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Code Cube™ gives students control

Published February 17, 2020
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When Natalie Vanderbeck was asked to help alpha and beta test a brand-new piece of educational technology – the Code Cube™ – she was quickly reminded that Pitsco Education has more in store than just a catalog of STEM learning products.

In mid-2019, Pitsco employed the help of a few members of their Teacher Advisory Group to test out the Code Cube device. Vanderbeck, who teaches Grades K-5 at George Nettels Elementary School in Pittsburg, KS, was quick to implement Code Cube with an after-school group of students.

For those of you who haven’t yet heard the buzz, Code Cube is a codable wearable that students can use to not only explore the realm of block-based coding but also flex their creative muscles. Students receive the Code Cube itself; download their own coded sounds and images from the web-based app to Code Cube’s interactive, colorful 64-pixel screen; and then wear it around on the included snap wristband or in any other form they can imagine. It’s an intuitive educational device – the skills to use it are quick to pick up, and it’s classroom ready from the get-go.

Vanderbeck and her students can attest to all of this and so much more.

One of the main takeaways from Vanderbeck’s beta test is that the Code Cube is super user-friendly for students of all ability levels. Because it doesn’t need any external parts for it to work, it’s nowhere near as intimidating or as time-consuming as coding and manipulating a whole robotics set. Vanderbeck’s students were able to see the results of their code within minutes of opening the box. “The app is so easy to use that students just jump right in,” she said. She even mentioned that all her students – who had a range of academic levels and knowledge of technology – found success with Code Cube. According to Vanderbeck, the customizable display helps students “connect to their interests and, in turn, connect their interest to coding.”

Similarly, Vanderbeck reported that teachers of all ability levels can find success with the little wearable. Teachers who already have a strong knowledge base of coding concepts will find it a snap to come up with a multitude of classroom applications for Code Cube. And, on the flip side, teachers who struggle with coding and other STEM concepts can rely on the teacher’s guide, which can be downloaded for free, to provide guidance and instruction as well as standard correlations to ISTE, NGSS, and Common Core. Vanderbeck stated that the teacher’s guide could even be given to a substitute teacher, as it has vocabulary words and open-ended challenges in addition to the clear, explicit instructions for 10 base activities.

While this kind of success and flexibility might sound familiar to facilitators and administrators who already use Pitsco products and solutions, Code Cube is a little different than the usual hands-on STEM portfolio. Beyond being the first proprietary elementary coding solution designed entirely from the ground up by Pitsco personnel – from the brainstorming stage all the way through the iterative process to physical creation and distribution – the Code Cube pushes the envelope of technology. It’s not just the first wearable of its kind in the realm of ed tech; it’s the first wearable of its kind, period. Pitsco prides itself on having been into STEM education before STEM was cool, and now they’ve done it again – this time connecting students to the future, their future, via coding.

PREPARING STUDENTS FOR THE 2030 WORKFORCE

The 2030 workforce is in elementary school today. These students are absolutely immersed in the digital world – for example, Google and Alexa operate their bedroom lights and tell them stories, the Internet can answer any question relevant to their childlike mind within a fraction of a second, and games are merely at their fingertips. While the tech of the future becomes the tech of today, young children have innumerable opportunities to push beyond the boundaries of instant gratification.

Devices like Code Cube give students a starting point to take control of their learning. Just one example is that coding develops abstract concepts such as pattern recognition, which can create brain pathways essential to solving highly complicated problems later in life. And while the ability to create if-then statements won’t be necessary in every workplace, having decision-making skills and being able to predict the outcome of a choice will certainly translate to any person’s path.

The thing is, with Code Cube, yes, students have a great time, and, yes, they gain coding skills, and, yes, they even develop their social-emotional learning – but they probably don’t realize that they’re doing all this while simultaneously preparing to face the complications of the real world – the world that they’ll enter after they graduate. The idea behind Code Cube is the development of students’ computational thinking and problem-solving; as students take ownership of this one piece of their education and creativity, they learn that it’s OK to fail and that success isn’t always defined by a teacher’s rules. Code Cube lets them define success for themselves.

Vanderbeck’s classroom is a crystal-clear reflection of this. During the beta testing, as students searched for direction and clarification, Vanderbeck told them over and over, “You’re in control. You get to tell it what to do.” She used the Code Cube to push them to define success for themselves, provide them opportunity to explore their own creativity and critical thinking, and, most importantly, give them ownership of their own learning.

If you think Code Cube could benefit your students, or if you’re interested in learning more about what Code Cube has in store for you, check out these web resources:

“Pitsco STEM products provide students learning opportunities to construct their own understanding of concepts in science, technology, engineering, and math. Students actively collaborate, communicate, concentrate, and creatively create while using processes and skills needed for next generation success in today’s world. Powerful.”

– Jill Brockmier, teacher, Jefferson Elementary School, Pullman, Washington

We enable young learners to develop the mind-set, skill set, and tool set needed for future success.

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