Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2015

Blockly for Dash & Dot robots

Adorable robots teach hands-on coding skills

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Grades
K-5 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Great for:
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Pros: Students see code come to life and have lots of customization options for sounds.

Cons: Puzzles are very challenging and sometimes buggy with little to no help.

Bottom Line: You can program robots with code blocks, with plenty of creative options and lots of fun.

A few lesson plans are available on the Wonder Workshop website. Teachers can register for full access to all the lesson plans covering all content areas for grades K–5 for $60 per year. Use Blockly to introduce kids to an Hour of Code session or let kids explore programming as a center activity throughout the school year. Some classes may adopt Dash and Dot as class mascots, and teachers could find lesson plans online or create their own to integrate them and program across the curriculum; kids could write stories about Dash or Dot's adventures and create a program to accompany it, for example. Lesson plans on the Wonder Workshop site include geography, graphing, and more.

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Dash and Dot are a pair of robots from Wonder Workshop with five accompanying apps that help kids program the robots. Blockly introduces students to coding using visual blocks of code. Though the apps are free, the robots must be purchased either individually or as a package deal, ranging from $49.99 to $249.99. In Blockly, students work through a hands-on tutorial and then can complete puzzles where they have to write the prescribed programs. They can also create their own programs, including custom sounds, too, and save them in-app. The robot or robots kids are working with will need to be detected via Bluetooth by the app each time they play.

A Driving School lesson starts kids off, introducing them to the commands that drive the robots. Once kids have their license, they can complete themed puzzles, unlocking more as they advance, or create original programs. Dash and Dot can drive forward, backward, left, right, and turn. They can look different directions or toward a voice. They can light up in different colors and make different sounds, including custom-recorded sounds. Kids can add in other variables to make the robots respond to obstacles and other conditions, too.

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Students will work with programming concepts such as sequencing, events, loops, algorithms, conditionals, and variables as they drag and drop the code into place to control the robots. The larger robot, Dash, moves on wheels and can light up and make sounds. Dot, the smaller, is designed to be touched -- shaken, tilted, dropped -- and responds with lights and sounds.

While these big-eyed robots may be absolutely adorable and good for lots of laughs with their quirky sound effects, they're actually teaching kids logic and hands-on coding skills. The puzzles are sometimes buggy, and there's very little help for kids who get stuck. The hints just repeat the original instructions with slightly different wording and a bit of elaboration. The create-your-own projects are where kids can really learn and have fun -- experimenting, taking risks, and applying logic and creativity. The options available for sounds, lights, and movement make the possibilities for what kids can do with Dash and Dot almost endless.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
5

The robots are endearingly cute, with big eyes and sweet voices, and kids will enjoy the options to add their own custom sounds to the robots.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
4

The commands kids learn using the blocks of code, as well as the logic and terminology, are a great introduction to programming. Kids can see the possibilities using the puzzles or get creative by writing their own programs.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Not much in-app help is available, beyond brief hints. Original programs are named and saved automatically, but kids can rename them. Lesson plans on the website extend learning options.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher