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Sunday, November 4, 2012

littleBits Lesson Plan

littleBits Can Give Us Big Ideas


This lesson is being designed for elementary age students (K-6).

What’s the big idea?

Teaching circuitry to any age is simplified by using the littleBits technology. The color coding, magnets and instructional videos provide the basic components of this lesson.

It can be difficult to teach the correct pattern necessary to complete electrical circuits without hands on lessons. By providing color coded pieces it helps the students to identify the components: power, input, output and wires. The magnets help the students learn the correct ends to snap together because you cannot connect them incorrectly. This is an assistive technology because it guides the learner to the correct circuit path.

For kindergarteners, the GLCEs state:

Kindergarten students will be guided in the process of scientific inquiry through purposeful observations, raising questions, as well as making sense of their observations, investigations, meaning-making practices, and demonstrating their understanding through various activities.

For elementary grades the GLCEs state:

K-7 Standard P.EN: Develop an understanding that there are many forms of energy (such as heat, light, sound, and electrical) and that energy is transferable by convection, conduction, or radiation. Understand energy can be in motion, called kinetic; or it can be stored, called potential. Develop an understanding that as temperature increases, more energy is added to a system. Understand nuclear reactions in the sun produce light and heat for the Earth. P.EN.E.1 Forms of Energy- Heat, electricity, light, and sound are forms of energy. P.EN.03.11 Identify light and sound as forms of energy. P.EN.E.3 Sound- Vibrating objects produce sound. The pitch of sound varies by changing the rate of vibration. P.EN.03.31 Relate sounds to their sources of vibrations.

Many of the above standards are met through this lesson plan.

Essential Questions
  •  How do you create a basic electrical circuit?
  •  What can you create using a complete circuit and everyday household objects?
  •  What happens when you try to put the wrong circuitry together?
  •  Examine the various bits: button, vibrating motor, RGB light, LED light, etc. 
  • What are your observations about what functions they perform? 
  • If you connect a dimmer bit to the light bit, what does it do? 
  • If you connect the dimmer bit to the vibrating motor bit, what does it do?

This lesson is done as a project based constructivist activity. The learners will be allowed some flexibility in what they choose to create and will be constructing their own “problems” to solve during the process (i.e. if the bits don’t fit together, if the bits don’t function the way they thought they would, etc). The group of learners will conduct hands on experiments to create their final project(s). The activity is learner directed but will involve the learners having access to instructional videos regarding possible projects and troubleshooting. Additionally, this lesson is “programmed instruction” (behaviorist theory) providing immediate results to the trial and error of sequencing the littleBits into circuits.

Content & Pedagogy:

Since much of the content is based on trial and error as well as observation, hands on approaches are necessary to adequately convey the material. Allowing the students the hands on experimentation provides the student with scaffolding necessary to fully convey the scientific process and trial and error results. Allowing the learners to get a basic understanding of the circuitry and creative ideas others have come up with assists the learner in getting started in the process. Showing the students just the videos or even diagrams illustrating the circuits does not allow them to attempt various configurations based on their own observations. A student may ask “what if” and attempt the scenario on their own if the bits are in front of them, but that level of inquiry may not occur based on viewing the material alone.


It would be impossible to teach this lesson on the same level without the littleBits. While this lesson could be taught using other electronic circuit boards, it would require more instructor guidance without the color coding and magnets. While students could still create projects using other circuit boards, having the guidance provided with the features of this technology allows the student to focus on the concepts of completing a circuit and then creating something functional with the completed circuit. This is a content specific technology that exists in other forms or brands but does not function exactly the same as the others and is more assistive.

Technology & Pedagogy:

This technology is designed to assist the learner with color coding and magnets which allows the user to focus more on the path of the circuits and the creativity of their end product. The programmed instruction strategy provides the learner with immediate results when assembling the correct or incorrect circuits. Then the learner creates the project that will incorporate the circuit (using household objects like paper, scissors, glue, etc.) The final end product provides the learner with the immediate positive reinforcement of having an understanding of circuitry, group collaboration and creative development. Constructing a “problem and solution” using hands on experimentation allows the learners to explore various scenarios regarding the subject matter in a collaboration.

Technology & Content:

How does your choice of technology help you teach the "big ideas" and address the essential questions underlying the concept your lesson addresses? The technology chosen allows the learner to perform a hands on experiment on their own terms with basic guidance necessary to formulate the hypothesis and tests. This technology also affords learners the opportunity to develop their conceptual understanding of circuitry and making on a deeper level than observation alone.


Assessment will be performed with the following guidelines:

  • Did the students complete a circuit?
  • Did the students use the completed circuit to create another object with functioning components?
  • Can the students explain how their project functions? 
  • Does the project display creative elements of design?
Students will observe 1-3 videos on the littleBits website showing projects that have been created by other users. Students will then be given 14 littleBits with explanations on the color coding and magnets. Students will then be given household and craft items (paper, glue, scissors, markers, paints, etc.). Students will be instructed to create a circuit (or two, or three) and use their creations to make something (piggy bank, confetti shooter, etc.) functional with the circuits. Students will have 2 hours to complete this task but it is estimated that depending on the level of the project this lesson could be completed in as little as 30 minutes or as long as several days.

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