Everybody remembers the Roamer. The grey half sphere with wheels that had a little hole in it to insert a pencil or marker so that we could program it to move in the shape of a square or other 2D shapes. It was a fantastic little device that introduced programming to pupils while looking at properties of 2D shape and simple problem solving.

Since then a range of devices have been introduced to the classroom that have complemented the curriculum and have helped to teach pupils about programming. From the Beebot to the Ozbot and right through to Lego Mindstorms and the excellent Spheros, pupils have got the chance to take part in some excellent activities within the curriculum, including STEM and coding.


The device that I love using (I’ve used the other devices mentioned above and I think they are fantastic) is the drone, or to give it its correct name, the Parrot Rolling Spider MiniDrone. This drone can be flown very safely around the school or classroom, controlled by a number of apps. However, I think it really comes into its own in education while using the Tickle app. While using this app pupils can use coding blocks similar to Scratch Jr and Hopscotch, to program a drone to fly in a variety of directions, taking into account outcomes from the curriculum such as position and direction, properties of 2D and 3D shapes, parallel and perpendicular lines and crucially,problem solving, logical thinking and computational thinking – key skills that our young people require as they move into the future workplace.

Here is a short algorithm from the Tickle app that includes a repeat/loop to program the drone to fly in the shape of a pentagon.

Here is a short algorithm from the Tickle app that includes a repeat/loop to program the drone to fly in the shape of a pentagon.

Importantly, as teachers try to foster innovation with these devices in the classroom, the use of drones is at the forefront of innovation in the world we live in. They are in use more and more in a number of fields, including;

  • Architects are using drones for detailed aerial views of sites, assisting them in surveying and in the planning of new buildings.
  • Estate Agents and Property Services use drones to take aerial images of their property portfolios that can be shared on their websites for potential buyers to view.
  • Farmers across the country can program drones using GPS to fly around their farms to inspect livestock and perimeter fencing.
  • Sports teams are increasingly using drones to record training and competitive games to give the latest and most cutting edge feedback on player performance.

The use of programmable devices, including drones and Spheros is just one of a number of fantastic strategies that teachers use in the classroom. It is one that gives children the opportunity to be at the cutting edge of using technology effectively in today’s world where the use of drones is not as uncommon as it was even 2 years ago.

When you are planning your CodeWeek events for October, have a think about how you could include the use of drones or Spheros. Children, between the ages of 4-14, can have a truly fantastic time, putting together algorithms and debugging problems with these and other devices. Have a look at our resources pages for further ideas.

Michael O’Kane (@michaeliteach) works for iTeach and heads up their work on coding and computing helping to develop iCode.