Imagine a small robot that is built with an Ardunio heart and can be controlled by a very simple user control panel. Now imagine that this high tech (user friendly system) is completely ‘hidden’ by a wooden exterior. Cubetto is a toy that has a feeling of ‘yester-year’ about it but is deliberately contemporary with its goal: To teach preschoolers and Early Years students the basics of coding!
There is no doubt that there has been an educational push globally to have coding as a common sight in classrooms the world over. In Australia, the Digital Technologies curriculum is just around the corner, and has already begun being implemented in some states. The use of a tool like Cubetto (which is more than just a toy) could be revolutionary. In Australia, under the Digital Technologies curriculum, children from Kindergarten up will be expected to develop a basic understanding of coding. Cubetto will help make this happen. More importantly, the teachers themselves won’t have to be coding experts, they will just need to be able to give students opportunities to play, to tinker, to explore and to learn.
The simplicity of Cubetto is what will make it a successful tool in classrooms. Students can use wooden directional (instruction) blocks, place these blocks in a sequence, and the Cubetto robot will react accordingly. Basically it is a physically tangible version of scratch that allows students to literally build a line of code. This will teach students some of the fundamental concepts of coding. There is even a special function key that can be used to enhance the level of interactivity for those students who are ready to take the next step.
Talking about next steps, I haven’t had the opportunity to try this, but it does appear that if you have some young hackers in your class you can connect to the Arduino ‘heart’ of Cubetto and program him directly.
In the actual kit that comes to you when your order, you get a few large play mats. These come with images broken up into sections that mirror the movements that Cubetto will make. You can ‘drive’ Cubetto around the playmat.
I have been amazed at the how simple it is for children to use Cubetto. I have tested it on a 4 year old and they were enthralled.
Beyond the excitement of the little ones, I have been shocked by the excitement of teachers. I sent out a few tweets about Cubetto whilst I have been exploring it and every time I have done so I have been blown away by the response. I have already been asked to take Cubetto along with me to three of the upcoming conferences I will be speaking at. Fortunately, two of these are including talks on coding.
At this moment, as far as I know, you can still order Cubetto from the Kickstarter site or you can contact Primo Toys directly. Either way I have a funny feeling that classrooms around the world will soon have a lot of little wooden robots named Cubetto following instructions set by Crazy Little coding explorers.
Stay tuned as I’ll share some of my Cubetto experiences over the next few weeks.