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McMillan students learn to code Ozobots

Feb 01, 2018 11:30AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Students learned about coding with Ozobots, tiny robots that can identify lines, colors and codes on paper as well as digitally, during McMillan's Hour of Code. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Gallery: Ozobots [1 Image] Click any image to expand.

McMillan fourth-grader Ender Rasmussen said that the challenge cards with the Ozobot game he was playing with classmates during Hour of Code made it more difficult.

“We have half as much space to write the code,” said Ender, who wants to pursue a career as a “good hacker” to solve problems with websites. “I like playing games to learn coding. I’ve created video games and have done whatever I’ve wanted with Scratch (a designed for children programming language). These are fun to see if we can figure out how to tell the Ozobot what to do.”

Ozobots are tiny robots that can identify lines, colors and codes on paper as well as digitally. During Hour of Code, McMillan computer aide Dee Heath gave students four different colored markers and paper to have them create colored codes that would tell the robot which direction to go.

“I like the games and trying to figure out all the different combinations and codes,” fourth-grader McKenna Heath said. “It’s going to be good knowledge for the future.”

Last year, students logged onto the website, code.org, to learn about coding. 

“It piqued their curiosity and many of them have gone on to explore on their own,” Heath said. “They play and don’t always realize all the skills they’re learning. We don’t even know what all these students will need to know as we are sending them out in the world for jobs that don’t exist yet. But if we give them the skills and teach them to think outside the box, they’ll likely use the skills in the workforce even if they may not become programmers.”

Heath has been teaching students about coding since the onset of Hour of Code four years ago. 

“It’s something kids look forward to and it’s important for them to learn critical thinking and logic skills. They can deconstruct problems, breaking them into concepts and parts so they’re learning how to problem solve,” she said.

She decided Ozobots would give them the opportunity to discover a different technology. Using a Murray Education Foundation grant she received, she purchased seven Ozobots. The school Parent-Teacher Association bought a classroom set of 18 and she purchased six on her own.

“They’re really small and can do some cool, amazing things, like you guys,” she told a class who came to use the Ozobots. “You have eyes so you can see the world around us. They have eyes and can see colors so you’ll be creating programs for them to read in red, blue, green and black.”

By combining the colors, the Ozobots read the codes and were able to go straight, turn or reverse as students played the game, “Ozobot goes to school.”

Ten lessons came with the Ozobot set, but Heath selected this one so it would cover the basic concepts and she could adapt it to the appropriate grade level.

“I want them to get thinking about what they can do and spark their curiosity. If they’re not able to create the code correctly, then I want them to debug the problem to find their error. They’re working individually to create the code, but in groups so they’re learning teamwork and community skills while figuring out what went wrong,” she said.

Heath also has introduced students to Spheros, white orbs that roll in the direction controlled by an electronic device. 

“I like to plant a seed so they can explore more on their own,” she said. “When they’re curious, who knows where they can go.”

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