How I Use It
We bought Four Premium and a Four Basic kits of LittleBits to be resources in our Maker lab so that students could create and build circuits for their creations. They have also been used in Science classes in the middle school level. Most recently, a few students incorporated the LittleBits motors and power bits to augment their bridge building activities made from cardboard and other materials.
I tested this project with my two makers, shakers and creators (girl 7 and boy 10) and they used the sample projects provided to start their use of this technology and iterated with their own projects. I think the opportunity for these circuits to part of student-centered and student-led projects is good as my kids were keen to play with their project as quickly as possible and kept adding more and more outputs for their projects. However, putting on my teacher hat I would probably provide some more direction and ask students to build using specific blocks or creating a program with the least number of blocks to encourage best practices with building and programming. In terms of learning theories, much constructionism is at work here as students build tangible and shareable circuits through collaborative sessions and perhaps even shared online tutorials/walk-throughs by video. Students can even use .mods (link to a BitCraft review from DanTDM to connect to online creation tools like the ever popular Minecraft. (My son was quite chuffed that I sat and watched one of his favorite YouTube stars video with him!)
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.
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_teach?language=en#