littleBits are used in many different settings -- schools, makerspaces, libraries, and even at home. But we often get feedback from educators looking for tips to integrate their Bits into the classroom. After all, it can be incredibly overwhelming!
In the classroom, educators often use littleBits to supplement and enhance their existing curriculum -- or as part of a larger project-based unit. The open-ended design of our Bits, along with their many real-world applications, help to teach students problem-solving and give them plenty of opportunities to fail forward.
littleBits can also be used as a material to enhance cross-curricular projects. By incorporating Bits into larger projects (for example, a diorama, poster, etc.), students are able to add another level of creativity and interactivity to their projects.
Below is a chart we’ve shared in the past as part of our Educator Guide to help teachers at all grade levels to better understand how, and when, they might use their Bits.
What littleBits Looks Like in the Classroom
Beyond integrating littleBits into lesson plans and curriculum, some educators also wonder about what implementation looks like tactically. Does the teacher walk students through the invention process step-by-step? Do students have their own kits, or work in groups?
We’ve noticed a few things that seem to work best. Prior to using littleBits with students, consider how you will best manage the Bits in a way that ensures organization and quick setup to optimize learning opportunities.
Students can work with littleBits in pairs or small groups (3-4 students). Keep in mind that larger groups can be problematic and students may become frustrated if there aren’t enough Bits to go around. While some students may prefer to work alone, grouping students encourages collaboration and may lead to increased learning gains through peer communication.
Groups can be determined by interest or project; for example, grouping students who are interested in designing a home improvement device. In this option, it is recommended that you divide the kits to best match the Bits to the project.
Other options include mixed grouping by ability level, gender, or special needs.
Organizing Your Bits
While littleBits provides storage options for your kits and collections, you may find that keeping Bits in their original packaging does not fit your classroom needs.
Some educators use a tackle box or similar organizer to divide and store littleBits by Bit color. Color-coded bins or tubs are also useful for organizing Bits by function. By labeling bins with littleBits colors, students can easily find what they’re looking for and put everything away with little trouble.
One of the schools that uses littleBits -- Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, Texas -- even translated the littleBits guide book into Braille so that every student can use the system of electronic building blocks to turn their ideas into inventions.
Today, the translated guide book is located near the littleBits component bin in the library makerspace. There is a nearby chart, also in Braille, that describes where students can physically find each Bit -- as well as the corresponding page number of the guide book to take them through lessons, activities, and experiments.
In this way, it is easy for students to read a description of what is inside each bin, pull out relevant Bits, check out their features, and begin experimenting. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has effectively enabled its students to independently look for more interesting solutions to complex problems.
Depending on your own classroom use of Bits, you may find it useful to organize Bits by project, for example, collecting a variety of LED outputs for a flashlight design challenge. Labeled plastic bags, food storage containers, plastic cups, and shoeboxes are useful for organizing Bits by sets or challenge kits.
Caring for your Bits
Bits are electronic components, and while they are designed to be robust, they are not invincible. To minimize breakage, teach students how to take care of them. Bits should never be thrown or dropped, and students should handle the pieces with moveable components with extra care. The wires should not be twisted, crimped, or bent at extreme angles.
One of our schools, Marymount School in New York, has implemented a 1:1 program with littleBits. All of the students, starting in the third grade, have their own kits to take home and invent with in class. As a result, the students view littleBits as a learning tool and not a toy.
If your students plan to embed their littleBits within a structure, many educators find that poster tack and glue dots (available at craft stores) work better than tape to attach the Bits to a variety of surfaces. Another option is to use the littleBits shoes to secure the Bits into student projects. Shoes are available in adhesive, magnet, or hook and loop depending on the surface you are using.
Occasionally, you may need to clean the Bits by wiping them with a dry cloth. If you find that you’re getting a poor connection between Bits, cleaning is a good first step to troubleshoot the problem.
The bottom line? littleBits looks different depending on where you use it, and how. littleBits are versatile, and educators should feel empowered to use them in the classroom in whichever ways work best for them.