Archive for the ‘littlebits’ Category

creative thinking core competency project 2016

Posted on: May 8th, 2016 by jnovakowski

For the third year, our district has invited grade 6-9 teachers to participate in a Core Competencies project. This year, Rosalind Poon and myself hosted the project, focusing on the Creative Thinking core competency in the BC curriculum. A blog post about our first session together can be found here.

Our second session was held in January and teachers shared what they had been trying in their classrooms, nurturing students’ creative thinking focusing on the three facets of novelty & value, generating ideas and developing ideas. Leah, a grades 5&6 teacher shared a force and motion invention fair she co-coordinated at her school with students applying creative thinking to their invention design and purpose. Irene shared the creatures her grade 8 Home Ec students created, considering the facets of creative thinking.

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During the session we looked at the book, Weaving Creativity into Every Strand of Your Curriculum by Dr. Cyndi Burnett and Julia Figliotti, that we have been using in this series and in our school teams, used one of the ideas from the book to think about a concept we were studying with our students. Teachers were asked to use materials to create a soundscape to represent an idea or concept. Challenging! One teacher commented on how a student really has to understand the idea/concept and synthesize thinking in order to do this task.


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Our third and final session of the year was held at the end of April. Teachers shared ho they were weaving opportunities for creative thinking throughout their classroom programs. We asked teachers to write-up a lesson idea that was successful for them and their students and we will be compiling these ideas to share with teachers in our district.

During the session, we introduced teachers to the electronic components littleBits which were piloted in the district two years ago for the purposes of nurturing creative thinking through STEAM experiences. Different ways teachers and students have been using littleBits in the district were shared and then the teachers in the project were asked to create something that does something – being mindful of the three facets of the creative thinking core competency: novelty & value, generating ideas and developing ideas.

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As teachers engaged with the materials, they could see the possibilities for using the littleBits beyond  the electricity component of the science curriculum in grades 7 and 9. More information about littleBits can be found on the website here.

We also asked teachers to record a short professional narrative about their involvement in this project. The following is one teacher’s response:

  • I strongly believe that the focus on the creative thinking competency in my classroom this year had the most impact on my teaching and the students’ learning.  They are called the “core competencies” for a reason! Personal responsibility, communication, and critical thinking developed side by side with creative thinking.  The willingness to take risks and persevere with difficult or ambiguous learning tasks has increased tremendously.  I am also constantly amazed by the depth of thinking the students show in many circumstances. We had 2 students reflect on how learning happens in our classroom. See their thoughts below.

“Creative Thinking is the process of having original ideas of value. The Creative Thinking Challenges we do each Wednesday encourages us to think creatively when faced with a problem. Itís very important to have unique and innovative ideas, and to have different ways of overcoming challenges, especially with our rapidly changing society. We also do something called Monday Morning Provocations. Every Monday, we use a variety of materials to reflect on a question. We have more ways to show what we know, and explain our thinking visually. Not just with pencil and paper.We do a lot of activities helping us learn in different ways, not just reading a textbook, copying facts, and memorizing it. We do discussion circles where everyone shares an opinion and we discuss it. We use iPads and take pictures of our work to communicate and show our learning to parents and teachers. We use an app called FreshGrade. After every activity, we have a self-assessment/feedback frame to let us reflect on our work. Instead of the teacher giving us marks, we actually think about what we did well on, what we need to improve on etc. Overall, we think the new BC curriculum develops a creative and positive mind, which will help us in the near future.” ~ L&L

How valuable to have students reflect and comment on their learning experiences!

Roz and I look forward to continuing our work with the core competencies project next year!


science and tech – show and share

Posted on: December 8th, 2014 by jnovakowski

On Wednesday after school, we held a “show and share” to share some new science and tech learning materials available in our district. All of these materials promote creative thinking and links were made to the creative thinking competency in our redesigned curriculum.

Teachers had time to try out the different materials, sign up for borrowing kits from DRC and for some hot chocolate, tea and cookies.


The Osmo is a new device for the iPad that uses reflective artificial intelligence to use the camera within the iPad and a reflector to create a play area in front of the iPad. The kit comes with the device, a tangram set and a set of alphabet tiles and it now available at Apple stories as well as online. The three apps that work with the device are free through the iTunes store – Tangram, Words and Newton. The Osmo creates an interactive collaborative experience.

More information can be found at




littleBits are magnetic electronic components that can be connected to create circuits. The bits have different functions and allow students to make things that can do things just as make noise, light up, have a fan, etc. We piloted these materials in primary, intermediate and secondary classrooms last year with high engagement for students.

More information can be found at

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Squishy Circuits

Squishy Circuits are electrical circuits created with a battery pack, wires, LED lights and other components such as buzzers. Conductive and insulating playdoughs allow students to easily and safely create circuits.

More information can be found at



Three Osmos are available to borrow from DRC as are three littleBits  kits – the pilot project kit, the workshop kit and the space kit. Squishy Circuits are on order and will be available soon.


littleBits in grade 9 science at Cambie

Posted on: June 6th, 2014 by jnovakowski

We have been piloting the use of littleBits in our district to investigate the different ways that the components can be used to stimulate creative thinking within the domain of science. Last week I visited one of Karen Ibbott’s grade 9 science classes at Cambie, to see how grade 9 students might respond to the materials. In much the same way that we have been trying them out in elementary classrooms, I gave each group of 4 students a small tray of components and asked them to find out what they could about littleBits. The students were quick to figure out how the components worked together and manipulated different variables to see what they could do with the components.

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The students then worked in their groups to “create something that does something” and scrounged around the classroom for materials. We asked the students to document their project using a set of iPads I had brought in…taking photos, video and using apps like ShadowPuppet, 30Hands or Haiku Deck to share their project. Lots of creative thinking and problem solving was involved as students collaborated in their groups.

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As the groups worked on their projects, we asked them to create circuit diagrams.

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Here is a short video clip created on the Shadow Puppet app of the Keep the Guy Alive project:

We uploaded 6 projects to the littleBits website and each project post included a short video, photo and circuit diagram. The projects can be found on this page (scroll down page and search by littleBits user name jnovakowskisd38):

Campfire Monster

The Crane

Armed with Alarms


Keep the Guy Alive

Happy Face

What I noticed…what was the same and what was different about using littleBits in a secondary class:

the same

high level of engagement

collaboration amongst students

problem solving

time needed for investigation

vast variety of creative projects created

particular components were in high demand (ie. fan, dc motor, buzzer)


elementary students generally approached created the circuits with more of a “guess and test/check” approach while the secondary students were more intentional and applied what they knew about electricity when constructing their circuits

in general, the elementary students made inferences about what was happening in terms of electrical circuits while the secondary students knew, understood and could clearly explain what was happening

the secondary students were able to envision components that would be useful to have, i.e. “it would be cool if we had a __________”

On our last day together, I asked the students to provide some feedback using TodaysMeet and some of the comments included:

What did you like about using littleBits?

“It was simple and safe.” “Because its very interactive.” “Allows us to have fun and learn at the same time.” “littleBits are better than Lego.”

How do you think littleBits inspires creative thinking?

“It inspired us to invent something.” “It lets you have a sense of creativity.”

How did you use what you know about electricity while you were working with littleBits?

“Knowledge of how electrons flow.” “Making a series circuit.”

“littleBits is a fun little product that teaches others the concept of circuits…it’s fast and fun.”

Overall, the students’ feedback suggested that these materials were valuable and encouraged students to be creative and collaborative. Our District Resource Centre has purchased a workshop kit of 100 littleBits components to add to our collection, creating more opportunities for more students to work with these materials.


littleBits design projects

Posted on: May 8th, 2014 by jnovakowski

I spent three Wednesday afternoons at Blair working with teacher-librarian and resource teacher April Chan and a primary group of students that were working on inquiry projects.

Our first day together the students investigated littleBits and what they could do. One student exclaimed right away, “oh, they are magnetic!” I think it is so much more worthwhile for students to discover this themselves than for me to tell them ahead of time that the littleBits are magnetic and other things they are able to do.




One student read the battery (not realizing it was a battery because of its bright purple colour) and said, “It says juice. Juice is like energy. I think this could attach to this (connecting power wire and bit). It says on and off (reading the power bit). Can I touch the switch? The light goes on! Hey, it’s shaking! (as she realizes the connected DC motor is vibrating on the table).” I love that this student was articulating her discoveries as she went, and I was able to document them.




I asked the students to share what they had learned about littleBits so far and their responses were:

“They are magnetic.”

“The juice makes things happen.”

“The order of the bits matters.”

The primary group were  able to synthesize their findings into big ideas…pretty impressive.

Then, we watched a short video from the littleBits website to inspire the students for the following week as they began to create their own projects.

During the second session, students worked on their own or in partnerships to create something that does something. Some students began by drawing their plans while others jumped right into making something, testing as they went.

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The students were asked to record their design plan so that they could replicate it the following week.


Here is a short video highlighting some of the students’ experiences:

Day 2 littleBits primary inquiry group

During our final session together, the students were to re-create their projects by following their plans. One partnership had their flying bird working in no time and decided to add a nest to their project.



One boy abandoned his robot arm project and decided to try something new, inspired by the mounting board.


A group of three boys quickly recreated their circuit and them expertly explained the contribution of each littleBit to their project.


A short little video of the boys explaining their circuit:

explanation of littleBits circuit

The make something that does something lesson was not lost on these boys…they very clearly told me that their project did do something – it beeped and buzzed and shook and lit up and the fan spun around!

A girl adapted her plan when she couldn’t access the light colour changing bit so using an LED, she used a fire coloured red with the light behind it to create the campfire glow she wanted. Once her campsite was all set up and she realized the strength of the LED, she creatively played around with shadows and added a character standing inside her tent!





Such diversity and creativity in all of the students’ projects!



creating littleBits circuits

Posted on: March 2nd, 2014 by jnovakowski

I spent some time on Friday in the grades 5 & 6 class at Garden City. This term, the students have been studying electricity as their science topic and their teacher Paula Zack (who is in for Liz Nasu who is on mat leave) thought it would be interesting to see what connections they made to what they learned about electricity as they investigated littleBits.

The students also discovered that the order of the littleBits did matter. At first they weren’t sure and this group was convinced that there button wasn’t working, until they changed the order of the littleBits. They explained that the information that needs to make something happen needs to come first (the button before the buzzer).
“The button doesn’t work if it comes after the buster, it has to come before the buzzer. Electricity doesn’t flow backwards.”

As students investigated and tested things out with the littleBits, I recorded several of the observations and comments the students made, revealing their developing understanding of electricity:

-there are metal prongs so when you snap littlebits together it completes the circuit
-the electrons flow from the battery
-the green ones all do something
-the power switch controls the flow of electrons 
-we found out the slide dimmer changes the sound of the buzzer
-the magnets only go in a certain way otherwise they won’t connect
-I close the circuit when I turn off the power switch

Some of the groups were very interested in the three-pronged fork bit and played around with changing the variables and bits attached to see how these changes affected different bits. They noticed that some bits were louder, brighter or moved more quickly when less bits were attached to the fork.

Because they need more energy.”
“Servo goes faster when you take other bits off.”

And after some experimentation, some students were still confounded by the purpose of the orange wires:
I still don’t know what this does!”

and then they realized they could use them to reach further with their circuit when they create things.

The circuits got more and more complicated as the session moved on…

One session with the littleBits was not enough and I could tell that the students’s synapses were firing in their brains with ideas of what they could create. Hopefully, the class will be able to book the district kit some time during third term.

Here’s a short Animoto video overview of this class’ first littleBits session:

I’m sure the students have lots of ideas for what they might create with the littleBits now that they know what they can do!

little bits pilot inquiry project: day five

Posted on: January 11th, 2014 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

For the final day working with littlebits, the students refined one of their projects and documented their design and project using the district iPads. The students were asked to record the materials for their project and how the steps in putting the project together. The students set up “photo shoots” and used the iPad to take photos. They were reminded to show enough detail so that others could replicate their projects.

The students could choose from a variety of apps to document their littlebits projects. Some students used Skitch to create labeled diagrams.

Some students used Haiku Deck to create a slideshow on the iPad.

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad  Others used screencasting apps such as ShowMe to use photos and record their voices.

 And here is the fluttery butterfly in action:

 Rick asked the students to write a short reflection on their week working with littlebits. Overall, the students really enjoyed the experience. One student said it all seemed kind of “bad” at the beginning because he wasn’t sure what the littlebits were able to do but realized their potential as the week went on and mentioned how “fun” school had been. Another student commented how she really liked how the littlebits forced her to think and be creative.

The littlebits will be going to our District Resource Centre now to be processed as a district kit so that teachers around our district can request it and use it in their classrooms. We have been using two Deluxe Kits this week and I will be recommending investing in more power bit packs (power bit, battery and cable) and a few individual bits from other kits (like the fan and pressure sensor and long wired LED lights) to extend the possibilities of the Deluxe Kits.

I loved watching the students’ confidence with the bits grow as the week went on and seeing their imaginations open up to the creative possibilities with the littlebits. So much creative and innovative use of technology!

little bits pilot inquiry project: day four

Posted on: January 10th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Today the grades 4 and 5 students at Diefenbaker had another day to create their own projects using the littlebits components. Today I brought in my son’s littlebits kit so the students could try out a few different bits like a fan, long led lights and a pressure sensor.

It was interesting to watch how different groups of students went through the process of designing and testing a project. Rick noticed that some groups started with the bits and tinkered around with them until they came up with an idea while others clearly had an idea in mind and figured out what bits they needed to make it happen. Some groups were focused more on the aesthetics of the project while others were focused on the circuitry. Some students were determined to use a particular bit that was interesting to them and designed their projects around that. All the processes got to a final project of some sort and all tapped into the students’ creativity in different ways.

Some projects that were made and tested today included a campfire

a disco Miga

a rocket

disco Miga under a disco ball

 a spinning disc

a lamp

and an LED flashlight

As students worked away this afternoon, the energy in the classroom had settled a bit from yesterday and the students were settled into working on their projects, focused on reaching success. There were so many important habits of mind demonstrated today…perseverance, curiosity, stick with-it-ness, thinking flexibly, problem-solving, taking risks and being open to  new ideas.

The inquiry cycle was in full swing today as well. Students began with a plan or question, investigated it and during this process, new questions were often overheard that took the students off on new avenues of inquiry.

I wonder what will happen if we…
Will it only work if we do this…
How can we make it beep louder…
What if we changed the order…
If we added this, would it still…
Do you think there is a better way to do this…

Students adapted and investigated their new questions during the process and in most cases, felt they improved their projects by doing so

The following short animoto video shows some of today’s projects, many that ended up not quite how they were originally planned:

Tomorrow the students will be using the iPads to document their experiences with  littlebits. It has been a great project full of innovation, creating and imagining.

little bits pilot inquiry project: day three

Posted on: January 9th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Rick showed his class the blog posts about their littlebits project this morning and the students enjoyed watching the animoto video, looking for their hands or backs of their heads! Diefenbaker’s Principal posted a link to the blog posts on the school’s website so parents can see what’s going on during this project.

Today, many students brought materials from home for their projects including lego, craft materials, a stuffed animal and a pair of sunglasses. Some students already had definite ideas about the type of project they wanted to create. We asked the students to take part in a design challenge…where they had to design their own project, list the materials and instructions (including pictures and words) and include a picture of the final project. The idea is that other students should be able to follow the instructions to replicate the project.

Some of the projects included a birthday candle that lit up

neon glasses

 some sticks of dynamite

a disco telescope

and a watch.

Today, there was a lot of planning, testing and improvising and adapting -all part of the process. Although some students completed a project today, we will be continuing with more project work tomorrow and an opportunity for students to work with bits they haven’t worked with yet.

littlebits pilot inquiry project: day two

Posted on: January 8th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Based on the questions many of the students asked yesterday, we began with a reading of short introduction to littlebits, taken from the booklet in the deluxe kit. It helped students understand the different “jobs” of the components (power, input, output and wires/linking) and the importance of the order the bits are sequenced in. Although they read this information, the students really needed to just tinker away and play around with the bits to see the effects of putting them in different orders.

We then provided the students with a set of circuit maps and asked them to create the circuits as shown and then test them with the power bit and battery. This gave students practice in following directions and having success with a series of bits. Having only two kits means only two power/battery combinations and the students have been great about sharing the components.

We then watched an overview video of the components of the deluxe kit so that the students had some understanding of the possibilities for the different components. The students were then asked to create one of two structured projects from the kit guide  – either the tickle machine or the wave greeter. This projects provided the students with practice adding new found materials to their projects, such as a feather or a cut out object that they could make move.

Again, students recorded their observations, questions and findings. They also began to think about their own projects and what they might like to create with littlebits.

The following is a short animoto video of today’s investigations:


littlebits pilot inquiry project: day one

Posted on: January 8th, 2014 by jnovakowski

This week I am spending my afternoons at Diefenbaker Elementary in Rick Hikida’s grades 4 and 5 classroom. We are piloting a set of littlebits electronic components with his students. I explained that this would be a STEAM-based project (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics) project and the students were on board before they even handled the littlebits.

We handed out plates of components to small groups of students and asked them to investigate the pieces and record what they noticed along with their questions. Rick noticed that some students began drawing and labelling the pieces on paper while others couldn’t help but start manipulating and tinkering with the bits.

 It wasn’t long before the students discovered that the pieces snapped together and most students figured out that there was a magnetic pull involved so they inferred the bits were magnetized. They also noticed that the bits were different colours and had words and numbers on them.

The students began connecting bits together but were a bit puzzled that they couldn’t get the bits to do what they wanted them to do, especially the ones labeled “buzzer” and “lights”.
One group of students then really looked closely at the power bit that they had and noticed there was an on and off switch but wondered where the power came from. One student asked if we needed to plug it in or get a battery. I went over to the kit and got the 9V battery and cable and then something magical happened in the classroom. Once the students realized that the power bit was truly powerful, they all swarmed around each group of students as they tested their circuits to see what would happen.

The students recorded what they noticed about their littlebits, what they wondered about and what they discovered.

More information about littlebits and the short intro video we watched can be found HERE.