Ozobots: A Recommendation

A friend recently asked me to share some of my thoughts about why Ozobots are a worthy purchase for her school.   As a long-time OzoFanGirl, the following recommendation and overview is what I sent to her.  I sure hope that it persuades her administrators to put a bunch of Ozobots in the budget!

ozobots

Ozobots have been a wonderfully popular item in my STEAMmakers Club and with students from grades K-5 in my schools.  They are a relatively inexpensive way to get students introduced to coding, and there are a multitude of ways to differentiate lessons so that the user experience is always evolving.  All materials related to Ozobots are free!  There are free iPad apps, a free website on which to code, and free fun printables and lesson plans on the Ozobot site.

     Kindergarteners and first graders are first introduced to Ozobots as cute little robots that know how to follow trails.  I teach them terms like SENSORS (on the bottom), PATTERNS, and CODE.  After they explore how Ozobots work on many of the free printables available on the site, I have them begin to draw trails on paper.  Lessons in line thickness and curves vs. angles ensue, and even line thickness is a challenge as students begin to understand that coding is a precise thing!  Students add in colors and begin to dabble in drawing their own Ozocodes correctly (it’s a challenge!)  Students at this age also really like to use the iPad apps with the Ozobots because the lines are already drawn for them, the Ozobots can “dance”, and it just adds another layer of engagement.

     Second and third graders get pretty good at creating trails that include drawn codes.  Precision is key when making these trails with markers, and students refer to the Ozocodes sheets to begin to draw more and more complex routes for their robots to travel.  Teachers can issue challenges in which certain codes must be incorporated. Students often start making costumes for their Ozobots that relate to different literature stories they read and programming Ozobots to travel paths related to stories.  (Try Goldilocks or Three Billy Goat’s Gruff.)  Again, the free iPad apps continue to motivate this age group because Ozocodes can easily be dragged in and there are some fun contests/games to play with peers.  Students who are emerging coders can start to explore the Ozoblockly games on the website.

     By fourth and fifth grades, it’s a great time to really introduce blockly coding.  This works with the Ozobot Bits and the Evo.  With the Evo, students now can create programs on the computer, hold the Ozobot to the screen, and the program is downloaded directly to the Ozobot!  When it doesn’t work as planned, students go back in and debug.  Many teachers are doing amazing interdisciplinary integration with coding Ozobots.  Some great examples include: Solve a multi-step word problem with a number line that the Ozobot travels, navigating through a large map to given destinations (I’ve seen a great lesson with the NYC New Year’s parade route!), have students design a 9-hole miniature golf course with challenges that the Ozobot must be programmed to navigate…there are options for every subject and every ability level.

     There are all sorts of games and challenges in the user portal on the website!  I have one posted there that is a serious timing challenge and can be aligned with the literacy idea of revising/editing:  https://portal.ozobot.com/lessons/detail/cube-challenges .

    I hope this is helpful.  I’m obviously a big fan of Ozobots and know that I haven’t even scratched the surface of their potential.  The online community keeps growing and growing, and educators continue to share resources.  This isn’t a fad – I got my first Ozobots four years ago and the company continues to thrive, improve, and develop new resources all the time.  At almost every Ed Tech conference and edcamp, you can find people who are still inventing new uses, challenges, and integrations.  I would highly recommend Ozobots for any teacher, school, or district that is looking for an affordable way to integrate STEM and coding into their programs.

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Tech Playdates – Try Sump’n New

As I reported on Twitter in 140 characters or less:  I tried sump’n new this week.  I hosted a little very informal, very unstructured,  and very welcoming event which I dubbed a “Tech Playdate”.  It was pretty much a Professional Learning Community in disguise, but we had too much fun to even realize that!

I’m always looking for new ways to get teachers excited about Purposeful And Relevant Technology Integration (PARTI). I’ve tried PD sessions during the day, little after-school workshops, putting resources online, and even stopping into classes to see if I can help facilitate lessons with tech.  This time, the goal was different, and it was simple:  provide lots of  food, invite lots of people, make it as unassuming and casual as possible, don’t call it professional development, DON’T have a presentation or agenda, and let the people in the room dictate what happens.

Oh, and have it after school, for no stipend or reimbursement, no credit…and just see who is curious or ambitious enough to come.

First, I ran the idea past a group of amazing teachers with whom I spent a week during a summer technology institute.  They loved the idea of being able to continue learning ed tech together, especially with no strings (or mandates) attached.  They helped me by completing a quick little survey to see which days and times would work best, and for us that turned out to be Wednesdays or Thursdays from 4-7.   I picked a bunch of Tech Playdate dates for the rest of the year, ran the idea through administrative channels, got the okay, and developed this invitation:

techplaydatememo

The approved invitation was sent out to all seven elementary school principals, and from there it was sent out to staff.  I asked for an RSVP for this one (because pizza was involved), and about 20 people said they’d come!  I was pretty elated with that response, as this was a great unknown and it involved after-school travel for many.

signage

The turnout was accurate!  We had 20 people, representing six of the elementary schools and two administrators.  For a first try, this was not only impressive, but a revelation.  Clearly, there is a desire for folks to learn & explore ed tech, and evidently informality and choice are critical components.  Teachers are craving this.

StickyNoteCharts

The photo above was the most critical part of planning the Tech Playdate.  It couldn’t be a “sit & git” presentation-style PD session.   There would be nobody at ‘the front of the room’ …no presenters.  I really wanted it to be participant-driven, where everyone was invited to share or learn, and there was no fear in asking questions – any questions.  I set up these three posters on a table and put some sticky notes nearby.  I suggested that attendees fill out a note and try to find a ‘sticky-note buddy’ that matched their needs.  There were knowledgeable people in the room who were empowered to share what they knew, and there were people (myself included) who just wanted to try learning something new with someone else.  All kinds of beautiful sharing and learning ensued….it was collegiality & collaboration at its best!

AliciaKelsey

Alicia (left) learned about Plickers at our summer technology institute.  She became the expert, and was more than happy to teach Kelsey all about it!  Alicia was ready to share all kinds of wonderful things that she learned during the summer and had since been trying in her classroom:  draggo, Quizizz, Google Forms, and more!

LisaJan

These two ambitious teachers wanted time (How often do we hear that?) to work on their teacher pages on the school website.  They both liked just being in a room where there was support and other people with the same questions…and their teacher pages are really awesome!

CathyKim

These ladies were amazing in their zest to learn new things!  They not only supported each other, but asked a ton of great questions and we all learned new things from their questions.  Together, they explored a site called Curriculet so that they could develop great Reading lessons for their classes, but then they wanted to know more from people in the room:  how to take screenshots and edit them, how to make word clouds, and how to earn Ed Tech Digital Badges that are now used in our district!

JimMary

Mary heard about Plickers, too, and James was more than happy to teach her about it!  She had time and support to set up all of her classes, create folders, and start to set up questions.  By the time she left, Mary had an activity she could use the next day.

 Jim

One teacher came ready to share all about a site called GoNoodle, but didn’t get a chance during this first Tech Playdate.  Hold that thought for next time.  Another teacher didn’t get the opportunity yet to show people about coding with kids, and someone else is still willing to teach about Symbaloo!  Great!  It looks like we have an awesome starter list for next month!

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Ambitious Rich came with the hope that he could learn web design!  Luckily, there was someone in the room who was willing to share all about a site called Weebly, which allows for very user-friendly, very beautiful website creation!

RichMeriLinda

Linda’s sticky-note just said that she wanted to learn how to ‘work with pictures’.  She was interested in learning how to upload, crop, edit, and get creative with her photographs.  Lo and behold, there was someone in the room who knew that, too!  This time, it was my brilliant friend Meredith Martin from a neighboring district, who”‘crashed the tech playdate” just because she loves this kind of learning, too!   Linda and others got some very cool lessons on how to use Sumo Paint!

MikeAnneLisaJan

You know it’s a REAL playdate when the principal comes to play!

food

TBH, for our first Tech Playdate, this might have been part of the lure.  This plus seven pizzas.  I wanted to have a very homey and welcoming feeling for this first one, so – uh – food!   The gang decided that now that we’re all friendly, techy buddies, we’re going potluck for the next one!  Everyone’s bringing a treat to share with the class!

Oh, and everyone’s bringing other colleagues who will enjoy a Tech Playdate, too!  This thing’s going viral, and I hope that this kind of informal, free, no-accountability, exploratory, collaborative, playful learning becomes the ultimate ‘computer virus’!

For local friends:  The next Tech Playdate is October 28 from 4-7.  No RSVP needed. 

This May Be One Of The Greatest Websites Of All Time!!!

This may be one of the greatest websites of all time.  I’m very serious.

If you have kids, you are going to love this site. If your kids ever said “I’m bored” this summer, you are REALLY going to love this site.  If you have a creative side at all, you are going to love this site because it’s not just for kids.  If you’re into that whole ‘maker’ thing, oh dear – you’re going to need to sit down before you read this post.  If you’re a teacher, well….take a deep breath, dive in, and just KNOW that you’re going to introduce this to your students during the first week of school and parents will hug your face on back to school night!  If you are an over-the-top adventurous, innovative, awesomesauce teacher, you’ll have a class account set up before school even starts!

((((((( drum roll  ))))))

The site is called diy.org.  Yup, it’s that simple.  That unpretentious.  How did I not know about this before?

diylogo

Here’s the gist of the site:

1) You look up stuff to do.

2) You do the stuff.

3) You post something about the stuff you did.

4) You earn a patch.

I have just completely oversimplified this amazing site, but I wanted you to feel like this is easy, and fun, and something you can start doing right now!  I know you’re itching to get started, but please, please bear with me as I explain DIY.org in a little more detail.

1) You look up stuff to do:  From hundreds and hundreds of ALL KINDS of activities.  I’m not kidding when I say there is something for everyone here.  Screenshot time – just look at the patches you can earn:

diypatches1diypatches2diypatches3diypatches4

diypatches5diypatches6diypatches7diypatches8

diypatches9diypatches10diypatches13diypatches12

diypatches13diypatches14diypatches15

***I had absolutely NO intention of posting pix of EVERY single patch, but I couldn’t stop myself!  I told you this site has something for everyone!  (And they keep adding…these people at DIY.org are incredible!)

2)  You do the stuff:  Pick a patch that interests you and go for it!  I like to bake, so I went for the baker patch. You’ll see in the photo below that the patch is in the 3rd spot.  I need to do 3 challenges in this category to earn the DIY.org patch.  But if you look a little lower in the photo, you’ll see that there are FIFTEEN options for challenges, and they really range in difficulty!  Even better, for each option there are little videos submitted by other DIYers to instruct or motivate you!

diybakerpatch

3.  You post something about the stuff you did:  Many sites call this ‘submitting evidence’.  When you’re done baking your bread, making a duct-tape wallet, starting a rock collection, scrapbooking, producing a radio interview, or hiking – just upload a photo or video to show that you actually did it!  (Mom & Dad, you get an instant email whenever your child submits something. You can always edit it or delete it.)

diypendingreview

4.  You earn a patch!  At first, your submission (evidence)  is pending review by real humans, but then it gets approved, you get an email, and you’re on your way to earning a patch!  Remember, you must do three challenges in any category before you’re patch-worthy.

Okay, so you’re sold.  I knew you would be.  You probably have your eye on about a half dozen of those beautiful patches, right?  You’re already mentally pairing people you know with patches…I do that, too!

BUT before you go…..I have a few really valuable tips that you might want to read first:

  • Is it safe?  Well, they’ve thought of everything.  Here’s what their site has to say:  “DIY is a safe setting for your kids to try social media, get feedback, and be inspired by a community of peers. Every member’s privacy is carefully monitored by a staff of moderators. No real names or faces are shown without parental permission. Comments are allowed, but jerks and bullies are not.”   Note from me: When I signed up for a kid account, it required an email be sent to a parent, and then even credit card info provided (NOT charged) as proof of actual adult-ness!
  • Create a family/class account: Rather than having individual accounts, skip the competition between your kids and encourage the collaboration.   Everybody can work together to be a part of the success!  Create a shared account with a shared password.  You’ll feel safer, it’s easier to manage, and it’s a great bonding thing!
  • Skip the camps:  You’ll see prompts that offer specialized camps for $10.  I believe these are probably excellent based on the quality of this site, but there is SO MUCH FREE STUFF that I encourage you to live in & explore the DIY.org world before you start paying.  Maybe next summer if little Johnny BEGS for that robotics camp…?
  • Get the app:  All the info is on the app, and it’s great to have it with you wherever you go!  It also makes taking a photo or video for submission so much easier.  When Suzie catches her first fish for the angler badge, shoot a quick vid, upload it right from your phone, and you’re on your way!

Okay, so I leave you with this…my favorite patch, and the one I’m best at by far.

diychiller

I’m Kerszi, and I’ll see you on DIY.org!

As always, I love feedback & sharing!  You can send your thoughts & ideas here on WordPress, to @kerszi on Twitter, or follow My Primary Techspiration on Facebook.