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The PLEO Project: An Introduction to Computational Thinking and Programming


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Keywords: programming, computational thinking, PLEO
Subject(s): Technology
Grade 8
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Schuyler Middle School, Schuyler, NE
Planned By: Dawn Prescott
Original Author: Dawn Prescott, Schuyler
Day 1: Getting to Know PLEO

1. A pair of students will turn PLEO on and interact with him while completing the following tasks.
2. Students will access http://goo.gl/iMkEa for the PLEO diagram.
3. Students will fill out the PLEO Sensors Activity Worksheet (downloadable at http://goo.gl/D5xQs) illustrating the complex robot "under the skin": tilt and touch sensors, infrared communication, microphone, stereo hearing, and force feedback sensors.
4. Students will then discover cause and effect behaviors by interacting with PLEO as they work through the "Can You Figure Out How to Make PLEO Do These Tricks?" activity (go to http://goo.gl/Cjor1).
5. Each student will write a 50-100 word journal entry about what he/she learned on Day 1.

Day 2: Introduction to MySkit

1. The student team will turn PLEO on and interact with him while completing the following tasks.
2. Students will finish the "Can You Figure Out How to Make PLEO Do These Tricks?" activity (see URL above), if needed.
3. Each student will download the freeware MySkit (download at http://goo.gl/zl3wm) to the computer by clicking on the "Download Installer for MySkit Performance Editor v1.3 for PLEO" link. (3.5 MBytes)
4. Next, students will open the program and work through the tutorial titled "MySkit Tutorial #1:Create Your First Skit!" (this should be printed out beforehand at http://goo.gl/A7ZpQ and organized in a PLEO Project binder, one per student).
5. Each student will write a 50-100 word journal entry about what he/she learned on Day 2.

Day 3: Using MySkit to Add Music and Sounds

1. The student team will turn PLEO on and interact with him while completing the following tasks.
2. Each student will open the MySkit program and work through "MySkit Tutorial #2: Recording Music" (this should be printed out beforehand at http://goo.gl/2qfHk and organized in the PLEO Project binder, one per student).
(If music is available, students can use Windows Media Player. If not, students can plug in a USB microphone and record their own voice or sounds.)
3. Students will then save any skits they wish to save to the PLEO folder on the Desktop. (Skit names should include the student's first name or initials--i.e. JDbark.)
4. Each student will write a 50-100 word journal entry about what he/she learned on Day 3.

Day 4: Performing Student Skits on PLEO

1. The student team will turn PLEO on and interact with him while completing the following tasks.
2. Each student will open the MySkit program and work through "MySkit Tutorial #3: Perform Skits on PLEO" (this should be printed out beforehand at http://goo.gl/l0HOo and organized in the PLEO Project binder, one per student).
3. Each student will use an SD card and USB card reader to transfer their skit(s).
4. Ensuring that PLEO is in the OFF position, students will take turns inserting the SD card to PLEO's card slot (on stomach).
5. Each student will turn PLEO on and observe if the robot is performing the program the way the student envisioned. (This will override PLEO's default personality.)
6. The student will then critically analyze the skit: Does the mouth open far enough for the sound? Do PLEO's movements make sense with the recorded sound? Are the movements dramatic enough to be noticed?
7. Each student will then take the SD card and revise and improve on the skit, repeating the steps above.
8. Each student will write a 50-100 word journal entry about what he/she learned on Day 4.

Day 5: Pulling It All Together

1. The student team will turn PLEO on and interact with him while completing the following tasks.
2. Students will use the Action Directory (Tutorial #3) to create a complex skit by compiling several simple skits to play when PLEO's touch sensors are triggered.
3. Using the Flip Video camera, students will take turns recording PLEO as he performs each student's skit. The student will narrate what they did as they are filmed by the other student.
4. Students will upload their videos to their project folders (on the school server) and then also to the project web site that they have previously created. This web site will be evaluated online by the teacher at the end of the course.
8. Each student will write a 50-100 word journal summary, reflecting on their prior entries, about what they learned this week, what grade they feel they earned, and why. This journal will be sent to the teacher electronically for project evaluation.








Comments
I serve a high-minority student population of first-generation Americans. This project enables me to expose students to computational thinking and programming in a way that attracts them and develops healthy emotional behaviors and collaborative skills that are essential for their future success in their careers and in society.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Storytelling skits (narrating a book for younger students); science skits (learning about dinosaurs by touching PLEO's sensors to give facts); writing prompts based on student-created skits; allowing an emotionally-challenged student to care for and nurture PLEO in a counseling setting
Follow-Up
Showcase students' work at the state technology conference by assisting them in presenting this topic.
Links: PLEO World
My TeacherWeb (class web site)
Materials: Web Page, Memory Cards, Batteries, Microphones, Flip Video
Other Items: 1 PLEOrb LifeOS Robotic Dinosaur, $469.00 each, total of $469.00
1 PLEO Rechargeable Battery (for backup), $ 49.95 each, total of $49.95
1 PLEO Cape (to prevent wear and tear on rubberized skin), $14.95 each, total of $14.95
1 USB Card Reader, $14.95 each, total of $14.95