Drag-and-drop code & click-together circuitry: the littleBits of big projects

by | 13 Nov, 2017 | 0 comments

Want to incorporate coding into your subject but don't know where to start?

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Coding has become ubiquitous in all streams of education, from engineers to startups to creative artists and more. The reach is so wide that some are suggesting code is the blue collar work of the future. And while it has become easier than ever to learn how to code through websites like Lynda.com or Code Academy, knowing how to integrate these skills into a pre-existing course outline can be tricky. This is particularly the case when dealing with a diverse demographic of students whose digital literacy skills can vary. One solution to incorporate coding into your teaching is the littleBits Code Kit. The Kit makes learning this essential skill easy by combining two basic concepts: click-together circuitry and drag-and-drop code. It doesn’t require any extensive knowledge of circuitry or coding, but with a little bit of experimenting, the projects you can create are far from simple.

What is littleBits?

littleBits made their name thanks to their click-together (or snap-together) circuitry. They’re a great way for people without knowledge of electrical engineering to create simple circuits. The applications range from Internet of Things to artistic projects, with the littleBits repertoire continuing to expand, seeing them work with industries across disciplines to create unique and powerful tools like the Synth Kit.
Building on the success of click-together parts, littleBits introduced the Code Kit combining the circuitry with drag-and-drop code. Think of it as a simplified Arduino, where the coding language is block-based and the circuitry doesn’t requiring any wire bending or soldering.

Where do I start?

First step, head over to UTS Library and borrow the Code Kit. The Kit includes all the bits to click together as well as the all important CodeBit. Next, you’ll want to download the littleBits Code Kit App. It’s through the app that your students will be able to program the electronic bits with the drag-and-drop code.
All you need to get the creative gears going is a straightforward project. And what could be more straightforward than a game? Check out these games you can program to start with something really easy to build, but big on coding ideas.

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Big ideas, littleBits: It’s a snap!

This all seems really simple right? But the simplicity is only in the techniques used (click and drop, build up the blocks), not the learning outcomes.
The big advantage of the Code Kit is that it combines the digital with the physical, linking the theoretical component of coding with the tangible interaction of a circuit. It requires you to think consequentially and is a great way to develop computational thinking by establishing a desired outcome, formulating problems, expressing solutions and then executing and evaluating those solutions.
Yes, the code is elementary (Google Blockly-based and similar to Scratch), but the principles covered are expandable. Have your students gotten to know their loops from their algorithms or their variables from their complex conditionals? They will after spending a bit of time with the Code Kit! These principles are the grammar and syntax of coding, and once understood they can be applied to more sophisticated coding languages. Combine that with the computational thinking involved in creating the projects and your students have just developed an array of skills to see them through their next prototype.

Where from here?

Now it’s your turn. Got an idea for a coding class but need something everyone can understand? Need your students to develop prototypes or undertake a Personal Learning Agreement? Contact your faculty librarian to find out more about what you can do to design a bespoke session for your students or faculty using the Code Kit. In the meantime, check out the array of inventions available through littleBits.

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