Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2016
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littleBits Invent

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Top-notch tool empowers kids to invent, build, and control wirelessly

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Creativity
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
2-8
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Kids have incredible flexibility and independence as they invent with littleBits.

Cons: Attaching pieces to the mounting board can be tricky, and costs increase as kids need different Bits for new creations.

Bottom Line: Easy-to-use, versatile electronic invention set that works wirelessly with your hand-held device.

Teachers and media specialists can use littleBits Invent to empower future engineers and inventors. After you follow directions in preset designs to get comfortable with the materials, littleBits are best used when kids make their own creations. Encourage students to enter some of the challenge competitions on the littleBits website, sharing their ideas with kids all over the country. 

littleBits Invent is the perfect addition to a school’s maker space. When littleBits is used with entire classes or schools, make sure to have lots of extra nine-volt batteries, glue dots, and craft supplies on hand. There are lots of different Bits, and each one can be expensive. School districts might consider purchasing a few sets and rotating them every few months to each of their elementary schools. This might save some money and still give all kids a chance to invent with littleBits.

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littleBits Invent utilizes electronic building blocks that can be combined and recombined to make endless inventions. Once built, creations are controlled wirelessly by a smartphone or tablet. Kids can follow directions to build a remote control car or a Burglar Buzzer that sets off an alarm if anyone tries to take their piggy bank. The power of littleBits lies in its Invention Cycle. Kids are encouraged to create, play, remix, and share their inventions. This engineering process with a creativity twist encourages kids to use craft materials to personalize the electronics they build.

In addition to controlling inventions wirelessly through the app, students can search for other's inventions, access step-by-step tutorials, enter challenges to win prizes, upload and share creations, and interact with the littleBits online community. 

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So many electronics sets become parent or teacher projects, requiring extensive adult support. littleBits is different because the circuit pieces just snap together using magnets. During testing an 8-year-old was able to follow clear step-by-step diagrams on her device to build a Bit Bot vehicle. Each time she completed a step, an encouraging chime urged her on. She required no help at all until the very end; attaching the different bits to the mounting board is a little tricky and may require stronger adult hands to snap each piece in place.

littleBits Invent is great at connecting digital technology with actual physical inventions. Are your kids mad about Minecraft? With the purchase of the cloudBit, kids can extend their virtual Minecraft fun into the real world. By building a cloud gateway in their Minecraft world, they can manipulate their littleBit invention in the game and in person. littleBits Invent encourages communication and teamwork beyond what can be done with pure online play. Kids can work together, helping each other build their circuits and brainstorming about inventions.

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Overall Rating

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

Bits are easy enough to use that kids can build whatever they want without getting too frustrated. Kids can tap into their creativity and share their designs with their friends.

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

Aligned with NGSS Science and Engineering Practices, students design solutions to a problem, then test how well their solutions worked. Kids can publish their ideas on the littleBits website and learn from other inventors.

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

Directions for how to build other people's inventions are available on the littleBits website, or kids can go through each step on their device. littleBits also offers educators self-paced online professional development modules. 


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 1 reviews) (1 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Anthony C. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Bayview Glen
Toronto, ON
Snapable electronic blocks for elementary and middle students to easily create and modify projects with circuits

LittleBits is an excellent resource for Maker Labs and an asset in elementary and middle school environments. The potential for quick changes and iterations to projects and circuits make this a good (yet pricey) introduction to basic circuitry. However, they can be used to complete more complex circuitry as evidenced by the advanced session of the lesson gallery. The sample projects provide an easy entry point and students can find success quickly and easily (No hot soldering needed.)

They also work well with an inquiry-based approach. Students and educators could pose questions that could answered by the LittleBits. Here is an example that answers the question (Are objects worth as much as they weigh?) Having a few sample projects is good but letting students experiment and discovery seems sound pedagogy to encourage students to experiment in a behaviourist manner. (i.e. Does your circuit light up, buzz etc. or not)
The community and lesson sharing tools are good so far but as with all active and consistent updates with keep the site vibrant and useful going forward. Overall, this is a great new tool for elementary and middle school students. However, we must avoid the pitfall for this technology to simply a teacher-driven tool and ensure that student hands and minds are directing its use in their own projects.

Important Links

Students Sets - http://littlebits.cc/kits/student-set
Educator Site - http://littlebits.cc/education
Lessons - http://littlebits.cc/lessons
Educator’s Guide - https://s3.amazonaws.com/littleBits_pdfs/littleBitsEducatorsGuide_FINAL.pdf
Little Bits Community Forum - http://littlebits.cc/community/chapters
LittleBits TED Talk - http://www.ted.com/talks/ayah_bdeir_building_blocks_that_blink_beep_and_...

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