Thursday, November 3, 2016

Using Ozobots in the Middle School Classroom

The middle school tech teachers in my district have tried really hard in the last two years to modernize the curriculum and engage students. One of the ways that we do this is through tech tools and gadgets, which we refer to as "Innovation Stations."

8th grade (a nine-week course) uses Spheros, Makey Makey, and LittleBits, 6th grade (a six-week course) uses Dot and Dash robots, and 7th grade (also a six-week course) uses Ozobots. So each grade gets to have an experience with at least one new tech tool/toy/gadget/whatever you like to call it.

We have been very lucky to receive funding to buy most of these tools via our curriculum department, but our middle schools won a special grant from our education foundation to purchase our classroom sets of Ozobots!

I thought I'd go over a little bit how we use Ozobots in my 7th grade computer classes. First, I divide the unit up into three sections: on paper / on an iPad / on a Chromebook. Ozobots can do a lot of stuff and be used in different ways, so we start small, on paper, with Ozobot reading lines and color codes, just to learn the basic workings. We look at the sensors and how the robot works. We talk about basic care and maintenance: cleaning the wheels, charging the battery, and calibrating the robot before sending it off to travel.

I'm an almost 100% paperless classroom, so it bothered me that I was having to print out so many calibration sheets on paper (even if I kept and collected them each class, they would get lost or damaged/folded up and I would have to make more), so I found a solution that seems to be working really well so far! I cut out circle stickers from black matte vinyl on my Silhouette Cameo machine at home (I bought one two summers ago for my own personal use and I love it!), and stuck them to the underside of my centerpiece placemats at each student work table. If you don't have placemats to hide stickers under, you could still put a circle sticker on each desktop/tabletop in your room for calibration purposes.

In class, we also talk about line following/line sensing robots and how the technology is being used now/could be used in the future. One of my favorite videos to show is this one involving robot chairs!

Students can choose to work individually or in pairs with Ozobot, since I have 18 devices total. But for the second part of our unit, which is on iPads, we have to get into groups that are a little bit larger, because I only have 9 iPads. It ends up being no more than 4 per device, so not too bad. We use OzoGroove to program our robots to dance! Working in larger groups means using multiple Ozobots with one iPad, which is actually advantageous when using OzoGroove because you can write one dance program, but run it on several Ozobots at one time so they dance synchronized! It's pretty neat.

Out last portion of the Ozobot unit is using our Chromebooks! We use OzoBlockly to solve puzzles (the shape tracer) and to write code (the Editor) to load and run on our Ozobots. If you've ever used Scratch, you'll find that OzoBlockly Editor is very similar in how it functions.

The end of the unit is the most fun for me, because I like to see what students can come up with using their Ozobots. Some set up games, like tiny bowling pins, and others make mazes or race tracks for their Ozobot to run. I've been doing a little bit of exploring via Pinterest as to how other educators and families are using Ozobots, and I found an awesome resource over at Tech Age Kids where they detailed the instructions to build a tiny Lego chariot for Ozobot to pull! I was so excited to find this that I had to try it out right away:

I'm going to give students the opportunity to integrate Ozobots with Lego this term, and I'm excited to see what they do! Every time I teach a unit, it gets a little bit better and I see more and more cool things that students come up with!

- Mrs. L.


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