Learning to Control the Bee-Bot
by Simon Haughton
The Bee-Bot has become a staple ingredient of the early years ICT curriculum in the last few years. Everyone praises the device for being extremely child-friendly and accessible – a perfect programmable toy that is great for teaching basic control skills.
Whilst plenty of time should be given to allow for independent play with and exploration of the Bee-Bot in a reception classroom, I do like to spend a few sessions with children to ensure that they are all specifically taught: how to handle it safely, how enter sequences of commands accurately into it and how to carefully predict its movements (i.e. where they expect it to move to) – young children in particular need to be given some guidance before being expected to use ICT equipment effectively on their own.
I always find that children are fascinated when they see the Bee-Bot start moving on its own, so getting children motivated and enthusiastic about learning to use the device isn’t hard. As a general skills list, during the four focused activity sessions I spend with reception working on the Bee-Bot I cover (in order):
- the fact that it looks like a bee and is also like a robot (hence the name);
- the fact that it is battery powered and must be programmed to move;
- how to enter a sequence of just forward commands which can be run/executed by pressing the ‘go’ button to make the Bee-Bot move along a mat;
- how to use the ‘clear’ button to delete a set of commands and so ‘tell the Bee-Bot it’s a new child’s go’;
- how to press the turn (left/right) and back arrows to make the Bee-Bot move in different directions;
- how to combine sequences of commands to make the Bee-Bot travel to different destinations along ‘L’-shaped routes;
- how to make the Bee-Bot travel in unusual paths along a mat to reach places in a sequence/avoid obstacles (usually done by telling a journey story linked with traditional story characters/locations);
- how to press the ‘pause’ button to make the Bee-Bot temporarily stop at a place on a mat before continuing on its journey.
Giving children plenty of time to practice these skills (especially when it comes to making the Bee-Bot move in two or more directions in one set of commands) is essential I think and I’ve always found that children benefit from the extra time I give them to consolidate their programming capabilities.
I absolutely love teaching children how to properly work with the Bee-Bot and they too are always eager to learn how to operate it as well. ICT should never just be about sitting at a computer desk!