Smart Play Blog
ThinkFun’s newest game has inspired some very clever cartoons from a young Robot Turtles enthusiast – the imagination is clearly whizzing here, and I just had to share!
First up… turtles with amazing powers face off!
“Wind vs. Speed… Laser vs. Helicopter!”
This next story is about a four-eyed turtle… love this!
She sat and sat…
Then, she knew she needed glasses.
And finally… a super speedy turtle race… on your marks, get set, GO!
Want to extend Robot Turtles for your own turtle enthusiast? Check out the online Adventure Quest generator tool and see how easy it is to create and share your own turtle-inspired adventures!
Here’s an example of a great Quest already up in the online library… we can’t wait to see what you create!
For years I have been ranting about the American education system, how murky and ill prepared it is to consider new ideas. I gave a TEDx talk about this in 2012: one of my slides was a cartoon I had made to describe how profoundly confused the situation is.
Don’t worry if you don’t get this cartoon… you’re not supposed to. The idea is that it’s an enigma… something so ingrained you’re not sure if you are allowed to think that you don’t understand it.
The biggest thing gnawing at me the past few years has been the “HOW” question… this is such an important topic, how could things have gotten to be this way?
And so I was very happy to find the answer lurking inside an article in last Sunday’s Washington Post, about Bill Gates and the new Common Core education standards.
Says Gates: “The funding, in general, of what works in education… is tiny. It’s the lowest in this field than any field of human endeavor. … As a result, there is a paucity of information about methods of instruction that work.”
So why is it that I’ve had these murky, queasy feelings about education? Because it turns out the American Education system has the lowest R&D funding of any field of human endeavor! This starts to make sense now.
OK then… with this post I’ve dug a little bit into what the problem is. Next look for some solution ideas.
And do read the Washington Post piece. It turns out that Gates is using his millions to rebuild the entire USA education system, makes for a fascinating and revealing read.
The following post is shared by speech-language pathologist Eric Sailers of Expressive Solutions, a company that develops apps for learners with special needs. In this post, originally posted here, he shares some phenomenal insight about the power of game play to target and support specific communications skills.
If you are looking for a fun way to target social communication skills, as well as beginning computer programming, Robot Turtles is a great new board game you can play with your students (with or without autism). Robot Turtles requires players to use simple commands to move their turtles to capture a jewel on the game board. When students give commands, they are replicating the process computer programmers use to give instructions for a computer to execute. Games, in general, provide opportunities for social communication; Robot Turtles in particular involves specific interactions between the game players that enable more opportunities for social communication. For students who show an interest in games and computers, playing Robot Turtles can be a highly engaging way to practice social communication.
During game play, it is easy to provide students with opportunities to practice five different social communication skills:
1) Perspective taking
As turtle masters, students take the perspective of their turtles on the game board in order to decide which way to move. If they were to take their own perspectives, players may not move in the intended direction; success in the game depends on the ability to make decisions based on a different perspective.
2) Turn taking
Students also actively take turns throughout the game. Not only do they have to wait for the other turtle masters to complete their turns, but students do not actually move their own game pieces. The adult overseeing the game, otherwise known as the turtle mover, is in charge of executing the moves on the game board based on student commands.
3) Eye contact and body language
Since turtle masters don’t move their own pieces, they must clearly communicate their commands to the turtle mover. This offers a good opportunity to practice politely giving directions, as well as utilizing eye contact and body language to effectively communicate and acknowledge the turtle mover.
4) Following directions
In return, the turtle mover may communicate directions for the turtle masters to follow. The turtle mover also ensure players are aware of and adhere to the rules of the game.
5) Making comments
Throughout game play, students can be encouraged to make positive comments directed specifically to other turtle masters. For example, a student could say, “Nice move. I like how you did that!” when another player makes a good move in the game. In Robot Turtles, the goal is not to have one winner; all students keep playing until they achieve the goal for that specific level. Establishing a positive atmosphere where everyone is encouraged to be successful creates a great opportunity for modeling and practicing comments.
Robot Turtles can be played with children as young as four, all the way up to middle or high school. The game has several levels so it is easy to adapt game play based on student age and experience with the game. The upper levels of the game require sophisticated logic and analytical skills to complete the challenges, while the simple levels introduce children to basic logic. Either way, social communication skills can be targeted in various ways throughout the game.
Since ThinkFun announced the launch of Robot Turtles – the board game that teaches coding to preschoolers – some fantastic conversations have emerged about the importance of coding literacy for the very youngest learners. The theme that’s tied these discussions together has, interestingly, been less about the hard skills of coding, and more about the thinking processes that develop organically as young minds are taught to think like a programmer.
I love this quote by game’s inventor Dan Shapiro, who explains that learning to code is like a gift we can give our children:
“There are two types of people in the world. People who think of computers as their masters and people who think of computers as their helpers. The future is going to be written by programmers and read by everyone else. I want to give my kids the gift of being able to express themselves through programming and the power that comes from being able to write software.
It’s not that I want them to be programmers. Being able to program will make them better at whatever they do. Having that skill is like being a great writer, having a love for learning, or having a deep foundation in mathematics. No matter what you do, programming unlocks doors for you, helps you express yourself, and helps you become more successful in anything you decide to do. It’s a gift you can give to your kid.”
As we’ve worked through what coding means in the context of game play, it’s become clear that Robot Turtles supports critical thinking skills that go way beyond programming. Through play, children learn how to break a big problem into small steps, make a plan, work backwards, find patterns, and identify and fix “bugs” – these life skills will serve them far beyond game play!
To help clarify the links between playing with Turtles and learning to program, this document breaks down the ways in which this game teaches code – and a heck of a lot more!
I am SO excited to share that the much-anticipated Robot Turtles games are on their way… we’re counting down the weeks until they arrive! The best-selling board game in Kickstarter history, Robot Turtles is designed to teach coding skills to preschoolers. Check it out!
Haven’t ordered your copy yet? Get on it! All pre-orders receive a *free expansion pack* that features:
- 12 Pre-set Frog Favorite Cards
- 32 Bonus Collectible Jewel Tokens
- 10 Adventure Quests
Order now, and here’s a sneak peek at the package that will be headed your way in June… opening up a box of awesome is a pretty sweet way to kick off the summer!