Fun with TechnoWizards Club

Every year our Parents’ Club has either an auction or a gallery night to raise money for educational projects. Teachers generally submit an activity for bidding. I’ve been doing a “TechnoWizards Club” for the past few years. Last week, six students joined me as we worked with Ozobots, Ollie robots, and Little Bits magnetic circuits.

We met for an 1 1/2 hours, which is never enough! Regardless, it was loads of fun to watch the children experiment with the different activities.

Here’s a look at what we did:

Ozobots Having Fun with Dr. Seuss!

Ozobots, Ozoeasy sticker codes, and Dr. Seuss!! How much fun is that??

Ozobots are fantastic tiny robots that can be programmed by either drawing in a color code combination or by using the drag and drop Ozoblockly online program. I love these little robots because all ages can use them; they grow with the child.

However, what we’ve discovered with the younger children is that it can be difficult to draw the codes “just right” so that the Ozobot can read them. That’s why I was thrilled to discover the Ozoeasy sticker codes this year. These small round stickers were created by an 8 year old – always fun to tell students that even young children can become an entrepreneur!

Enter the Dr. Seuss theme! Using PowerPoint (Only because I wanted precise lines!), I created a couple of “hats” to go with The Cat and the Hat.

The first hat the children worked with had only one place to draw a connecting line – at the top. The students were asked to choose a color other than black to connect the lines. After demonstrating how the code stickers worked, we talked about best places to add those. For example, the codes have to have black lines on either side and they can’t be too close to a corner. Students were also encouraged to draw colored lines across the hat.

After exploring the triangular hat, we moved onto the other template. This one had breaks in the black lines. The children could draw their own code, place a code sticker on a line, or add a connecting line of a color other than black.

What fun observing as the children discovered how the Ozobot reacted to the colored lines and the codes!

As our time together drew to a close, we regrouped to talk about our observations.

What happened when Ozobot rolled over a line that was a color other than black? What did you discover about Ozobot moving in opposite directions as it traveled over a code sticker? What did you learn about drawing your own codes?

Here are the templates of the hats. There are a couple of options included for each design.

hat template

Celebrating Hour of Code 2016

We work on age-appropriate coding activities throughout the year. What I love about Hour of Code is that it’s an excellent way to bring in new and/or different ideas that the students and their teachers haven’t experienced before. Unfortunately, Hour of Code always falls during the week our students are practicing for the annual Holiday Program. That means I have to get rather creative in scheduling times for classes to visit the lab. This year I tried something different – I set up a signup sheet using SignUpGenius. Since we have teachers with a large span of technology skills, I wasn’t sure what kind of response I’d get. It worked great! Out of 15 K-4 classes, all but 3 signed up for at least one 20 minute slot. Most signed up for two or more sessions!

Thanks to fantastic Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, I was thrilled to add 4 Ollie robots and 3 additional Osmo Coding games to the mix this year!

Here’s a quick peek at some of our activities:

Osmo Coding – First and second grade classes started with this. Having only 5 Osmos, I was a bit concerned that students would have a hard time taking turns. No problem at all! I loved walking around, listening to the children talk through how to guide Awbie through mazes to eat strawberries! One of the best comments came from a teacher as she logged into SignUpGenius, “Okay, this is SO much fun. Can I please sign up for another time?” YES!! Exactly what I wanted to hear!

Tickle App – This is what I used for the third graders’ first lesson (hoping that their teachers would sign up for an additional time – they did!). Students used the time to explore how to make the Swimming Orca move in different directions, change looks, make sounds, etc. This was all in preparation for using this app to code Ollie’s movements.

Ollie – The challenge presented to the third graders was to program the Tickle app to move around the perimeter of the table by traveling on the floor. This was harder than it seems and 20 minutes is most definitely NOT a lot of time to find a solution! After one session, one of the teachers remarked, “We didn’t have anyone achieve this but I know the kids can figure it out. May we please come back again?” Another comment came from a second grade teacher. “I want to sign up again and I want my class to do whatever you’re doing with those cylinder things.”

Looking back, I wish I’d ordered Sphero or SPRK+ because they move slower and that makes them easier to control. Ollie is FAST! Unfortunately, the other two were too expensive for my budget – another time! I did put a speed limit on Ollie of 50%. Most groups actually found that a 30% or slower speed worked even better. That was certainly better than having 4 Ollies zooming around the room running into walls, chairs, tables, and people! It wasn’t quiet but there was much problem-solving occurring as students tested, adjusted, and retested to make Ollie go completely around a table.

The group above was thrilled to receive a response from the Tickle app creators regarding their success with getting Ollie all the way around the table!

Ozobots – A first grade class came to the lab, ready to do Osmo coding. Wouldn’t you know it? The internet went down as soon as the students tried to get onto Osmo! The Ozobots were quickly pulled out as I explained how they worked. I’d already made copies of Ozobot Basic Training 1 so we were ready to go! For a quick switch in plans, the little ones did great and quickly learned how to combine color combinations to program their Ozobot.

A third grade class, returning for their third time, worked with Ozobot Basic Training 2 where they learned how to control Ozobot with directional commands. I love this photo of the girl taking a picture of the Ozobot codes so that she and her friend could continue working on the challenge at home!

Code.org – I love this site; such a helpful curriculum for all ages! I have all K-4 students signed up in Code Studio so that I can keep track of their progress. For younger students, we stayed with Code Studio; starting with an off-line activity where students were introduced to vocabulary and then moved figures from one block to another using the white board. Older students had their choice of some of Code.org’s activities specifically designed for Hour of Code.

Scratch Programming – Fourth graders were set up in Scratch and presented with a Nine Block Challenge. Although some of the students use Scratch at home, we hadn’t done anything with it at school. Basically, this lesson was designed to expose students to the program and allow them time to experiment with a few blocks at a time.

This is not the end of our coding experiences; just the beginning. It was rewarding to watch the excitement exhibited by students as they worked through challenges. Was it easy? No!! And, we discussed how people who create programs for the computer rarely “get it right” the very first time. Failing, not getting it is JUST FINE! We still learn from what doesn’t work! That’s the power of coding/computational thinking activities!

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Fantastic Fridays

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Last week I started something new with the 4th graders – Fantastic Fridays. On the board, I wrote a list of activities. Some were things they’ve done before but never seemed to get tired of it. Others were completely new.

  • Osmo – a unique way to physically interact with the iPad
  • Ozoblockly – drag and drop programming to use with Ozobots
  • Kodable – programming curriculum for elementary students
  • Know Your States – an excellent interactive game to learn where the states are located.
  • Sugar, Sugar – a fabulous problem-solving activity

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The students were SO engaged! Yes, there is a time when you have to teach skills but choosing your learning is critical! We, as teachers, must make time for that as well. Be sure to walk around and listen in on conversations – the dialog, the problem-solving, the planning is amazing!

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The girl who was using Ozoblockly even returned after school so that she could show her sister what she’d done in class.

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She also wanted me to video her Ozobots dancing in tandem. Here they are:

The last question the students asked as they exited the lab was, “May we please do this again?”

And, yes, we most definitely will!

Celebrating Dr. Seuss with Ozobots!

ozobots

What is an Ozobot? A tiny robot that can be programmed by drawing “OzoCodes” using colored markers. Various color combinations cause the Ozobot to perform different functions.

To celebrate Seuss Week, the first and second graders were given a couple of hat shapes that were missing parts of lines. The children drew codes in these line breaks to program the Ozobots.

The third graders drew their own hats. (Or, at least these were supposed to look like hats!)

For the younger students, it was easier to concentrate on drawing the color codes rather than create a hat and draw code.

Even with the older students, there was some frustration that the Ozobots didn’t do what they were supposed to. We talked a lot about how everything had to be “just right” – lines not too thin or too thick. A code has to have all the colors about the same size. If you color too hard with the blue marker, the Ozobot thinks the color is black. I told the students that the Ozobot is like Goldilocks who had to have everything “just right” at the Three Bears’ house.

Lots of practice and problem-solving occurs with this activity! It’s loud but, my goodness, it is loads of fun!

Here are the templates I created:

Ozobot Dr. Seuss hats

Hour of Code 2014

The Hour of Code is over for this year but our coding has just begun! We have first and second graders who started Kodable last week and they have gone through almost all the levels! I had fun watching students “walk out” the coding steps as they decided which direction the arrow commands should turn. Our fourth graders were presented with a challenge by Dr. Krahn, our headmaster who teaches JavaScript to them twice a week, and they worked so well together to meet it. Their reward was having their names called out for morning announcements! And, wow! They love being mentioned that way!

Enjoy a short video showing the excitement of coding!

Hour of Code Begins!

The second annual Hour of Code is here – celebrated the week of December 8 – 12! Last year, 15 million students around the world learned an hour of code.

What is Hour of Code? “A one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anyone can learn the basics.” (From Hour of Code FAQs)

Our school will be doing a variety of activities for Hour of Code. On Wednesday, the upper school students will be demonstrating coding during lunch for all K-12 children. K-3 students will be in the computer lab with me exploring the following:

  • Kodable:  K – 2 classes will log in to the Kodable app to learn sequence, conditions, and loops by dragging and dropping commands to program a fuzzy character. The app is free with in-app purchases. A school account was purchased for our younger students so their progress is saved.
  • LightBot: The LightBot app ($2.99) is designed for ages 9 – 12. However, I’ve used it with younger children and it’s always a hit. Students move the character to light a square by dragging and dropping commands. There is also a LightBot, Jr. for the younger children.
  • CodeStudio Course 2: The third graders will begin CodeStudio’s Course 2, a free introduction to coding for elementary students. The course teaches the user to snap blocks together (it starts out with Angry Birds) and shows the lines of written code. The students have a picture log in and they are welcome to progress through the course at their own pace. The link to their class account can be found on the coding page of TVS TechnoWizards. (All K-4 students are enrolled in one of the 3 courses for elementary ages. We will work on the courses throughout the year.)
  • Khan Academy: The fourth graders will continue working with Dr. Krahn in Khan Academy; writing JavaScript code.

appsThese activities are just a few of the many resources available to help students of all ages experiment with coding. Since I work with elementary children, I’ll focus on those designed for this age.

Apps:

  • Daisy the Dinosaur: Snap blogs together to learn coding basics (ages 6-8; free)
  • Bee-Bot: Move Bee-Bot through a series of directional movements (ages 5-8; free)
  • Hopscotch: Snap blogs together to program characters to do tasks (ages 9-11; free)
  • Scratch Jr: Students program interactive stories and games (ages 6-8; free)
  • Move the Turtle: Solve tasks while learning to code (ages 9-11; $)

Online Activities:

  • CodeStudio: Besides the courses available, there are special Hour of Code activities including Frozen, Play Lab, and Flappy Code.
  • Hour of Code with Khan Academy: Practice drawing with JavaScript (for older children).
  • Scratch Programming: Snap blocks together to create games, interactive stories, and more.
  • Tynker Hour of Code: Similar to Scratch with the snap blocks; Tynker also has an iOS app.
  • Blockly Games: A series of games designed to practice coding (Use Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome).
  • Holiday Lights: Light up the White House Christmas tree by snapping coding blocks together (Use Safari, Firefox, or Google Chrome).

As you can see, there are numerous resources available to learn coding. Learning coding helps students develop computational skills and problem solving. Coding is difficult but the students LOVE the challenge! Give it a try – your children will enjoy guiding you through what they know!

An article to ponder:
Why Every Child Should Learn to Code
from the Guardian

Beginning Coding

Last year we participated in Hour of Code (and we’ll be joining in again this year). But one day of coding is NOT enough. This year we are starting early.

The first graders came to the lab this week and I asked them to raise their hand if they knew some Spanish and Chinese (they take both in Lower School). I then asked if anyone knew other languages. Several raised their hands. Next, I asked if they had ever heard of computer language. By the look on their faces, I could tell they had not! We discussed how computer games, programs, and apps require someone to “program” them or to write computer language so that the computer knows what to do.

I was excited to discover that Code.org has recently launched Code Studio – excellent lessons designed specifically for elementary ages. This is what I chose to introduce coding to our first graders. There are three courses for students along with a “Fun for Everybody” section that includes Play Lab, Flappy Code, and Artist. The free account allows teachers to set up classes and determine log in by use of a secret picture (perfect for younger students) or  word. As students move through the levels, they snap blocks together to run each program.

The students has a blast with this site. They start out by doing some easy moves – dragging images, snapping puzzles together. The second section begins with Angry Birds and of course, that was a huge hit! I demonstrated the first Angry Birds activity so that the children could view the “computer language” or code (JavaScript) that was written.

photo(4)The students are eager to continue working in Code Studio at their own pace!

Besides Code Studio, our younger students will be using the following apps throughout the year:

International Dot Day Celebrations!

the dotI love International Dot Day! September 15ish is the day to celebrate Peter H. Reynold’s wonderful book, The Dot. In the book, Vashti is asked to draw a picture in art class but can’t think of anything to illustrate. Her teacher encourages her to “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” Vashti jabs the paper with her pencil to create a tiny dot but the next time she comes to class, she discovers her teacher has framed it. From there, Vashti determines that she really can make better dots! At the end of the book, Vashti pays forward what her teacher has done for her by encouraging a little boy who believes he can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. This book has two wonderful themes:

  1. Every person is creative in their own special way.
  2. Each of us can find a way to “make our mark” by helping and encouraging others.

This year, celebrating Dot Day was a bit difficult for me. I worked part-time till Sept. 15 due to back surgery over the summer. But I had a wonderful sub, Jane Cooper, who worked tirelessly with many classes to  start our Dot Day celebrations. I returned full-time on September 15 to continue the activities – by the end of the day I was completely exhausted but it was a fantastic day to return! Below are descriptions of how our teachers and students “made our mark.”

Kindergarten

Our kinder teachers gave each student a dot and a “swirly gold framed” paper. The students created a picture from their dot.

photo 2(1)Click here for more pictures from kindergarten.

First Grade

The first graders had a two-part lesson. Mrs. Cooper introduced the students to making their creative mark by reading The Dot. The children were then given the dot coloring sheet for use with the ColAR app (free in the App Store and Google Play). Lots of colorful illustrations were made as the students were told that the following week they would see something magic happen to their dots. When the first graders returned to the lab, I showed them how to use the ColAR app. Amazed “oohs” and “aahs” were heard as my dot became 3-dimensional! The students were thrilled to see their own dots come to life.

IMG_1060View Animoto videos of each class:

Second Grade

Mrs. Cooper worked with the second graders to create a dot using the Drawing Box app. She explained to the students that, just as people are unique, their dots would be different from their classmates. But, when joined together, they would create a tapestry of colors. The children discussed how they were individuals but each unique person was needed to make a successful group – just as each dot they drew was important to the overall tapestry.

Third Grade

I asked the third graders to combine their creativity and a desire to “make a mark” on others by illustrating a picture in Microsoft’s Paint program. The students were asked to think about how they could make a difference  – in a person’s life (a classmate, family member, friend . . .), by doing a task to help their community, or thinking about something they could do in the future. The students wrote a short description then illustrated their idea. I combined their thoughts and drawings in Animoto videos

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Fourth Grade

Because of time constraints, I was only able to work with two of our three fourth grade classes (the third class participated in Dot Day in Spanish).

In one class, I asked the students to create a PowerPoint slide that included their name written in Braille and clip art that represented some of their interests. The students used the Braille Bug website to convert their name to Braille. They then used the shape tool and duplicate shortcut to create dots to form their Braille name. After adding clip art, I asked the students to save their slide as a jpeg (at this point I hadn’t decided how we would share their work). I ended up creating one slideshow with their images.

For another class, I thought I would give coding dots a try. The students had been learning JavaScript with our headmaster, Gary Krahn (see post) so they already had some practice. I asked them to use the ellipse code to create dot pictures. They eagerly set to work and programmed some absolutely amazing images! I loved watching them problem-solve with each other as they worked on placing their dots. When finished, they took screen shots of their work and I combined them into a slideshow.

Co-Curricular Classes
Of course, Dot Day wouldn’t be complete without music, art, and Spanish and those teachers led some very creative activities!
Mrs. Holloway had her music classes practicing musical note writing as they composed Dot songs.
photo 2First graders in Mrs. Black’s art classes used watercolors to beautifully decorate coffee filters.
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Click here to view more art and music pictures.
Our Spanish teachers were busy with a variety of activities. Sra. Ross’s first graders learned the Mexican Hat Dance (a circle dance). Her second graders designed Mexican mirrors. Sra. Nedrelow’s third graders created colorful Aztec calendars while her fourth graders constructed Costa Rican Ox Carts. (See more detailed descriptions of the mirrors and ox carts by clicking here.)
Spanish classesClick here to view more images from our Spanish classes.
We are proud to be part of International Dot Day 2014 but our creativity doesn’t stop in September. We will continue to make our mark all year!