Oh So Much Fun with Ozobot
by Courtney Walker, Shorecrest Preparatory School
From my makerspace to yours, I want to tell you about a device currently creating a buzz in maker circles: the Ozobot Bit. This fun and amazing little minibot promotes a mighty way to teach the underlying logical thinking in coding.
As many educators know, more and more schools and districts are recognizing computer programming and coding as a major skill to help students prepare themselves for the awaiting job market. Several schools have even added computer science as a graduation requirement or upgraded it to a core class. While our tech and computer science teachers are delving into the complexities of the subject, librarians and subject area teachers can introduce coding in easier, entertaining, and hands-on ways to the majority of students, and thus prepare them for those higher-level computer courses they’re sure to encounter down the road. I learned about the Ozobot while exploring one of the new Makerspace kits from Follett. I love discovering resources and products like this one—exciting new tools to reinvigorate teaching that also are easy enough for busy teachers to integrate into curriculum. I was so happy to see the many ways Follett makes it easy to do just that with their wide variety of learning resources and maker kits.
Tinker and Test
I like to introduce new equipment and tools through tinkering and testing with students as the “consumer panel.” This method works great for a regular classroom maker corner, a computer lab, a Makerspace or a STEAM program. While I always tinker with a product on my own first, I find letting students explore a new device generates more uses and applicability than I alone could fully imagine. When I received a Follett Makerspace kit and opened the Ozobot, I first used it with a middle school STEAM club for girls. I quickly witnessed how easy the bot was. Not only was it easy to take out of the box, but the example cards were self-exploratory, and the students quickly became comfortable using the markers with this high-tech bot. In fact, the integration of these low-tech markers with this little machine lowers student anxiety in trying something new with technology. Some students imitated the color-coded patterns from the guide while others immediately began drawing their own designs and watched the Ozobot follow their lines. Tracing their names was a common first inclination; this process took between 15 to 30 minutes for students to understand the color-coded path as the main function of the Ozobot. At this point, students did not see other uses for the device beyond the tracing function. This is the critical juncture where a teacher should model additional uses, otherwise the full potential of the Ozobot is not recognized. Some teachers may reach this conclusion, too, so exploring its other functions and curricular application help maximize the many use of the Ozobot.
Input, Output and Game Design
Teaching the basics of computer programming input/output is simplified with Ozobot’s color codes. Students can start by drawing on paper with Crayola markers. If your school uses tablets there are more things for the Ozobot to do when you download compatible apps like Ozo Draw, Ozo Luck, and Ozo Path. For more complex game design the OzobotBlockly uses a visual programming drag-and-drop interface (much like Scratch) serving as the building blocks to understanding computer commands. For students who have already tinkered with visual programming languages the Ozobot serves as another program in their wheelhouse of programs to use for creative expression. Teachers can scaffold and show logical sequences embedded in computer programming through the graphical layout of OzoBlocky. It is also a natural progression from elementary bots like Beebot.
This is the fun part! Teaching coding by integrating the programmable side of Ozobot with contentenriches math and science concepts and creates a 'stickiness' to the learning. While many see a natural correlation of math and science with robotics, my experience in the library (and with language arts and social studies) is there are many subjects that can intersect with the Ozobot. Can you imagine Romeobot and Julietbot? Having students program a scene from Shakespeare to act out on either a drawn stage or an iPad stage up levels the Bard. Students can do mini-costume design with skins of the Ozobot, which if a teacher is in a time constraint, could put on a production rather quickly or at least give a different way for an introverted student to show their knowledge of the play.
Another idea is to put a new spin on Freytag’s Pyramid—literally. Students can plot out the storyline of either a core novel everyone is studying or their own independent reading book. The teacher can (or together with the class) create a key from the Ozo codes to represent different parts of the Freytag model. If it is drawn on poster paper the Ozobot can do a specific command relating directly with a part of the story model. Teachers can also have students add specific quotations from the text that happen in the story while the Ozobot spins the tale. This could easily be done in two class periods.
There is a natural connection to using the Ozobot with mapping. History can be booted up with aOzobot traveler either through geography or history. Give students a map they can write on or better yet, have them create their own map and then program the Ozobot to complete a specific journey of history. Use the different Ozocodes to represent a different part of the journey. For example, if a traveler stumbled across a “wide spread disease” make the bot spin quickly to represent the situation in the trip. Graphing and geometry are other ways to incorporate the Ozobot in curriculum. While it is fun to design your own you can find even more in-depth lessons with premade codes to get you started using it in the classroom.
So whether for the classroom, computer lab, library or makerspace this is another teaching tool to reach students. Since I manage a library makerspace I see it as an additional tool for creative and critical thinking. When I first started my makerspace I had to research extensively and then source products all from all over the place, which was time consuming and confusing. Now, I can discover cutting-edge learning gadgets through the Follett maker kits, and I can find them all through Titlewave-—he same interface I use with my other learning resources, which makes developing innovative makerspaces (big or small) a breeze. These kits within Titlewave give me more time to be creative with my students and teachers, which allows me to better impact learning.