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Cracking the Code For Our Future

This blogpost is written by Nicole Smirnos- North.

At Mulvey School we strive to educate our young leaders of tomorrow by creating an inclusive learning environment, where all of our students’ diverse learning styles, needs, interests and strengths are considered and valued. We therefore encourage the great curiosity our students have for technology and try to infuse it into our teaching to create an engaging and well-rounded learning experience. With this in mind, we journeyed into the exciting world of digital literacy through coding.

Now-a-days, children are fearless when using computers. With every touch to the screen and hitting of a key, they gather further knowledge on how they actually work and carry out the functions that are so useful in our daily lives. I wanted to empower my students to get to know such imperative products, using them to create rather than just consume.

We were so lucky and grateful to receive a grant from The Manitoba Association for Computing Educators and were able to purchase two Sphero SPRK Edition Robots, two Mini Parrot Rolling Spider Drones, and an IPad Air. Going into this project, my intention was to have my students cover some mathematical concepts, I was excited to observe just how much and to what extent.

We started our project by completing a series of mini challenges the Learning Technology Support Teacher: Keith Strachan, the Mathematics Learning Support Teacher: Christina Couture, and myself put together. We started out by practicing our coding skills by using our bodies as robots and controlling one another with a series of symbolic computer-type commands to pick up, and build objects around the room. We also started coding on the computer through the website When we received the robots we started experimenting moving them about our classroom around certain obstacles, using the applications: Tickle and Lightning Lab. From doing this we got comfortable with using the commands, and practiced our patience with perseverance when faced with problem solving.

Next, Mr. Strachan visited our classroom and gave us some challenges with the application Hopscotch. He introduced the students to concepts in computational thinking, which we practiced and refined as the project went on. The children were encouraged to use even more coding commands and it brought us to the concept of angles. The children shared some of their experiences through our Twitter hashtag (#room16mulvey), and were very excited to show each other the differences in the code they had written which still gleaned the same result.

Afterwards, we had a classroom discussion on the different robotics we had been working with. The children decided that they wanted to create “Marvelous Mulvey Mustang Mazes” and code the Sphero’s to run through them. We created criteria together that included the number of entrances and exits, the minimum amounts of turns we wanted to see, and how the mazes would be drawn out on graph paper. The students used their imaginations to create a blueprint in groups on centimeter graph paper. This brought us to many concepts including measurement, scale, and some concepts related to the laws of physics. We tested out our robots’ movements on the tiled floor noticing the relationships between speed, distance, time, and resistance. We then created tables that we analyzed for patterns on how many tiles the Sphero could cover when we entered our calculations. It was a great segue way into ratios and using our logical reasoning in a way that had immediate results that the students could test out and instantaneously see.

It was up to the students to measure the area we were using in our library and equally share the floor. The children scaled their blueprints up to create their mazes on the floor and used rulers, protractors, and painters tape to create personalized mazes on the floor. I was so proud to see just how well-worn their blueprints were as they collaboratively calculated and communicated their ideas to get their mazes on the floor in the shape they had made as a group. This project naturally was great for differentiation as the groups could make the twists and turns in their mazes according to the level of difficulty they wanted to approach based on their coding and mathematic ability levels. Most were very interested in creating a challenge and did just that.

Once the mazes were securely taped down, we began coding our Sphero Robots using the application Lightning Lab. The groups leveraged a variety of coding strategies to complete their task. One group coded their Sphero to change colours with each turn it made in the maze, in order to notice the sets of code that corresponded to each path to make organized adjustments. Another group strictly used trial and error, and would read through each command every time to notice the modifications that were necessary to get through their maze. Alternatively, one group was able to understand the efficiency of “loops” to complete their task, and were able to write a more concise code for their robot to make it through their maze.

This hands-on experience was so great for meeting the programming and mathematical abilities of all of my students. Some were able to notice the sections of their maze paths that were half or double the sizes and were able to use their multiplicative reasoning to write their codes in a logical way. Others used what they knew about repeated addition to notice the measurements on the floor and the distance calculations they needed to make on their IPad. The methods of problem solving varied according to the challenges the groups took on.

At the end of this project, it was very apparent that the children were extremely engaged throughout the learning process and learned a lot by their reflections.

The best part was that they learned so much from their peers. The conversations they shared when they showed each other what they had done and how they approached the tasks were entirely student-driven. It was so interesting to notice the computer programming terminology they had gained over the course of the project, as well as how the terms and concepts had become second nature. This project included a process that took months, and there were many struggles that we faced along the way, but we all persevered and learned together as a team.

All and all, I would say that the students learned so much more because they were able to physically see the gratifying results of their labour. Not only did we learn about so much mathematically, the students were able to really experiment with the concepts by making tangible movements with the robotics. We were able to reflect on the experience and could see the scientific, mathematic and language arts concepts we were able to achieve through this project, and how encompassing the learning that resulted became. Not only was this a unique experience it was a practical one that was authentic in the way that the tools supported their learning, that I know my students will remember and perhaps pursue as they continue on their learning journeys.

On behalf of my students, myself, and the greater Mulvey School Community, we would like to thank the ManAce group for making this enriching experience possible. We are already starting our next coding experience using the robotics and IPad purchased with this grant, with another project that the students are creating. Our next venture involves designing a miniature golf course that our robots will maneuver through with our grade 3 and 4 students, and we are very excited to see where this next project takes us. Our students are bound to experience greater technological reasoning in this high tech world with the addition of the engaging skills they are encountering, and we are so proud and excited for them to have this opportunity in their education.




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Tech Talks- Developing Oral Language Using Technology

This blog post is writing by:

Brigitte Kiazyk-Mykytyn, Instructional Coach,

Lori Davis & Kathryn Reuter, Grade 1/2 French Immersion Teachers

from École St Norbert Immersion

This year our grade 1/2 classrooms were the recipients of the 2016 ManACE Seed Grant. With our grant we purchased two iPads for our classrooms to use as tools to promote French oral language communication.

Our two focuses within our project are presently; using Skype to communicate with other classrooms and using video to self-reflect and get peer feedback on language abilities.  We will be referenced by language tools that exist from ACPI the Canadian French Immersion Teachers Association.


The Skype project is a multidisciplinary endeavour tapping into; the Social Studies curriculum focusing on communities, Mathematics, Français and Science. We have been fortunate to have 4 schools from British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba willing to Skype with us! Each school has provided us with unique learning opportunities. We will continue to communicate with them to learn more about their communities. Many students used questioning in order to determine where the classes were situated in Canada. So far it has been really engaging and motivating for the students as they can see that other students around Canada also speak French like they do.

Self and Peer Reflection

The other part of our project revolves around self-reflection and peer feedback. From the ACPI website, our classes have viewed clips of students speaking French at different levels and placed on an oral language continuum. Students will record themselves, listen to their recording and reflect on where they see themselves on the oral language continuum. Their peers will also give them feedback on how their fellow learner may move along the continuum based on success criteria that was developed from ACPI.

Student Engagement

We have found that students are certainly more engaged with these activities. It makes them excited to speak French. It also helps them make connections and develop a greater understanding and appreciation of other communities in Canada. This project gives students the opportunity to take charge of their learning.

The Future

We hope to continue this project next year with our grade 1 classrooms. As our grade 2 class moves into our other multi-age 2/3 classrooms we are hoping to extend this learning opportunity into more grade groups. Our hope is to at least have one iPad in each of the early years classrooms, so that they may continue using them to connect with others, reflect on their work and provide feedback to their peers in a positive manner. We consider this paving the way for our colleagues in the middle years who currently have 1:1 iPads in their classrooms. Our hope is that students will have already learned many ways to use iPads as tools. As well, students will have had the opportunity to  learn good digital citizenship early on. We would like to thank ManACE for the opportunity they have given us by choosing us to be one of this year’s Seed Grants recipients.

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Sherwood Sphero – You Are My Hero!



This article is by Niki Card:

I was thrilled to be the recipient of a 2016 ManACE Seed Grant for my “Sherwood Sphero – You Are My Hero!” project proposal. Sherwood School is a small K-5 school located in East Kildonan in Winnipeg. A small school means a small budget so purchasing new technologies is very difficult for us.

However, a small budget didn’t limit our interest! In December, approximately 40% of our students participated in Hour of Code (through and were hooked! We understood the importance of providing experiences in computer science and engineering to our students, but simply didn’t have the means to support the acquisition of these resources.

The ManACE Seed Grant changed that! I was able to purchase 4 Sphero SPRK and 4 covers to be used with 4 iPads already in our school. (As an aside, this was something I had to be cognizant of. A consideration of using Spheros is the need for one-to-one pairing with a device. We have 2 iPads readily available in our school, but I had to ask permission to use two other teacher iPads that have a more dedicated purpose.)

The Grade 5 teacher was keen to be involved in the project and we have been working on a class project that will involve various curricular outcomes, primarily in math. These students have been exploring the basic sample codes and completing some of the challenges in Lightning Lab. Their final challenge project will involve the creation of a maze and then the creation of the code needed for their Sphero to complete the maze.

I have also been hosting an after-school Coding Club for interested Grade 4 students. We spent some time learning coding basics through and they are also now exploring Lightning Lab.

Before the end of the year, we will look at what supplies we’d like to supplement the Spheros and spend the remainder of the grant money. We are considering purchasing a few terrain parks and chariots.

The enthusiasm, interest and engagement have been incredibly high. Recently, when I walked into the Grade 5 classroom, the students cheered – I’d like to think it was because of me, but I know it was really due to the bin of Spheros I has holding!

I can’t thank ManACE enough for providing this opportunity for these students!

-Niki Card

Teacher-Librarian at Sherwood School in RETSD


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Check Out the E-book “Education and Technology: Manitoba Action and Reflection

The following post is written by Rennie Redekopp:

Mike Nantais (Brandon University) and Rennie Redekopp(U of Manitoba) co-edited, Education and Technology: Manitoba Action and Reflection. We asked a number of Manitoba educators to write chapters on how they use technology in education and to reflect on the impact it has on the teaching/learning process.


We ended up with 15 chapters by 19 educators from K-12 and teacher education.


The book is a 2016 snapshot of how teachers in Manitoba are using technology in innovative ways to improve teaching and learning. The teachers also reflect on how using technology has changed their practice and their classrooms. Nineteen teachers (in fifteen chapters) describe technology use from games to GAfE, blogs to songs, robots to humans, K-12 and beyond, cities and rural, and from Manitoba to around the world.


It’s free from iBooks:


and as a PDF:


Not free at Kindle (they don’t allow permanently free books) –



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Welcome to the Winter Issue of ManACE Seed Journal

Welcome to the winter issue of our ManACE seed journal. In this blog publication you will find blog posts such as; one on an ebook called Education and Technology: Manitoba Action and Reflection which was co-edited by ManACE members  Mike Nantais and Rennie Reddekopp and several on different ManACE Seed grant project winners. Enjoy our blog posts and remember to go to our ManACE website and submit an article if you are interested.


Zoe Bettess

ManACE Seed journal editor

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Report on Kids Who Can Code-Seed Grant Winner Leah Obach

Here’s an update from Leah Obach on her Seed Grant project:

Kids Who Code Coding Club


The Kids Who Code project at Hamiota Elementary School focuses on introducing computer science and coding to young learners in engaging and meaningful ways.  Using student-friendly coding tools, students and teachers are learning how to code and exploring ways to build important 21st century skills through coding.  This year, a noon hour coding club for grades 2-5 students is being offered.  In one of their initial club meetings, students set goals and shared their interests related to computer science and coding.  One common goal that students identified was to explore robotics.  Many students expressed a strong desire to code robots and build robots.  Thanks to a ManACE Seed Grant, students can nowact on those desires!

Since learning about robotics was a student-identified goal, students have been involved in the decision making for this project.  The first step was to decide which robotics products to purchase, so coding club members worked together to research different options for educational robotics. Students were asked to identify pros, cons, features and pricing for a variety of products, including  BeeBots, Dash & Dot robots, Sphero and Cubelets.   Once students had completed their research, each club member voted on their top two choices.  Students felt that the Sphero robots and Cubelets would be best for the club.

The Cubelets and Sphero robots have now arrived, so students are exploring all that is possible with these exciting new tools! Students will bereviewing their robotics purchases to inform other students and schools, so be sure to check back for more information in the coming months.  Our reviews will be posted at and shared on Twitter (@LeahO77).”

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Interim Report ManAce Seed Grant: Staying Fit


A lovely thank you letter/interim report from ManACE Seed Grant winner Jonathan Hofer:

“We would like to extend a special thank-you to ManACE for the approval of our project to use technology to help increase student fitness levels. We purchased the Garmin Vivofit® fitness bands for all the students in our school at the end of February. Students were very excited to receive and use the wearable technology. We have collected the baseline activity level data, and are now looking at using the daily activity logs to set goals to increase activity levels and step counts. This information will also be used to provide data for graphing in Math.


The Vivofit® fitness bands we purchased are capable of keeping track of exercise duration and intensity, as well as inclusion of “Time to Move” technology. This technology means that  trackers have a red bar that appears on the display after 1 hour of inactivity, and builds as the time of inactivity increases. To reset the bar, students have to move.


Students have been using the move bar and “Time to Move” technology to know when they need a small movement break, and this has for the most part gone respectfully and has not taken away from the school learning. An additional benefit we have noticed is that the younger students are using the step counts, km, clock, and date features to become familiar and learn about concepts that would otherwise be addressed in later grades. Our high-school students are using the activity logs to receive credit for their Physical Education/Health courses. Once-again, we thank ManACE for their contribution to our students’ ability to use technology to increase their fitness levels.”