is sold separately from mats or maps, all of which would need to be created or purchased at an additional cost. The Bee-bot is charged via a micro-USB cable and Code & Go Mouse requires batteries. I like that the Code & Go Mouse comes with cards that the students can use to write their code before programming it into the mouse. This encourages students to work together, sharing and predicting how their plans will work out.
A few lessons from our first two times in kindergarten:
- Toss the box the kit comes in and repackage or all the smaller pieces will disappear;
- The maximum number of students per kit at any one time should be no more than four and I would suggest limiting groups to three students if possible.
- Assign roles: maze builder, coder, operator, etc.
- Always have a small screwdriver on hand in case you have to swap out batteries. Rechargeable batteries are a good idea.
- Set up the grid plate on a level surface ahead of time, especially in the beginning before have come to understand that directionality matters in connecting the plates. Another option is to create a paper grid that students can roll out when they use the kit.
- Students can become independent quickly in creating the mazes, coding, and problem solving, making this a great resource for independent stations once they are familiar with the process.
So, what’s next? Budgets and other resource needs will be weighed in order to determine if Colby will be coming to your school and classroom and in what numbers. If we get the go-ahead, there will be lesson plans developed for introducing Code & Go Mouse into kindergarten and/or first grade. I also hope to put together a set of kid-friendly rules and instructions to go with classroom stations.
In the meantime, Colby is going to visit a few more classrooms before the end of the year so we can continue to learn together!