Make Coding and STEM Come Alive with Ozobots Mini Robots
I recently came across this great new teaching tool for all grade levels, and I wanted to share it with you for potential use in your classroom. Trust me: these things are very cool. Ozobots are personal, pocket-sized robots designed to be used in the classroom. A classroom kit comes complete with a set of colored markers, a charger, a code manual, and the Ozobot robot. The downward-facing cameras of the bot can distinguish colors and permit elementary-aged students to use the markers as an easy way to code. The Ozobots also support a computer-based block coding for more advanced learners. This dual-platform coding option allows for teachers from multiple grade levels to uses the Ozobots in an array of disciplines.
Teachers should introduce the Ozobots to their classroom by first explaining how to carefully unpack and pack these somewhat delicate and expensive devices. Care should also be taken in capping the markers to ensure they last. The charging cable should be inserted and removed carefully so as not to snap off the ends.
Begin the first lesson by explaining how the markers can be used to give the Ozobot directions. Various color patterns have different meanings to the bot and these codes are defined in the back of the manual. Have students practice by making neat lines (not too thick and not too thin) that are the thickness of the marker tip. Then have them test their Ozobot on their lines to see how it performs. They will discover that the bot will follow the black marker lines and will execute special moves with the colors.
Once the students have become proficient with the color coding, it is time to move on to an actual lesson theme. There is a searchable database of lesson topics available online, but most teachers prefer to create original work. A good idea for an original lesson is to have students use the Ozobots to tell a story. There is a lot of flexibility with this approach. Teachers can demonstrate by using a familiar story from the classroom library. Students can illustrate the story by sketching a map on a large placemat for the Ozobot to follow. For example, if the teacher was telling the story of “Little Red Riding Hood,” the students could have the Ozobot follow the path that Red would take into the forest and have it pause and do the specialty moves at key locations in the story.
Teachers might decide to have students create their own stories in the future and have them illustrate these stories with their Ozobots and present them to their classmates.
‘Ozoblockly’ is a more advanced computer-based form of communicating with the Ozobot and makes use of a drag-and-drop method of inserting pre-written and customizable instructions. Students can use their mobile devices to send the codes to the Ozobot.
The Ozobot site offers additional video instruction on how to get started with block-coding.
Once students and teachers are confident in their ability to code their Ozobot – either with markers or blocks, the only thing standing in your way is the limits of your imagination. Fortunately, there is an online community of educators that have created and shared their lessons for other teachers. These lessons can be searched by grade level and topic.
Sample lesson ideas:
Mathematics – Ozobot can be used to demonstrate the Pythagorean theorem. A pre-made block code is available on the Ozobot site. The Ozobot will outline a right triangle by “squaring each side”.
Science – Use the markers with your Ozobots to illustrate the lifecycle of a frog or butterfly. Have the Ozobot follow an ordered path and perform a special move at each stage of frog or butterfly development. In addition, younger learners may use the markers to design a garden and have Ozobot “pollinate the seeds” (by performing a special move) which then can be turned into flowers by pasting flower stamps into the positions.
ELA – Retell a story with Ozobot. Students can use their markers to outline a plot, timeline, or storyline for their favorite story. Students can illustrate key scenes from the story and have Ozobot follow the path of the main character. Students may even wish to decorate Ozobot as a character from the story.
Social Studies – Download a template from the Ozobot Classroom and have students connect their Ozobots with the correct branch of government based on the clues you provide.
Lessons are added to the Ozobot site on a daily basis. As an instructor, you can contribute your own lesson ideas. There is a searchable database of lesson plans and templates as well as pre-coded instructions in the “Blockly” format for advanced learners.