Posted: Wed, 07/31/2019 - 15:36
One of my favorite projects this year involved working with a super-talented colleague, first-grade teacher Carter Warren (@TechWithMrsW). Carter has used Ozobots and Ozoblockly to help her students learn directional language, map skills, and basic coding concepts. After her students programmed an Ozobot to navigate a graph paper map of her classroom, we considered the idea of tasking our eighth-grade Creative Technologies students with building 3-D obstacle courses for the first graders to use with the Ozobots. From the outset, we were interested in spatial reasoning development. See more information about spatial reasoning here.
The first graders used Shape Tracer to learn to program the Ozobots, and we found Shape Tracer 2 to be appropriately challenging as an introduction for our eighth graders. We used a poster board for the base of each obstacle course, and the eighth graders designed their courses in teams of approximately five students. Our first attempt at this project was not super successful, in part because we didn’t allow enough time and we didn’t provide the eighth graders with enough background information to design something appropriate for first graders. The second time through the project, we incorporated design thinking and began with empathy. We asked the students to draw a portrait of their first-grade self and led them through a series of guided questions, “What was your favorite book? What did you like to do for fun? What scared you?” From there, the students generated and selected ideas for a theme, Ozobot characters, and interactive obstacles that would be appropriate for first graders.
The eighth graders used craft supplies, a 3-D printer, Little Bits, and a laser cutter to build interactive obstacles. This provided a low-stakes, yet motivating, introduction to these tools since they were working in the role of “designer” for their first-grade buddies. Using the free web-based program Tinkercad, the students built bridges, tunnels, ferris wheels, castles, and pirate ships. We met two times per week for 40 minutes, and it took about five weeks to complete the courses.
We then asked fifth-grade science students to help us test the courses and provide feedback for improvement. This gave our fifth graders some exposure to the Ozoblockly coding as well.
The eighth- and first-grade students came together for about 40 minutes while the first graders wrote their programs to guide an Ozobot through the obstacle courses. Overall, it was an incredible opportunity for students of differing ages to discover the creative beauty and joy of computing together!