Monday, 19 June 2017

How to Master Tech with Electro Mat Voice Recorders

In a world where technology is constantly changing with more functionality to grasp, we can get stuck in a mindset of only ever learning how to use the technology. We like to think there is a lot of value in mastering a piece of tech, so that your focus shifts from learning how it works to what you can do with it.

The best way to learn this skill is to take a simple piece of tech, that you can use in a variety of different ways. When you know how the tech works, you can expand your thinking to get creative and think outside the box.

The Bee-Bot Electro Mat voice recorder is a great example of simple tech that can be used in different ways. At Tech Age Kids, we've used this piece of tech to explore creative and design thinking to make different things with the same tech. We like getting crafty with tech!

(OK, so we selected the Electro Mat, because we have a job lot of the units as they are no longer being manufactured. But that is beside the point!)

Original Purpose of Electro Mats

The Bee-Bot Electro Mats is an add-on voice recorder device that works with the "old-style" Bee-Bots. In the kit you get 4 black plastic boards, a magnetic battery door to fit on the Bee-Bot and a voice recorder with 4 sensors.

The Electro Mat allows you to add sound and voice recording when coding the Bee-Bot. When the Bee-Bot moves over the sensor the magnet in the battery door triggers a reed switch and plays the recording.

The video below shows how the Electro Mat voice recorders work with the town map and Bee-Bot:

Show and Tell

Show and tell is a fantastic opportunity for children to learn important skills, like speaking clearly, sharing their news and having the confidence to speak in a group. We've used the voice recorder to enable a young child to learn the skills, but if they were too shy to speak in front of a group they could playback a recording.

Think out the Box

In this project, we used everything in the kit and used it to make a talking mother's day card. After this project, my kids have made several other cards for birthdays and father's day by designing the card within the constraints of the black plastic board and recording their voice for the messages.

Mix with other Tech

When you master a piece of tech, you know its capabilities. Now you can start to think about mixing different pieces of tech together. Tracy's kids created a LEGO world for their Ozobots and wanted to add sounds. Ozobot (tiny robot) doesn't have sound, but the voice recorder does, so they came up with an ingenious way to add sounds to their Ozobots.

Add Tech to Non-Tech Toys

Once you get to grips with what a piece of tech can do, you can use it in different ways. One thing that kids love, is adding technology to toys that don't have their own built-in technology.

We had a makedo-shark kit made from cardboard and the kids used the voice recorder to add some facts about sharks.

This idea was then used by my son for a school project, where he had to create a train and write facts about it. He used LEGO to build his train and built the voice recorder into his model and recorded his facts instead of writing them down. (Unfortunately, we didn' get a picture of this creation!)

We also used a toddler construction kit to build a robot and then played around with recordings using the voice recorder.

Use to Teach other Subjects

As a parent / teacher, once you are confident with a piece of tech, you can use it more effectively to teach other subjects. Tech isn't just for computing lessons! We've used the voice recorder to teach maths, English and other subjects.

Here we've created a story board to teach kids about writing stories:


Once you master a piece of technology you can start to experiment with different applications for it. The electro mat is a small enough device to fit into a party box, so we created a Joke Box.

The voice recorder also has the capability of adding banana plugs to add a motor or other outputs. One of our volunteers at an event, made a cardboard flower spin around using a motor!

When you've done everything you can with this piece of tech, you can move one to master something else!

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