Collaborative Art with Sphero and Tickle App



Talk about putting the A in STEAM!

This week students in my Explore class will be learning the basics of blockly programing with the Tickle app and learn how to program Sphero. With an introduction to action art by famous artists such as Jackson Pollock, students will work together to learn how to program Sphero using the Tickle app to create a collaborative art piece! Yes, we are painting and programming a robot. Engagement is high in my classroom and my little programmers are using inquiry to figure out how to code. We begin with programing the Orca in Tickle and move toward programming Sphero. Our grand finale will be a collaborative art piece we can proudly display for our school community.

Here are my lesson plans:

Day 1 Introducing Tickle App


Goal- Program the Orca Whale to do tricks

  1. Open Tickle and scroll down to Orca Whale
  2. Comes with a blockly program already. What is blockly programming?
    1. Visual programming used for people just learning the beginning steps of code
  3. Show how to read (or decode) the program.
    1. Event- Start command (red)
    2. Sounds (pink)
    3. Controls (yellow)
    4. Motion commands (blue)
  4. Then show how to “play” the program. Did the Orca do what you thought it would do?
  5. Show how to throw away part of the program. Hit play to see how it changed the program. What was different?
  6. How do you think the Orca was able to go in a circle? Decode the repeat code.
    1. Repeat 36 times.
    2. Turn right 10 degrees.
    3. What happens if you turn right 10 degrees 36 times? 10×36
    4. What does that make? 360 degrees!
  7. Show how to add new code.
    1. Add a control- Repeat, change the number of times
    2. Add a motion- move 10 steps. What does 10 steps mean? Play code to find out…Did the Orca move very far? Now you know what 10 steps looks like. Try changing the number of steps. 20.
    3. Can you make the Orca turn around and go back? 


Day 2 Self Explore More Programming of Orca in Tickle


Goal- Failure leads to learning!

Show Michael Jordan Failure commercial.


  • What do you think Michael Jordan did when he faced failure?
  • What does Michael Jordan have to do with failure and programing?


  • Create your own program for the Orca.
  • Work together and learn from each other.
  • What tricks can you learn to do?
  • What do you do when your program fails?
  • We will share our programs at the end of class.


Day 3 Program Sphero in Tickle



Goal- Explore how Tickle programming interacts with Sphero


  • How to connect Sphero to Tickle app.
  • Explore the program that it comes with and see what Sphero does.
  • What shape does this program create?
  • Modify the program by changing the time.
  • Modify the program by changing the speed.
  • How might you program Sphero to create a circle?
  • What other creative tricks can you program Sphero to do?

Discover how far Sphero moves when…

  • Move for 1 second at 50% speed
  • Move for 1 second at 100% speed
  • Move for 5 seconds at 50% speed
  • Move for 5 seconds at 100% speed
  • Focus on programing Motions (blue blocks) and Controls (yellow blocks)

Share programs at the end. Reflect.

Day 4 Action Art with Sphero Inspired by Jackson Pollock

Image Credit

Goal- Be inspired by action art and create a program for our collaborative art piece.

Introduce Action Art by Jackson Pollock with this video from MOMA.


  • How might we be inspired by Jackson Pollock?
  • How might we paint with Sphero using Tickle?

Show this video of painting with Sphero.


  • With a partner, create a program in Sphero that will help create a collaborative art piece.
  • Be sure your program stays within 6 feet long and 4 feet wide (the size of our canvas).
  • Be as creative as you would like.
  • Share programs at the end to see if Sphero stays within the 6×4 feet canvas.
  • Reflect

Day 5 Create a Collaborative Action Art Piece with Sphero!

Goal- Create a collaborative art piece!

My principal is helping me by creating a wooden frame with a cardboard base that will ensure Sphero will not run off of the canvas. We are using large butcher paper as our canvas. Notice there is a Sphero assigned to each paint color and a sign indicating the name of each Sphero. This is how it was set up for students.



  • Allow time for students fix/adapt programs from yesterday.
  • Be sure to use tempera paint. We are only using blue, green, and black paint (our school colors). Avoid using red paint, as it tends to stain Sphero.
  • Use both the Nubby Cover and Turbo Cover for a variety of texture.
  • Try not using the cover for some of the paint.
  • Take turns running the program for each group. Allow groups to choose their color.
  • Display the art for everyone to see!

Discuss and Reflect:

  • How might we change this activity for next time?
  • What else does this activity inspire you to create?

Here is one of my students’ creations:

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What I learned:

It is best to use a cover over Sphero as it helps with cleanup.

Have a bucket of warm soapy water for ease in cleanup.

Darker paint makes it hard to see where the light is to point Sphero in the correct direction. So use lighter colored paint. That is why you see so many programs that ran into the boards.

Have baby wipes ready.

Only have adults place the Sphero onto the canvas, this will help avoid paint getting onto the iPads.


I would love some feedback or ideas from all of you. Please leave a comment about how I might make this lesson even better.

I will post more pictures after the lesson is complete. The students are so excited!


For the love of reading…


Love ReadingI wasn’t a reader of books as a child. In fact I despised reading. I only remember reading Ramona Quimby Age 8 and a book about Mary Lou Retton. I never participated in the reading competitions where you had to fly your rocket to each planet for every hour you read. Only once did I participate. It was because my teacher made me. And I wasn’t happy. I wandered library shelves looking at covers, wasting the time until our teacher told us to line up. Then I’d grab something last minute then shove it in my desk until the day it had to be returned. I just didn’t have time to read. I needed to run, ride by bike, and do cartwheels. But that wasn’t the problem…

If you knew me now you’d laugh at that story of my childhood. I now love books. They are shoved into every nook of our home and my classroom. I talk about books like they are my friends, saying things like, “This book will change your life forever.” I can’t walk into a bookstore without walking out with a new adventure in my hand. I scavenge thrift stores and the Friends of the Library store for new books to add to my collection. I’m embarrassed to admit that once, my husband found me in a thrift store with a stack of books in my arms that I was preventing from falling by holding my chin down on them. My husband laughed at me and said, “No way… we are on a road trip and there just isn’t room in the car!”

My daughters’ rooms are littered with books as well. Just two days ago my youngest daughter cried when we weren’t going to have enough time to get to the library for her to get the next book in her series. My oldest soaks up books and is left craving for more at all times. In fact, I might even say she has read more books than me and she is only 11 years old!

Why is it so different for my daughters?
Why do they love to read?
Why didn’t I have that as a child?
And more importantly, how can we as educators continue to inspire my daughters’ love of books?

Please read this post by Pernille Ripp, titled The Five Truths of Reading.

Let’s help children find a love of reading and nurture that.

This week for Share #YourEdustory, we were challenged with sharing a book that has inspired us as our summer reading. I constantly refer to The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Her book justified my philosophy of keeping the element of choice alive in your reading program. Nothing kills motivation more than being told you MUST read this book. In addition, Donalyn speaks to the journey of finding books that inspire children. We must actively get to know our students so that we can find the books that hook the readers in our classroom. Because sometimes it just takes one book or one genre that will hook that reluctant reader in your classroom. It may be just one book that sparks a love for reading.

Share #YourEdustory.


How to Be a Coach to an Already Awesome Staff


IMG_7243This is my new job title. Coach. Yet my new staff, who I am privileged to work with, is already absolutely amazing!  As a new school we had the opportunity to build a solid creative, innovative, and inspiring teaching staff. I mean really… they are going to be teaching me so much!

So here is my dilemma… how do I coach an already awesome staff?

First of all, in a perfect world I’d change my job title to “Collaborator.” Because that feels right. Rather than “coaching” my colleagues, I’d rather sit alongside and plan, collaborate, create, and innovate with them. I think we would both benefit from this type of scenario. I believe we are better when we work together.

So here is how I plan on approaching my new position:

  1. I’ll be a listener.
  2. I’ll work alongside and inside the classroom.
  3. I’ll work directly with students.
  4. I’ll collaborate.
  5. I’ll do research.
  6. I’ll document and share my learning.

Anything else I should add?

How do you I suggest I “coach” an already amazing staff?


Inspiration Comes From Struggle


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Inspiration often comes from struggle. There I was at the end of the first trimester in my third year of teaching when I heard the news. The news that my kindergarten class would be dispersed because my class was under enrolled. Then I got another blast. I would be moving to second grade! Here it was mid-year, I had formed bonds with my kinders and their families, and I had to say goodbye to all of them. Then move my classroom AND begin the bonding of an entirely new class at an entirely new grade level that I had never taught before.

Then I started hearing “stories” about my new class. It was no wonder the teacher of this class volunteered to be transferred to another school as a result of our school being over-staffed. There were so many stories about this class already and none of them good. People described to me all of the behavior problems, the talking back, and the disrespect.

Needless to say I was a bit nervous about all the change mid-year.

But when I walked in the “that” second grade classroom on the first day of the second trimester, I saw the class that needed me the most. I didn’t see “troublemakers” and “disrespect.” I saw a group of students who needed to be loved, encouraged, and respected as learners. I saw students who came from extraordinarily difficult backgrounds and students who had experienced more sadness in their short lifetimes than me.

It was this class where I learned the most. It was this class where I was inspired to be more than “just a teacher.” My classroom became a place where parents could come and feel safe from their abusive husbands for the day. My classroom became a place where students who just lost a parent had a shoulder to cry on. My classroom became a place where students were challenged to rise above what other people thought of them. I even became a bus driver to a student who was scared of coming to school. I cried with my students when one of our classmates was abducted. I made phone call after phone call advocating for neglected and abused children.

This class didn’t need a teacher who would put their fist down on the desk and demand attention. This class needed love, patience, and someone who believed in them. It was this year of teaching and this class where I was inspired to not only be the best teacher for my students, but also a dedicated advocate for children.


How to Rock a Blog




In the famous words of Les Brown, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great!” This quote was the inspiration for this post, as was Alex Kajitani and his Teacher of the Year Leadership Summit. I am honored to have been asked to lead two “Spark Sessions” at the #TOYSummit about “How to Rock a Blog.”

Here are my five tips about how you can Rock YOUR blog:

1. Start with the why. Why should you, a teacher leader, start a blog? Reflection makes us stronger, wiser, and more precise. In our journey to understand ourselves as educators, we should continually reflect about what we believe in, what has worked well, and also what has failed miserably in our classrooms. Blogging is a great platform for reflection. The process of writing and sharing your work with others can guide you as you move forward in your journey as an educator. We need to not only reflect for own journey as an educator, but also to show the community what teaching and learning is all about. After all, if we don’t tell our stories, somebody else will.

2. Just get started! You don’t have to go out and purchase your own domain. There are plenty of free platforms for you to get started today! There might be a learning curve, but that is what is so amazing about Youtube. Youtube will have an instructional video to help you with most anything. Here are a few FREE blogging platforms for you to try:

3. Blog about what you love. Begin by blogging about what you love. My blog started out as a place to share what I was doing with iPod Touches in my classroom. At the time, I wasn’t finding very many teachers blogging about interesting ways to use apps in the classroom, so I started However, I must admit, I grew tired of just blogging about how I was using apps in the classroom. This year I began to widen my “blogosphere” and began to blog about my philosophies about education and broaching bigger topics. I find a lot of joy in writing about all aspects of education. So here is my advice, learn from my failures. Keep your blog open to write about any topic in education. Don’t limit your blog to only one topic. After all, we have SO many stories to tell about our journey as educators.

4. Blog often. I will admit, this is the toughest part about blogging. But it isn’t impossible. You just need to carve some time into your schedule for writing. It could be Sunday mornings while sipping a cup of coffee. It could be that little bit of time while you are waiting to pick up your child from soccer practice. You can blog anywhere, too! You don’t have to be on your computer. You can write notes on your phone or even record yourself while you are driving. The idea is that you just write. Don’t pressure yourself to make the perfect post, either. And don’t think your post has to be long. Sometimes a paragraph is all you need. My last piece of advice, is don’t let blogging become something else to worry about. If life gets busy, it’s okay to take a break.

5. Build a PLN or a community of “edu bloggers” to share and learn from. Blogging, reflecting, and sharing the story of your journey as an educator is only half of being a blogger. The other half comes from developing a network of bloggers from whom you love to learn. There are quite literally thousands of bloggers out there writing about their classrooms. However, how do you find these amazing people? I have dedicated the last several years connecting with educators on Twitter (if you are interested about doing this too read this blog post). If you haven’t yet spent time developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter then worry no longer. This year, I began a blogging community called Share #YourEdustory. This community of bloggers all come together each week to blog about the same topic. Then we post our blogs on Twitter using the hashtag #YourEdustory. I have met some amazing educators, both administrators and teachers, who  began the journey of reflecting about their practice through blogs. If you want to learn more about the Share #YourEdustory bloggers group, follow this link.

Bloggers who make me think:

Karl Lingren Stricher:

Bjorn Paige:

Andrew Thomasson:

Jen Wagner:

David Theriault:

Scott Bedley:

Pernille Ripp:


all the amazing bloggers of Share #YourEdustory. Find them all here.







Let’s Stop Pretending and Let’s Start to #MakeSchoolDifferent


Untitled drawing


I have been challenged by Jen Roberts and Alice Chen to write a blog post about 5 things that we need to “stop pretending” when it comes to education. But I’m not a complaining type of person, so while I will not only share with you what we need to “stop pretending,” I will also share ways we can start to #makeschooldifferent.

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 Here it goes:

1. Let’s stop pretending that standardization works. Let’s start personalizing learning and begin collaborating with students to design lessons and PBL experiences that connect to the real world.

2. Let’s stop pretending teacher centered classrooms works. Let’s start designing student centered classrooms where students’ interests are honored.

3. Let’s stop pretending worksheets are good pedagogy. Let’s start demonstrating how technology can be used to transform learning and promote creativity, collaboration, communication skills, and critical thinking.

4. Let’s stop pretending that memorizing is learning. Instead, let’s start to make learning meaningful through project based learning. And not the “let’s all make a cute project” kind of PBL, but the kind of PBL that makes a real impact on the community. Let’s start inspiring students to master life long skills like creative confidence, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

5. Let’s stop pretending that teachers can do the job alone. Instead, let’s embrace collaboration of all stakeholders to #makeschooldifferent→ parents, teachers, administrators, support staff, students, and the local community should work together, not against each other, to impact student learning. After all, we are not designing schools but rather learning environments and learning can happen anywhere!

As these types of challenges go, I must now pass the challenge on to 5 people. I challenge my Share #YourEdustory friends: Christy Fennewald ‏@christyfenne, Bjorn Paige ‏@BjornPaige, Jessica Vannasdall ‏@mrsvannasdall, Andrew Thomasson ‏@thomasson_engl, and Steve Brophy ‏@SteveBrophy3. I can’t wait to read what you all have to say about how you will #makeschooldifferent. Please tag me on your posts!

I’m adding Holly Clark @HollyClarkEdu to the challenge, too!