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:

4th Grade Fun with Ozobots and Dr. Seuss!

I’m not sure why but I hadn’t pulled out the Ozobots for the fourth graders this year so when they arrived at the lab and discovered Ozobots set out, they could hardly sit still to get instructions!

Needless to say, I presented the instructions in record time! Their job – add color codes and paths to the outline of the Cat in the Hat’s hat. iPads were set out so students could video their Ozobots. A few did that and then air dropped video to me so that I could add to what I took. Here’s a glimpse at what happened.

4th, Seuss & Ozobots from Trinity Valley School on Vimeo.

I would hear groans from students who couldn’t get their Ozobot to follow the code they thought they’d drawn. Then, I’d hear from someone else who announced that their code worked and they were more than happy to share tips on how to better draw effective codes.

Lesson learned for me – I need to do MUCH more of the exploration time for the students. Yes, there are times when I need to do direct instruction but watching the fourth graders interact reminded me how important it is to allow time for uninterrupted learning to occur.

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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!

4th Graders + 1st Graders + Ozobots = Great Learning!

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased 8 Ozobots. Ozobots are small robots that can be “programmed” by using a series of color combinations (OzoCodes) drawn by markers on white paper. These were introduced to a 4th grade class that just happened to have some skilled Ozobot users!

After watching a couple of the students, I decided to ask their teacher if they could share their knowledge with a first grade class who happened to also have some college student observers from TCU.

We got permission and I presented the plan to two students who were absolutely thrilled to be asked! They suggested two others so we ended up with a fabulous group of four! I was a bit concerned that they would be somewhat intimidated by the college students. Didn’t even cross their minds – one boy told me, “No problem! I can teach the college kids.”

The fourth graders arrived before class started. They had spent their weekend drawing Ozobot paths to share with the younger ones!

The first graders were in awe of the older students! One little girl stated, “I just love these 4th graders coming to teach us Ozobots.”

What leaders these older students are! Our four young teachers were amazing! They all walked around providing tips and offering any guidance needed to make sure the little ones (and the college students) were successful at drawing codes for the Ozobots.

At one point, one of the fourth graders pulled me aside to share, “Uh, Mrs. Arrington, that little boy is getting marker on the table. What can I use to clean it up?”

And, as the older students left, I was asked, “Can we come back next week and teach?” We will definitely have to make that happen!

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