December Educator of the Month: Games with Bit-Elf on the Shelf

We kicked off December with our Evo-Elf on the Shelf creative prompt, and have been very excited to see Bit-Elves get some love as they get into their own mischief! One Bit-Elf led us to an awesome librarian going beyond a single Hour of Code to spend many hours of learning, collaborating, and creating with code as students came up with their own Ozobot board games. It’s no secret that we love board games as the perfect family activity for those snowed-in-at-home, off-school days, so without further ado…

…help us congratulate our December Creator of the Month, Alicia Vandenbroek! She took inspiration from a couple of our suggested activities and templates, then truly ran with the creative holiday spirit. Dive into her #BitElfontheShelf project below, and get inspired to create your own coding board games from her students’ creations!

Tell us about yourself! What is your job and what inspired you to get into the career you have?

Hi there! This is my 11th year as the librarian at Shackelford Junior High and 17th year with Arlington ISD. I love the library because it is the perfect blend of books and innovation. I’m a total book and tech nerd, so I think working collaboratively with teachers and helping enrich their curriculum with literature and technology connections is the perfect fit. In 2018, I was chosen as the junior high AWARE winner for the Arlington Education Foundation. I don’t say that to brag; because I’m really just a representation of all those librarians out there doing amazing things, but it was an honor for the committee to recognize a librarian as a teacher. Libraries have changed a lot in the past ten years, so if anyone reading still thinks about a librarian as an old-school book shusher, I’d challenge you to stop by a modern library (or check our their social media). I’m sure you will change your mind!

How did you think of creating the project?

For the Games: I saw the post on Twitter that showed an Ozobot Oregon Trail project and it got my brain spinning about how we could incorporate it with our students. I met with one of our teachers; the awesome Mrs. Garland, and we created a challenge and a rubric.

For the #BitElfOnAShelf: Again, this idea came from Ozobot. I watched a webinar and it was mentioned as an idea for winter. I’m trying to build up our social media usage this year, so I thought that would be a fun way to get people involved. We posted on both Twitter and Instagram (adults use Twitter more, but students use Instagram). My makers helped me come up with the hat, and from there the #BitElfOnAShelf just did his thing.

What was the most challenging part about making it, and how did you overcome the obstacle?

This was the first project that these students had done together this year, so the hardest part was figuring out a way to include everyone’s awesome ideas. Sometimes working with a group can help us be better listeners, but it’s a skill we have to practice. To help with this next time, we’ve added a reflective piece where students can think about the project and what would make things run better next time.

Can you share with us an example of how your project combined creativity and coding?

I loved the open-endedness of this project, because students could create any kind of game they wanted, but they had to use the color commands somewhere in their game. Some groups tapped into their inner artist, and some incorporated items like 3D printed props. Most students had not used Ozobots before. I can’t wait to see what they do on future projects because their creativity amazed me!

How else do you use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) in everyday life?  

I’m a maker at heart. I love learning new things! I teach Museum School at the Museum of Science and History in the summer, and love creative projects/activities. This year I was lucky enough to go to the World Maker Faire in New York. It was a great experience and I got a ton of new ideas.  At school we have a makerspace club during the day and before school for self-directed student learning as well as a computer programming club. We like to also incorporate these skills directly into collaborative library lessons. I have amazing teachers on my campus who are always willing to try new things!

Each spring, our school does a STEAM Celebration for grades K-8th in AISD’s North Arlington schools. We have between 20-25 different rooms that focus on STEAM skills with community partners who run rooms or donate items for student giveaways. This year so far we are partnering with the Arlington Public Library, Home Depot, Tarrant County College STEM program, Lamar Robotics, SparkFun (supplies for one room), and Mackin (STEAM books). It’s an amazing day!

What is your favorite Color Code or block of code in OzoBlockly? Did you use it in your creation, and if so how did you incorporate it?

I polled a few kids, and they love the tornado…it came up quite a bit! Light combinations were pretty popular also.

In addition to having a blast with Ozobots, what do you want kids who may recreate your project to take away from it?

Own it and make it yours. The best ideas come from the ideas of others that challenge us to take things to the next level. I saw ideas during this project that I would have never thought of myself. Mrs. Garland came up with the idea of a piece that flips over (code on each side). You roll the dice and then flip the piece accordingly. WONDERFUL and changes the game entirely. Has my mind thinking, “Hmmmmm, what do I want to do with that next?”

How do you see your project being used in the future in different ways?

I’ve added the resources for our Ozobot Board Game challenge and rubric, for anyone who’d like to recreate what we did. We will probably do this project again as is, but I’d also like to see what it looks like directly connected to a content area. I can see students using this to teach a skill. I’m hoping some kids will consider doing something like this with an educational focus for our local Media Fair. My only challenge to the Ozobot community is for people who use this idea to share what they do. We can’t grow as a profession if we don’t take time to encourage others with amazing innovations. Together we are better than alone!

Regarding #BitElfOnAShelf – I’d love to see some more of these next year! I had a blast with this. I’m thankful our Bit was helpful not naughty. 🙂

How did you first hear about Ozobot and start learning to code?

I first started coding in Scratch at a workshop from our district, then I learned about Ozobots at a conference. We jumped in with some of the activities from the Ozobot website and then came up with a few of our own. Ozobots are easy enough for anyone to learn! We were fortunate enough to get a grant, so we have a classroom set of Bits. I’m working on a grant now for Evos because I love some of the things that they can do too. That should allow us a set we can check in and out to teachers to use in their classrooms.

Besides creating with code, what is your favorite hobby or interest to geek out about in your free time?

Writing and crafting. I’m loving paper marbling and I’m dabbling in etextiles right now because I love how they combine coding and sewing. I’m hoping to do a few maker projects with that in the spring.

How would you describe Evo’s and Bit’s personalities?

Hmmmm…I think that is the cool thing about Evo and Bit, they change a little depending on who they spend time with for a project. For example, our #BitElfOnAShelf was helpful with just the right amount of ornery.  Kind of like a librarian who shall not be mentioned. The Bits working with our students were creative risk-takers!

Have you told any other stories with your bots? Any other pictures/videos of your creations we should check out?

We’ve used bots this year for the snow plow challenge and decorated them for Halloween. Last year we did some fun math challenges also.  We’ve got something special planned for Valentine’s Day, but it’s top secret, so you’ll have to watch our social media to find out!

Thank you to Alicia, for inspiring creativity & coding in her library of a classroom! Follow @ShackLibrary on Twitter to see more of her Ozobot creations. And don’t forget…

Coding is Creative!

Tech skills alone don’t spur big ideas—creative visions do. That’s why education at home and in the classroom should span science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math (think STEAM, not STEM). Whether you see yourself as a future artist, astronaut, or entrepreneur, our goal at Ozobot is to kick start your creativity and coding skills with playtime that strengthens your whole mind.

To learn more, explore Ozobot’s 2 Ways to Code:

OzoBlockly >
Color Codes >

For Educators and Students:

OzoBlockly Basic Training >
Color Codes Basic Training >
150+ STEAM Lessons >

Creator of the Month – Official Rules

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