When a company sets out to create a coding product for kids they want to appeal to as large a segment as possible. That’s left our 10 year old edtech reporter, Tatum, trying out coding toys and products that say they are for ages x and up, playing and attempting to learn with a product clearly meant for younger kids. Parents wouldn’t buy their third grader Duplo Legos right?
Zee Dubrovsky, the founder of Root Robotics knows first hand the frustration with appealing to different segments of kids and students. The father of three school age children knows that girls playing Minecraft and Five Nights at Freddy’s aren’t going to enjoy a Doc McStuffins playset. Dubrovsky is a product guy having been involved in bringing both the Roomba and Sonos to the mass market.
For a product guy one of the biggest hurdles is customer discovery. So when he started working with the Root Robotics team, a project that came out of the Harvard Robotics Lab, getting it right for all kids was a big goal. And they nailed it.
Root is a short, cute robot that can spin, move, wiggle, light up, draw and do just about anything else kids can program it to do. That programming starts around age 4 or in some cases a little younger.
They’ve divided the Root experience into three levels. Level 1 is a graphic coding level where kids program Root using a series of commands that are represented by pictures on the accompanying program app. It’s a precursor to block languages like Scratch and Blockly and teaches the foundations of problem solving essential for kids.
Dubrovsky and his team want to make sure that along with coding they are teaching kids to have a career skill. “One thing we’ve found is that parents want their kids to learn to code, but many can’t teach coding themselves”. Coding is a language and as we’ve talked about time and time again, in the next few years we will see coding as prevalent as Spanish and French in schools. The foundation to any good language learning is to develop those fundamental skills as early as possible.
This leads to level 2 which is a drag and drop Block language custom developed by the Root team. In this level, naturally Root can do more and kids can code more. They can drag, drop and move coding blocks around until Root does exactly what they want him to do.
With these three different levels kids stay engaged. Not only does Root grow with its kid owner and programmer but the programming grows as well.
For the classroom Root has created a curriculum based on a rubric of learning in chunks, constructionism, individualizations, multiple representations, scaffolding and distributed learning.
Tatum got a chance to talk with Dubrovsky and Root’s Learning Design Lead at CES 2018. Watch the video above.
For more information visit with Root Robotics at FETC 2018 in Orlando, January 23-26th, booth #635 and online and social at codewithroot.